The nations of Uganda should define how they want to be governed

A nation is defined by two main characteristics: a common ancestry and a common indigenous language (in Spain for instance people are questioning the idea of the ‘Spanish nation’ that carries negative connotations. They would rather discuss a grouping of 17 autonomous regions – Andrew Whittaker 2008).

Nations or people are the ones, not governments that decide how they want to be governed including declaration of independence, federation or confederation etc. The principle of the people determining how they should be governed was contained in the 1941 Atlantic Charter between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The charter supported the right of all people to choose their leaders (Roger Matuz 2009).

In 1945 the Charter of the United Nations was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It states:We the people of the United Nations are determined to develop friendly relations among nations large and small based on respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples (UN Charter).

In 1960 the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 1514 (XV) on Self-determination. It reaffirmed 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”(United Nations 2002. Human Rights Part I Universal Instruments).

As we examine how Ugandans should be governed in post-NRM period we need to be sure we know what constitutes a nation and the extent to which these nations are independent and free to pursue their political, economic, social and cultural affairs. There are some Ugandans that have come up with 15 nations as a basis for determining how Ugandans should be governed. They have for instance classified all people in former Ankole as one nation; people in former Kigezi as one nation; people in Buganda as one nation and people in former Toro as one nation etc. We need to understand what criteria were used and to be convinced that that those were the right criteria before moving forward.

What we know is that for administrative convenience, the many independent clans that existed in pre-colonial communities that formed Uganda were compressed into “tribes”. For example in Rujumbura the many Bantu/Bairu clans were joined with Nilotic/Batutsi groups and collectively called Bahororo because Makobore who was chief decided all the people of Rujumbura be called Bahororo. That is how the “tribe” of Bahororo came about and has caused so much confusion.

This collective designation of Bahororo was for purposes of administrative convenience. That it was so can be seen since Museveni came to power. It is Batutsi/Bahororo that have enormously benefited from the NRM regime and not Bairu/Bahororo including those that supported him during the guerrilla war. It should not have surprised those who knew sectarianism in Rukungiri why Tutsi people who openly supported or led UPC during the guerrilla war were the first to be protected by NRA when Museveni captured power and the first to get jobs in NRM government or compensated for their properties that were destroyed during the 1981-85 guerrilla war.

Timothy H. Parsons (2010) has cleared this confusion about tribe or nation by stating that “Confused by the range of fluid and often overlapping ethnicities of pre-conquest Africa, British officials concluded that Africans lived in unchanging tribal societies. In the imperial imagination, a tribe was a lower form of political and social organization that, with proper paternal guidance, might one day evolve into a nation. … Working in the service of colonial governments, anthropologists mapped tribal languages, social institutions and customary laws to fashion the tools of imperial administration for district officers. … However, British officials actually knew very little about the local institutions and customs they claimed to protect. Their ignorance created opportunities for individuals [like Makobore of Rujumbura] to convince imperial officials and ethnographers to make them chiefs with the vested authority to define the tribal customs that became the basis of imperial administration”(Parsons 2010). That presumably is how the present so-called 15 nations of Uganda came about.

Through this administrative convenience some clans were placed under hostile chiefs or unacceptable names. For example the people of Bufumbira that were called Banyarwanda changed the name after independence to Bafumbira.

Buganda absorbed parts of Banyoro in part as a reward for supporting Britain to “pacify” Bunyoro and in part because to the British officials the Banyoro and Baganda looked the same, shared similar ecological conditions and spoke a similar (Bantu) language. So they did not anticipate the problems of “Lost Counties”.

As researchers and objective politicians there are issues that need to be addressed fairly in order to find a lasting solution in Uganda. The issue of nations is very delicate and politicians governed by personal gain don’t want to touch. Patriotic Ugandans who are more interested in laying a solid foundation for present and future generations than in gaining a public office should address these issues provided they are fair in research, analysis and recommendations.

