Can an elected Katikkiro co-exist with the Kabaka?

Can an elected Katikkiro co-exist with the Kabaka?
 
As Secretary-General of Fedsnet, arguably the leading portal of federalism information for Ugandans, it is incumbent upon me to comment on the controversy regarding the position of the Katikkiro in Buganda.
 
The debate about whether the Katikkiro should be elected or ppointed by the Kabaka is very pertinent to the federalism debate. In the spirit of genuine federalism, Uganda's regions should decide echanisms for their own internal self-governance guided by universal democratic principles and Human rights, and not in contravention of the hoped for national, federal constitution. At your convenience, please see the Fedsnet model for such a constitution at: http://successisthekey.tripod.com.
 
I support election of the Katikkiro from among candidates screened nd approved by the Kabaka and the Bataka following an elaborate process. This is the position that we, Fedsnetters, presented to the Ssempebwa Constitutional Review Commission in April 2003. The Bataka, it was reported, insisted on a similar arrangement upon meeting President Museveni in May 2005. Thus it seems that Buganda's current hard-line stance against the election of the Katikkiro was largely precipitated by the government's omission of such a screening process for prospective Katikkiros in the regional tier bill it presented to parliament. 
 
Given the importance of the relationship between the Kabaka as Supreme Constitutional head of Buganda, and the Katikkiro as its administrative head, along with overwhelming desire for cultural integrity by Buganda and other regions, the Bataka, and others, are justified in shunning any bill or law that does not recognize the Kabaka's and cultural guardians' role in vetting candidates for Katikkiro.
 
This article examines alternative proposals that have been presented on the subject of the election of the Katikkiro. It then proposes an arrangement within Buganda's constitution that ensures that a vetted, elected Executive Katikkiro of Buganda is accountable to the people resident in Buganda, while --paradoxical and conflictual as it may seem -- he/she is keenly aware of the supreme position and authority of the Kabaka in Buganda. In line with this thinking, the article posits an idea that may help guarantee that the Kabaka's office continues to be viewed by all political players as central to Buganda's affairs beyond the cultural sphere, though not in a partisan political sense.
 

The debate and the Issues

 
Should the Kabaka nominate the Katikkiro from among elected members of the Lukiiko, or should Buganda residents directly elect the Katikkiro? This is a topic with strong arguments on either side, but the issues of accountability, tradition and cultural integrity are major points of contention.
 
In democracies, accountability is very much intertwined with the people's vote and their ability to remove errant leaders either directly through subsequent elections, or indirectly through their legislative representatives' votes of 'no confidence'. Now, in a situation where the Kabaka appoints someone Katikkiro, whether from within the Lukiiko, or from without, accountability becomes murky in that cultural authorities, such as the Bataka, or entrenched interests, may through their counsel to a potentially insulated Kabaka, anchor a politically unaccountable [to the people] Katikkiro, thus stunting the growth of democracy and good governance. 
 
In the age of CNN and BBC broadcasts emitting daily images and news of people worldwide rebelling against unaccountable institutions, and with ever increasing access to higher education that nurtures analytical and independent thinking -- the possibility of a perception of unaccountable Katikkiros being shielded by unelectable Kabakas, may, in the long-term, do more to undermine the survival of, and the continued reverence for the monarchy in Buganda than any perceived deficiencies of a constitutional arrangement that allows for election of the Katikkiro, subject to pre-screening of candidates by the Kabaka, the Bataka, and a few technocrats on the monarch's advisory council.  
 

The Parliamentary Approach

 
An alternative to the direct election of the Katikkiro is provided by parliamentary systems whereby the leader of the party with a majority of seats in parliament automatically becomes Prime Minister. While such an arrangement may work well in other regions of Uganda, in the case of Buganda, such an arrangement is likely to be just as unacceptable because it leaves no room for the Kabaka to choose or vet the Katikkiro in an environment where the composition of the one-chamber elected Lukiiko is likely to be ever changing and uncertain. A variant idea, with the Kabaka nominating a Katikkiro from among elected members of the regional legislature, may be just as contentious, unless the person chosen by the Kabaka happens to be the leader of the majority party in the Lukiiko, with universal legitimacy to all the region's party members. A complication, however, is the probability that the party leader may not necessarily be in tune with the kingdom's cultural power brokers.
 
On the other hand, it is no longer neither feasible nor desirable, in a democratic society, to shut out parties in the process of choosing the Katikkiro. In past instances where the Lukiiko elected the Katikkiro, the parties were either non-factors, or were sidelined by the Kabaka Yekka movement that dominated the Lukiiko. Parties and their leaders were then widely viewed in Buganda as upstarts that lacked administrative depth, wisdom, and experience possessed by traditional authorities, and were largely suspected of not having the best interests of Buganda's institutions at heart. Incidentally, such sentiments may still be latent.
 
