The arrest of three Buganda Kingdom officials; Charles Peter Mayiga Minister of Information, Medard Lubega Ssegona State Minister for information and Betty Nambooze Bakireke Civic Education Central Committee chairperson, right, on 18th July 2008 has hastened the crack in the bond between the Buganda Kingdom and the State. The arrests are seen as a direct attack on the Kingdom from the State and a ploy by the latter to sabotage the Kingdom’s strategy to get power. (24–JULY-08)
Written by Maureen Mboizi, HRH, Kampala
While the Land Bill is the reason behind the latest stand off between Buganda and the Central Government, old grievances have been simmering: Buganda’s long standing demand for a federal status; power to control some 9000sq miles of land; and the status of Kampala city which the central government says is not part of Buganda, are equally contentious matters. Left: A weak Nambooze after her temporary release on Thursday. Photo: Joseph Mugisa.
The arrests did not come as a surprise
On Dec 18, 2007, the President said that the group at Mengo, Buganda Kingdom, was in breach of the Constitution by so causing disaffection against the ruling NRM in his letter to the Kabaka, King of the Buganda Kingdom. The arrests have been likened to the 1966 crisis when Prime Minister Milton Obote instructed the army commanded by Idi Amin to invade Sir Kabaka Mutesa II’s palace at Lubiri, following allegations that Buganda was amassing guns to fight the Central government.
The three Buganda officials are faced with terrorism charges, sedition, promoting sectarianism and inciting violence and have so much in common, among which that they are all from Buganda, and run programmes on CBS, a Kingdom radio station where they take the lead role campaigning against the controversial Land Act (Amendment) Bill 2007. President Museveni says the Bill intends to stop massive land evictions, but Buganda’s stand is that it is unnecessary and might actually lead to the grabbing of the Kabaka’s land.
Surprisingly, the officials were arrested on the day Buganda held her first ever local conference at Hotel Africana to discuss challenges facing the kingdom. During this conference, a resolution on seeking state power was tactfully adopted by a round of applause. However, it’s with dismay that news comes in of a number of other Buganda officials on the wanted list who could be arrested any time. The reason for their arrest is none other than being promoters of the Kingdom speaking out on issue of concern to the people of Buganda. This act by the State makes them prisoners of conscience; detained because of their unwavering promotion of the culture, cultural institutions, language and traditions of Buganda. The arrest of two Buganda ministers and a civic education committee official is an indication that President Museveni is now playing his last card – confronting a defiant mengo.
Judicial system under threat
With suspects being held for over 48 hours without charge, their Lawyers filed a case in the Grade One Magistrate Court at Buganda Road court in Kampala who ordered for their immediate release. Two minutes is how long the three detained suspects were allowed out of custody at Kyenjojo Police Station before they were re-arrested and whisked off to detention in an undisclosed location. This was done a day after the Grade one Magistrate ruling.
The Uganda Government has developed a trend of attacking those who are not in agreement with its opinions and ideas. Not so long ago, suspects of the People’s Redemption Army, according to Ugandan authorities a guerrilla group in the making in western parts of the country, were treated in the same manner as the Buganda officials. They were arrested in Kampala, and when the High Court granted them bail, the high Court was raided by heavily armed men in the army fatigue who had them whisked away to an undisclosed location. This trend shows how the State is disrespectful of the Laws governing the Country and the judicial system especially when dealing with people of the public who are not in support of their agenda. The suspects have continued to be held in communicado, and are not allowed to have access to their lawyers, families and friends.
Civil Society Organisations pressure Government
The Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Uganda Law Society and HURINET-U have all held press conferences calling on the State to respect the rights of the three suspects. Civil society have also called on the State to respect the law in relation to 48 hours within which a suspect should be brought before a competent Court of Law; allow suspects to have access to their Lawyers as provided in Article 23(5) b; charge suspects when there is evidence of crime committed or release them where there is no sufficient evidence; allow suspects to have access to their families and friends; refrain from any acts that may tantamount to torture; give medicinal attention to suspects; and protect, promote and respect human rights as provided in the national, regional and international human rights instruments to which Uganda is a signatory.