Ttabamiruka ’13 which was sponsored by Ggwangamujje NY/NJ, Inc. took place at Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in New Jersey, USA on August 30-September 2, 2013. Participants came from Uganda, Europe and North America. I attended the conference as an invited guest. I am very grateful to the organizers for the gesture of friendship.
The theme of the conference was: Buganda eri mu buwambe? Is Buganda under occupation? The theme formed the core of the discussions on Saturday, August 31 in formal and informal settings. The report I am filing therefore covers the debates on Saturday.
Experience has taught me that informal discussions and consultations in side events, corridors and at meal times are largely more informative than formal debates. I therefore consulted widely during break times and collected a wealth of information which corroborated much of what I had gathered before the conference.
Although the recent Agreement between Mengo Administration and central government was not discussed formally, there was much discussion about it informally.
Participants I consulted felt without hesitation that Buganda is under occupation since NRM government came to power in 1986. They emphasized that between 1894 when Uganda (read Buganda) became a protectorate until 1986, Baganda remained largely in change of their political and economic affairs.
Under the NRM government, fundamental changes have occurred most significantly in land ownership, the business sector and Baganda representation in Uganda Parliament and Lukiiko. The allocation of national budget among the four regions of Uganda that has grossly disadvantaged Buganda reflects an element of marginalization intended to consolidate Buganda occupation.
It was demonstrated that it was only in Buganda where non-Baganda represent Buganda in Parliament. Through informal consultations it also became clear that Mengo legislative, administrative and other strategic institutions have been penetrated by non-Baganda.
The most significant aspect of occupation was demonstrated using foreign land purchase. It was stressed that land purchase in Buganda is the easiest and cheapest. It was reported how easy and cheap it is to acquire land when someone investigating the matter was able to purchase fifteen acres within four hours for seven million Uganda shillings. With money, and foreigners have plenty of it, it is very easy to purchase land in the absence of regulations.
The application of the concept of willing seller and willing buyer of land has made it easy for non-Baganda to purchase land in Buganda. A section of Article 29 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution allows free mobility, settlement and ownership of assets including land in any part of Uganda. Given its centrality and strategic location, Buganda has become an attractive place for those with a lot of money to buy land.
It was also underscored that much of Luwero Triangle, possibly half of it, is under foreign occupation. About half of Baganda lost their lives in the 1981-86 guerrilla war and many of those who survived did not return at the end of the war. Thus, it is believed that about half of Luwero Triangle was taken over by people who worked in the area as herders and wage earners most of them foreigners. In 1989 complaints about Buganda land grabbing by foreigners were presented to President Museveni for his intervention but nothing effective came out of it.
Although the recent Agreement between Mengo administration and central government was not discussed in the formal setting on Saturday when I attended the debates it came up in informal discussions. Regret was expressed that Mengo discussed and signed the Agreement in secret with Mengo agreeing not to evict anybody and to accept compensation for property including land occupied by non-Baganda, amounting to legitimization of Buganda occupation. It is important to note that with land ownership in foreign hands, the kingdom and its institutions becomes very vulnerable.
There was determination in voice and body language that Baganda will not rest until they rid themselves of foreign occupation using whatever means at their disposal. I was reminded that if UK and Argentina could go to war over a tiny and virtually economically valueless island, Eritrea and Ethiopia could go to war over a border dispute and China and Japan are locked in a dispute over ownership of two small rocks sticking out in the ocean between the two countries, what would prevent Buganda from doing what it takes to liberate itself.
The conversations concluded unambiguously that Buganda pride and greatness are under real threat and something needs to be done to stop and reverse the trajectory before it is too late.
September 2, 2013