Rejecting regional tier will be very costly for Buganda

Tuesday, 4th April, 2006

Peter Mulira

A learned friend With a historical perspective Peter Mulira

In his recent book titled Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or to Succeed Jared Diamond lists five reasons why some societies have failed and others succeeded.

He names among this list a society’s failure to anticipate problems. By this, Diamond means that sometimes when people are faced with unfamiliar situations they fall back on drawing analogies with old familiar situations which is a good way to proceed if the new and the old situations are truly analogies, but it can be dangerous if they are superficially similar.

To illustrate his point, Diamond draws on the experience of the Vikings from Britain and Norway who immigrated to Iceland around the year AD 870 and were fooled by the tree species which were familiar to them in their countries and as such proceeded to clear the forests to create pastures for their livestock as they would do at home. Unknown to the Vikings, Iceland’s soils arose from light ash blown from volcanic explosions unlike the clay type in Britain and Norway and once exposed after the forests were cleared, the wind blew them away eroding the top soil. Iceland became uninhabitable! Like the story of Iceland, some mistakes have been made in the past in our case. Thus in 1957, the Buganda kingdom parliament, the Lukiiko, rejected political parties as well as the first direct elections to the Legco, then our parliament, which were held in 1958. This resulted in the kingdom losing its premier position in national affairs and gave birth to the Buganda-versus-the-rest axis.

By rejecting Ben Kiwanuka and his Democratic Party in 1962, Buganda again forfeited its opportunity to provide our first national leader after independence and perhaps lost that position if not forever, at least for a very long time to come. Many examples can be given of the missteps taken in the recent past but the latest one is the decision to reject the regional tier government. This decision will determine whether other compliant regions will outstrip Buganda in development as a result of the benefits accruing from self-government which ironically the kingdom has fought for for years. The proposed regional tier involves a number of elements which form the composite namely the region, the tier in the sense of the level at which sharing is done, a government, financial allocations, local power to legislate and the freedom to indulge a region’s cultural uniqueness. By rejecting the regional tier one is rejecting all these good things which, according to modern scholarship, are the engines for development. The reason given for the rejection that a regional tier is a poor replacement for federo is lame and unimaginative.

A regional tier is just a descriptive term of a level of government which can easily be replaced by such words as state, provincial or regional. But what is in a name? Between 1900 and 1937 the Buganda government was known as the “Lukiiko”. In 1937 it was named “His Highness the Kabaka’s Government” before becoming “Buganda Government” in the 1962 constitution. It is therefore sheer madness to miss out on having a government at Mengo simply because we do not like the description of it. But there is more to this. In a document entitled “Buganda’s position on the draft constitution: The views of the Buganda Lukiiko submitted to the Constitutional Review Commission as comments on the draft constitution in 1994, the Lukiiko stated: “Buganda is not bothered whether the constitution will label it a state, a province or a district. Buganda, for as long as it is recognised as one unit, call l it RC V, if you may, will go by whatever official administrative title adopted in the constitution.” If the term full federo which is preferred to regional tier by some people means the same arrangement as we had in 1962 then the claim is not correct at all for at page 72 of Buganda’s proposals to the Ssempebwa Constitutional Review Commission the return to the 1962 constitution was discounted ".......because every federal system has to be adjusted to meet the demands of the times”. Again at page 76 it is quite clear that the Lukiiko sanctioned the idea of regional government. So where are these new demands we hear about coming from?

Federalism, as opposed to unitarism in which power is centralised, provides for diffusion of state power among three layers or tiers of government namely national, regional or state and local while ensuring local autonomy for the regions to govern themselves through their different cultural and geographical characteristics. It is an abstract concept and should not be confused with the idea of autonomy which is just one of the elements of the federalism. The present constitution is federalist in nature, something the ultra-conservatives in Buganda fail to understand.

The manner in which a Katikkiro will be elected is a function of the idea of autonomy in that the national constitution has nothing to do with it. But in the modern world we live in today even this autonomy must be guided by democratic principles. We should take a leaf from the British practice where the Prime Minister is appointed by the Queen through the invitation of the leader of the majority party in parliament to form a government. This power of the Queen to appoint her prime minister is both symbolic and real in the sense that she normally respects the people’s will but does not have to.

Indeed in 1923 the king went over the head of the Conservative Party leader, Lord Curzon, and invited Mr. Stanley Baldwin to form the government. In the case of the Conservative Party the leader of the party used to evolve from consultations within the committee of 22 made up of the party bigwigs who would recommend a name to the Queen but the party has since 1964 elected its leader like other parties at its annual conferences.

A Katikkiro therefore does not have to be directly elected in order to satisfy the principles of democracy so long as he has gone through an election process of some sort. To resolve the impasse in Buganda we could have the majority party in the Lukiiko after consultations with the Kabaka’s six nominees in the Lukiiko nominating three names as candidates for the office.

Following the procedure in the 1962 constitution the Lukiiko will then elect a Katikkiro-designate who will then be appointed Katikkiro by the Kabaka by handing him the Ddamula. This will put democracy and tradition in a happy embrace. With the Lukiiko flipfloping on the issue of federo one wonders whether it is not exposing Buganda like the Vikings of Iceland.

The Kabaka should appoint a specialised committee, not from Mengo, like the Hancock committee to study the situation and make a recommendation to the Mengo government.
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