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Out of respect for Prof Ssemakula, I salute the Kabaka

Prof. Semakula-Kiwanuka is currently no doubt Uganda’s most eminent scholar

Prof. Semakula-Kiwanuka is currently no doubt Uganda’s most eminent scholar. He is the author of several internationally recognized scholarly publications and has been a full time, and a visiting professor to several top world Universities.

It was therefore with honour that I picked his call Thursday 6th January 2022.

While appreciating in the New Vision of Thursday 30th December 2021 titled “MENGO UPSTAGED BEN KIWANUKA”, he with a scholarly touch, observed that, I could have scored higher had I credited “ono aliko” with the courage of having dismantled the 100 year old unjust structure. The “ono aliko” is of course a reference to Ssabataka head of Baganda culture institution.

The guiding principle of the Mengo Establishment colonial indirect rule policy was sectarianism. Top posts of Kabaka, Katikkiro, and Omuwaniika were the reserve of the protestant mailo landlords.

The catholics had to be content with sole post of Omulamuzi. This trend percolated throughout the Mengo Establishment structures.

The educational establishment was not spared this segregation. Catholics went to catholic mission schools and Protestants to protestant ones where the engrailment of prejudices between catholic and protestants took place.

In the Etons of Uganda-Buddo, Mwiri, Nyakasura, Ntare and elsewhere, protestant youngsters were admonished that their ordained destiny was to rule.

These products of the Protestant mission schools became the chiefs and other functionaries of colonial rule. They developed a self-confidence out of proportion to their abilities.

The products of the Catholic mission schools on the other hand were taught to serve and the virtues of decency. Hence the psychologies of the Protestant and catholic mission school elites were different.

The protestant elite took their leadership role for granted. A sectarian approach as way of monopolising political leadership could not stand the test of time.

One event led to another leading to the 1949 riots which for the first time saw Ugandans uniting on merit to liberate their Country.

These riots were the precursor of the forming of the first truly national political party-the Uganda National Congress.  It was evident that the protestant hegemony would not survive in a democratic and elective setting. There was no way the Mailo Landlord Protestant fortresses of privilege could hold against the tide of democracy.

However Mengo oligarchy could not give up its dominance over the affairs of Uganda so easily. At the London September 1961 Lancaster House independence conference, Mengo’s KY proposed that the Kabaka of Buganda must always be the President of Uganda and Mengo the Electoral College for the entire country.

This scheme to continue sectarian dominance of the affairs of Uganda beyond independence was thwarted by Benedict Kiwanuka and his Democratic Party. The Protestant hegemony of Mengo Establishment however did not give up and in an awkward series of events formed an unholy alliance with the Uganda People Congress.

The unholy alliance, saw Mengo Establishment throwing up all pretenses and fusing the oligarchy’s leadership with the Government of Uganda. Thus Kabaka Edward Mutesa became the President of Uganda but retailed his position as Kabaka of Buganda. Curiously both jobs were full time.

The Secretary General of the Lukiiko became Minister of Finance in the Government of independent Uganda. On the other hand for some reason the Katikiiro became unsettled and started moving all over Uganda opening KY’s branches. All Buganda chiefs became KY party’s mobilisers.

Mengo calculated that with Kabaka Mutesa as commander in chief of Uganda Armed Forces, KY and the disgruntled UPC MPs forming the majority in Parliament, time had come to completely take over the reins of power and extend the control of the affairs of Uganda by the oligarchy, indefinitely.

The calculations were tragically wrong. The forces of nationalism were too strong and quickly overwhelmed the narrow feudal and sectarian forces.

The 70 year old grip over the affairs of Uganda by sectarianism had come to an end. The 1966 successful revolution took Centre stage, eventually ushering in the 1967 republican constitutional order.

The revolution suffered a series of reversals from the 1971 Idi Amin military coup, with Uganda stooping so low as to becoming a failed state. These reversals were brought to a permanent halt when the NRM took power on 26th January 1986.

It was one of the cardinal points of the NRM program to get rid of sectarianism and usher in an era, where advancement is based on merit and hard work.  This principle has now become a way of life in Uganda.

The elimination of sectarianism which NRM fought for should not be taken for granted.

“Ono aliko” therefore basked in the non-sectarian environment ushered in by President Museveni and NRM to break the sectarian hold on the Baganda culture institution enabling him to appoint a catholic Katikkiro for the first time in 100 years on purely meritorious ground.

Indeed the Professor was spot on that “ono aliko” deserves credit but it is equally imperative that the one who made it all happen President Museveni and NRM must take the greater credit.


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