Watching the recent events in Uganda, one cannot help feeling sad but not surprised by the violence; it was coming for a long time. A relative calm has been restored to the streets of the business district but the events will affect Uganda and our region for decades to come.
Historians will tell you that this crisis between Museveni and the Kabaka has roots deep in history going back to the start of colonialism and the 1900 Buganda Agreement.
However, recent events have had more effect than ancient treaties. To put it simply, this problem has been allowed to fester to its current state. When NRM was formed they were officially a non-tribal organisation, in that they did not recognise tribal distinctions.
When NRM came to power, they found that the mindsets of Ugandans were deeply tribal as the nation had fragmented during the war.
The biggest tribe in Uganda, the Baganda always felt a sense of entitlement in line with numerical size although they make only 25%; restoring Buganda after promising not to do so was Museveni’s first big mistake in power.
Museveni had little support among Baganda, so he restored the Kingdom, in so doing he had to restore all other kingdoms like Bunyoro and Toro.
Rewind back 20 years and we had the same situation, Banyarwanda have been part of Uganda’s history going back 1,000 years or more, but the quirks of colonial mapping meant that some found themselves in Uganda.
However, 20 years ago in Uganda the High Court ruled that a Munyarwanda could never be a Ugandan; this meant the “Bararo” cattle-keepers of Masaka were evicted.
he effect of this ruling was to be the final straw for many Rwandans who had fought for NRA but now felt betrayed. Thank God for that ruling because it spurred us to resolve our statelessness once and for all.
The seeds of this conflict were sown when tribalism was officially allowed to enter politics; when the government recognised native tribes they effectively legalised discrimination.
A Muganda has more rights in Buganda than an Acholi or Munyankole, and so forth; so when land rights become an issue it means instant conflict.
What happened to Banyarwanda is now happening to Ugandans; except now they cannot claim they are foreigners.
The Bakiga in Bunyoro were moved from Kigezi by the British to make way for tea plantations; so these Bakiga are now aliens, much like we were.
Then there is the Buganda crisis; a petty and bitter war of intrigue perpetuated by the King’s court and the Presidency; the two protagonists haven’t talked to each other for 2 years and this is at the heart of the problem.
The only solution is to disband all kingdoms immediately; these kingdoms can exist as cultural entities but not as political institutions.
Ugandans have intense tribal loyalty and tribes will always be part of people’s identity there, but they cannot be political blocs because in this hides the seeds of a genocide.
Uganda needs to learn from Rwanda and abolish tribal recognition in all legal and constitutional matters; there will be a big outcry but it is the first step towards integration, both internally and regionally.
The author is a regular columnist with The New Times