Uganda should consider a federal or co-federal governance system

When a country and its society are faced with difficulties like Uganda is currently going through and there is a possibility of major changes, many ideas float around. A section of Baganda has boldly come up with the idea that a Baganda alone independent state be created through armed struggle, should that become necessary. They are regularly calling for non-Baganda to quit Buganda soil and return to their homes because they are impoverishing Baganda and grabbing their properties especially land and polluting their culture. You have heard these stories on Radio Munansi, among others. So this is not a secret.

Secession, however, raises many serious questions for Buganda that need to be considered very carefully.

1. Buganda rose from a small entity of three counties to a large state by military conquest, surrender or colonization initially with the help of guns supplied by Arab traders in exchange for slaves and ivory captured from conquered territories and peoples. When Britain arrived on the scene Buganda was still in the process of consolidating what it had acquired that gave Buganda ten counties. Without British support, Buganda would probably have lost some territories as Bunyoro was regaining what it had lost.

2. As a reward for helping to conquer and colonize Bunyoro, Britain handed over Bunyoro colonized territories and peoples to Buganda raising the number of counties from ten to twenty. These colonized Bunyoro territories and peoples were included in the 1900 Uganda Agreement. Bunyoro has never accepted loss of her territories and peoples which technically remain colonial entities still in search of self-determination, witness Buruli and Bugerere. The Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly has mandate to receive requests from people and territories seeking self-determination, so the door is still open for the issue of self-determination to be raised and may receive a positive hearing as the issue of human rights and fundamental freedoms is on the front burner at the United Nations General Assembly.

3. On December 14, 1960 the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 1514 (XV) titled “The Right of Self-Determination: Declaration on Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”. The resolution recognized “that the peoples of the world ardently desire the end of colonialism in all its manifestations”. It adds that “All peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”. Baganda should take this resolution seriously into account as we debate how Uganda should be governed in post-NRM period. All options except secession should be on the table so that Ugandans exercise their political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights.

4. Buganda should try to understand why Amin split Masaka from Buganda and attached it to Southern Province comprising South and North Kigezi; West and East Ankole; and South and North Masaka with the provincial headquarters at Mbarara and divided the rest of Buganda into Buganda Province and Central Province.

5. Buganda given its strategic location and historical developments as the seat of the colonial and subsequently of independent Uganda and as Uganda’s economic growth pole whose leaders and experts later were sympathetic to refugees from troubled neighboring countries and beyond and settled them on Buganda soil and appear to have acquired a permanent status has become a melting pot. The expansion of Greater Kampala has eaten deep into Mengo and Masaka indigenous population is probably less than fifty percent. Luwero Triangle lost some 700,000 people (half of the population in the area) during the guerrilla war and new people have occupied much of Buganda land and continue to do so at breakneck speed while we watch.

Given these difficult developments it is advisable that Buganda learns lessons from countries in more or less similar situation why some have managed to cling together while others have disintegrated.

1. Ethiopia expanded by conquering neighboring territories including Sidamo, Oromo and Ogaden. Through a carefully crafted federal constitution Ethiopia is still one country.

2. Jordan with more than half of its population being Palestinian refugees has managed to forge a governance system that has kept the country together.

On the other hand:

3. Yugoslavia failed to keep different groups together and collapsed.

4. The Soviet Union failed to keep different groups together and disintegrated.

Out of these lessons Baganda and other Ugandans should come together during the post-NRM transitional government UDU proposed and adopted by The Hague Process (THP) and debate and agree on how they want to be governed while keeping Uganda together as one country.

Eric Kashambuzi