The Untold Story of the Buganda Kingdom

The Kingdom of Buganda is one of three territories in Uganda. NPR's Tony Cox talks with the former Prime Minister of Buganda, Daniel Muliika about his nation's history and its current relationship with Uganda.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

And in the southern part of Uganda, there's a kingdom called Buganda. It's located along the northern shore of Lake Victoria. Buganda is the largest of four regions in Uganda. It's a kingdom within the republic. The kingdom has a constitution, a parliament and a prime minister. The former prime minister of the Bugandan Kingdom, Daniel Mulika, recently spoke with NPR's Tony Cox.

TONY COX: Let's talk first, because I don't know how many people in our listening audience are familiar with Buganda and its history. What I have read suggests that it was a kingdom, and then when Uganda was formed, it became a kingdom within Uganda. But in 1966, under Milton Obote, that autonomy was taken away and it became a part of Uganda, the nation - and remains so today.

Mr. DANIEL MULIIKA (Former Prime Minister, Buganda): Okay, thank you. Buganda is a nation in itself. Its history dates far back, over 3,000 years. It's a kingdom with a chain of kings, (unintelligible). In fact, during the discovery of Africa by Europeans, Buganda had its own setup, a good government from king to katikiro, the Lukiiko, which is parliament of Buganda, then the chiefs, county chiefs, sub-county and parishes, then village chiefs.

And the one, the katikiro, which is prime minister, what you call prime minister, means the one at the peak of all others, reporting direct to kabaka. So kabaka entrusts the katikiro to govern the country on his behalf. And our Buganda, the kingdom is an institution. It works as an institution, not individual, on each and every thing.

COX: You are a kingdom within Uganda. Buganda is a kingdom, a monarchy, correct? Is that the appropriate form of government for the 21st century in Africa?

Mr. MULIIKA: It is, because people should be governed the way they feel they are free to be governed. In fact, our kingdom is even ahead of the other so-called unitary governments because our institution is an institution. It does not act as kabaka as a person. When you (unintelligible). Whatever he does is (unintelligible). It's the people's way, and that's why we feel we should not be changed.

COX: What is the current relationship between Buganda and Uganda? Is there -because you said that Buganda is a nation, but is it a sovereign nation, separate and apart from Uganda, or is it a part of Uganda?

Mr. MULIIKA: Okay, when the colonists came, we integrated with other tribes, and we formed Uganda protectorate, which eventually became the Republic of Uganda. So the Republic of Uganda is an aggregation of different tribes over different nations for that matter, Buganda being one.

And Buganda is the biggest of all. It's in the center of it, and we are situated on the equator. North of Uganda is Sudan. East of Uganda is Kenya. South of Uganda is Tanzania. West is Rwanda and Congo. That's where we are found, on the equator.

Now, during the colonial times, Buganda was independent in a way because it was enjoying a federal status. And we got our independence on 8th October, 1962, and the rest of Uganda got their independence on 9th October, 1962. So Buganda went as a state to join other states, and then we formed the country Uganda. And as of 1962, have remained.

COX: What is the relationship today between Buganda and Uganda?

Mr. MULIIKA: The relationship today is Buganda doesn't want to secede, but Buganda wants its autonomy. Buganda joined even the current President Museveni to fight off the bad regimes of Amin and Obote. And when it came to - when Museveni came to power, we thought and we believed that he's going to return our status, but now that is where the problem is. Instead of returning our land, which was grabbed in 1967, he's continuing making laws depriving Buganda of its land.

COX: Is it possible, sir, to become autonomous again without seceding from Uganda? How is that possible?

Mr. MULIIKA: It is possible, if we go back by sitting on a table and take hold, us all coming together. One thing is important. The central government should not be our masters. It's these certain tribes which came together to form Uganda in the 1962 agreement. We must sit together and agree on a formula of running Uganda together.

But now the government is imposing itself, and it's taking our people's power.

COX: Talk for a moment, if you will, about life in Buganda, and particularly how it is impacted, for example, by the unrest in neighboring Kenya.

Mr. MULIIKA: The internal problems of Kenya won't affect Buganda because what is the cause in Kenya? One tribe has dominated others, but because of that concentration of power into one tribe, it has exploded. They have just been sitting on a powder keg. That's what we want to avoid in Uganda. We are telling central government the distribution of land must remain with their own because there are channels through which the government can, the central government, can get land amicably - one of it is by awaiting sale. That one is okay.

Another one is the compulsory clause, which we put in our constitution, that if central government wants land for the use of the public - let's say roads, hospital, whatever - we agree they can take the land. But before it is taken, parliament has to approve to ensure that it is public interest.

Two, the indigenous communities concerned in that particular area have also to confirm it is a public interest. Then three, the one who is holding that piece of land which is going must be fully compensated on market value. And that's the problem, why we don't see the reason why government again wants to jump over other people's land. We know how to govern ourselves. They have used the methods of evicting people so that we feel there is insecurity. And now when the land is badly distributed, we are going to have a Zimbabwe case.

You remember that Zimbabwe, even after 100 years of colonization, still, they are telling you let land go back to the indigenous people.

COX: Sir, thank you very much for coming in. I really do appreciate it. It's fascinating, and I've learned a great deal about Buganda. So thank you very much.

Mr. MULIIKA: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Dan Muliika was prime minister of the kingdom of Buganda from 2005 to 2007. He spoke with NPR's Tony Cox.

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