UGANDA, Mengo | Real Muloodi News | Land ownership issues are sensitive in Buganda, where the Kabaka is culturally the landlord. They affect millions of citizens who have settled in the kingdom for work, business, or investment. On Tuesday, President Museveni and Ronald Muwenda Mutebi, the Kabaka of Buganda, met to discuss the issues about the Mailo land. The events that led to this meeting, as highlighted in this article, have been carried on from the past, with the media fuelling the tensions between the Buganda kingdom and the Ugandan government.
The Kabaka, seeing the President for the first time since their May 2019 encounter at Banda Palace outside Kampala, reminded him of their August 2013 Memorandum of Understanding. The administration promised to settle all outstanding debts to the monarchy.
Tensions between the government and the Buganda kingdom have been hostile for decades. In 2013, the two signed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby the government agreed to return kingdom land confiscated in 1966. In keeping with the agreement, the government returned some of the lands in question.
President Museveni has continuously criticized the Mailo Land Tenure as “evil”, and in turn, the Kingdom has threatened to sue the government for not fully reinstating cultural institutions. His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, the Kabaka of Buganda, celebrated his 28th coronation anniversary on 31st July in Lwengo. He used this event as an opportunity to speak about the ongoing discussions on Mailo land and the proposal to abolish the land tenure system.
The Kabaka also took this criticism as a personal attack on Buganda. He claimed that those in support of abolishing the Mailo land system are trying to weaken the Kingdom. He believed that the government is trying to create differences between Buganda and the rest of the country. During his speech at the coronation ceremony, he asked why is the emphasis on Buganda land and little discussion of land in other parts of Uganda?
His Majesty openly condemned the proposal by the government to abolish the Mailo land tenure system, explaining that the Kingdom will keep fighting for a federal system of governance in the country.
“For the last 28 years, we have been at the forefront of demanding justice, federal, land, and our buildings. These and other things, we call them Ebyaffe,” he said. “Í want to emphasize this, we shall not relent in our quest for Ebyaffe through negotiations as we have done in the past,” he added.
He also claimed that reforming the land tenure system will negatively affect the cultural values and interests of the Kingdom. The Baganda comprises 23% of the Ugandan population and holds close ties to their heritage deeply linked with land. He explained that abolishing Mailo land would destroy one of the key pillars on which the Kingdom was built.
The King further opposed allegations by the government about being unfair to tenants and non-inclusive with their land. He argued that the Kingdom has been accommodative and has allowed people to settle in Buganda peacefully regardless of their cultural backgrounds. He stated that critics have misunderstood Buganda’s hospitality as its weakness.
Mr Augustine Kizito Mutumba, the head of clan chiefs (Bataka) in Buganda, who was present at the meeting between the president and the Kabaka, had earlier reported to the Kabaka that there was widespread duplication of land titles, which he said robbed many Bugandans of their land rights.
According to the meeting’s proceedings, President Museveni expressed worry that the veterans of the guerrilla struggle that brought him to office 35 years ago were being expelled indiscriminately off the land.
He allegedly recalled his long connection with Mengo, which predated the restoration of the Buganda kingdom and Mutebi’s installation as Kabaka in 1993, and criticized the media for misrepresenting the government’s strategy and public conversation on the subject.
According to a meeting attendee, the President stated, “my opinion, if revisions occur, is [to] discourage evictions… those people; our veterans, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) historicals who assisted in the liberation, but are being evicted, we must safeguard them.”
“The Kabaka should have left the state house convinced that there is no bad blood between his government and the NRM,” another source that attended the meeting said.
Mr Museveni is said to have clarified and assuaged worries that the land revisions are simply intended to address security issues and streamline land management.
The administration has yet to draft the proposed land law modification principles for Cabinet consideration, which would formally begin a protracted legislative process, making it difficult to determine what would be included or omitted in the planned revisions.
The Kabaka, like the President, recognises that MPs will play a critical role.
In a hastily convened press conference at Mengo, Katikkiro (premier) Mayiga said, “as may be expected, when leaders talk about important issues, they are always hopeful that the outcome will be beneficial to their people. We are hopeful that the meeting of Kabaka and the President will be very fruitful.”
Some kingdom loyalists welcomed the meeting between President Museveni and the king on the condition of anonymity not to anger the monarch, but requested Mengo to always prepare subjects for such contact in advance.
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