Federo and democratic governance

One of the controversial political issues in Uganda today is that of federalism (particularly for Buganda); what are your views on this matter?

This is an important debate, not only in Uganda, but also in many other countries. The debate is essentially about two things: how to truly democratise governance, and how to celebrate diversity within a fabric of unity. I believe that power should be located at the closest proximity to those whose lives are seriously affected by its exercise. I also believe that one can be, for example, a proud Muganda (celebrating the rich kiganda heritage, history and culture) and a patriotic Ugandan at the same time; I see no contradiction in this two-tier identity.
OLARA OTUNNU is a former UN Special Representative for children in armed conflict areas. Now president of LBL Foundation for Children, an independent organisation devoted to promoting protection, hope, healing and rehabilitation for children in communities devastated by war

Buganda leadership should seek alternatives to ‘federo’

Inside Politics March 7 - 13, 2007
Buganda leadership should seek alternatives to ‘federo’

One of those fascinating incidents which Ugandans seem to have decided to forget happened 13years ago. The year was 1993, and the country was gearing up for the restoration of traditional institutions in general.

But of particular import was that the much-longed for and even more-talked-about restoration of the Buganda Kingdom was at hand. Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi was warming up to formally step into the shoes of his father Sir Edward Mutesa II.

But just when it looked like everything was okay, some smart lawyer woke up and moved to seek an injunction against the proceedings. His name was Kenneth Kakuru, very brilliant as a lawyer, but with a penchant for stirring up trouble at just the wrong moments.

Waving the 1967 Republican Constitution, Kakuru argued that the restoration of kingship was unconstitutional.

Realising the impending catastrophe, President Yoweri Museveni simply called an emergency session of the legislature - the National Resistance Council, NRC - which amended the offending constitutional provisions to accommodate the restoration of traditional institutions. On July 31 that year, Ronald Mutebi was crowned King of Buganda.

The move established what has now become a pattern of the Museveni administration: when the President makes up his mind to do something, he will bend every rule to accomplish it - you don't have to coerce or beg him.

This 1993 incident does come to mind largely for purposes of contrast, following the recent sacking of Buganda Katikkiro (Premier) Dan Muliika who was appointed with specific instructions to deliver what, try as she might, Buganda has still failed to achieve: federalism or 'federo'.

Conservative, radical and ruthless, Muliika was a complete contrast of his predecessor Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere who had perfected the art of diplomacy; able to discuss the most unpleasant issues with a smile, rather than the smirk which we have been accustomed to seeing on Muliika's face as he made his case for 'federo'. Apparently Mulwanyamuli's diplomacy was interpreted as weakness and some thought that what the Museveni administration needed was a dose of ruthlessness. The overtures of the two former Katikiros have proved what Buganda ought to know by now: neither diplomacy nor strong-arm tactics will move President Museveni to grant 'federo'.

President Museveni does hold the key to Buganda's 'federo' aspirations. But truth is that as long as he stays in State House, the 'federo' issue will remain a distant dream.

If he had thought it important to give 'federo' to Buganda, he'd have bent or broken every rule in the book to get it done.

But the President clearly recognises that 'federo' would fundamentally undermine the process of nation building. You cannot build a modern nation by dividing it up along tribal lines. Neither would his successors (he is surely lining up those, and the keen eye can in fact identify some of them already) depart from this position.

Evidence suggests that the President holds the view that in modern statecraft, traditional rulers should remain cultural icons, symbols of good conscience, reflections of our social values and aspirations, and instruments of social cohesion, rather than political entities in themselves.

Britain herself has been from time to time debating the relevancy of the royal family, including things like whether or not the Queen should be taxed.

A look at the royalty in Japan, Netherlands, Belgium and the like tells you that the trend worldwide is for monarchs to be as far from politics as possible, just remaining symbols of social norms and aspirations around which the people rally.

As a good politician, all the President is doing is keep Buganda talking, without getting anywhere concrete. That is negotiation at its best.

The big surprise is that Buganda has up to now failed to discern that the Museveni administration really has no intention of granting 'federo'.