For instance, the antagonistic history of Bunyoro and Buganda is still with us today. Robin Hallet (1974) wrote that “Between Bunyoro and Buganda there was a long tradition of conflict into which the British inevitably found themselves drawn. In 1894 Bunyoro was invaded by British and Ganda forces and the ruler, Kabarega, driven from his kingdom [and Bunyoro was colonized]. The Ganda were rewarded for their part in the victory by a large slice of Nyoro territory [that had become colonized], an award that created an issue – the fate of the ‘lost counties’ destined to trouble Uganda…”.

Ipso facto, technically these ‘lost counties and nations or peoples’ are still colonized. According to the UN Charter and UN Resolution on Self-determination, the people in these lost counties (Banyoro and others) have the right to decide how they want to be governed and choose their leaders. The enumeration of people living in those territories that gave one nation the edge over the minority nation(s) was the wrong measure of self-determination.

It is important to note that after Bunyoro was defeated and colonized “Baganda chiefs then demanded all of Bunyoro, claiming that it was a former vassal state. After a careful consideration, the British decided these claims were not fully substantiated, but they permitted Buganda to assimilate a portion of Bunyoro… On assuming administration of the territory, Buganda chiefs attempted to compel the people [conquered and colonized Banyoro] to remain as laborers, thereby inciting a struggle that broke the peace periodically…. Still a major issue today, this conflict is known as ‘the lost counties dispute”.

For the record it is important to note that it was Buganda that at one time was a part of Bunyoro and not the other way around and Banyoro were regaining their territory lost to Buganda when the British arrived. It is also important to note that Bahororo of Ankole who felt they had been colonized by Bahinda chiefs of Ankole demanded a separate district at independence but failed like in Bunyoro to get it. Bunyoro got back only two counties out of eight counties in the 1964 referendum. There are many pending conflicts of this kind in other parts of Uganda including in Rukungiri district.

To resolve these conflicts Uganda should avail ourselves of instruments and decisions in the Atlantic Charter, United Nations Charter and the 1960 United Nations resolution on self-determination. Short of this Uganda will remain a troubled part of Africa and the world.

As Ugandans (nations or individuals) understand their rights and freedoms they will not rest until justice has prevailed. The post-NRM government should take bold steps and address these issues through convening a national convention to discuss everything within the framework of Uganda because in diversity and good governance Uganda is stronger than splitting into small economically unviable communities as has been ably but sadly demonstrated by dividing Uganda into over 100 districts.

Eric Kashambuzi


People power sent Marcos into exile

Ferdinand Marcos was elected president in 1965 and re-elected in 1969. To overcome a two-term limit and stay in power, he declared Martial law in 1972. He made promises like land reform, end corruption and large-scale foreign investments which he did not meet. Opposition grew by civilian non-violence and armed rebellion. In 1983 the opposition leader Benigno Aquino returned home from exile and was assassinated at Manila airport on arrival, an act of desperation.

In 1986 Marcos called snap elections which he rigged and supporters of the opposition leader Corazon Aquino objected. “When Marcos moved toward his own inauguration, the people of Manila took to the streets and physically surrounded the presidential palace in a non-violent protest. Fearing a civil was the Filipino army abandoned Marcos, who fled the country”(Arthur Cotterell 2011).

Why do Ugandans want to live separately?

I have been conducting research on this subject from primary and secondary sources for a long time. By and large, the desire to drift into separate communities or states is driven by a sense of insecurity not only in Uganda but in many parts of the Great Lakes region as well. There was a time when suggestions were made that the Tutsi and Hutu in Burundi and Rwanda should be separated so that the Tutsi live together in one country and the Hutu in another. The idea did not advance to the stage of negotiations because ethnicity is not the primary source of conflict. For example, from 1962 to 1994 conflicts in Rwanda were not inter-ethnic but intra-ethnic between Hutu in the south and Hutu in the north.

In Uganda there is a strong sense of post-independence injustice on the one hand and insecurity on the other hand. During colonial days some regions and communities benefited at the expense of others. The indirect rule system benefited chiefs and their relatives at the expense of their subjects. Areas that were designated labor reserves in northern and western Uganda suffered economic and social injustice at the expense of those that were designated growth poles in Buganda and Busoga. By way of illustration, let us examine this injustice and insecurity with reference to Rukungiri and Buganda respectively.

