Buganda clan heads under fire over meeting Museveni

President Museveni (right) interacts with Buganda Kingdom clan leaders during a meeting at State House Entebbe in March. Clan leaders in Buganda Kingdom are to hold an urgent meeting in a bid to resolve a brewing crisis over the unsanctioned meeting. PHOTO/PPU

What you need to know:

  • The Katikkiro of Buganda says it was a mistake for the clan leaders to meet President Museveni without royal sanction. 

Clan leaders in Buganda Kingdom are to hold an urgent meeting in a bid to resolve a brewing crisis over an unsanctioned meeting by some of their members at State House Entebbe earlier in the year.

Not much was made public regarding the meeting which took place in March under the coordination of junior ICT and National Guidance minister Joyce Nabbosa Ssebugwawo, a former Opposition stalwart and minister in the kingdom. 

But revelations in the past few days that President Museveni had authorised the purchase of a piece of land for 16 clan leaders and chiefs near the official seat of the Buganda Kingdom in Bulange, Mengo, Kampala, have ruffled feathers among the establishment’s officials who say they were kept in the dark, and the land offer that followed. 

Katikkiro (Prime Minister) Charles Peter Mayiga, told a meeting of the kingdom’s Lukiiko (Parliament) on Monday that it was a mistake for the clan leaders to meet President Museveni without royal sanction. 

Responding to queries from members of the Lukiiko about the meeting, Mr Mayiga said neither he nor Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi were aware of the meeting before it happened.

Junior ICT and National Guidance minister Joyce Nabbosa Ssebugwawo (right) and some of the Buganda Kingdom clan leaders during the meeting at State House in March. PHOTO/PPU

Mayiga said whatever the leaders discussed were personal initiatives because any official discussions between the Central Government and Buganda go through his office. 

Following Monday’s Lukiiko meeting, all leaders of Buganda’s 52 clans have been called to a meeting to discuss the matter. Mr Augustin Mulumba, the head of the Kkobe Clan and convener of the ad hoc meeting, yesterday said the Lukiiko has already pronounced itself on the matter but declined to give further details. 

Another senior kingdom official said: “The Bataka meetings are always confidential because they discuss very sensitive issues so this matter will be discussed and the outcome, including recommendations, will be presented to the Kabaka who will decide the way forward.” 
He asked not to be named because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the kingdom.
Happy reunion?
A read-out of the March meeting issued by the Presidential Press Unit at the time described a cordial meeting between the two sides and presented it as a reunion 30 years after President Museveni’s government restored the Buganda Kingdom which had been abolished in 1966.  

“Some of those NRM [National Resistance Movement] people opposed the restoration of kingdoms saying it would escalate tribalism, but we explained to them how their existence would be of importance. We told them that the central government has a lot of work to do in keeping peace, developing the infrastructure and then kingdoms would concentrate on promoting good cultures and instilling good morals in society,” President Museveni told the clan heads. 

Recalling a meeting in London in August 1981 with the late politician, Prof Yusuf Lule, who briefly served as President of Uganda in the tumultuous period between April and June 1979 after the fall of dictator Idi Amin, and then-Prince Mutebi, President Museveni described the March meeting as the “beginning of a new chapter” to harmonise culture and development. 

“I’m happy that you have come. We must survive in the modern world. We should desist from using tribes and religions to divide Africans because we need to rebuild our economy; we need a bigger market both in Uganda and East Africa and Africa to become prosperous. We don’t want cultures that take us back,” Mr Museveni said. 

At the meeting, Ms Ssebugwawo thanked the President for meeting the clan heads and said the sit-down would go a long way in mending relations between Mengo and himself after 30 years.  
That relationship has been characterised by tensions over the return of the kingdom’s properties which were grabbed by previous governments, Buganda’s demand for a federal system of governance, and lack of consensus on what role the traditional kingdom should play in the country’s politics. 

The Buganda Kingdom parliament in Mengo, Kampala, as seen on August 30, 2023. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI.

In 2009, dozens of people were shot dead around Kampala in riots that broke out after police blocked then Katikkiro John Baptist Walusimbi from visiting Kayunga ahead of a planned visit by the Kabaka. 

Kayunga is found in what is traditionally referred to as Bugerere County, and is one of the kingdom’s 18 counties. It continues to be a source of friction after the NRM backed the controversial installation of a local functionary as the so-called Ssabanyala, or cultural leader here, rivalling the Kabaka’s influence. 

Relations appeared to have improved until the last election when Buganda, a traditional stronghold for the ruling NRM party, voted strongly for the opposition National Unity Platform in the presidential and parliamentary elections. 

Instead of mending relations as envisaged by Ms Ssebugwawo, the March meeting appears to have sown the seeds for a new difference of opinion. 

At the heart of the misunderstanding is a 2.2-acre piece of land that the 16 clan leaders, led by the head of the Ffumbe clan, Mr Yusuf Walusimbi Mbirozankya, in the company of Ms Ssebugwawo, last week secured. It was apparently paid for by the President. 

According to the presidential press unit read-out, the different chiefs made representations to the President over loss of land to grabbers during the March meeting. In the same meeting, Mr Walusimbi appealed to the President to help them “secure the two and a half acres of land near Bulange, Mengo which they need to set up their offices and other developmental ventures to benefit the kingdom”. It is this land that has now driven a wedge between the clan leaders and the wider kingdom establishment. 