It is like endlessly submitting marriage proposals to a woman who is diplomatically and ever so subtly, sending quiet signals that her heart - and mind - are elsewhere.

Even when playing the almost mandatory hard-to-get that ladies love to put up for a while, making a man go round in circles, a lady who will say 'yes' often leaves some clues that all is not lost and that if the man loves her enough to pursue further, he will get her. In this case, the Museveni administration has already spoken its mind unequivocally, but Buganda has not yet discerned the reality.

Part of the problem seems to be that Buganda is not bowing to the winds of change that have engulfed the world and made certain dispositions untenable. Buganda has chosen to resist change, refusing even the slightest modification that would allow them to fit in, and preferring to live in the past.

Even by independence (1962), Buganda wanted to be restored to its pre-colonial position as a kingdom, accorded preferential treatment over other areas, and generally lead life as though the colonialists had never been or independence and statehood had never been granted to the entity we now know as Uganda.

Buganda has painted 'federo' as the magical formula, which, once it arrives, will turn everything right side up, then Buganda will live happily ever after - which is of course not true at all, since people would still have to work hard for development (and in a poor country, some things will always take long to change anyway, federo or no federo).

'Federo' ought to remain a vision; something distant that Buganda yearns and aspires for; not an immediate achievable target that so much time, money and energy should be spent on. Buganda therefore has a choice. Either continue being radical and rigid about getting 'federo' (and get nothing), or adapt (bend) to the winds of change and develop workable alternatives.

For example in Japan, until September 2006 when the Emperor's younger son (Prince Akishino) gave birth to a boy, bringing an end to what had been a succession of girl children born into the royal family, the Japanese had considered amending their Imperial House Law to allow for a female to ascend to the throne.

In fact, if Mengo were prudent, they would at a time like this, appoint a sober consultancy to establish how the kingdom can take advantage of the present circumstances and move forward, see what opportunity lies in the apparent 'difficulty', instead of trying to push an obstacle that has no intention of moving.

The consultants could also draw examples from how traditional institutions in other countries are managing to fit within their societies and how they relate to the broader superstructure called a nation.

Generally, Ugandans need to begin thinking as Ugandans rather than as members of certain tribes. Nation building includes integration of cultures and peoples and we must move towards that.

Buganda therefore ought to be thinking of how to preserve her culture rather than see nation-building through cultural integration as a threat to her own existence.

In choosing to pursue 'federo' relentlessly, Buganda must be commended for her earnestness and never-give-up attitude. But more importantly, she ought to look again and do a reality check to make sure she is not, under the guise of seeking 'federo', failing to prioritise her needs and in the process, sapping much-needed energies needlessly, losing allies and making even fewer friends.

Museveni, Kabaka to meet for fresh talks on federo


MENGOPRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni has expressed desire to resume Federo negotiations with Buganda Kingdom, Daily Monitor has learnt. He, however, wants to speak directly to Kabaka Ronald Mutebi.

READY: Mutebi
Optimistic: Museveni

Daily Monitor has learnt that Mr Museveni believes direct negotiations with the Kabaka would yield fruit unlike the previous talks central government held with a team from Mengo.

Buganda Kingdom Information Minister Medard Sseggona Lubega in a statement dated February 28 confirmed they had received communication from the government to resume the negotiations.

"The Kingdom has learnt that President Yoweri Museveni has accepted to resume federo negotiations with Buganda. We are grateful to the President for having understood our concerns," read part of the statement.

Also to be discussed is the issues of Buganda Land. Information and National Guidance Minister Kirunda Kivejinja yesterday confirmed the negotiations but was noncommittal on when they would resume.

"This is a declaration of intention indicating that there is no barrier for fresh negotiations between the two parties. But we have not yet fixed the date," he said yesterday.Federo negotiations hit a dead-end in mid 2005 after both parties failed to agree on various issues.

