December 29, 2007
H.E. Yoweri K. Museveni,
President of the Republic of Uganda,
P. O. Box 25497,
Your Letter Ref. PO/8 of December 18, 2007 on Unity and Stability of Uganda:
Allow me to convey to your Excellency warm greetings and salutations from the government of the Kingdom of Buganda. I have been directed by Ssaabasajja Kabaka of Buganda, to respond to your letter of December 18, 2007 and on the issues raised in your subsequent press statement.
Ssaabasajja Kabaka and the people of Buganda share your concerns about the need for stability, unity and good governance of Uganda. Indeed our concerns on land and demand for federalism are raised on that basis.
And, whilst we recognise the NRM's and your contribution to the struggle against dictatorship and bad governance in this country, we find it regrettable that the significant contributions of the people of the Kingdom of Buganda to this struggle are often overlooked and our aspirations always thwarted.
The people of the Kingdom of Buganda are particularly disappointed by the disparaging language and tone of your letter and statements, Mr President. Because Ssaabasajja Kabaka is the embodiment of our cultural identity, any attacks against him or his Government strike at the cultural identity and esteem of all Baganda.
This is both deplorable and inimical to the unity, stability and progress of our country.
Involvement in partisan politics
It is not true that the Kingdom of Buganda or, indeed, our beloved Kabaka, has either joined or participated in partisan politics in breach of the Constitution.
The Kingdom of Buganda has not and will never engage in spreading of lies, sedition, incitement or the propagation of sectarianism.
It has other pressing matters at hand - not limited to the fight against the grabbing of its land; the restoration of a federal system of government, and the struggle against the poverty crisis that afflicts the majority of its people.
The Kingdom of Buganda is several centuries old. It has legitimate interests some of which may or may not coincide with those of various political organisations.
It is therefore not surprising that, on many occasions, the interests of the Kingdom of Buganda vary from those of political organisations such as the NRM. Be that as it may, the Kingdom embraces all Baganda regardless of their political, religious or other affiliation.
It has made every effort: to accommodate all political actors in Uganda at Mengo - including but not limited to yourself and the NRM. Ssaabasajja Kabaka is aware that all political parties that wished to visit Mengo during past elections were welcome and none was excluded. It is not true that any political rallies were held in Bulange or the Kasubi tombs.
Therefore, to demand that the interests of the Kingdom of Buganda be subordinated to those of any political organisation is to demand that the Kingdom become partisan, which would be both wrong and unconstitutional.
Further, to demand that the Kingdom of Buganda should shun or discriminate against some of its own purely on account of their political beliefs, is equally wrong.
Buganda's right to engage in the land debate and the activities of the central civic education committee:
Land constitutes Buganda's principal natural resource. It lies at the very heart of Kiganda tradition and culture - hence the following expressions and titles in our rich language: "etaka"; "obutaka"; "abatakansi'; "abataka"; and "Ssaabataka". Further, the Kingdom of Buganda comprises bibanja holders and registered land owners, all of whom are Baganda under Ssaabasajja Kabaka.
The people who suffer from unlawful evictions and the majority of those who will be adversely affected by hasty land reforms are Baganda
Art. 246(3) (a) of the Constitution provides that traditional or cultural leaders shall have the capacity to hold assets or properties in trust for themselves and the people concerned.
While Art. 26 guarantees the right to property. Indeed Ssaabasajja Kabaka is the registered owner of land, both in a private and an official trustee capacity.
As such, the Kabaka and the institutions of the Kingdom are major stakeholders and they have everything to lose should unjust land laws and policies be enacted and/or implemented. ..It is clear to us that land is not a partisan political issue and that the Kabaka and the institutions of the Kingdom of Buganda have a legitimate right to comment publicly about any proposed changes in the land laws of Uganda.
In fact, a failure by the Kabaka or the institutions of the Kingdom of Buganda to engage in the land debate would be a gross dereliction and abdication of their customary, cultural and traditional duty.
After the Buganda Lukiiko had considered and taken a stand against the proposed amendments to the Land Act, the Central Civic Education Committee (CCEC) was established with a view to educating the people of Buganda about the Kingdom's position.
