NAJIB NSUBUGA: Kateregga’s view of Buganda Kingdom administration is slanted

Najib Nsubuga is a Ganda culture & history scholar and a member of the Buganda Youth Council (PHOTO /Courtesy)

I am writing to respond to three opinion articles published by the New Vision, two by Mr. Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, and one by Oweek. David Kyewalabye Male.

The three articles arguing the case of Buganda Kingdom administration, where Kateregga claims that the current administration at Mmengo is illegitimate, whereas Kyewalabye presents a case that substantiates the Kingdom administrative structure.

Kateregga, a veteran journalist that turned politician falls short of key components of context in his analysis of the pre-colonial Buganda. His claim that Kabaka Mwanga never had a Mulamuzi and Muwanika is a clear indication that he is either deliberately neglecting key facts or he is unable to contextualize the pre-colonial Buganda system of administration.

Kateregga, and others from his school of thought adamantly ignore the fact that the first Europeans to arrive at Kabaka Muteesa’s court were amazed by the system of administration the black King had, that managed the affairs of the Kingdom. It was that level of sophistication that informed Buganda’s future relationship with the Europeans.

It is important to note that Kabaka Mwanga inherited the very system that had been built over time by his ancestors and maintained by his immediate predecessor and father, Muteesa I.

In ensuring harmony with the Baganda, it wasn’t possible for the colonialists to come up with a system that completely subdued the prevailing system at the time. They thought of a model that could effectively foster their interests without differing much from what they found.

When Kyewalabye mentions that Buganda’s administration by the chiefs preceded the 1900 Buganda agreement, he is pointing to the fact that the Kabaka already had a system that managed his Kingdom.

What the Europeans did was to standardize the system based on their interests, limited the number of people that managed it and also encroached on the authority of the Kabaka.

Kabaka Mwanga for example had Ekitongole Ekiwanika (treasury department) which had a chief that managed it and was also deputized by another junior chief.

Apollo Kaggwa served in that department as a junior chief and later as the senior chief after the Namugongo killings.

The Kabaka also had a system of adjudication stemming from the villages at the Bitaawuluzi (traditional local courts) upwards to the chambers of the Katikkiro, there existed and still does a chief known as Katikkiro w’eddiiro responsible for hearing cases that were directly brought to him or those that appealed from the lower courts.

Appeals could still be made to the Kabaka, whose judgement could also traditionally be overturned by Omutaka Kibaale. From such arrangement, unless if a person is short of context, and using skewed lenses to analyse the events of the time, it is unacceptable to infer that Kabaka Mwanga didn’t have a treasurer and a judge.

On the issue of the Katikkiro being a cultural leader, Kateregga’s understanding is betrayed by his thinking that cultural leaders are only those that head clans. Cultures across that world have different cultural roles assigned to particular individuals.

There is no way we can determine the position of the Katikkiro based on the 1900 agreement and that of 1955 yet the position dates back to the time of Kintu.

The Katikkiro, a delegate of the Kabaka of Buganda as Kabaka ow’ebweru and Kamalabyonna (one who accomplishes all on behalf of the Kabaka) has been performing cultural duties from the time of Kintu. This fact I believe, neither of the clan leaders of Buganda can deny apart from their defacto spokesperson, Mr. Kateregga.

The 1900 Buganda agreement and that of 1955 were not in good faith in regard to Buganda. These agreements were used as tools to legitimize the forced European occupation of Buganda.

The agreements subdued the Kabaka by taking away his authority to appoint his chiefs and also created strong centers of power that competed with the Kabaka.

It is therefore not surprising that Kabaka Daudi Ccwa, even after clicking majority age was unable to influence the affairs of his Kingdom. The bells for self-rule and personality allowed Muteesa II to somehow maneuver through the colonial chains that surrounded the monarch.

I believe the 1966 crisis that led to the abolition of the Kingdoms indirectly helped Buganda to get rid of the colonial system of administration. At the time of the restoration of the Kingdom in 1993, Kabaka Mutebi regained the powers to appoint his chiefs headed by the Katikkiro, the same way his ancestors used to in the pre-colonial Buganda.

The only thing that Kateregga should blame the Kabaka and the administration at Mmengo is their failure to drop the colonial title of “Minister” that is still held by the Kabaka’s chiefs contrary to titles like Abakungu, Abaami and Abakulu b’ebitongole that were held by people that occupied the same positions.

I would however attribute that to Buganda’s progressive and adaptive nature that allows her to accommodate foreign elements that do not violate her sacred customs.

In conclusion, I concur with Kyewalabye’s argument that substantiates the Kingdom’s current administrative structure as a native system that preceded colonialism and still suitable in present times.

It is necessary for the clan leaders in Buganda, whose case Kateregga is misrepresenting, to come out and help him and others make sense of these cultural concepts, to which they are the supreme authority.

The writer is a Ganda culture & history scholar and a member of the Buganda Youth Council

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