From a representative government perspective, it is possible that a candidate elected by, nominated, or emerging from a Lukiiko -- dominated by men and conservative cultural guardians -- may not be wholly sensitive to concerns and grievances of important groups such as women, youth, and resident ethnic minorities, potentially arousing smoldering discontent. Therein, in my opinion, lies the attractiveness of direct election of pre-screened candidates for the office of the Katikkiro since it addresses both cultural and democratic concerns. The process of electing a vetted Katikkiro would require approved candidates to canvass the entire region, exposing the eventual winner to the totality of the electorate's concerns and needs.
 

The vetting Process

 
By design, the vetting process would, unlike in the past, encourage political parties and traditional authorities to work together, thereby helping bridge the longstanding gap between western and African concepts of legitimacy and accountability. Vetting would ensure that candidates for Katikkiro meet minimum criteria such as, for example, a clear understanding of, respect for, and appreciation of the region's cultural and political institutions --including the Kabaka; facility with the region's history, social norms and language; long-standing inter-generational residency; competence; and a clear vision for the kingdom. The process would not shut out any resident of Buganda from becoming the Katikkiro, provided he/she is among the candidates that pass the screening by the Kabaka, Bataka, and select technocrats. In cases where their candidates fail the screening process, political parties would be compelled to submit other aspiring contenders. The approved candidates – preferably from at least two political parties – would then present their manifestos to the people of Buganda, backed by their respective party organizations. Of these one would be elected Katikkiro, through universal adult suffrage.
 
Can a directly elected Katikkiro co-exist with the Kabaka?
 
There is a well-founded concern that a directly elected Katikkiro, having got his or her mandate from the people, may choose to relegate the Kabaka to the periphery. How would the Kabaka's position as constitutional head of Buganda be reconciled with the Katikkiro's mandate? In other words, how would Buganda ensure that an elected Katikkiro does not undermine the Kabaka's authority, or become an agent of potentially hostile forces?
 
That seeming conundrum can be resolved by provisions in Buganda's own constitution that ensure that an elected Katikkiro and the Lukiiko are obliged to get the assent of the Kabaka on any major initiatives. The King, consulting with his technocratic advisors, would have to sign off on all major legislative and administrative initiatives by the Buganda regional government before they become law, or take effect. The Katikkiro would be mandated to consult the Kabaka on all major decisions. This arrangement would not be without precedent. At independence a similar constitutional arrangement existed between Uganda's first ceremonial President Sir Edward Mutesa II and the Executive Prime Minister, Dr. Apollo Milton Obote.
 
Unlike conflicts of interest that rendered that national arrangement untenable, at the regional level there would not be such conflicts of interest not only because the Kabaka would be both the constitutional and, by tradition, supreme head of Buganda, but also because the Kabaka's and the Katikkiro's interests would be the same, the advancement of Buganda, its residents, and its interests. Further, unlike the previous national arrangement between the President and Prime Minister, in Buganda's constitution there would be no room for the Katikkiro to by pass the Kabaka's signature.
 

Enhancing the office and role of the Kabaka

 
Finally, in view of the Kabaka's role as the supreme authority in Buganda, it is imperative that the monarch's office continues to be perceived by future generations as vital to Buganda's prosperity and advancement beyond the cultural sphere. One way to ensure that is to establish the office of the Kabaka as a well-funded think-tank for Buganda, similar to organizations in the West (particularly the United States) that are filled with technocrats and scholars researching and publishing journals on economic, social, cultural, and political preferences of the population, in addition to generating new ideas for the benefit of policy makers.
 
The technocrats in the Kabaka's office would also assist him in assessing the implications of bills presented to him. The Office could publish a prestigious quarterly Buganda Royal Journal, perhaps with a forward by the Kabaka commenting on topics therein. Such a role for the Kabaka would accomplish two objectives: first, it would remind policy makers and politicians in Buganda of his central role; second, it would assure the people resident in Buganda that the Kabaka is aware of issues of concern to them and has staff engaged in helping devise solutions to them.
 
In conclusion, Buganda, and other regions, should be left to decide governance mechanisms that they find most suitable to their circumstances – though in line with universal democratic and human rights values. Different regions may opt for different models, that is, between direct [Presidential style], and indirect [parliamentary style] elections for their regional premiers. In keeping with federalism, the central government, or its agents, should not dictate their choices.
 
Joseph Senyonjo, New York City, USA
 

 


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