Buganda rejects tier, wants federo

News February 12 - 18, 2006
Asuman Bisiika

On February 7, the Lukiiko passed a resolution demanding a federal status for Buganda Kingdom; hitherto thought to have been resolved by the constitutional provision for a regional tier government.

A federal state is a political entity that voluntarily cedes some powers to a union of equal entities (central government) while a regional tier government is created when the central government cedes (or devolves) power to subordinate administrative units.

The Lukiiko wants Buganda to be a federal state with political powers while the constitutional amendment provides for an administrative unit that falls within the central government’s power structure.

The provision for a regional tier government was the result of what the government and Mengo called a comprehensive discussion and resolution of the incessant demands for Buganda Kingdom’s federal status.

Former Local Government minister Bidandi Ssali who casts himself as a liberal and progressive Muganda, says the Lukiiko’s demand was the same old story without any creativity. He, however, says that the Lukiiko resolution was justified because the regional tier does not address some of the issues specific to Buganda.

“But the Lukiiko should be specific about the kind federalism they want not merely singing twagala federo. The challenge Mengo is facing is their failure to reconcile their demand for federal status and the reality on the ground. In my view, the regional tier should be recast to accommodate a political Lukiiko but remain silent on the cultural aspects of the Kingdom,” said Bidandi.

The regional tier governments are supposed to have elected leaders but conservative Baganda do not even countenance a scenario where the Katikkiro (Prime Minister), traditionally appointed by the Kabaka (king), is elected.

The challenge former Katikkiro Joseph Mulwanyamuli (and for that mater the Mengo establishment) faced was to reconcile the traditional structures of the kingdom with regional tier structures.

Appearing on CBS radio late last year, President Yoweri Museveni said that he would not support having an appointed Katikkiro. He was very categorical as to say that those who thought of an un-elected Katikkiro should forget.

A Mengo official says that the Baganda are only demanding what they want. “It is not logical that we should demand what we don’t want. We want federalism, and it is what we are demanding. It does not matter what the central government have in mind; the point is we should take to the table what we want,” said the source who did not want his name disclosed.
But former Buganda minister Peter Mulira, who said that the Lukiiko resolution surprised him called for caution.

“My personal view is that the issues for discussion are not irreconcilable. There is still a stage where some issues could be resolved without taking hard positions. For instance, the issue of electing the Katikkiro could be dealt with when Parliament enacts a law to operationalise the constitutional provisions for the regional tier. And before that, we should be studying the difference between federalism and devolution of power,” said Mulira.

So what does this new demand mean to Mr Museveni’s re-election bid? Or his presidency if he wins the February 23 poll? Or whoever wins the presidential elections?

Although the voting patterns in earlier polls have not been influenced by Mengo’s political sentiments, it (Mengo) still influences national politics in one way or the other. That is why Buganda’s demand for a federal status appears in almost all manifestoes of the presidential candidates.

Dr Jean Barya, a Makerere University don, says that the consequences of the new Lukiiko demand will depend on who wins the presidential elections.

“If Museveni wins, the relationship between Buganda and the central government may be problematic because he has already made his position very clear. He does not want any power centres outside the central government power structures,” said Barya.
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