The CCEC's activities have not breached any laws. The members of the CCEC and the people who attend seminars exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly - as well as, the right to enjoy, practice, maintain and promote their culture as Baganda. I must point out that Buganda's engagement in the land debate has always been peaceful and lawful. I am sure that I do not need to emphasize to you, Mr President, the fact that some other communities in Uganda have resorted to naked violence to resolve issues of a similar nature.
Buganda's concerns about the proposed amendments to the land act:
Buganda has legitimate and well founded concerns about the existing land policy and the proposed changes to the Land Act. Many of these are shared by religious leaders of all faiths, civil society organizations and other communities in Uganda. Many have appealed to you to address these concerns.
To start with, the proposed amendments have been hastily put together and lie outside the ongoing process of establishing a National Land Policy.
It is clear from the haste with which the amendments have been put together that none of the relevant stakeholders such as the bibanja holders, registered land owners, community and religious leaders have been adequately consulted.
It is also clear that the long term implications of the proposed amendments on the rights of the tenants and the registered land owners have not been adequately considered.
The Kabaka abhors the unlawful and often violent eviction of bibanja holders from their land by unscrupulous registered land owners. Such actions are not only illegal but they also violate the long established norms and traditions of the Kingdom of Buganda.
However, the Kabaka and the Kingdom of Buganda are concerned about the fact that the government does not appear to have studied the root causes of the rampant violent evictions or taken any interest in the perpetrators of these abhorrent acts before proposing sweeping amendments to the existing law.
Evictions on private registered land are being driven by complex socio-political and economic factors. The proposed amendments do not address any of these factors. Simply criminalising evictions will not stop evictions.
The people carrying out evictions are imbued with levels of impunity hitherto unknown in this country. They are being aided and abetted by government functionaries as well as security agencies who are corrupt to a degree hitherto unknown in this country.
Therefore, the Kingdom of Buganda is of the view that the proposed amendments to the Land Act will be of no use in stopping evictions of bibanja holders because they do not address the twin evils of impunity and corruption.
Yet the proposed amendments will cause further and unnecessary friction between registered land owners and bibanja holders.
The interests of the land owners and the bibanja holders will cease to be complimentary and become exclusively competitive.
This is because the proposed and current law is biased against land owners. Ironically, the result may be increased evictions of bibanja holders as registered land owners divest themselves of worthless mailo tides and pass them on to those who can extract some value by other means.
The problems in Buganda's land tenure system were introduced by the British colonialists, who imposed themselves on our land with a view to securing it for themselves and their imperialistic desires.
To concentrate on the fact that 43 per cent of Buganda's land mass was distributed amongst 1,000 chiefs and land owners is to ignore the fact that the imperialists allotted to themselves over 50 per cent of Buganda's land purportedly to hold it in trust for the Baganda yet unborn.
Further, to address the issues of mailo land upon the premise of addressing a historical injustice as if that said land is still held by only the said 1,000 chiefs and land owners is to miss the point entirely.
Mailo land has long been a traded commodity and is now widely owned in parcels of varying sizes by Baganda and non-Baganda from all walks of life. You, Mr President, are a good example of a non-Muganda mailo land owner. Individuals have saved money and invested it in mailo land.
The current proposals serve no useful purpose, save to undermine both the integrity and future of many people's investments.
Besides illegal evictions of tenants off land, there are several issues that require urgent attention or legislative reform, including but not limited to, the land registry, powers and constitution of the land tribunals and land boards.
The idea of bond fide occupants is also particularly problematic. It is used to facilitate people including immigrants who have illegally occupied other people's land without their consent to acquire a legitimate interest on the land. In many cases it is confused with the customary kibanja holding under kiganda tradition.
We consider therefore, that there needs to be a holistic land reform and not a piecemeal approach at reform. Such reforms should follow nation-wide consultations and consensus. Needless to say, laws must follow policies and not vice versa
A Hidden Agenda?
Mr President, the unseemly haste with which the proposed amendments are being pushed has raised concerns about a hidden agenda amongst Baganda of all walks of life.
The Kingdom of Buganda has reason to believe that the tension between registered land owners and bibanja holders may be an intended side effect of the proposed amendments to the Land Act. It is widely held that the unspoken aim of the proposals may be to get rid of the mailo owners by pitching them against the bibanja holders.
