By Don Wanyama
On Easter Sunday, a packed congregation at Rubaga Cathedral received a “special sermon”. The head of Catholics in Kampala, Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga made a passionate call for a discussion on the Buganda issue.
“Let’s try and answer all the unanswered political questions. I for one I would like to start with the unanswered political question of Buganda and Uganda,” said Dr Lwanga, a Muganda and priest of 31 years, before taking his listeners through a winding journey on Uganda’s political history.
The highlights were: On October 8, 1962, the British colonial masters offered Buganda independence—and a day later, declared the rest of “Uganda” free. The man of the robe proceeded: “Uganda is a nation made out of so many nations or countries which the Europeans undermined and called them the tribes. We too today still remain in this falsehood.”
Our falsehood, according to the archbishop, as a nation, is to imagine (like we have done for the past 48 years) that Buganda has actually been a component of Uganda. In brief, the church leader was saying Buganda “should be allowed to be an independent state”.
To illustrate this point; he drew from the concordat arrangement between the Vatican and Italy. The impression he gave was that the Vatican is basically an independent state—right—but what he did not mention is that the Vatican’s business is purely religious. Such that when you talk of the Vatican having a security machinery—it is designed to protect the church not fight secular wars. It is why you won’t see a Vatican force in Afghanistan.
But let’s get back to the question of Buganda. I was as concerned about the message as I was concerned about the messenger. As a disclaimer, the archbishop said the views were made in his private capacity as a citizen. Well, but how do you explain making these views on a global religious holiday, among people who have come to celebrate Christ’s resurrection? Obviously, there is no fooling about it; the message was designed as part of a larger Easter package. Couldn’t the archbishop have waited until later; called a press conference and shared his opinions?
And to his content: What has “Uganda” done so badly to “Buganda” that suddenly associating with the rest of the country is like shaking hands with a leper? Calls for secession must be deep rooted. When Biafra sought to break away from Nigeria, it was a reaction to mass slaughter of Igbos in 1966—and the quest for oil control. When Katanga threatened to break away from DR Congo—it was the work of a puppet Moitse Tshombe and Belgian commercial interests eyeing rich minerals in the province.
What dynamics today are prevailing that would make a man, whose duty is to preach peace, unity and reconciliation, make a bold case for division—and although veiled; for tribalism? Buganda, lately faults the government for holding onto its property despite restoring kingship in 1993. These are mainly former ssaza headquarters. Mengo also wants a free hand on influencing matters land and revenue generated from the region, while demanding semi-autonomy (or federalism).
These sound genuine concerns—but do they warrant secession as advocated for by the archbishop? The reality that Buganda cannot run away from today is that the massive wealth or show of it that we see in central region is not just a result of Baganda’s sweat. The region has become a melting pot of sorts. And largely due to NRM’s failed policy on developing the country as a whole, everyone seems to want to have a piece of Buganda. It is why parents in Mbale want their children to study in Buganda; it is why an LC3 chairman in Kotido will want to build a house in Seeta; et al.
Buganda’s growth has therefore been largely a collective effort of Uganda. So, why divorce people who have helped you grow? If Buganda’s problem is with the way the NRM government is managing affairs (and consequently affecting even beyond Baganda), then the call should be for regime change. The sermon that Archbishop Lwanga failed to give was that a bloated public administration is eating away the little funds that would ensure hospitals have drugs stocks.
The sermon that Dr Lwanga never gave was that had we a more prudent government, the Shs500 billion lost annually to corruption would help prop schools that once were the shining stars—and not the ruins of the former selves as we know them today. That then parents would not shun Tororo College or St. Joseph’s, Ombaci or Nyakasura School, to flood children to Kitende or Namugongo. In doing this, Lwanga would make it clear that it is not just a Buganda question that is unsolved; it is a national leadership question.
Maybe then, rather than rally to a cocoon of tribe for shield, Archbishop Lwanga would rise to the national occasion and preach that we all are made under the image of God, whether Mugisu, Muganda or Sabiny. That then, rather than look for what divides man, we should see what bonds us—but remain firm in resisting those who abuse God-given tasks—like leadership of a country.