In Rukungiri where I was born and grew up Bairu/Bahororo to which I belong were dominated by Batutsi/Bahororo under the indirect rule system that benefited the latter at the expense of the former. Notwithstanding this inequality, there was some sense of shared responsibility and caring that nurtured social cohesion especially during hard times. Inter-ethnic differences were softened by social relations that existed in many areas of human endeavor.

During my school days, some of my best friends were Tutsi including the late Rwekitama and Hindi. I stayed with Hindi in Kampala en route from Nairobi University to Rukungiri. Karahukayo and I were great friends. At one time we shared a bed because they could not find extra space where we spent a night in Rukungiri town after an evening social event. Rwabugaire and I played soccer together and he took good care of me when we went to Kabale for sports competition. Kabateraine Ruhinda Gombolola chief who owned a vehicle gave me free rides. While visiting Rweshama, a small fishing town, I met Bahinguza who invited me to lunch at short notice. Tabisa and Magoba took good care of me at Rwamahwa dispensary when I fell sick and was admitted. Kitaburaza Rukungiri saza chief and later Secretary General of Kigezi district was a good man at least in terms of giving us Bairu students a ride in his car when there was space. These are Tutsi people (some of them have departed and rest in peace) that took care of Hutu people.

The situation drastically changed when politics was introduced as independence approached that allowed Bairu and Tutsi to compete on an equal basis (By the way there are no Bahima in Rukungiri. There are Batutsi/Bahororo people who fled former Mpororo kingdom after it collapsed and Bahima replaced them).

Notwithstanding Tutsi numerical inferiority to Bairu, the former were determined to dominate the political theater by dividing Bairu. Bairu who opposed Tutsi hegemony were branded meat eaters (that they stole and slaughtered the cow of the Kigezi constitutional head). Firebrand Bairu were isolated and targeted for harassment. Many Bairu even migrated to other areas of Uganda.

The situation got worse under the NRM government, using impoverishment and dispossession as a tool of domination. Bairu have no jobs even when, on balance, they are better educated. Bairu are losing their land under the so-called willing seller and willing buyer concept when actually transactions are largely conducted at gun point or under cover of darkness. Bairu area has been incorporated into Rukungiri municipality without consultation and municipal taxes which Bairu can’t afford are forcing them to sell their land and other assets at throw away prices. It is this sense of insecurity and dominance that is causing Bairu to wish they could live alone in peace. At the same time inequality between Tutsi and Bairu is causing instability that is threatening the comfort of Tutsi. There are stories – subject to confirmation – that the Tutsi in Ntungamo and Rukungiri want to secede and join Tutsi in Rwanda and Eastern DRC.

The geography and history of Buganda put the kingdom in a strategic position and gained disproportionately over other regions, a situation some Baganda contest as on radio munansi. As negotiations for a unitary independent state approached, Baganda feared they might lose to the poorer regions. According to the Wild Constitutional Committee report of 1959, “A very great majority of people in the Eastern, Northern and Western Provinces … favor[ed] the unitary system of government for Uganda”. On the other hand “… it seems that the feeling in Buganda for a greater and greater degree of autonomy and for a federal arrangement derives from a fear that Buganda might be dominated by a coalition from the Eastern, Northern and Western Provinces”(Wild Report 1959). When Baganda did not get what they wanted they declared Buganda independent in December 1960 but had no means of implementing the decision. Baganda reluctantly participated in the Lancaster Constitutional conference where fear of DP winning forced UPC/KY, strange bedfellows, into a coalition.

Buganda loss of a referendum on two lost countries to Bunyoro in 1964 led to another attempt at secession when in 1966 Lukiiko decided in a hurriedly drafted resolution that the central government quit the soil of Buganda within ten days. This was another secession that did not materialize.

The deteriorating conditions under which Baganda and indeed all Ugandans not connected to the center of power are living since 1986 have rekindled the idea of secession. While Bairu of Rukungiri and Baganda and others we did not examine in this brief have a genuine need for self-determination and separate political existence, it is important to draw lessons from those that have attempted: some have failed and others have succeeded.