The tenants will then be cleared off the land and resettled in camps or urban slums under a resettlement policy to make way for industrialization and commercial farming.
These fears have been exacerbated by the fact that all RDC's were recently issued with a map which demarcates Uganda into 15 economic zones, which include Ankole, Busoga, Lango and Acholi, amongst others, but ominously splits Buganda into four zones called "Kampala" "Central", "Luweero" and "Lake Victoria Basin".
The fears are further elevated by the manner in which the government has been parceling out and or condoning the depletion of forests, forest reserves and wetlands to all manner of people, in the name of industrialization and development, without adequate regard to the interests of the Baganda born and unborn.
If it were not for Buganda's protestations, Government had a clear intention to abolish Mailo Land ownership in Buganda and also to give powers to the Minister of Lands to issue Certificates of Occupancy to all tenants. All these actions add credence to our suspicions of a hidden agenda on Buganda's land.
Therefore the proposed amendments are widely feared to be the first in a series of measures which will see all the Baganda, both the tenants and the registered land owners, losing out to the powerful Central Government and foreign investors. Under such an arrangement the Baganda would become emmomboze or wage slaves to foreign interests in their own land and their Kingdom would even not exist on the map.
Put in its most extreme, it is feared that the proposed amendments are but one of a series of measures which are to br inflicted on the Baganda with a view to bringing about their annihilation. Hence the expression "ettaka ligenda".
The absence of good faith on the return of Buganda's expropriated property (ebyaffe):
The problems in the land sector in Buganda are complicated by the fact that the government has refused to return Buganda's communal land as well as other official properties, which comprise over 50 per cent of Buganda's land mass. Oddly, the Government has even refused to return Sseekabaka Fredrick Mutesa II's disused Rolls Royce! These properties were violently and illegally expropriated by Milton Obote's regime, a dictator that the NRM fought.
We are at a loss as to why, 14 years after the enactment of the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Act, your Government is ignoring Articles 26(2) and 246(3)(a) of the Constitution and choosing to hide behind obscurantist opinions of the Attorney General and others to hold on to what was stolen from the Buganda.
The government's foot-dragging over the issue of the return of Ebyaffe and the recent arm-twisting attempts to use the Ebyaffe as a hostage to be returned only if Buganda accepts the rejected Regional Government are the cause of a deep sense of deprivation and discrimination amongst the Baganda.
The Baganda wonder why they are being made to beg for what is rightfully theirs whilst the Asian Community's expropriated assets were returned a long time ago without any fuss.
The Baganda are concerned that even as they wait for the government to come round to negotiations regarding the mode of return of these properties, these properties are being alienated to third parties on a freehold basis or being used by government to settle people who have been rejected from other parts of Uganda.
The seemingly never ending Ebyaffe saga has brought the good faith of the government into doubt.
This issue has an impact on the issues of the proposed amendments to die Land Act. First of all, from a general perspective, Buganda's communal land, which ought to be used with a view to easing the pressure on the mailo land and broadening die class of registered land owners in Buganda is being used selectively and unjustly to enrich a small class of people with connections to central or local Governments.
There is no central planning for the distribution of such land and we are thus hearing of new "Mailo Owners" - that is people who are being allotted square miles of so called "public" land. These new Mailo owners were granted leases which they converted or are converting into freehold, without regard to the fact that there are many Baganda born and unborn who are without land.
Also, there appears to be no protection of the peasants who are settled on the Ebyaffe land that is in control of Government and they are regularly evicted by Government agencies without any adequate notice or compensation.
The absence of good faith on the part of the Government in the Ebyaffe saga has also caused many Baganda to doubt the good faith of Government in respect of any issues pertaining to land. This feeling only fuels our fears of a hidden agenda as outlined above.
Sectarianism and alleged marginalization of minority communities:
On sectarianism and alleged marginalization of non-Baganda, I would wish to refer you to Buganda's excellent and self-evident historical record of receptiveness, inclusiveness, tolerance and non-discrimination.
We cherish and are rightly proud of our cultural heritage which recognizes unity in diversity under one King and in one Kingdom. Buganda is a multi-ethnic and multi-tribal Kingdom, embracing all who adopt its culture and accept the suzerainty of Ssaabasajja Kabaka.
