10 years after riots: Ssabanyala Kimeze leads a quiet life

Tuesday September 17 2019

Cheerful. Ssabanyala Baker Kimeze greets his

Cheerful. Ssabanyala Baker Kimeze greets his subjects at a function at Bbaale County headquarters in Kayunga District in 2016. FILE PHOTO 

By Fred Muzaale

Since the 2009 Buganda riots, the Ssabanyala Maj (Rtd) Baker Kimeze, has chosen to keep a low profile and has, according to the chiefdom premier, Mr Martin Ssenkatuuka, been barred by Banyala elders from addressing the media on matters between Buganda and his chiefdom.

“He is still active and engaged in mobilising his subjects to engage in developmental work. You don’t hear him as you used to because he doesn’t speak to the media directly as he used to,” Mr Ssenkatuuka said.

Before and during the Buganda riots, the former UPDF officer addressed the media, something that earned him verbal attacks from people who are opposed to his chiefdom, especially Mengo loyalists. The Ssabanyala also rarely appears in public, except at chiefdom and family functions.

His security and that of chiefdom properties such as the Ssabanyala’s palaces at Kyerima and Bbaale have been beefed up.

According to sources close to Maj Kimeze, who declined to be named, although the Ssabanyala retired from the army in 2013, he continues to take up special security assignments from the UPDF commanders.

“The Ssabanyala is good at intelligence information gathering and because of this they trust him – the reason he is often recalled and given assignments in different areas,” a source said.


Mr Ssenkatuuka says that after the Buganda riots that broke out after the Kabaka (king) of Buganda was blocked from visiting Kayunga, government has tried to ensure that fences are mended between Bunyala chiefdom and Buganda Kingdom.

“There have been unpublicised talks mediated by a UPDF officer, all aimed at solving the impasse between us and Mengo but nothing much has been achieved, “Mr Ssenkatuuka says, adding: “Even the memorandum of understanding that was signed between the central government and Buganda Kingdom in 2013 was also partly aimed at defusing the impasse.”

The Bunyala chiefdoms spokesperson, Mr James Rwebikire, says that although there are some signs that they have mended fences with Buganda Kingdom, like the visits by Kabaka to Kayunga District since 2009, “we are yet to settle our disagreements”.

“We are willing to mend fences with Buganda Kingdom, but they are still arrogant as they still think of an absolute Buganda monarch, which the 1900 Agreement got rid of, “Mr Rwebikire says.

For instance, Mr Rwebikire points at the Mengo establishment choosing not to inform them, (Banyala) whenever the Kabaka is going to visit Kayunga.

Mr Ofwono Opondo, the government spokesperson, during a recent interview said the Kabaka’s successful visits to Kayunga District (after the Buganda Riots) is as a result of the MoU that was signed between the central government and Buganda Kingdom.

“The MoU solved the impasse that was between the two warring cultural institutions, the reason the Kabaka has made [successful] visits to Kayunga,” Mr Opondo said.

The Kabaka’s latest visit to Kayunga was in July when he presided over the Buganda Kingdom annual health day at St Mark Primary School in Busaana Sub-county.

This was his third successful visit to Kayunga since the Buganda riots, having made the first one in January 2014. The first one after the riots was a historical one as the mood in Bugerere was the very opposite of what it was four years back (2009).

Thousands of his subjects from all counties in Buganda gathered in Kayunga to welcome him. Arches were constructed on all roads. This was the biggest welcome accorded to the Kabaka during his tour of the counties that make up Buganda kingdom.

They danced and spent sleepless nights as they waited for the day.

Seeking autonomy
Mr Ssenkatuuka says that although the Mengo establishment has up to now refused to accept the fact that the Banyala are now an independent cultural institution from Buganda Kingdom, they are not bothered and would continue to run their affairs independently.

The Ssabanyala has since appointed a prime minister and a 34-member cabinet to run the chiefdom affairs.

“Bunyala chiefdom has been in existence for a long time and it was under Bunyoro Kingdom. We seceded from Buganda and we are now autonomous,” Mr Ssenkatuuka said.

However, the Mengo state minister for local government, Mr Joseph Kawuki, dismisses the claims of secession by the Banyala, insisting that Kayunga (Bugerere) is constitutionally in Buganda and the Banyala are still under the Kabaka.

“The Banyala are in Buganda and under the Kabaka; this is a fact, “Mr Kawuki said.
However, although the Banyala claim that they are an independent cultural institution, they complain that government has up to now refused to gazette it.

“Our biggest challenge now is government’s delay to gazette our chiefdom, because we are not yet gazetted, we cannot get funding from international organisations, which impedes implementation of some of our activities,” the premier said.

The Banyala who have been at the centre of the standoff between the central government and Buganda Kingdom, are recognised by the Ugandan Constitution as one of the 65 ethnic nationalities in the country. They are mainly based in Kayunga District and are a minority in the area dominated by Baganda.

Mr Rwebikire also dispels claims that Bunyala chiefdom is a creation of the NRM government.

“Bunyala chiefdom existed long ago and it was a vassal of Bunyoro Kingdom. President Museveni just reinstated what had been removed,” the chiefdom spokesperson said.

