The kingdom of Buganda is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day. Its people, the Baganda make up the largest Ugandan ethnic group. At Uganda’s independence in 1962, the king of Buganda was Uganda’s first president. In 1966, he was ousted, and his kingdom abolished. Only in 1993 was the kingdom restored, albeit in a much weakened state. Despite this, the Buganda Kingdom remains a major force in present day Ugandan politics.
King on the Throne written by Charles Peter Mayiga, a high ranking kingdom official, is an insider’s tale of the birth and growth of Buganda nationalism in the period since 1993. The book catalogues the history of the Buganda kingdom, especially after 1993. It is a moving narrative and commentary from a man whose principle job has been attending and recording resolutions of the Lukiiko, Buganda’s highest decision making organ.
Throughout the years, Buganda has maintained a single quest to re-establish a fully fledged kingdom, a federal state, and demand the return of kingdom properties that were grabbed by the state in 1966, when Milton Obote, Uganda’s then Prime Minister abolished the kingdom of Buganda. Much of the book centers on the two Obote regimes and the reign of current President Yoweri Museveni.
What Mayiga adds to the discourse is the obvious but often forgotten view that Buganda remains a powerhouse in the politics of Uganda. In the book, he tells of the sense of disappointment felt in Buganda, when the 1995 Constitution Assembly failed to restore the kingdom’s federal status, instead granting what has popularly and mockingly been termed “Byoya bya nswa” — nothing.
Mayiga writes that since then relations between Buganda and the national government of Uganda have been poor. To capture the state of affairs, he quotes Godfrey S. Lule, a former President who said, “I can see the monarchy being treated like a patient in the hands of a murderous doctor who having injected painful drugs in his victim’s body, continues to give him doses of sedatives and palliatives to gain the patient’s confidence, hope and patience, even as the patient goes through the blissful last moments of his journey on earth…”
The author argues that unlike in the developed countries, where political players are mainly the rich and they get drawn into politics mainly to protect their economic interests …, lawmakers in sub-Saharan Africa look up to the president who they think with further their political fortunes…”
And so he continues, Buganda has been a major sufferer of this blind, selfish and economic-favors-driven politics; with innumerable sacrifices, 1962-3, 1979, 1980-86, but with little to show of it, except attacks from earlier allies and wanton abuse of its officials. The Betty Nambooze, Peter Mayiga and Medard Lubega arrest that happened in 2008 stands out here with a passionate narrative from the author—who is one of the victims.
At one level, the book is a catalog of Buganda’s nationalism, the kingdom’s well entrenched institutions, and also as an outline of who is who. It lines up and profiles the kings, the men and women who “move things” in the kingdom — even those that have conspired against the Kingdom. It is comprehensive, captivatingly written and it tickles a re-appreciation of the Buganda’s history from an inside perspective.