In his typical take-no-prisoners fashion, Dan Muliika, the former prime minister of Buganda kingdom, who was relieved of his duties only two years into the job, tells The Observer’s Baker Batte Lule that he isn’t surprised at the turn of events in Uganda.
Muliika was allegedly sacrificed for being belligerent towards the central government – an untenable position given the political delicateness of the times. Today, Muliika declares that those communities which formed Uganda at independence must regroup and write a new Constitution which mirrors their aspirations…
As a member of the Buganda Lukiiko (Parliament) you rejected the 1995 Uganda Constitution. Why?
First; we used a language that we were not supposed to use: English, which is [spoken] by about 20 per cent of Ugandans.
Second, we were deceived that there was a Constituent Assembly. That meant that we were constituents, but we ended up having a ‘Constituency Assembly’ with representatives like you see these parliamentarians. That was ridiculous because it was the indigenous people who formed Uganda in 1962 who should have come together and written their constitution.
Before 1962, what the colonialists were calling Uganda was actually Buganda. Therefore, the Constituent Assembly (CA) wasn’t properly constituted. Because of our poor English, instead of sending delegates, we sent representatives. Here in Bukoto, I sent Jaberi Bidandi Ssali; now the constitution has gone wrong, I don’t even know where to find Bidandi.
What should have happened was for the 15 regions that made up Uganda; Buganda, Kigezi, Ankole, Bukedi, Busoga, among others, to send delegates and resolve a new constitution.
Each one would have had to ratify what the CA had passed. Before my delegate commits me to a constitution, he should come back and say this is what you told me and this is what we resolved; do you agree or not? So, that 1995 constitution is in the same category as the 1966, and 1967 constitutions; they are all regime constitutions.
When you say we should have sent delegates; how would these have been elected or selected?
Why would you say that? How did we select ourselves to go to Mengo Lukiiko? That is immaterial. I don’t think there is any area in Uganda that can fail to elect its representatives. I agree, these days there have been divisions and it’s hard for you young people to know the boundaries of, say; Kigezi, or Ankole.
These divisions were brought intentionally for you young people not to know where we are coming from. You find something floating; you don’t know where you are, where you are going… You only think of today; that’s why these days all of you are becoming thieves.
Everything that comes up, you want to first be paid because you don’t own what you have. You are not part of the inner part of it. But for us, we own it; we feel it.
Therefore, you cannot tell me that I can fail to elect my delegates. These people who are exploiting us are saying no, no, you can’t do this… you have no constitution.
But Buganda has got a constitution older than any other constitution in this country. The written history of Buganda goes back as a far as AD 400. Just like Buganda, other regions can also do it.
But how would those delegates be selected?
It depends on the number of people in those areas. Like for Buganda, if you say we are going to send 30 delegates, we demarcate our constituencies. That is why you see Buganda was the first region to carry out direct elections. We know our constituencies. We can use the ssaza (county), gombolola (sub-county), miluka (parishes) which are part of the subdivisions.
I don’t see the difficulty in electing. There is no theory about it. When we had direct elections in Buganda, we said each county had to bring three representatives; wasn’t that carried out? Isn’t that democracy thicker than what you are advocating?
It is difficult for Ugandans to see it because they have grown up with this cheating attitude. You can’t think of any other alternative. People are jittery about giving powers to these traditional institutions. They say they are not representative enough…
We are here because of people like [President] Museveni…We were directly electing our people. It is a forced situation. How do you even compare it? In fact, if we remove Museveni and his dirty politics, we are capable of showing you how a country can develop fast.
Buganda as we knew it then had ceased to exist and so did other regions; who then should have organised the people?
It would be a question of announcing that we have formed a CA, send delegates. We would do it. If you announce it today, I will lead it. If the president [gives] way, I will mobilise the entire Uganda and they will send their delegates. But it’s wrong to have non-indigenous people determining the fate of your country and this is why we are suffering today.
Looking at the 1995 constitution, what would you point at and say, this was good?
When Museveni came, it was thought that he had come to remove the disorder created by [former presidents] Apollo Milton Obote and Idi Amin. One thing was that power should be shifted to the people through a constitution where they accept to work together.
The [Justice Benjamin] Odoki commission report was very good; compiled after real scientific research where he would come and explain to people what a constitution means before soliciting their views.
Now, look at the recent debate on K’ogikwatako. I felt embarrassed when I heard some people say people were sensitized! One, the constitution has never been translated into our local language; so, majority of the people don’t know even what [Article 102(b) on presidential age limits] meant. When the MPs went to the villages, they didn’t explain what the clause meant, not even why it was put there in the first place.
