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Kabaka Mutebi’s Long Battle To The Throne

Kabaka Mutebi’s Long Battle To The Throne

Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II’s reign as Kabaka (The King of Buganda), was parenthetically delayed, that Buganda would be commemorating 54 years of his rule today.  Having performed the first ritual as heir to the throne, shortly after the demise of his father, Sir Edward Mutesa II, Ronald Mutebi was proclaimed Kabaka of Buganda in December, 1969.

At the age of 14, Prince Ronald Mutebi, a student at Bradfield in England, succeeded his allegedly poisoned father as Kabaka, after casting a bark-brown cloth over the coffin of the fallen Kabaka. Essentially, becoming Kabaka, subject to other formalities being complete.

Such formalities important to the monarchy were delayed due to political instability in Uganda for more than 24 years, until July 31st, 1993. The rituals and other cultural norms performed on eve of his coronation at the historical Naggalabi- Buddo Hill, is the pinnacle of his graduation from a Prince to a Kabaka of Buganda.

In a news story by the Daily Telegraph’s diplomatic reporter, John Ridley, Mr. Martin Fiegg, the late kabaka Mutesa’s solicitor, witnessed a ceremony, traditional to the heir to the throne of Buganda, locally known as “okubikka akabugo”.  A ceremony reportedly performed at a house in Chelsea, was agreed by an assembly of Baganda and friends of the late King with great acclaim.

Fredrick Mpanga, former Buganda Attorney General, in the Mutesa reign, informed the Daily Telegraph that, such a ritual can only be performed by the ascending Kabaka to the throne, a priceless symbol of authority, known as Nnamulondo by the Baganda. Effectively, Mutebi was Kabaka, only for his official coronation to be delayed.

His birth

Throughout Buganda, the gateway to the present-day Uganda, the legacy of Kabaka: Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, is boldly painted, across the land.  Prince Mutebi, who eventually, became Ronald Edward Fredrick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II – Kabaka, is one of the sons of the fallen Kabaka, Sir Edward Luwangula Muteesa II, and Queen Mother, traditionally designated as– Namasole, Sarah Nalule Kisosonkole.

Mutebi was born at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, on April 13th, 1955, a few months before the signing of the historical Namirembe agreement, on October 18th, 1955, that was key for the return of his father from a three-year long exile. The story of exile and return of Kabaka Mutesa II, is what former Katikkiro, Paul Kavuma, described as a crisis in Buganda, and true to the exact times Mutebi was born, can be said to be those of a Buganda in the struggle.

However, his mother, Sarah Nalulu- Namasole, found time and space to preparing for his birth, in a special way. Mutesa’s book, Desecration of My Kingdom, briefly talks about an expectant queen mother, going on a wild spree through Harrods, buying the oddest things and if possible, having the infant’s initials put on them.  That they had decided on names, and so, it was as well that he was a boy.

Buganda was politically charged, anxious, but silently laughing off the colonial government’s brutal attempt to emasculate the Kabaka.  Mutesa was aware of the love and total support, he enjoyed from the Baganda, and to this, his exile was a mistaken thinking that if he could be removed, all will be well with the colonial administration. “Perhaps he (Governor Sir Andrew Cohen) magnified the riots of 1949, in a theory that the Baganda were an oppressed people, kept down by wicked chiefs” – Mutesa mockingly wrote about circumstances of his exile in 1953.

Education and leadership

Like his father, Ronald Mutebi, was introduced to both leadership training and formal education at an early age. He started his academic journey at Buddo Junior School, in Wakiso district, before joining Sussex, Berkshire and later Cambridge in the UK. “There were occasional racial taunts, but one tends to meet fire with fire”, the Kabaka reportedly told a journalist, Helena de Bertodano, in 1994.

In a state of uncertainty, from which, he is born, is literally the same condition that he is raised, until the half-done restoration of his once abolished kingdom, in July 1993.

The attack and destruction of Buganda and her people in May 1966, found an 11-year-old Prince Mutebi, away from home in the UK. Prime Minister Milton Obote had politically fallen out with President Edward Mutesa, and the barrel of the gun, became the judge.

After three years, Kabaka Edward Mutesa was dead and the throne had fallen vacant. Traditionally, Buganda has no such a concept as Crown Prince.  Mutebi’s father, Mutesa II, explained in his memoir that, during his life, a Kabaka may hint as subtly or blatantly as he wishes as to whom he personally favours, and such hints may well carry weight during the appointment of the heir to the Buganda throne, but he cannot will the Kabakaship, as he may will a possession. The Kabakaship is an institution for the Baganda as a people.

It is not decided, which of his sons will succeed the Kabaka until he dies. Although it was traditionally the role of the Buganda Lukiiko and the Abataka Abakulu Ab’Obusolya to appoint the next Kabaka, it was not completely the case with Mutebi. The lukiika was already in disarray, the Kabakaship abolished and Buganda politically disintegrated. Members of the Lukiiko who managed to arrive in London after the death of Mutesa II, assembled and honoured the wishes of the fallen Kabaka, to have Prince Ronald Mutebi, lead the struggle for the restoration of Buganda.

