By Denis Jjuuko
On this day five years ago, I received a phone call from somebody who has impeccable sources in the Kabaka’s palace. She was urging me to tune into CBS FM at the top of the hour; “your man has been appointed Katikkiro, congratulations.” I didn’t want to say thank you. I had received similar such calls before from other people who I would find out wanted to know whether I knew anything. It would, it seems, help them bolster their campaigning for a position that doesn’t need campaigning for!
Months before, I had driven with the future Katikkiro to Buddu and we were only the two of us in the car. I was actually his driver. So I asked him about this rumour about his pending appointment that wouldn’t go away. Specifically I asked him whether he would be interested in such a thankless job. In my view and I still hold the same view today, becoming Katikkiro affects your businesses, relations and even public image as unfounded allegations can be made by people claiming to know you better than yourself. There are also many things you cannot do because of that office. He gave me his views about the Katikkiroship and I won’t go into them now. He also told me about what it means serving his Kabaka and it didn’t depend on being Katikkiro or not. Afterall, he didn’t join the Kabaka’s government to become Katikkiro. He had also not remained in Mengo doing anything possible under the sun to be appointed as one. I could tell that he wasn’t desperate to become Katikkiro.
So I did what my friend suggested and tuned into CBS. And she was right, Charles Peter Mayiga had been appointed Katikkiro. I picked the phone and called him and congratulated him and promised him my support in his new role—solicited or not. I still support him because I think he has done a tremendous job given the circumstances.
In just five years, he has made the Katikkiro’s office a respectable one. He has advanced Buganda’s interest even when it affects his own PR. See, he was abducted by government forces together with MPs Medard Ssegona (his deputy as Information minister at the time) and Betty Nambooze Bakireke, who was serving in some official capacity at Mengo at the time.
To many opposition politicians, Mayiga’s appointment meant that Mengo was to be even a better base for their agenda. He had been critical of the regime through his very famous radio programs and that is why he had been abducted and government agents lined up to identify him as their leader in plans to unsit President Yoweri Museveni. The man they gave that responsibility was poorly coached so instead of pointing at Mayiga who was now being lined up with others in a humiliating parade chose somebody else who he confirmed was Charles Peter Mayiga. You can read this episode in his book King on the Throne.
But Mayiga didn’t see himself as an opposition leader. He didn’t see his appointment as a reward to revenge for his abduction. He didn’t see his role as that of a central government agent either. He saw his role as that of the Katikkiro of Buganda—an influential region with people of diverse political leanings.
The opposition politicians had misread his views on radio. He was simply advocating the cause for Buganda at the time, not his personal agenda. So when he became Katikkiro he thought of what he needed to do to achieve his agenda—not the opposition agenda.
He also was not going to achieve NRM’s agenda as some people have labeled him. He sought for allies whether they were in opposition or not. There was a time, we were organising his home coming in Buddu. He had chosen MP Mathias Mpuga to be the MC. Some of the people especially politicians on the committee opposed Mpuga saying he was too opposition. Mayiga said he had chosen Mpuga and nothing was going to change. When this information was delivered to them, they went on with their activities.
Another day, an opposition politician protested when he asked Amelia Kyambadde to take a reading at a thanksgiving service at Namirembe Cathedral. They thought such roles were theirs too and not for NRM cadres.
So the opposition and indeed some NRM politicians have been equally disappointed by Mayiga. Yet for him, the major goal is Buganda. He is neither NRM nor Opposition. So each party depending on what he thinks is good for Buganda accuses him of several things. In this way, Mayiga has cut himself out in the same cloth as Muteesa I who looked at the interests of Buganda at the risk of some historians labelling him a traitor. Muteesa I knew he was not going to wage a war at colonialists and survive so he invited them. Kabalega didn’t and we know what happened.
If Mayiga had been too opposition or too NRM, he wouldn’t have achieved his agenda. For example, he wouldn’t have been able to galvanize people to contribute Ettoffaali, carry out Emmwanyi Terimba or have brands like Airtel coming on board. Corporate bodies don’t want to be seen as opposition or pro-government as they serve all people. Museveni himself wouldn’t have returned some of the properties and indeed he wouldn’t have allowed Mayiga to go on with his Ettoffaali or Emmwanyi Terimba.
Some Katikkiros and Mengo officials used to say a lot of stuff that would shake the ground. They made demands without understanding the political environment in which Buganda finds itself today. And ultimately they achieved nothing.
Leadership for a Kingdom that is nearly a 1,000 years old but without the resources at the disposal of the central government requires special skills of understanding the risks involved and be able to devise a strategy that enables you achieve your goals. On that Mayiga has scored 99%. And the majority of Baganda and those who wish well for Buganda have been able to understand that.
So we hope that in the period ahead, Katikkiro Mayiga will continue to achieve the best for Buganda and indeed our country, Uganda. And I will personally continue to support that agenda.
Disclaimer: the author is a Communications Advisor to the Katikkiro