Suddenly, Baganda want independence, not federo

This is the third time that Baganda have suddenly demanded independence from Uganda. On December 30, 1960 after Baganda failed to agree with the colonial secretary on a formula for independence acceptable to them, Lukiiko decided to secede. On May 20, 1966 Lukiiko once again demanded independence by giving the central government an ultimatum to quit Buganda on or before May 30, 1966.

The colonial government ignored the decision and went ahead with elections in 1961 for the independence of Uganda which the Democratic Party (DP) won under the leadership of Ben Kiwanuka and became the first prime minister of self-governing Uganda. The second decision for independence was interpreted by the central government as a rebellion that had to be prevented, resulting in the 1966/67 political and constitutional crisis that abrogated the 1962 constitution under which Buganda enjoyed a federal status.

Since the abrogation of the independence constitution, Baganda have consistently demanded its restoration and return of the federal system of governance. The demand received considerable attention at home and abroad including a debate on Radio Munansi for two consecutive weekends.

Consequently, in October 2012 a conference was held in London on federalism. The current Katikkiro of Buganda was the keynote speaker and laid the foundation for returning Uganda to a federal system. There was overwhelming support in principle from all parts of Uganda. It was decided that a committee be established to consult with all sections of the population throughout the country and in the diaspora and convene a national convention so that Ugandans decide how they want to be governed.

In March 2013, at a meeting in London, the committee on federalism was formed and tasked to conduct comprehensive consultations with a focus on culture and governance, prepare a report with action oriented recommendations and convene a conference at an appropriate time. The committee with a good representation of Baganda has begun collecting information.

Suddenly, especially since the signing of a secret Agreement between Kabaka Mutebi II and President Museveni, there has been a surge in the demand for secession using especially Somaliland as a case in point. Some Baganda have demanded that the armed wing of Ugandans to the Rescue Organization should focus on that goal. Given the deteriorating political situation in Uganda anything can happen, leading to the disintegration of Uganda or a civil war.

Experience of failed and costly attempts to secede by Southern States in the United States, Biafra in Nigeria and Chechnya in Russia should serve as a warning to the few but vocal Baganda pushing for secession. This could open a Pandora’s Box and expose Buganda’s Achilles’ heel. It could wake up “sleeping dogs” as happened during discussions for Uganda’s independence. In Ankole, Bahororo demanded a separate district which was denied. This denial woke up Museveni who ultimately created Ntungamo as a separate district and Ankole is the only area where the kingdom was not restored. The Bakonjo and Baamba demanded a separate district which was denied. It was followed by Rwenzururu guerrilla war and eventually got what they wanted.

As we know the nucleus of Buganda comprised three counties of Busiro, Kyadondo and Mawokota (G.K.Kahangi 2003). The rest was added through military conquest and colonization in part with external support and those affected know it. The issue of the lost counties should serve as a reminder complemented by current demands for autonomy by some counties. To pretend that all is a Garden of Roses in Buganda is unwise.

To avoid a possible catastrophe, Buganda and indeed Uganda need statesmen/women to craft a vision for the entire country for present and future generations based on a federal system that allows regions to determine their destiny in areas in which they have a comparative advantage except national defense, national security, foreign affairs, national currency and regulations for sustainable management of natural resources.

We should refrain from appeasement in seeking support for the next elections as some prospective presidential candidates have begun to do. The few vocal voices demanding secession not only in Buganda but in other areas should be persuaded to rethink because the costs in the short, medium and long term could outweigh the benefits.