When he entered the January 30, 2017 session of Buganda Lukiiko, Katikkiro Mayiga seemed confident that members would rubberstamp his plans to lease the 132 year old national and cultural palace of the Kabaka of Buganda (Mengo Lubiri) to foreigners. He spent over an hour of reverse psychology, giving examples of how “naturally short-sighted Baganda” fail to appreciate any Katikkiro who introduces modernity to Buganda. At the end, Mr. Mayiga confidently declared that, ultimately, nothing will stop his plans. However, his confidence seemed to evaporate when one Mrs. Joyce Mpanga got the microphone.
In his marathon speech, Mr. Mayiga made a few highly contradictory statements that may have disturbed Mrs. Joyce Mpanga. For example, as usual, Mayiga claimed that Kabaka Mutebi made the decision to lease Mengo Lubiri but, sensing negative reception, he later changed to, “The decision to re-develop Lubiri was made by the Bataka Supreme Council at the time government returned it.” Also, he aggressively defended construction of a hospital and conference facilities in Lubiri but later insisted that everything presented by Mengo so far were just concepts, not real plans. He blamed the press for saying that the project photos that Mengo distributed in Serena Hotel or on its Facebook page were real plans. He explained, “Those picture were just images downloaded from the Internet; one was, I think, the American white house.”
After Mayiga finished his long speech, one of the most intelligent, well-educated and knowledgeable Baganda alive, Mrs. Joyce Mpanga, threw down a “roadblock” against his scheme. When she got a chance to respond to Mr. Mayiga’s speech, Mpanga systematically, and with some humor, explained why the Katikkiro’s plans for Mengo Lubiri were poorly reasoned, not well informed by Buganda history or culture and are dangerous, even to Kabaka Mutebi’s reign.
In his speech, Mr. Mayiga had spoken in the style of a non-Muganda when he said, “I can never understand Baganda” and claimed that Baganda are short-sighted because they opposed former Katikkiros Kawalya Kaggwa “for bringing electricity” and “killed Martin Nsibirwa for donating Buganda land for the now glorious Makerere University”. He even claimed that the same short-sighted Baganda complained when Ssekabaka Muteesa II brought horses to Mengo Lubiri, since they were used to cows.
Mrs. Mpanga, mother of Buganda Attorney General David Mpanga and Kabaka’s Private Secretary Peter Mpanga went straight to the point after thanking the Lukiiko speaker. She opened with, “People tell me, sometimes in whispers, and others keep phoning me, some anonymously, saying that I must stop my lawyer sons from selling Kabaka’s palace. They tell me that the Katikkiro is my son, the second Katikkiro my son and the other lawyers are also my sons.
“It appears that some of these people think that I have easy access to Kabaka, which [these days] is impossible. One even warned that [Baganda] may replace Kabaka Mutebi, as they have done to other Kabakas in the past. And one of these people wrote to remind me that Baganda forced Ssekabaka Muteesa II to have his widowed mother to resign and get replaced as Namasole (Kabaka’s mother) [when she decided to marry a commoner]. They told Muteesa that if his mother did not resign, he would have to go too.”
Pointing out that she was a member of the Bataka Supreme Council (which Mr. Mayiga said made the decision to lease Lubiri), Mrs. Mpanga informed the Lukiiko that, when they first re-established the Buganda Lukiiko, it was designed to ensure that ordinary Baganda were well consulted by their representatives and issues were strongly debated before major resolutions were passed.
She complained, “But now, the Buganda Lukiiko is only a rubberstamp because there is no debate. The Katikkiro comes here and speaks for over one hour. Then the members are given two minutes to make comments. Next day, the lady who is minister for Lukiiko publishes resolutions that we never debated or agreed on at all.”
As the clapping and cheers grew, Mrs. Mpanga continued her attack. She accused Mayiga and his partners of bringing the topic of Mengo Lubiri to the Lukiiko only after they faced serious public opposition. She said it was obvious to her that they had already made their decisions and were now looking for cover from Buganda Lukiiko. She questioned why, when Kabaka is supposed to have so much land, Mengo should offer Mengo Lubiri to foreigners and not some other land.
“Mr. Katikkiro, you keep talking about putting Buganda’s issues first (okusoosowaza) and they include Federo. What kind of Kabaka are we going to have under a Federo where his palace is leased by foreigners?” she asked. She pointed out that [Kabaka Mutebi] is not supposed to be the last be Kabaka in Buganda. “What if a future Kabaka wants all the space in Mengo Lubiri? Are we then going to beg the foreign investors for the space our Kabaka needs?” she asked. Adding, “Some say that we got Byooya bya nswa (ant feathers for a Kingdom), are we going to accept that and also lease our Lubiri to foreigners?”
Fearing that the situation was getting out of hand, one of Mayiga’s strongest supporters in Lukiiko, a man called Kasakya, requested the speaker that further discussion of the topic be continued in “sessional committees” since it was sensitive.
A day later, the official Buganda Government website, www.buganda.or.ug, only reported that “The Lukiiko agreed that, there is need to develop the Mengo palace but with utmost care without tempering with the tradition.”
All 5 Mayiga watchers that BugandaWatch has contacted since February 1, 2017, agreed that the “Joyce Mpanga roadblock” did serious damage but Mayiga will probably keep trying. In the meantime, Katikkiro Mayiga’s contract ends only 3 months away in May 2017.
Below is additional BugandaWatch reporting on Katikkiro Mayiga’s scheme to lease Mengo Lubiri to foreigners, since February 25, 2015.