Katanga and Kasai in DRC attempted and failed. Biafra attempted and failed. Chechnya tried and didn’t go far. Somaliland that seceded in 1992 has not been recognized by any country. South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Kosovo have not received adequate recognition for ideological reasons. “Not surprisingly, its [Russian] recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia drew swift condemnation from the United States and the European Union, just as these two powers’ recognition of Kosovo … drew condemnation from the Kremlin ”(World Policy Journal Spring 2013).

The record in Eritrea and South Sudan, the two countries that succeeded in gaining sovereignty appear not to be functioning as expected and don’t serve as role models for emulation.

This leaves us with one option: to work out a governing system that keeps Uganda together but allows different regions and communities within regions to be responsible for managing their own affairs except in areas of defense, security, foreign affairs and national currency that would remain central government responsibility.

Ugandans should agree to establish a broad-based transitional government managed by a presidential team after NRM has been unseated. The transitional government should conduct a comprehensive population census to give a sense of how many we are and who we are. The census results should then form the basis for holding a national convention to debate and agree on how Ugandans should be governed, allowing flexibility to avoid a one-size-fits-all model. This undertaking requires cool mind, forward looking and a patriotic spirit to succeed.

Eric Kashambuzi


Uganda needs a transitional government under collective leadership

Uganda is slightly over fifty years old since it attained independence in October 1962. Uganda had been slated to achieve independence ahead of then Tanganyika and Kenya. However, internal political conflicts prevented that from happening and Tanganyika got there ahead of Uganda. Even with this delay, we were not able to resolve all the outstanding challenges. In a rush to beat the Catholic-based Democratic Party (DP) that won the 1961 elections and formed the self-government administration, the Protestants rushed into a UPC/KY coalition.

The constitutional negotiators at Lancaster House could not agree on the head of state so we ended up with the Queen represented by the Governor-General. In 1963 the constitution was amended and created the post of a constitutional head of state which was occupied by the Kabaka of Buganda in an election that was considered unfair by contenders from other regions, leaving executive power in the prime minister from the north to the discomfort of Eastern and Western regions. A disproportionate share of the benefits of independence went to the central and northern regions. The executive presidency created in 1967 put too much power in the hands of one president and contributed to the military coup of 1971 that concentrated even more power in the northern region in one military leader.

The problem of having one head of state was recognized during the interim government after the overthrow of the Amin regime in 1979 when a three man presidential commission comprising Wacha Olwol (northern region), Justice Musoke (Buganda region) and Nyamuchoncho (western region). The eastern region was left out. The personal ambitions of Obote and Museveni recreated the post of head of state and government under one leader and eliminated the institution of a presidential commission.

The disadvantages of excessive concentration of power in Museveni as head of state and government; commander-in-chief of the armed forces and chairman of the ruling party are so well known that they don’t need repeating here. Suffice it to say that the institution of a single person as head of state has not served Uganda well in its ethnic, cultural, economic, social and demographic diversity. Accordingly, we need a collective arrangement that will accommodate all the four regions and Uganda diversity as proposed below.

At the political level dissatisfaction has also been expressed beginning with blocking DP from electing representatives to parliament in Buganda in the 1962 elections to the movement system that essentially became a one party political arrangement and the winner-takes-all since the multiparty system was launched in 2005.

Democracy at gun point in addition to bribery by NRM in an environment lacking a level playing field has rendered elections in Uganda an exercise in futility. Ugandans are being disenfranchised in large numbers while foreigners are voting with NRM against the Uganda constitution that bans them from voting. Thus, Uganda’s political and central administration institutions that have benefited a few Ugandans and concentrated power in a small geographic area and one ethnic group at the expense of the rest is setting the stage for a political explosion.

What we are seeing in Uganda in terms of concentration of power and resources is similar to what obtained in France before the 1789 revolution, before the Mexican revolution in 1910, before the revolution in 1917 in Russia and the Ethiopian revolution in 1974. Uganda is thus ready for a revolution – peaceful or bloody. What is missing is a spark whose arrival can’t be predicted. It could occur next week or next month. But we can stop it if there is political will and common sense among Ugandans. We need to do the following to avert a catastrophe.

