The discontent that has been brewing between Buganda kingdom and the leadership of Kooki chiefdom has reached a new nadir with the latter declaring independence.
In a July 27 letter to Charles Peter Mayiga, the Buganda katikkiro (prime minister), Kooki prime minister Hajji Idi Ahmed Kiwanuka publicly announced its independence from Buganda, complicating an already damaged relationship.
Kiwanuka’s letter was also a protest note against Mayiga’s planned visit to Kooki County for a fundraiser for the beautification of the Kabaka’s lake in Ndeeba near Kampala.
“Irrespective of individual and/or institutional perspective, Kooki by all laws governing the Republic of Uganda, is a lawful cultural institution with a hereditary leader, governance structures, with due protocol and indeed independence,” the letter partly reads. Historically, Kooki is one of the recognized counties of the wider Buganda kingdom.
In the letter, however, the county leaders say the cultural institution will maintain a “deliberate co-existence” with sister cultural institutions. Copies of the letter were sent to State House, ministers of gender, labour and social development; internal affairs and defence.
Other copies were sent to the inspector general of police, the director general of the Internal Security Organization (ISO), Rakai security chiefs, the LC-V chairman and the Kabaka.
Mayiga is scheduled to visit Kooki on August 25 -26 for the fundraiser, Ettofaali, which the Kamuswaga (Kooki’s hereditary chief) Apollo Ssansa Kabumbuli II is determined to block, according to Kiwanuka’s letter.
According to the letter, Mayiga’s effort to raise funds for Buganda kingdom’s development is not welcome in Kooki. Kiwanuka said that his communication was backed by a July 23 resolution of the chiefdom’s cabinet and had Kabumbuli’s nod of approval.
Kiwanuka’s letter ends years of denials by Kabumbuli of Kooki’s intent to secede from Buganda. The chief first made threats in May 2013 moments before the Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II launched that year’s edition of the annual Buganda Masaza (counties) football tournament in Rakai district.
Days later, the Kooki leadership downplayed the secession threat although it increasingly alienated itself from Buganda by leaning toward Maj Baker Kimeze (Bunyala) and Constantine Mwogezi Butamanya (Buruli) who are openly opposed to Mengo. (See: Chiefs plot to abandon Mengo,)
Whereas their 2014 alliance was about demanding a share of properties that government handed back to Buganda kingdom, according to Kiwanuka’s letter, the Kamuswaga needs more.
“It is unfortunate that unlike your predecessor’s notion to conceive and labour to respect [Kooki’s] status, the current administration of your kingdom has repeatedly and consistently laboured to undermine the person of the Kamuswaga,” Kiwanuka wrote.
He urged Mengo to fully honour the 2013 agreement between the kingdom and the government.
“This entails that you, your officials and agents from Mengo must come to Kooki via an approved arrangement by the Obwakamuswaga protocol department,” Kiwanuka wrote.
The letter, however, has drawn an internal fallout that pits the Kamuswaga against his own family, the Babiito clan. Sources in Kooki have told The Observer that on July 18, the royals, during a meeting in Rakai, scorned Kabumbuli for threatening to break away from Buganda.
During the meeting, the Kamuswaga had sought to get the royals to back his rebellion against Mengo. But the royals at the meeting chaired by Nelson Lubambula turned against Kabumbuli. Some told him that he does not represent their identity.
“The man has turned into a disgrace, we are disappointed by his actions,” a member of the Kooki royal family told The Observer on July 30.
The Observer learnt that a section of the Babiito were plotting to dethrone Kabumbuli. In a chat with this writer early this year, Kabumbuli claimed that Mengo was working with some members of the Babiito clan to undermine him.
Kooki became a county under Buganda through an 1896 agreement that the then Kamuswaga of Kooki Kezekia Ndahura signed with the then Kabaka, Daniel Mwanga.
The current leadership of Kooki, however, doubts that such an agreement exists, according to Kiwanuka’s letter. In what is seen as an attempt to shed any similarities with Buganda and create a distinct identity, Kiwanuka’s title has been changed from Katikkiro to Katuukiro.
Interviewed at the weekend, Buganda kingdom’s spokesman Denis Ssengendo Walusimbi said the kingdom was not bothered by Kamuswaga’s threat.
“He is free to say whatever he wants aware that the constitution is above all laws and agreements; nobody is above the constitution,” Walusimbi said.