Exile and the liberation struggles

It was already threatening for a 11-year-old Prince, taking on the mantle, without a loudly cheerful Buganda, as it was always with his forefathers. According to Mark Amory, Prince Mutebi’s early childhood English tutor, life in exile was hard. After school, Mutebi lived in London, occasionally in his former tutor’s flat.

Both his parents and his only full brother dead, Prince Mutebi was a figure, “isolated by circumstances, death and responsibility”, Amory wrote in the Spectator Magazine, on 31st July, 1993, a day Mutebi was crowned Kabaka. His life as heir to the throne was dotted with personal tragedy and political upheavals, according to the Daily Telegraph. Kabaka Mutebi told a British journalist in 1994, that, “when writing my obituary, I hope they say; ‘he was a survivor’. It important to keep coming back against odds” the Kabaka emphasized.

His flamboyant character and sense of leadership emanated severally during his stay in the exile. It is said that Kabaka Mutebi volunteered to be part of a group of Pan Africanists, who canvassed support and mobilised resources for the anti-apartheid paramilitaries in South Africa. This Initiative was rather suicidal, because then, Apartheid regime’s intelligence service, the Bureau of state security- known as BOSS, had a huge budget for operations around the world, to eliminate any elements of African National Congress and its military wing, Umkonto we Sizwe.  As Helena de Bertodano noted, Mutebi, “has the air of a man who has been through the mill and cannot be surprised by anything”.

It is now public knowledge that the appearance of Prince Ronald Mutebi in the dragging Luweero-bush war in 1985, abled the NRA rebels to win trust and support from the Baganda, who were frustrated by the war. For the Baganda, Mutebi had actively participated in the war against president Obote, and it was hoped that, a win over Obote, was a definite return of the monarch. Throughout the 30 years of his monarch, a number of prominent Baganda and the Kabaka, himself, have remained the ruling NRM of their role in the liberation war, especially, whenever Buganda-Uganda relations appear to be staggering.

“We all remember that to agree to restore the Kingdom in 1993, we went through different stages, including direct involvement in the struggle against authoritarianism and agreed on the important of cultural leaders in the development.” Kabaka Mutebi said, as he re-echoes Buganda’s demands in July 2021.

The Kabaka informed his audience at his Nkoni Palace in Buddu county, that, what Buganda lost in 1966, including, land, buildings and farmsteads, political and economic power under the Federal System of Governance, among other things, are what the Baganda call “ebyaffe”.

“There is no other way we have taken, apart from negotiations, and reminding our leaders what we agreed on, especially issues of law of rule, human rights and development in Buganda and Uganda as a whole. We know we shall one day conclude this matter in peace and harmony” – The Kabaka remarked.

The era of Mutebi II

Prince Ronald Mutebi, had spent almost his childhood and youthful life away from Buganda, and there was a general concern from a section of Baganda that he was likely to be British in a number of ways. But apart from his perfect English accent, he would perfectly speak Luganda and he had paid the necessary attention to details of his roles as Kabaka.  Besides, the appetite among Baganda to see Kabaka after nearly three decades, c0vered his imperfections and gave him and his handlers time to learn by doing.

The feeling that there was a huge gap between the monarch and the people, especially the youth, who had spent their whole lives, just hearing about an institution called Kabaka. The coronation of Kabaka Mutebi, gave the youth a chance to be at the forefront of its administration. No wonder, Youthful Charles Peter Mayiga, now Katikkiro- the highest appointment position in the Kingdom, became the secretary of the Ssaabataka supreme Council, a committee that managed the affairs of pre- and post-coronation of the Kabaka. A few years after his coronation, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, declared his reign as an era of the youth. “Omulembe Omutebi gw’Abavubuka

Nonetheless, it is significant to note that, the Buganda that Kabaka Mutebi II inherited is by far different from that ruled by his father and grandfathers. Whereas the political challenges of the Kingdom, may be similar to that of the past, frankly, Buganda has gradually lost a lot of authority and resources, she earlier possessed.

The campaign started by the current Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga to restore Buganda’s past glory, is now a chorus among the Baganda. “Okuzza Buganda ku Ntikko”, is a significant recognition that all is not well in Buganda and her lost glory has to be restored. This has been the effort packaged differently according to who is in the office of the Katikkiro.

The last 10 years, since the appointment of Charles Peter Mayiga, have been years of an enterprising Buganda, engaged in corporate affairs and business ventures to generate a reason income for Buganda. In the Kingdom’s 2022-23 Budget, it was estimated that the Kingdom will receive 124.6 billion shillings, compared to 38 billion budgeted for in 2012. Moreover, in 2011, the kingdom has budgeted for 30 billion and only collected 14 billion, mainly from Buganda Land Board and traditional certificates. Today, a number of more business ventures and partnerships have boasted the budget to a significant amount.

The target has been clear, do what can be done within the means of the kingdom as the struggle for political and economic power sharing with the central government rages on. Whether Buganda archives her historical status as a semi-autonomous Kingdom within a republican state of Uganda, or remains a relegated cultural institution with no official political and economic power, her relevance and attachment to the making of Uganda remain unquestioned.

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