The land on Kabaka’njagala Road is located approximately 480 metres between the Kabaka’s Mengo Palace and the Bulange, the kingdom’s administrative block.

Kabaka’njagala Road in Mengo, Kampala. At the heart of the misunderstanding is a 2.2-acre piece of land that the 16 clan leaders last week secured along the road. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI.

Kingdom officials say Mr Museveni’s action of buying land for clan leaders so close to the heart of the kingdom, and without the consent of the Kabaka, could divide them and the kingdom. 

Mr Dan Muliika, who had a testy relationship with the President when he was Katikkiro, on August 27 told a kingdom-owned radio that Mr Museveni has for a long time tried to intrude into the kingdom but faced resistance from the clan leaders. 

“After the 1986 war, the President wanted to take some clan leaders to Japan but one of the members who were in Lukiiko including me, the likes of Ssebunya Lule, refused and asked the Bataka to shun this journey and we agreed with the then Katikkiro and the Kabaka and the entire thing was called off,” he said. “We saw it wise that if you divide one system of government and take a group meaning the entire Buganda may end up collapsing.”  

Muliika said only the Katikkiro is authorised to represent the Kabaka. “There is no way a clan leader can jump the Kabaka and go and negotiate with another person outside Buganda Kingdom government. They are even privileged to sit with the Kabaka and discuss anything but it was a total shame for them to go and meet [Mr] Museveni who also did not have a right to call them.” 

Upon learning about the meeting, Mr Muliika said that he contacted the Kabaka. “The Kabaka told me that he was not aware of anything about the meeting. They [disgruntled leaders] have become heretics and should apologise to the King, the Katikkiro and Buganda as a whole.” 
Other clan leaders have chimed in to criticise the conduct of their colleagues. “...Every chief comes from the Ssaabataka,” said Kayiira Gajuule, head of the Mbogo clan.

“The king has the power to create and abolish tribes. The king has the power to dismiss the chief. No chief of the clan has authority except that given to him by the Kabaka.”

Powers of Bataka
In Buganda Kingdom, the clan leaders assume leadership from the 52 clans who later collectively form a council of clan heads, holding significant roles within the administrative structure of the Buganda Kingdom. 

They also represent and provide direction to their respective clans on cultural and social matters. Their major responsibilities include among others; safeguarding cultural traditions, facilitating conflict resolution, and championing the interests of their clans within the larger framework of the kingdom.

At another administrative level, Buganda has what are known as Amasaza chiefs who while not directly drawing their secondary authority from an association with a particular clan, oversee the 20 counties which make up the old kingdom geographical area.  

Mr Muliika on Sunday asserted that if the clan leaders continue with their plans, it will automatically mean that they are mooting establishing a different leadership structure because Kabaka is their leader whom they are obliged to report to according to the law. 

A noted kingdom loyalist, Busiro East MP, Mr Medard Sseggona played down the impact of the meeting with the President. 

“He met them in their individual capacity each, that is why you saw non-Bataka [in attendance].

Lubega Medard Sseggona, Busiro County East Wakiso (NUP)

The clans have systems, including clan councils which had to approve. I want to assure you that we shall remain as Buganda even if Mr Museveni does what,” he said adding, “I only request that those clan leaders are summoned and cautioned then left because I believe they were just lured.”
 The Leader of Opposition in Parliament Mr Mathias Mpuuga, who is also an MP from Buganda with strong ties to the kingdom, said the relations between the Bataka and their Bazzukulu (grandchildren, or ordinary clans people) remain strong. 

“No Mutaka can risk an attempt to sweet talk or arm twist Baganda on politics of the day! The gullibility levels in Buganda are very low,” he said. 

Mr Mayiga was unavailable for comment and Mr Walusimbi had not responded to requests for comment by press time. 

While speaking to a Buganda-owned radio on Sunday, Mr Walusimbi admitted to receiving the land and stood his ground. 

“The terms of the chiefs end with the chiefs. Muliika should find other options to get these issues out,” he said. He added that he did not inform the board of directors of the Bataka because “there are big and small Bataka and all the big ones knew about it”. 

Contacted for comment, Ms Ssebugwawo said: “I will not give you the story, go and get it from other people.” 

In an earlier interview with his publication on Monday, the minister had said: “Leaders should not be selfish because meeting the President and him giving them land is for the good of clan leaders and Buganda”. 

A State House spokesperson declined to comment last evening.

List of clan leaders who attended the meeting at State House
• Yusuf Mbirozankya, Ffumbe clan
• Kasirye Mbuga, Nvuma clan
• Samuel Walugembe, Babiito-Kibulala clan
• Kakonge Mutasingwa, Mbwa clan
• David Mayanja, Mazzi g’kisasi clan 
• Paul Kalema Lutayinzibwa,  Babiito-Ssanje clan
• Deus Kukeera, Ngaali clan 
• Henry Kulubya Kiggye, Mpeewo clan
• Keeya Namuyimba Muteesaasira, Ngo clan
• Sheeba Kakande Kasujja, Kinyomo clan
• Kaboggoza Kisolo, Ngonge clan
• Samson Nabbimba Lukabya,            Kinyomo clan
• Sylvester Ssesanga, Njovu clan
• Moses Kanoonya, Mamba Kakoboza clan.
• Ibrahim Nsigalira, Namungoona clan
• James Mbaale, Kiwere clan 
• Ronald Mugalo, Nkejje clan