This has always been the case and was never as a result of colonial intervention. This reality is reflected in the name of our beloved Kingdom, Buganda, which derives from the word " omugandda'- meaning a bundle. Buganda is a collection of several ethnic bundles, " obugandda coming together to form one big unbreakable bundle. The idea of marginalization or discrimination was conjured up in the hate history which was invented during the Obote years in order to justify the abolition of our Kingdom and the exiling of our beloved Kabaka.
There are countless historical illustrations of this fact of which I will highlight a few. Martin Luther Nsibirwa, a Munyala, was twice appointed to the high office of Katikkiro. The cultural leader of the Bakooki, the Kamuswaga, was and still is the only hereditary Ssaza Chief in Buganda out of respect for the culture of the Bakooki.
Semei Lwakilenzi Kakungulu, hailed from Kooki. But the examples do not only come from history, Buganda still recognizes the role of all of its peoples and this is reflected in the multi-ethnic make up of the Kabaka's present Cabinet and the Buganda Lukiiko.
Equally, the phenomenon of abalaalo is neither new nor intolerable in Buganda. What is new is a class of reckless and arrogant nomads with unmanageably large herds of cattle that has been chased from other parts of Uganda and "re-settled" in Buganda. Where they come into contact with sedentary Baganda, their cattle grazes in peoples plantations with abandon.
Where they have come, they are threatening to overwhelm the natural resources of grass and wafer and stretching the human and animal health services. It is neither sectarian not derogatory to point out that this new class of nomads creates the risk of unnecessary conflict in Buganda and may use the rushed proposed amendments to the Land Act to make their stay in Buganda permanent.
Therefore, claims that Buganda is ego-centric or practices ethnocide do not stand up to serious scrutiny. The tendency for some Baganda to see themselves principally as Banyala, Bakooki, Baruuli is of recent creation. Similarly, the clamor for and creation of an array of sub-kingdoms within Buganda is new. The State's hand in these matters is not invisible.
Ssaabasajja Kabaka is most displeased by this divisive trend of affairs. Ssaabasajja can not therefore be either "associated with groups that undermine the unity of Ugandans or Africans" or be "an enemy of the interests of Baganda" as you suggested in your letter.
Accusations against CBS FM
Contrary to your accusations, CBS does not have a policy of misinforming the public, inciting hatred for the NRM and the President or propagating sectarianism. CBS FM offers a platform to all political and other actors in the country to discuss regional, national and international issues that directly and or indirectly concern Baganda and all Ugandans.
The radio broadcasts programmes where diverse political and social leaders interface with their audience and leaves it up to the audience to make up their minds. The NRM, for example, is represented by two cadres on the Kiriza-oba-gaana program every Wednesday. CBS FM does this because divergent - and some times opposing - views are a fundamental ingredient of a free and democratic country.
On the very rare occasions when only one interest group is hosted on a program, the management ensures that groups with divergent views are also hosted in subsequent programs.
The public is also able to contribute to on-air discussions without discrimination, ensuring that any views broadcast on the radio are subject to public scrutiny. Other radio stations also host vibrant discussion programs on political and other issues.
This is one of the fruits of the NRM rule. We therefore do not understand why CBS is continually singled out and castigated. CBS has initiated and supported several developmental projects including Nsindika Njake, Nekolera Gyange, and Entanda ya Buganda and also has assorted programming catering to the issues of public health, education, culture and economic development.
On the President's alleged clamor for a salary increment, we understand that the radio has time and again explained itself. The discussion on this matter followed a story in the Monitor Newspaper on September 13, 2007.
What CBS did was to discuss the matter from a regional perspective by comparing the salary of the President of Uganda with that of the Kenyan and South African Presidents. What came to light during the debate was that the Ugandan President's salary was lower than the salaries of some African Presidents.
During the same debate, NRM officials including the then Director of the Media Centre were given the opportunity to present the Government's position on the matter. On the land debate, the radio has hosted several state officials including, Hon. Daniel Omara Atubo, the Minister of Lands.
The Way Forward
It is clear from the above matters that the issue of the proposed amendments to the Land Act cannot be viewed in isolation of the intricately related issues of the federal system of governance and the restitution of Buganda's expropriated communal and other land.