The government reportedly offered the Mengo team a regional tier system of governance instead of the kingdom's much cherished federo. The Buganda Lukiiko (Parliament) unanimously rejected the regional tier system; months after Parliament had passed the proposal. The new regional tier arrangement dictates that the katikkiro of Buganda be elected under adult suffrage contrary to Mengo's tradition of the Kabaka naming his katikkiro.

Electing a katikkiro was not well received by the Baganda. Speaking at a local FM station late last year, the President said he was not happy about Mengo' decision to reject the regional tier.

"I am arranging to meet the Kabaka over federo issues because we discussed these issues with his team at Nakasero. He even sent me clan heads but later the Lukiiko dismissed everything and this annoyed me," Mr Museveni said then.

FedsNet Blogger: Isn't the first citizen in Uganda enticing a cultural leader into politics. Isn't this breaking the law as per Museveni Constitution, 1995? You be the judge!

Revisiting federo debate in Buganda Kingdom

Moses Byaruhanga

Recently the Kabaka made changes at Mengo. When the new team took office, they renewed the fight for federalism which in Buganda is known as federo, and the return of the 9,000 square miles of land.

These two subjects are talked about by Mengo people with a lot of emotion and in some cases not well explained. When one talks of federalism, what does he really mean? Federalism is the sharing of power between various levels of administration, with the federal government at the top, with state or provincial governments below.

In some cases within a state or a province you have lower governments like districts or counties. The leaders at various levels in a federal system are elected by the voters. When the federo issue came up again during the constitutional amendments government took cognisance of the existing power sharing within the country between the central and local governments.

There was general agreement between those who were advancing federo and the central government leaders that the powers at district level should not be tampered with. The issue then was what powers should be given to a level higher than the district. The central government agreed to cede some powers on education, health, intra-district roads etc.

The other subject of concern was how should leadership at the regional level be determined? The government position was that they should be elected. The federo team wanted some leaders appointed by the Kabaka who is constitutionally barred from engaging in politics.

The argument of government was that in a modern world of multiparty politics where leaders at various levels compete on party basis, how do you appoint a leader at a regional government?
The leaders at Mengo who are resurrecting the federo debate should answer these questions. It is pertinent to note how history has shaped other monarchies in the world. In Britain, at one time before the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the monarch was absolute. However, with democratic evolution the monarchy in Britain left administration to the elected leaders.

Parties compete and when one party wins elections, the monarch retains a constitutional role of conferring the instruments of power to the Prime Minister. The monarch does not make a choice of who becomes the Prime Minister.

My challenge to Mengo and some of the opposition groups who, for opportunistic reasons, promise federo to Mengo is how do you mix monarchism with democracy today? Monarchs nowadays have only non-partisan roles like that of the Queen in England.

Even here in Uganda with colonialism which gave birth to the 1900 and the 1955 Buganda agreements, the powers of the monarch were greatly reduced to the extent that the Kabaka could no longer appoint any minister, including the Katikiro, without the approval of the colonial administration.

On the 9,000 square miles, at the time of the 1900 agreement, Buganda had approximately 17,000 square miles. Out of this 8,000 square miles were portioned out to 1,000 leaders including the Kabaka who was given 350 square miles.

Imagine the whites being the ones giving the Kabaka land in his own kingdom where prior to the agreement he held all the land in trust. The other 9,000 square miles went to the crown. On both lands there were local people who were tilling. Those who were on the 8,000 square miles became tenants and started paying busulu (a tax) to the new landlords who never bought the said land.

Various legislations since then have put the 9,000 square miles under various controls. When Mengo talks about this land they give the impression that it is lying somewhere being held by the state. To cut a long story short, whoever is in Buganda and is not on malio land in on that land.

All those who have land titles and bibanja outside the mailo land are what the Mengo talks about when it demands the 9,000 square miles. Government has rejected demands for restitution of this land. After all the 1995 constitution gives ownership of land io the citizen dwelling on it.

That which is not occupied or allocated was vested in the district land boards. On the current debate on whether to transform mailo land into freehold system of tenure, my view is that the two are the same and in order to avoid political confusion mailo system of land tenure should be maintained.

The writer is Special Presidential Assistant on Political Affairs.