Odoki’s was real research but when the report was out, technical mistakes were made. The first was instead of being given to parliament, it was sent to the president who stayed with it for six months and altered it.
His minister, the late Sam Njuba, told the public that some clauses had been tampered with. But because in Uganda we are so ignorant about these things, we went ahead and passed it; we didn’t think that was a very big mistake.
Notwithstanding your misgivings about how the CA members were chosen and the said alteration of articles, is there anything worth fighting for in the 1995 constitution?
Some of us were part of pressure groups that pushed members of CA to see that land belongs to the people, not the central government. It can only get land from the people to render a service to those people, and there must be a very clear procedure on how government acquires land.
The regime thinks they lost on that one, that’s why immediately after the constitution was passed, Museveni complained that everything had gone well apart from land.
For us, land has never been an issue. We didn’t conflict with Obote or Amin because of land. Our conflict was about making a constitution allowing us to form a country called Uganda with each one knowing what his/her rights are. We hated the 1966 and 1967 constitutions because they were for individuals and it’s the same constitution we are having now.
How do we extricate ourselves out of this?
That is a good question but because of this English and lack of a common language, we might not understand each other. That’s why they have used this to exploit all of us. You find someone in the centre saying Buganda is an enemy of Bunyoro and Bunyoro thinks it’s also an enemy of Buganda.
The same with other regions; this divide and rule has helped them to perpetuate injustices against all of us. When I talk about it, they say, Muliika is a tribalist. But what is a tribe?
Nobody bothers to find out that it’s a group of people with the same culture, with the same language in a certain location. Then what’s wrong with that? Why don’t you allow Muliika to be a proud Muganda and work with a proud Acholi?
In Buganda, we have over 50 clans, each with its own constitution but we are brought together by the Kabaka. Therefore, even in Uganda we can be as many tribes as we are, but still work together.
But the top man wants us to fight each other so that he can exploit us. Recently I asked some Banyoro that ‘do you now own land in Buliisa?’ They said ‘no no, they brought Bafuruki. They say they are Bakiga but when you keenly follow them, you realise that they come from a particular area’.
The Banyoro don’t own the land, neither the natural resources. Today in Buganda our land has been taken and the other day, the president confirmed that our gold in Mubende; one of the best – the president told you that it is him who stopped people from mining it. The gold is in Buganda.
I cannot go and claim oil in Bunyoro. It should be us to work our resources. Karamoja is a very rich region. Two and a half feet below ground you get a sheet of marble, four feet you have gold but they are the poorest on the streets in Kampala.
That’s why you have kifeesi (thugs). They have no respect for life. There is no rule of law because we don’t have anyone in charge. These are all the hazards of this constitution.
The constitution was recently amended to allow the president contest as many times as he wants. What do you make of it?
That constitution is not yours; it’s someone’s. You are being hoodwinked that there is a constitution. Someone told me that we are like a wild animal picked from the bush by force but when you confine it in a place and give it food, eventually it yields, thinking that it’s the best thing and it will never think of going back to the bush.
These regimes are not very clever but are cunning; from [Milton] Obote they abolished civics from schools. They knew that if you come out without civics, you are easily converted into what they want. That’s why you see things like [the so-called National Leadership Institute] Kyankwanzi; you go there to be indoctrinated, never to think using your brains.
That’s why their own constitution says in the preamble that it was made to avoid changing power by force like in the past. But somebody in parliament, doesn’t need to go to school to know that, that clause on term or age limits was a contribution to curtail anyone who wants to impose himself on Ugandans.
Then you say there is a clause that says majority can change [amend the clause]. Then you are like somebody who has no brains at all. The first thing in any constitution is its spirit and if you do anything against the spirit of that constitution, then you don’t respect it.
These 317 MPs who have no brains forgot that even Article 1 of their constitution told them that power is with the people. So, who told them that Ugandans wanted a change of those clauses? Anybody who tells me that this is our constitution, I wonder whether he/she was born with common sense.
They are clever, yes. They went to school, others even have PhDs, but they don’t have wisdom. You hear them say, my party, DP, NRM, etc has told me to do so.
In Uganda today an MP doesn’t understand the role of a party and the role of being a representative. If it’s the party that is important why then do we waste so many billions on elections? The party should just send representatives and we keep quiet.
The president the other day was applauding these 317 MPs for a job well-done, that they know the destiny of Africa…
I cry for my country… I don’t know where we are going. That’s why [US president] Donald Trump will call us whatever he called us because we don’t know what we want.
A member of parliament went there to represent me instead of asking what I want. He went to his political party and did its bidding well knowing it’s me who votes for him. I wonder why they even bother us with voting for them. They should just come and say, I’m your MP or whatever they want. But they hide behind good things yet their motives are dangerous. These are satans who deceive people.