1. Ugandans must agree on abroad-based transitional government excluding those who are alleged to have committed crimes against humanity whether still in NRM government or out of it. The government must be equitably represented by region, demographics, faiths and ethnicity.

2. The transitional government must be led by a presidential commission so that each region is represented by one person. Care must be taken to ensure that we don’t end up with people from the same ethnic group or religion dominating the commission. There are some ethnic groups that have settled in all parts of Uganda.

3. The public service commission must also be managed by a commission instead of one chairperson. This proposed arrangement will minimize sectarianism in recruiting, reassigning and promoting staff.

4. A formula must be designed to ensure that the security forces (the army, the police and the intelligence) are similarly managed on a collective basis to ensure that power is not concentrated in one person or a group of persons from one region or ethnic group.

5. The cabinet must be similarly constituted so that there is a balance in the distribution of posts regionally ensuring that the most important and strategic ministries of defense, internal affairs, foreign affairs, finance and attorney general don’t go to one region or one ethnic group

6. Separation of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government must be strictly observed through transparency and accountability to the people of Uganda that must participate effectively in decisions that affect their lives.

Apart from the day to day management of state affairs, the presidential commission (or council whichever sounds better) should conduct a comprehensive population census to determine exactly how many we are and who we are. The data would be useful for planning purposes. Then a national convention should be convened for Ugandans to debate and decide how they wish to be governed.

This collective arrangement has the potential of introducing peaceful and inclusive conditions for economic and equitable growth, job creation, poverty eradication and ultimately attainment of state security and individual freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity.

Eric Kashambuzi is an international consultant on development issues. He lives in New York.

The likely impact of Buganda secession

Some Baganda – probably a few but very vocal – are calling for an independent kingdom for Baganda only. They argue that non-Baganda have devalued their culture, impoverished Baganda economically, socially and environmentally and dispossessed them of their assets and that there are some non-Baganda who are confusing Baganda. For example, a friend contacted and told me that around 12:15 pm on Sunday, September 14, 2014 London-based Michael Mutagubya stated that he is on radio munansi to make sure that people like Kashambuzi do not confuse Baganda. Apparently he did not elaborate which he should be asked to do. Mutagubya is focusing his sessions on Baganda culture presumably preparing Baganda to demand a return to their pure traditions as the rapidly globalizing world is adversely affecting Buganda culture. One would like to know what Mutagubya advised the Katikiro regarding Buganda independence during the latter’s recent tour.

This group of Baganda is demanding that non-Baganda must quit Buganda soil and go back to their areas (every goat must return to its peg) and has divided Baganda. This is reminiscent of what three Saza chiefs in Lukiiko forced on other members of the Lukiiko to demand in 1966 that the central government quit Buganda soil within 9 days. Here is what happened. “On the 20th May, three saza chiefs – two of them, Lameka Sebanakitta of Kyaggwe, and James Lutaya of Ssingo, close associates of the Kabaka (the third being the saza chief of Buddu) – proposed a radical motion in the Lukiiko which was unanimously carried. The Lukiiko thereupon served an ultimatum on the central government which was asked ‘to remove itself from the soil of Buganda before 30th May 1966. … On the 28th May, five of the Kabaka’s ministers, obviously unhappy with the Lukiiko resolution of the previous week broadcast a message from Kampala appealing for calm and an end to the fighting. It was clear that though the embattled and embittered Kabaka was in favor of the Lukiiko motion, his Katikiro was opposed to it”(T.V.Sathyamurthy 1986). Similarly Baganda are again divided on the issue of secession.

Secession alone is a complex matter. Baganda only secession and independence is even more complex. Who is a Muganda? How did Buganda acquire its territories? Has self-determination been fully exercised in Buganda by communities and individuals? If not, should secession allow individuals and communities to exercise their right to self-determination and decide whether to remain part of Buganda or drift away? What will happen to territories that have more non-Baganda than Baganda as happened in Kosovo where Albanians exceeded Serbians and demanded independence?

