Before the Buganda Lukiiko (parliament) on Monday, Charles Peter Mayiga, the Katikkiro (prime minister), delivered a strong message to the Kamuswaga of Kooki Apollo Ssansa Kabumbuli II and some elements within the central government that he accused of fanning tensions between Buganda and the Rakai-based cultural institution.
Mayiga’s address to the Lukiiko came exactly a week after a combined force of the police and army blocked him at Hotel Brovad in Masaka for several hours in an attempt to stop him from travelling to Kooki county (Rakai district) on official kingdom duties.
Of Buganda’s 18 counties, Kooki enjoys a special status being the only county with a hereditary chief – owing to the 1896 agreement between then Buganda king Mwanga and his Kooki counterpart, Kamuswaga Kezekia Ndawula that placed the chiefdom under the authority of Buganda kingdom.
Until 2013, the Kamuswaga was loyal to the Mengo establishment, but in a surprise turn of events, he turned hostile, and attempted to block the launch of that year’s annual Masaza football tournament at St Bernard’s SS Mannya where 11 students died in an inferno last month.
Mayiga’s first stop last week was at this very school before he went on to visit coffee farmers under his coffee growing promotion campaign dubbed ‘Emmwanyi terimba.’ For more than six hours, he remained blockaded at Hotel Brovad where he had spent the night. Outside the hotel and along the road from Masaka to Rakai, heavily armed police and military personnel were on alert with armoured personnel carriers (APCs) commonly known as Mamba, water cannons and other riot gear were on deployment.
As tensions continued to build in Masaka, groups in Kooki threatened to riot in protest against the government’s closing of the roads to Kooki for Mayiga. Fearing that the tensions could flare out, security eventually cleared Mayiga to proceed to Kooki.
In 2009, deadly riots broke out across the kingdom after Mayiga’s predecessor, John Baptist Walusimbi, was blocked from travelling to Bugerere (Kayunga district) ahead of Kabaka.
Maj Flavia Terimulungi, the spokesperson of the Masaka-based armoured brigade, told journalists security forces had been told that Mayiga hadn’t sought the clearance of the Kooki cultural leadership.
The Kamuswaga had demanded Mayiga writes formally informing him of his visit to the area which, according to the Kamuswaga, is now an autonomous kingdom. The Kooki leadership’s demand for secession from Buganda followed the agreement that President Museveni entered into with Buganda in 2013 that literally recognized the hitherto non-existent cultural institutions in Bugerere and Buruli (Nakasongola district).
On Monday, Mayiga used strong language against the Kooki cultural head though he did not directly mention his name nor title.
“It is surprising how someone can take up childish games against a program meant to develop the people,” Mayiga said. “I don’t partake in childish games, and I am not someone you can joke around with.” Mayiga further told the Lukiiko there are elements in Kooki that are focused at destabilizing the general security situation in the country.
“The same elements are also opposed to development; in fact, they don’t care about the ordinary people [that they claim to be their subjects],” Mayiga said.
Mayiga emphasized that Kooki is an area under the jurisdiction of the Kabaka of Buganda. “How else would I, a lawyer, leave a well-furnished office of the katikkiro to go and drive through Kooki’s dusty roads other than serving my king? And somebody comes up thinking that he can block me from going there, isn’t that being childish?” Mayiga wondered.
He claimed that the Kooki cultural leader is working with some elements in the central government to ferment confusion in Buganda.
The Kamuswaga did not answer our calls but Stanley Ndawula, his spokesman, accuses Mayiga of being provocative. “He should stop his provocation and get politics out of cultural issues,” Ndawula said. “If we stopped the Kabaka from visiting Kooki for two weeks until protocol was observed, who is Mayiga who was blocked for a few hours?”
Ndawula adds Mayiga should have himself to blame for making the Kabaka to sign a ‘dubious’ agreement that ‘gave away parts of the kingdom in Bugerere and Buruli.’
TROUBLED RECENT PAST
Before the 2013 agreement, Kooki was agitating for a review of the 1896 agreement with demands for a special status, higher than that of other ssaza (county) chiefs, and to have this throne inside the Mengo Lukiiko hall.
Weeks after Mayiga’s appointment in May 2013, the Kamuswaga’s rhetoric changed, he started making secession threats after Museveni promised a Shs 8.51bn ‘special entandikwa’ project for Kooki. See: Museveni, Mengo collide on Kooki, The Observer, June 13, 2013.
Soon, the Kamuswaga declared his area a separate kingdom and withdrew his representatives from the Buganda Lukiiko in addition to futile attempts to withdraw Kooki’s participation from the popular Masaza football tournament.
Matters were not helped when Mayiga appointed Gertrude Ssebuggwawo, who once served as the Kamuswaga’s katikkiro, to take up Kooki’s seat in the Buganda Lukiiko.
Ssebuggwawo, together with some members of the Kooki royal family and some former members of the Kamuswaga’s cabinet, were key in organizing Mayiga’s visit to Kooki last week.