What we need is an intensive education to alert people about their rights. We should tell these voters that when they accept money from a candidate, it’s them who have sold the country. They will never find medicine in the hospital, their children will go to UPE schools.
Some people just want to be polite but Uganda is now a totally failed state. To understand a failed state, you look at three things. You don’t have an executive, you have ‘above’. You don’t have a parliament, but a caucus that sits where the legislature should sit and does what it’s told.
The judiciary you know very well it’s full of cadres. That’s why when electoral petitions are taken there, the judges will say there were some malpractices but all the same he has won.
Once those three issues are present, it means there won’t be anything constitutional working under that arrangement. When you hear of corruption, embezzlement, infighting in security organs, among others, just know we lost direction; no one is in charge.
Your thoughts on the Justice Catherine Bamugemeire commission on land?
That is playing on people’s intelligence because people had started thinking that there was a problem. If they did realise that there was a problem, then they would wake up and nobody would stop them. When they know it’s Muliika making noise, it’s easy to silence him but when everybody wakes up, nobody can stop them.
That’s why they continue deceiving us that it is us who vote for them but in Uganda we have no elections. Anything that is short of being free and fair, is no election.
Even the courts, bad as they are, have said that indeed there are always problems with our elections. That’s why in 2015 I was against moves to push for electoral reforms in a parliament where the majority are NRM robots that are told to do what their boss wants.
My position was to push Museveni to finish his term and hand over power to an interim government, which we would give two responsibilities; work with the civil servants and run the day-to-day activities of the state, and; convene a grand national convention of all stakeholders.
But for as long as we are using someone else’s constitution, who uses people who only think of money and not the country, you will never get out of these problems, because we don’t have proper leadership.
Have you seen us fighting over kabakaship? No, because we know what the Kabaka does and what other leaders do. It is acceptable to us. Somebody was telling me that ‘but why do you people kneel for the Kabaka,’ I told him we do it by choice.
How would you put in place an interim government?
We are 40 million people in Uganda; you think he will kill all of us? He might kill 10,000. Do you think people like Trump who have nuclear and sophisticated weapons would still be talking to people?
They know that however powerful they are, they need people. In fact the president should have liked people like me because I tell him what’s wrong.
He doesn’t like you?
His spies are doing the job that is supposed to be done by intelligent people. They do it unintelligently. All they were telling him is that Muliika is opposing you. Yes, I have got that right.
But they think that you are an enemy because you’re saying things that do not rhyme with his; I’m not a robot. I would appreciate when he is doing a good job. When he was in the bush, I loved him because I thought we were going to end this nonsense, only to find that people surrounding him were making him make more mistakes.
You come here and do away with cooperatives and tomorrow you turn around and reinstate them. Why do they mislead him like that? Look at how they chased people from their homes in Naguru and Nakawa, saying they had got an investor. Investor?! I would rather be poor than have that kind of investor who deprives me.
What does it say of a person who is always misled?
He can’t even realise it. That’s why the Bazungu say too much power corrupts. The constitution concentrated a lot of power in the hands of the president and he lost focus. Personally, I told him that what will make Ugandans happy is a constitution that reflected their views. This should have turned him into the father of the nation.
There are suggestions of abolishing mailo land as one of the land tenure systems in Uganda…
We need to educate them of the dangers of this proposal.
What is Buganda’s role in the greater scheme of things moving forward?
Do you think Buganda still exists? Somebody takes your land; you have no power to decide what even to eat tonight. You have no control over the economy, your minerals are being sold by somebody else and you are not allowed to say anything.
Are you satisfied with the way the Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga is running things at Mengo?
I’m not going to say this or that because Mengo is in captivity. There is some invisible power ordering Mengo on what they should and shouldn’t say or do.
Go and ask Museveni, I told him I cannot ask him for federalism because he has no power to give it to us, neither to deny it. I told him I will first sensitise Baganda about federalism and then talk to other states that made Uganda and agree to come to a round table and then tell him what we want.
For me, I was lucky I would tell him what was on my mind.
There are those who say confrontational politics that you played can’t help advance Buganda’s cause…
Those are lies. In fact I practiced dialogue more than any other katikkiro but I didn’t want under-the-table dialogue. Go and ask Gilbert Bukenya [former vice president].
I told him if they wanted dialogue, I should leave Mengo and meet the vice president with a known agenda. Whether we agree or not, we should be able to tell the media what we discussed. That is genuine dialogue, not this underground dialogue.
I don’t need to go to State House. If there is anything official, it should be in the presidential office…These are matters of state and we should treat them as such. Anything done in secret is funny.