The consequences of the triumph of religion over tradition in Buganda

The people of Buganda were under the control of clan heads (Bataka). The Kabaka was little more than primus inter pares – senior member among clan heads. However, by the 19th century, most of clan heads had lost their powers to the Kabaka who established supremacy beyond the original three counties (Busiro, Mawokota and Kyadondo) largely through the use of force. The Kabaka who became head of all clan heads exercised absolute rule.

However, no individual owned land. An individual could use land, pass it on to relatives but he could not separate his part from the kin system. Thus, the kin owned the land and the people used it. The 1900 Buganda Agreement changed all that tradition and replaced it with the landed gentry dominated by Christians that have controlled the political economy of Buganda – and of Uganda – since then.

The passing of Mutesa I in 1884 was accompanied by the struggle for power among Protestants, Catholics, Muslims and traditional chiefs. In the end the traditional chiefs and Kabaka Mwanga who opposed religious influence in his kingdom lost. Mwanga fled, was captured and died in exile. He was succeeded by an infant King Daudi Chwa. Power was exercised by three religious regents led by Katikkiro Apolo Kagwa of the Anglican Church. To consolidate their position, the regents collaborated with Sir Harry Johnston who drew up the 1900 Uganda Agreement that revolutionized Buganda politics, economy and society.

The future Uganda deserves

Uganda must embrace the politics of ideas, not of money;

Uganda must embrace constructive engagement, not destructive monologue;

Uganda must seek leadership with impeccable record and vast experience in domestic and external affairs, not novices with tarnished image;

Uganda must demand patriotic leadership that puts the country first, not itself, its relatives and handpicked individuals;

Uganda must demand leadership that addresses the people directly, not through agents and/or press releases;

Uganda must demand leadership with a clear historical background and record, not one shrouded in secrecy including changing of names;

Uganda must embrace the Wilsonian doctrine of self-determination for all peoples enshrined in UN, regional and national instruments, not suppression of voiceless, powerless and/or conquered communities;

Uganda must demand a foreign policy of non-alignment, not jumping from one position to another for regime survival;

Uganda must demand an economy that is equitable and protects the environment, not one based on economic growth and per capita income alone;

Uganda must demand economic integration that accords real net benefits to citizens, not one that disadvantages it through unsustainable migrations, asset and job grabbing from Ugandans;

The morality of post-colonial Uganda needs to be examined

The idea of the right to self-determination that was promoted by President Woodrow Wilson is about improving material, social and moral well being of people under colonial rule or dictatorship.

In point V of his fourteen Points program Wilson underscored the need for “A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined”. Point XIV stressed “A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small nations”. This principle was incorporated into the Covenant of the League of Nations.

The peace settlement of WWI emphasized the principle of self-determination, meaning the right of each nation to choose its form of government, causing the flame of nationalism to burn even brighter than before. In Kenya and South Africa, for example, the spirit of nationalism focused on the return of land to indigenous peoples.

Uganda in the process of understanding itself

Before colonial rule communities were identified by clans each with a totem. With colonialism, new notions of tribe, ethnicity and nations emerged and have submerged clans. Discussions regarding self-determination and good governance, have necessitated we know ourselves better. Some Ugandans prefer to revert to clans, others want tribes, yet others prefer ethnicity or nation. Let us focus on tribe and nation.

Tribe: According to the World Book Encyclopedia (1985), tribe is a term used to describe certain human social groups. It is generally a disliked term because it lacks precise meaning and has been applied to many widely different groups. Many groups consider the term to be offensive or inaccurate and prefer different terms like ethnicity or nation. The term tends to be used arbitrarily. Solon a Greek leader decided to divide the Ionian communities into four tribes according to wealth and landownership. Years later Kleisthenes divided the Ionians into ten tribes in honor of Attic heroes. Although Ionians continued to acknowledge their four tribes they ceased to play an important part in the administrative process (Robert Garland 2008).

How the 1900 Uganda Agreement created a landed oligarchy in Buganda

We are writing these stories by popular demand and as part of civic education. We call on all Ugandans, friends and well wishers to make their constructive contribution to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

Let us begin by explaining how Buganda and Uganda came about and got mixed up. According to Peter N. Gukiina (1972), “’Uganda” meant Buganda kingdom, ‘Uganda’ being the word for ‘Buganda’ in Kiswahili”. Philip D. Curtin (2000) writes “Present-day Uganda takes its name from a Swahili corruption [irregular alteration from original state or form] of the word Buganda”. Both Swahili and Luganda are Bantu languages.

Through Stanley Kabaka Mutesa I invited Christians to come to Buganda to counter Muslim influence coming from the east and the north of the kingdom. Through an anonymous donor the C.M.S. (Church Missionary Society) received 5,000 British pounds. They arrived in 1877. In 1879 the White Fathers Missionaries arrived. Among other things, the long illness of the Kabaka opened the door for political power struggle. The four-to five hundred young pages of the Kabaka became the target of political maneuvering. Within four years Catholics and Anglicans had baptized many of Kabaka’s pages.

