Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga is a lawyer who has been intimately involved in negotiations between Buganda and Mr. Museveni since 1993. As a Muganda he should know that the English title Kabaka of Buganda, which the NRM government gazetted as “a Baganda cultural leader in Uganda” under the 1995 constitution, is different from Kabaka wa Buganda (short for Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono).
The NRM government has gazetted three other so-called cultural leaders in Buganda: Sabaruli, Sabanyala and Kamuswaga. The first two were invented by the NRM itself.
“Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono,” on the other hand, is the traditional title of the monarch of the centuries’ old Buganda Kingdom. He gets his power from his subjects and Ennono ya Buganda (Buganda traditional constitution) which does not provide for competing “cultural leaders” within his kingdom.
That is, Ennono provides for one and only one top, cultural leader on Buganda territory: the Kabaka, Ssaabasajja, Ssaabataka. It is Museveni, with Mayiga’s acquiescence, who is trying to break this central tenet of our kingdom by tricking many of our people into equating the English title Kabaka of Buganda with Kabaka wa Buganda when only the former (Kabaka of Buganda) is legally recognized by the NRM government’s laws.
At any rate, the Mmengo Lubiri is the official residence for Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono. It was stolen from the Kingdom of Buganda in 1966, and remains stolen. It was not stolen from Mmengo or from “Kabaka of Buganda.” I will get back to this discussion in a moment.
On November 30, 2016, on page 5, New Vision quoted Mr. Mayiga as saying that Ssaabasajja Kabaka Muwenda Mutebi II had “agreed to free 260 acres of his Lubiri Palace to investors to generate revenue for his Kingdom.”
In my opinion, no square inch of the Lubiri may be sold or rented because, as a mentor told me, it and other Buganda palaces must be preserved because of the role they play which is central in obuwangwa bw’Abaganda (identity and national characteristics of Baganda) and our clan system.
Each clan has a cultural role (omulimu omutongole ogw’Ennono) at the Kabaka’s Court. Thus, the palace is where a microcosm of the interaction between Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono and his subjects occurs—it is both cultural and religious.
Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono is not merely “cultural leader,” the belittling title which Museveni and Mmengo used to register Kabaka Mutebi in the 1995 NRM constitution. He is our pontifex maximus—Latin for highest priest.
We Roman Catholics call the Pope pontifex maximus and our palace is in the Vatican City state. It is there that Pope Francis presides today as our highest priest and custodian of our symbols of faith. But he is not the papacy—for the papacy is the office and source of authority in the Catholic Church.
The office of Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono is no different. Like the papacy, it is fundamental. It is the highest office in Buganda and the source of authority in the kingdom. Mutebi II, its current occupant, is neither this office nor the kingdom which does not change. Kabaka changes from time to time.
A prince becomes Kabaka wa Buganda upon ascending to the throne (Bw’alya Obuganda), becoming the occupant of the office “Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono.” He immediately takes on the responsibility of leading and protecting his subjects and their national assets, such as the Lubiri, per Ennono.
The custodial responsibilities of a Kabaka cease when he leaves the office upon becoming Ssekabaka. Upon this, the Lukiiko lw’Abataka ba Buganda select a prince to succeed him; the prince ascends to the throne and becomes the new Kabaka.
Before Ssekabaka Basammula-Ekkere Mwanga II ascended to the throne to become the new Kabaka in 1884, after his father Walugembe Kayiira Muteesa I became Ssekabaka, Buganda was still growing. Baganda would build a new palace wherever the new Kabaka chose to establish court (okukuba olubiri). It helped stretch and consolidate the kingdom’s borders. Each new palace was the kingdom’s capital; and Baganda built it to be the Kabaka’s official residence and, in many cases, his mausoleum but not his personal property.
We Baganda of the modern era have lapsed into the bad habit of saying, “Kabaka yazimba olubiri lwe…” (Kabaka built his palace…). This comes out of ignorance or propaganda by the colonialists and their collaborators, intended to manipulate the Kabaka and his subjects. Baganda have always built the Kabaka’s palaces; the Kabaka has never done so. Kabaka takola! (Kabaka does not work, like his subjects do).
In 1856, Ssekabaka Muteesa I told his subjects that he wanted to move his capital from Bbanda, Kyaddondo, to Nnabulagala Hill where his father, Ssekabaka Ssuuna II, had had a palace. So, Baganda responded by building a palace there, which he later renamed Kasubi.
Mwanga II preferred Nkaawo Hill and Baganda built his palace there. The Nvubu Clan had migrated there and kept their famous grinding stones (emmengo) on the eastern side of the hill. To acknowledge this, he renamed Nkaawo Mmengo Hill.
The colonialist had arrived. There were religious wars, and there was power and land grabbing. Buganda Kingdom officials, Christian churches, and Moslem leaders were up to their eyeballs in this pilfering.
So, it became impossible to continue building new palaces as capitals for each new Kabaka. To make matters worse, the colonialist and his collaborators, led by Katikkiro Sir Apollo Kaggwa and religious leaders, deposed Mwanga II when he rebelled against British rule in mid-1897.
When the one-year, baby-prince, Daudi Ccwa II, ascended to the throne and became Kabaka on August 9, 1897, Baganda made Mmengo his capital. At that same time, they made it their single and permanent capital and the cultural and sacred home of Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono. Kasubi became amasiro ga (royal tombs of) Buganda.
Upon disappearing (bwe yabula) into Kasubi, Ssekabaka Ccwa II left the Lubiri intact. So, too, did Ssekabaka Sir Edward Walugembe Luwangula Muteesa II. Nowhere in either Kabaka’s personal will is the Lubiri itemized as personal property, and neither will makes it available to investors.
Why free it to investors now when Baganda committed to Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono and who respect Ennono have sacrificed so heavily to maintain assets such as obutaka (ancestral grounds)? Of course, some sell obutaka, but only out of desperation. In my opinion, selling or renting the Lubiri sends a dangerous message to Baganda. The message becomes one that permits heirs to sell obutaka without consultation, because Mmengo is able to sell the Lubiri without consultation.
Katikkiro Mayiga and his supporters, some senior NRM officials, claim that rapid and wholesale commercialization of the Baganda’s culture is justified—supposedly because “culture is fluid.” But “culture is fluid” is doubletalk. It is one man making money-driven decisions, which lacks grace.
It is random. It undermines Ennono as well as the traditional balance between Kabaka, his officials and his subjects. It endangers the kingdom.
To me the danger to the kingdom is clear; Katikkiro may have taken to telling Kabaka what to do. Consider this: Mayiga told New Vision, “Kabaka has agreed…” but not “Kabaka has instructed...” Did he say Kabaka agreed, perhaps because someone cajoled or coerced Ssaabasajja?
We Baganda should have a say in this. But Owek. Mayiga has not asked us whether we wish to use the Lubiri for a purpose other than that to which Baganda converted it in 1897 under Ccwa II. We are entitled to a say because after Ugandan regimes, from Obote to Museveni, quartered armies in it and destroyed it, it was Baganda, not Mmengo, who renovated it to its current state.
A little humility never falls amiss, Mr. Mayiga—work with Abataka to get the best ideas about Lubiri from all Baganda in the world, not just a few in Kampala. Do not call what is really a stance lacking inventiveness “development.” If all else fails, however, keep in mind that the Lubiri belongs to the Buganda Kingdom—it is still stolen—and Kabaka wa Buganda ow’Ennono may not sell or rent it.