Friday, June 11, 2010


Written by Weekly Observer news paper 
Wednesday, 09 June 2010 18:16
He is best known as a former Katikkiro (Buganda Prime Minister), but Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere is also an African revolutionary and NRM historical who served as RDC in the early years of this government. Below is a slightly edited statement he made on Tuesday while officially joining opposition against the government he helped bring to power: Today, we are turning a new page and beginning the chapter that will end with the words, “And all the Ugandans lived together happily ever after.“

For me, this is the beginning of a new phase of public life. When I retired from the office of Katikkiro of Buganda, I resolved to retire from public life and live out my days happily on my farm, enjoying the fruits of my labour and company of my family, loved ones and friends.

Even though there was much that I had not achieved, I had not met any man who had accomplished all that can be accomplished in life. I was content to leave the things that were left undone to the next generation and to enjoy what I felt was a hard-earned retirement.

But events have forced me to re-think my decision to participate in constructive change.
It is not a decision that came without massive soul searching. I have quietly travelled widely across Buganda and Uganda. I have sounded out peers and opinion leaders from various native nationalities and across the spectrum of religious and political beliefs. I have spent time reading, researching and analysing current events in Buganda, Uganda, East Africa and Africa as a whole. Everybody that I have spoken to, everything that I have seen and heard; all the material that I have read has compelled me to take a step forward; to stand up and be counted because Uganda is in need of positive and constructive change.

I am truly convinced that it is time for change but change cannot come about if we sit at the sidelines and hope and pray that somebody will deliver it like manna from heaven. We have to engage in the struggle to bring it about. All of us have to do our part and I have decided today to come up and do mine.
In his speech to the London Conference of 1961, the Katikkiro of Buganda, Owek. Michael Kintu, speaking on behalf of the Kabaka, the Lukiiko, the chiefs and all of the people of the Kingdom of Buganda, made the following remarks about Uganda’s impending independence from Britain:

“We in Buganda, look forward to the time when Uganda will take her place among the ranks of independent and sovereign countries. We hope that this will be very soon. The Baganda regard Uganda’s independence as a means to a happy, prosperous and great nation in which all of us, our children and many generations to come will live in freedom and harmony.”

When I read those words again recently, I asked myself whether independent Uganda has truly met the aspirations that were so eloquently laid out by the late Michael Kintu. Without questioning whether a Uganda that is still dependent on aid money from donor countries can be said to be truly independent, I asked myself the following questions:
Is Uganda happy?
Is Uganda prosperous?
Is Uganda a great nation?
Is Uganda a country in which all of us, our children and many generations to come live and will live in freedom and harmony?Sadly, the short answer to each of these searching questions, 48 years after Uganda achieved independence, is “NO!”

Our people are drowning in a sea of poverty, even as a privileged few enrich themselves through corruption on a scale that has never been seen before! Our infrastructure is falling apart - it is sometimes hard to tell where the potholes end and the roads begin, yet all the time we hear about trillions of shillings being dedicated to the roads sector only to be stolen by thieves dressed in suits.

Our education system is taking in more children than ever before but giving them nothing in the form of the life skills or vocational training that they need to succeed in the modern world, with the result that the streets are teeming with highly literate, and even graduate, unemployed or underemployed youths.

Our hospitals - largely bequeathed to us during the colonial era - are falling apart, there are not enough doctors and there is no medicine. Life-saving drugs are stolen from Government clinics to be sold on the black market and the market is awash with fake drugs so that even those who can buy the medicines sometimes die because they are not getting the right dosage.

We hear constant talk of economic growth but nothing is said about how inequitably this growth is distributed. A privileged few are getting very rich whilst the majority remains poor. Nothing is said about the rising national debt, yet we can see the ruinous effects of mountainous national debt on countries like Greece.

Our people are not being encouraged to be productive or to save money. All you ever hear on the radios and see on the TVs are adverts encouraging people to spend more and more of their meager incomes on consumption, consumption, consumption!

The sectors in which Uganda has a natural competitive advantage—namely agriculture and tourism, are perennially under-resourced. So yes, there may be economic growth but is it sustainable over the generations or it is a bubble fuelled by borrowing and foreign aid?

Our politics is still overly militarised and polarised. There are constant threats of “crushing” opponents. Critics who speak out are harassed, locked up and thrown in jails on trumped up charges. Communities have been set against each other in a manner that can only lead to violence and bloodshed. Peoples that were previously living in harmony are now being set against each other. The state has been personalised and democracy is lacking. Everyday we read about courts cancelling rigged elections and the election thieves simply walk out of court straight to the nomination ceremony of the resulting by-election.
When it comes to Buganda, of which I have extensive knowledge, the issues are acute. The central government has made advocating for Buganda’s cause a treasonable act.

Our beloved king, Ssabasajja Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, has been barred from travelling to Nakasongola and Kayunga - and has been made the only citizen of this country who needs permission to travel within Uganda.

People who expressed their displeasure about this illegal act in September 2009 and others who were minding their own business were mercilessly shot dead by the Police and Army. The central government is determined to deprive the Kingdom of Buganda of income by withholding rent payments for buildings and facilities it occupies.

The central government has resolutely refused to return Buganda’s expropriated property and communal land (the so-called 9,000 sq. miles) and has refused to properly address the repeatedly expressed desire for a federal system of government.

The beloved CBS radio was closed down and its licence revoked on flimsy grounds. And recently, when the Kasubi Tombs burnt down, mourners who had gathered to express their grief were shot to clear the way for the President’s visit! These are matters of basic justice that must be resolved once and for all and that is why I have come out today - to mobilise everybody to work towards the establishment of a federal system of governance for the whole of Uganda and to advocate for delivery of justice for Buganda.