It must be understood by Baganda and non-Baganda alike that the location of the central government and implicitly the massive attraction of non-Baganda to Buganda was dictated by Baganda. The Kabaka Yekka Movement issued a public statement which reads:

“As from 1st March, 1962, the seat of Uganda Prime Minister will be in Buganda at Entebbe, and the National Assembly of Uganda will also be in Buganda in Kampala. We of the Kabaka Yekka cannot hesitate to state that if Uganda is ever to be a prosperous and peaceful country, the Prime Minister must always be subordinate to the Kabaka and other hereditary rulers as shown by the Kabaka in the picture opposite”(Onyango Odongo 1993).

What are the legal implications, if any, should the central government and non-Baganda be forced out of Buganda?

The first problem Baganda will face is to define who a Muganda is and who is not. The second is what to do with all the non-Baganda in Buganda that demographically exceed those who consider themselves Baganda. In a democratic society this matter should be voted on. In the unlikely event that non-Baganda quit Buganda how will compensation be handled? Furthermore, Baganda and non-Baganda alike need to know that there are many Baganda living outside Buganda in virtually all parts of Uganda. What will happen to those who may not want to relocate to Buganda?

A settlement that will result in people being relocated will lead to serious humanitarian challenges as happened when India and Pakistan split in 1947. The split between India and Pakistan was agreed upon by all parties but was immediately torn apart by the bloodshed of partition. “This led to a bitter religious war and mass migrations as over 15 million people moved between the two new states”(Neil Morris et al 2001). “The rioting and dislocation associated with the partition led to horrendous inter-communal violence between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, with the death of between two hundred thousand and one million people. Since then, India and Pakistan have gone to war three times over control of the Kashmir region (1947, 1965, and 1999) and once over East Pakistan’s (now Bangladesh) secession from Pakistan (1971). Tensions between the two nuclear-armed countries remain high and further conflict is always a possibility – a situation exacerbated by fundamentalists on both sides”(Chris Abbot 2012).

The split of India and Pakistan resulted in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi considered the father of India, “On 30 January 1948 he was shot and killed by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist who held him [Gandhi] responsible for weakening India”(Chris Abbot 2012).

The civil war in Nigeria from 1967 to 1970 might also give a hint about what might happen in Uganda should Buganda insist on secession. Nigeria became independent on October 1, 1960. The elections leading to independence were contested at regional and national levels. Ethnic rivalries were also reflected in the national armed forces, resulting in coups and counter-coups. At that time many Ibos were serving in the north as civil servants. The January 1966 coup was led by Ibo junior officers. The coup was followed by anti-Ibo riots and many people were killed. The disturbances demonstrated Hausa dissatisfaction with Ibo dominance at the federal level that was seen to exclude northerners. In July there was a counter-coup and General Ironsi, an Ibo, was killed and was followed by massacring of Ibos that were still in the north.

The military governor of the Eastern Region, Lt-Col Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu declared that the region had seceded into an independent Ibo state known as the “Republic of Biafra”. This announcement was followed by a brutal civil war from 1967 to 1970. The federal troops won. In January 1970 Biafran forces surrendered. During the war military casualties reached 100,000. However, between 500,000 and two million Biafrans lost their lives largely from starvation (Europa Publication 1998).

The two examples should make Baganda, their friends and well-wishers and indeed the rest of Ugandans to take another and possibly a harder look at the likely impact secession of one group or another would cause. To avoid the likely catastrophe, let us keep Uganda together, imperfect as it is, and debate and decide how Ugandans wish to be governed. To do this, we need patriotic and visionary leaders willing and ready to cede powers to the regions except defense, security, foreign affairs and national currency. This would require abroad-based post-NRM transitional government managed by a presidential team to conduct a comprehensive population census and organize a national convention to debate and decide how Ugandans wish to be governed.

Eric Kashambuzi is an international consultant on development issues. He lives in New York.


Page 9 of 104


© 2011 United Democratic Ugandans. All Rights Reserved.