We contend that the problems presently manifesting themselves in the form of hitherto unknown tensions between registered land owners and bibanja holders as well as rampant violent and illegal evictions are themselves but a surface manifestation of the disequilibrium that was brought about by the violent abrogation of the 1962 Constitution by Obote.
Mr President, the imposition of further ad hoc so-called solutions on Baganda's land when the Baganda can resolve these issues for themselves in accordance with their cultural norms and traditions within a federal arrangement is worrisome.
The Baganda, like the Acholi, the Banyoro or the Karamojong, for example, should be accorded the respect of being able to make valid and bona fide decisions about their own land. There should be no further tinkering at the edges or beating about the bush.
The Baganda have persistently expressed their desire for a federal system of governance for themselves and any other communities that desire it. Their aspirations are expressed in the reports of Justice B. Odoki and Professor E.F. Ssempebwa.
But despite this fact the Kingdom of Buganda has been consistently short-changed, first with decentralization and then with the Regional Governments law. The Buganda Lukiiko and the Abataka resoundingly rejected the Regional Tier system for being way short of Buganda's legitimate aspirations.
The Baganda were particularly dissatisfied with the provisions on the election of the Katikkiro; the relationships, hierarchy and reporting structures of districts with and between the Regional Government and the Central Government; the management and control of land; the non-entrenchment of financial provisions for the regional government; the Presidents power to take over a regional Government where there is a failure-to recognize regional diversity; the absence of provisions on the benefits and privileges of traditional rulers within the regional government; the demarcation of Mengo Municipality and Kampala as well as the role of the regional governments over primary education and agriculture. In short, the Regional Tier law fell short of Buganda's aspirations.
In the premises the Kingdom proposes that:
1. Government should immediately put in place a transparent National Dialogue Mechanism within which all communities which aspire to the federal system of governance may negotiate and agree upon the re-establishment of a genuine federal system of government.
This mechanism must be set up in such a manner as will inspire the confidence of the Baganda and all communities of Uganda in order to ensure that the issues of governance and natural resource distribution are comprehensively addressed to the satisfaction of all the people of Uganda.
Such dialogue ought to be free of intimidation, threats and patronization.
2. The government should immediately and unconditionally return all of Buganda's expropriated property including the 9000sq miles, 1500 sq miles of forest and wetlands, 160sq miles of County and Sub-County Headquarters, and other official estates and vest it in the institution of Ssaabasajja Kabaka wa Buganda to hold on trust for the people of Buganda in accordance with Article 246(3(b) of the Constitution.
This should not be pegged to the outcome of the National Dialogue Mechanism described above.
3. The gazetting and tabling of the Land (Amendment) Bill 2007 or any other changes to the Land Laws of Uganda be suspended to await the outcome of the National Dialogue Mechanism so as not to complicate the task of the resultant Federal Governments in making laws and regulations to govern the issues of land tenure and land use in their respective territories.
In the interim, the issue of unlawful and violent evictions should be tackled by strict and unbiased enforcement of existing laws relating security of tenure, property rights ( such as the law on trespass and malicious damage), violence (assault or firearms offences) and corruption laws.
4. The gazetting and tabling of Bills relating to Mengo Municipality and Kampala be suspended to await the outcome of the National Dialogue Mechanism in which the status and boundaries of Kampala as the Federal Capital can be -negotiated upon and agreed.
I wish to remind Your Excellency that all your previous meetings with the Kabaka have been informal and devoid of technical discussions or negotiations on Buganda's issues. The technical discussions have been made with a delegation appointed by the Kabaka.
This approach has served a dual purpose namely, to ensure that the Kabaka is not drawn into technical matters and, that the Lukiiko, the Abataka and the people of Buganda fully participate in these very important discussions.
Accordingly, the Kabaka has directed me to advise that your next meeting should follow the above procedure and should convene once we have received your response to our above concerns.
The Kingdom of Buganda believes that once the above matters are discussed and mutually resolved, then we will achieve lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Buganda, Uganda and the Great Lakes Region as a whole.
I look forward to hearing from you and wish you and your family a Happy and Prosperous 2008.
Accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of the Government of the Kingdom of Buganda's highest regards and considerations.
Amb. Emmanuel L Ssendaula
CC: Ssaabasajja Kabaka wa Buganda