Buganda expanded, colonized and consolidated during the colonial rule

For over 200 years Bunyoro had been the most extensive and powerful kingdom. Its kingdom included Buganda. Too many wars and a large empire weakened Bunyoro. Buganda under leaders starting with Mawanda began to expand at the expense of Bunyoro. He invaded Busoga. Junju drove Bunyoro out of Buddu and took over Koki. King Kamanya drove Bunyoro out of Buwekula. By the time Suna came to power, Bunyoro had been reduced to Buruli and north Singo, central Bunyoro itself, Bugangaizi, Buyaga and the eastern counties of the present Toro district (Karugire 1973). Kabula was conquered from Ankole.

Notwithstanding all this, according to Gardner Thompson (2003) Buganda had not yet been able to fully assert pre-eminence over its neighbors independently before the British helped it. Thus, according to Philip Curtin (2000), pre-European Buganda remained small (when Britain took over).“It covered only the area a hundred miles or so inland from the north shore of Lake Victoria, in a half-circle that ran west of the point where the Nile flows out of the lake”. And Bunyoro had regained military strength and was recovering its lost territories.

Land ownership in Buganda has entered a dangerous phase

Before the 1900 Uganda Agreement land in Buganda was owned by the people under the supervision of their clan heads (Bataka). The Agreement changed all that. Half of the land that was uncultivated, covered under forests and swamps was taken over by the colonial administration as Crown Land. The other half that was occupied by indigenous peasants was taken over by the Kabaka and his family members, regents, chiefs and a few notables as mailo land. The owners were neither consulted nor compensated for the transformation.

The allocation of land among the new owners was done by the Lukiiko comprising the regents and chiefs. The allocation was not only done so fast, it also resulted in massive resettlement as chiefs moved with their followers to their new land. For example, a Protestant chief evicted from his areas Catholics, Muslims and pagans. A Catholic chief evicted Protestants, Muslims and pagans and a Muslim chief evicted Protestants, Catholics and pagans. The pagans were not represented in the Lukiiko.

The revolution that transformed Buganda society is being repeated

The purpose of my research and writing is to provide information to encourage Ugandans to debate issues of interest to the present and future generations. So far I have focused on Buganda and the Great Lakes region, raising issues many of them controversial such as tribes and nations.

In this posting I want to show how the 1900 Uganda Agreement revolutionized Buganda society by changing land ownership, a process that is being repeated at the moment under the NRM government.

In 1899 Sir Harry Johnston was appointed Special Commissioner with a mandate regarding the administration of Buganda and land ownership. Regarding the latter he chose to work with the three ministers that served as regents and the Lukiiko.

Johnson convinced Baganda leaders in part through bribery that uncultivated land, forests and wetlands/swamps – half of Buganda land – come under the Protectorate Government as Crown Land. The rest was shared by the Kabaka, members of his family, the three ministers, saza and lesser chiefs and 1000 notables.

Secession or federation may disintegrate Buganda

If a nation is defined by a common ancestry, common language and common religion, then Buganda doesn’t qualify as one. Buganda expanded from three counties of Busiro, Kyadondo and Mawokota to a large kingdom comprising people of different ancestries, different languages and different religions.

The expansion of Buganda began in the 17th century largely by invading and conquering neighboring territories and peoples of Ankole, Bunyoro and Busoga and subjugating the conquered people. Contact with Arabs introduced guns into Buganda that were used in her territorial expansion. It is reported that at one time Kabaka Mutesa I possessed 1000 guns. Guns together with Anglo-Buganda alliance during the colonization process enabled Buganda to acquire more territory by force at the expense of Bunyoro which has consistently demanded return of the ‘lost counties’.

Although Luganda is spoken in all parts of Buganda, many communities still speak their mother tongues particularly in the ‘lost counties’. Buganda is also a multi-religious society.

FUF is external branch of NRM that started on a wrong foot

The abrupt founding of FUF is suspect at a time when Ugandans in the diaspora and at home are gathering momentum and coming together to oust NRM from power, witness The Hague conference. If Sejusa and his supporters were for the opposition they should have attended the conference because the invitation was open to all Ugandans. Instead they held a separate conference shortly after The Hague one to show that there is an alternative.

Besides being rushed, the founding conference was restricted to a few handpicked participants to avoid opposition. One participant who either got in the conference by accident or changed her mind while there was thrown out for asking questions that were not tolerated. The participants wanted to meet in a closed session and hammer out a strategy to divide the opposition in the diaspora. However, exclusion and expulsion tactics have dealt FUF a serious damage.

The manifesto is also divisive. While the impression is about maximum mobilization, FUF is solidly founded on ecumenical foundation, meaning it wants to unify Christians only and separate them from the followers of other religions. According to our records, the first ecumenical council met in AD 325 at Nicaea and defined beliefs for all Christians – not all religions! So why has FUF confined itself to the Christian community only? Students of religions might tell you that that is a divisive strategy.