So, we are not happy, we are not prosperous, Uganda is not great and we are not living in harmony. People are filled with despair. Uganda needs to get back on track and become the country which we all know that it can be. We need to achieve change and restore hope.

I am impressed that despite all of the hurdles that are placed in your way, the members of Inter-Party Cooperation have had the vision, wisdom and courage to pool their efforts and resources together so as to bring about democratic change in Uganda. I am highly impressed by the fact that despite the provocations and heavy-handed injustices meted out to several of you as individuals - the times that you have been arrested, summoned to the CID, branded terrorists etc., or as organisations - the blocked rallies and processions, the denial of radio airtime, etc., you have kept your determination and resisted the temptation to resort to destructive violence. You have forsaken the easy promise of rewarding careers and a carefree existence in the private sector, sacrificed time with your families, been pushed into exile and/or thrown into jail in order to bring about lasting change in this country. You have been the mobilisers in the establishment of a tradition of democratic, lawful and non-violent opposition and this country owes you a huge debt of gratitude.

By coming together in this way, each of the parties of the Inter-Party Cooperation have exhibited a level of political maturity hitherto unseen in this country. We have been accustomed to winner-take-all politics and a polarising attitude of “either you are with us or against us”! I am sure that the Inter-Party Cooperation is going to bring about a permanent change in Uganda’s political landscape. It is going to usher in a new era of mature, institutionalised, consensus-driven and principled politics. It is clear for all to see that coalitions based on the need to promote and protect the national interest are better than selfish one-man or single party rule. This happens in several countries throughout Europe and has even begun in the UK since the last elections. Uganda needs consensus-driven politics with the national interest being put first instead of the selfish interests of one man or one party.

I have come up today to offer my service to this nation by acting as a midwife of change. I will mobilise our people as well as other political and civil society organisations, so as to bring about the change that we need to make Uganda “a happy, prosperous and great nation in which all of us, our children and many generations to come will live in freedom and harmony.”

I come to this task with all that I am. I come as a Muganda, who has had the privilege of serving in the highest office that can be occupied by a mukopi. I come as a Ugandan who heeded the call of national duty and served as a District Administrator as well as engaged at senior executive level in the private and public sector. I come as Pan-Africanist, who risked life and limb fighting for the liberation of our bothers in Southern Africa from the yoke of colonialism.

These  are  different  identities  that  I  wear,   proudly together,  without any contradiction, it is possible to be a proud Muganda, a good Ugandan nationalist and a Pan-Africanist; for each flows naturally out of the other. Ask any Muganda which clan is the best and he or she will tell you that his or her clan is the best. There are 52, clans - but the love for clan has never diminished the love for Buganda. Ask any person whether they love their family and they will tell you that they do, but they love their village and their county as well as their country. Even the English have a saying, that take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves. I would therefore like to repeat that there is absolutely no contradiction between loving Buganda, loving Uganda and loving East Africa or Africa. We love them all the same and you cannot sort out the problems of the bigger entity without sorting out the issues of the lesser entities.

I would like to call upon all people of voting age to make sure that they get themselves on the electoral register! Your vote is the only opportunity that you have to directly exercise your power as a citizen. Do not waste it. Do not be deceived, all is not lost and change is not impossible. We shall achieve change and together we shall restore hope. But we can only do so if we are registered. So, please, all of you that have not done so, please go out and register today!! Arm yourself to be part of the force that will bring change to this country.

Secondly, I would like to call upon all people who are presently sitting on the sidelines, watching our country going downhill in disbelief, to come out and actively engage in competitive politics. My call especially goes out to the Baganda, who love their kingdom and their country, like me. We cannot sit on the side and hope that somebody is going to sort things out—we must stand up and be counted. When I saw all that was going on and the challenge that was facing the Inter-Party Co-operation, I felt that I had no option but  to ask the Kabaka to relieve me of even the vestigial and largely ceremonial cultural duties that I had so that I could roll up my sleeves and get stuck into competitive and partisan politics.

The great Greek philosopher, Plato, once said that “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men!”  We cannot sit idly by, whilst the cancer of corruption and power lust destroys our beloved Kingdom and our country.

Lastly, I call upon all members of the Electoral Commission to look into their consciences. Whilst I don’t have any reason to doubt their integrity at an individual level, it is a proven fact - repeatedly upheld by the highest courts in this country, that as a Commission they have failed to administer and deliver free and fair elections at a national and lesser level. The upcoming elections must not only be free and fair, but they must also be SEEN to be free and fair. Nothing about the way that the Electoral Commission has conducted itself so far, leaving aside the issue of how it was appointed, has shown that it has learnt any lessons since 2006. We still have absurd situations such as the bad handling of the on-going registration exercise that threatens to leave many young voters disenfranchised, or the strange result of the Kalagala polling station in the recently concluded Mukono North by-election. Members of the Electoral Commission should know that they hold the future of this country in their hands and that they should step down in the interest of transparency of the forthcoming elections. If they cannot do it for themselves, then let them do it in the interest of their children and their grandchildren so as to bequeath them a peaceful and stable Uganda.

I am calling upon all Baganda and Ugandans to do the following things: Register to vote, spread the good news that hope has arrived and that lasting change and a solution to Buganda’s and Uganda’s problems is coming.

All those with capacity and ability, who care to bring about lasting change for Uganda should get off the fence and out of the woodwork and present themselves for competitive politics at all levels, starting right from LC1, LC2, LC3, LC5 and through to Parliament; and so let us go out to Buganda and to the rest of the country with a message of change and a message of hope. Let us go out and tell our people that change is coming soon and that very soon Uganda will be “a happy, prosperous and great nation in which all of us, our children and many generations to come will live in freedom and harmony.”

Awangaale Ssabasajja Kabaka.
“For God and My Country!”

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