The Bunyala premier explained that since the riots, they have embarked on the construction of a Shs2.2 billion chiefdom headquarters at the contested Bbaale Sub-county headquarters.

The offices, Mr Ssenkatuuka said, would host offices for the Ssabanyala and chiefdom officials.
He added that they are in the process of translating the Bible and dictionary into Lunyala dialect, which projects he says, are in final stages.

“Since 2010, we have also been engaged in a programme aimed at making the Banyala love their tribe and culture. Many of the Banyala had acquired Kiganda names and feared to practice their Kinyala culture. However, many of the Banyala can openly profess that they are Banyala and freely speak their language, “Mr Rwebikire said.

The Kayunga RDC, Ms Margaret Mwanamwoiza, said she would endeavour, during her term as RDC in the area, to promote unity among the Banyala and Buganda kingdom.

“I think there is need for mutual respect between the two cultural institutions if we are to have harmonious relationship,” the RDC said.

Kimeze’s reign

Maj (Rtd) Baker Kimeze took over from his late father Nathan Mpagi (the first Banyala cultural leader), who died in 2008 but his first seven years on the throne were characterised by fights with Buganda Kingdom.

However, with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the central government and Buganda Kingdom in 2013, the relationship between the two cultural entities is slowly improving. The Buganda king Ronald Mutebi II has visited Kayunga District thrice since the 2009 Buganda riots.

Nateete Police Station: Symbol of Buganda Riots rises from the ashes
When Gen Kale Kayihura was handing over the office of the Inspector General of Police to his successor Martins Okoth-Ochola in 2017, he made one request.

“When you are officially opening Nateete Police Station, please invite me,” Gen Kayihura begged.

It is an achievement that he thought was worth witnessing.

Nateete Police Station, the three-floor structure, is indeed magnificent and the biggest station built in Buganda region since President Museveni came to power. The station is 4,103 square metres, which is bigger than police headquarters in Naguru, Kampala.

Destroyed. Army and police guard Nateete Police
Destroyed. Army and police guard Nateete Police Station after it was burnt down by protestors during the Buganda Riots in 2009. FILE PHOTO

According to police figures, the structure cost government Shs7.8b to construct.

Although it has never been officially opened, it hosts a police station, CCTV Camera coordination centre for Rubaga Division and the headquarters of the Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety.

On September 10, ten years ago, it was burnt by rioters.
Nateete Police Station literally started burning two months before Buganda riots when President Museveni ordered the arrest the then officer-in-charge Robert Ssemata and stripping him of his ranks in public after his involvement in an eviction of a kibanja tenant.

The next few days were traumatic to the commanders at the station after the then Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura ordered more arrests.

When Buganda riots happened in September 2009 and angry protesters attacked the police station, the officers fled.

It was the only police station that was overrun by protesters during the Buganda Riots.

At 2:30pm on September 10, 2009, when the angry demonstrators attacked the station, the police officers with fresh memories of the President’s rage just retreated as protesters destroyed the police facility.

The then Director of Criminal Investigations, Mr Edward Ochom, said demonstrators released all the suspects, burnt all case files and exhibits such as cars.

One officer said there were few police officers at the station on the fateful hour as majority had gone to Busega roundabout to ensure that the rioters did not intercept flow of traffic.

Days later President Museveni visited the charred station to see for himself the damage.

It was then that he learnt the impact of his earlier actions.

Normally, the officers would be charged with cowardice, he did not order the prosecution of officers at the station. He directed that the police station should be quickly rebuilt.

Fifteen Nateete resident officers were given Shs500,000 each while 13 officers who work at the Nateete station but do not reside there, were each given Shs250,000.

Twelve days later, the rebuilding of the station was commissioned.
Gen Kayihura described the burning of the station as dark day in the police force.

“For every dark cloud, there is a silver line. The burning of the station was a dark cloud, but today is a silver line,” Gen Kayihura said as they commissioned the rebuilding of the station.
They set themselves 100 days to complete the works.

Structures made of iron sheets were erected and used as detention facilities, offices and accommodation for the homeless officers.

It has been a harrowing experience for Nateete Police Station resident officers, especially when it rains.

They are forced to evacuate their families and property to high ground whenever it rains and floods.

Ten years down the road, not a single brick for the accommodation of the police officers has been put up.

In May last year, the Deputy Director of Logistics and Engineering, Senior Commissioner of Police (SCP) Richard Edyegu told Deputy Inspector General of Police Maj Gen Sabiiti Muzeeyi that after the completion of station construction, they will turn to officers’ accommodation.

Much of the Nateete Police Station land has been encroached on, according to SCP Edyegu.

Splendid. The new Natete Police Station block.
Splendid. The new Natete Police Station block. File photo

Plight of officers
Hard life. Structures made of iron sheets were erected and used as detention facilities, offices and accommodation for the homeless officers after the riots.
However, no accommodation for officers have been built 10 years later. Resident officers at Natete Police Station are still living in makeshift structures that flood whenever it rains, forcing them to evacuate their families and property to high ground.