The National Resistance Movement (NRM) had no doubt that Cultural institutions had a place to play in the dynamics of the economic and social growth of the Uganda which had just been liberated from the regime of murder and chaotic rule.
The cultural institutions were allowed to exist in any area of Uganda in accordance with the culture, customs and traditions or wishes and aspirations of the people to whom that cultural institution applied.
Constitutional provisions in Article 246 set out guarantees which would make these institutions operate and serve the people of Uganda.
Unfortunately, the cultural institutions themselves looked at the position differently.
They read into the Constitutional provision a re-enstatement of the cultural institution’s position as it existed prior to the 1966 revolution.
Thus even before the 1995 Constitution was promulgated, the traditional rulers who expected the institutions to be recognised in the yet to be promulgated 1995 Constitution began demanding the positions, privileges, status and properties they enjoyed before the 1966 revolution.
Some demanded the parcels of land which had been controlled by the Federal or semi-Federal administrative units which had constitutional recognition in the 1966 Constitution.
To them the clock had stopped in 1966 and the NRM had to put them in the positions they enjoyed immediately before the 1966 revolution.
To them the NRM struggle was a fight to restore their privileged position not for the liberation of the entire people of Uganda.
There was a cowing to these demands and several properties were put in the hands of the traditional rulers. The traditional rulers interpreted this as a return of what they believed was theirs and which the NRM had fought for them to acquire.
They did not recognise that the Constituent Assembly was just being put in place with mandate to usher Uganda into a new era of constitutionalism where the main pillars of democratic and accountable governance would be entrenched and the principles of exercising governmental power based on rules and rule of law will prevail for the satisfaction of individual liberties, the promotion of justice, equity and freedom.
Thus when the Constitution was eventually promulgated and did not recognise wholly their former glory, they became a source of agitation for decadence demands and a hindrance to social and economic transformation instead of being a catalyst for change.
Thus using titles of land now in their possession, although aware that the 1995 Constitution did not give it to them, they rampaged the country, requiring registration at fee of all occupants, and exerting excessive fees for either award or renewal of leases on those lands although fully aware that the validity of their ownership was at variance with the constitutional provisions.
They eventually converted the vast areas of land covered by the land titles in the custodianship into commercial entities where feudal rentals are exerted at commercial rates and where all the lands are under the control of privately owned companies in complete defiance of accountability principles laid down in the constitution.
With magical control over the minds of the people under their jurisdiction, the traditional rulers have gotten away with it all.
Buoyed by the silence of the masses, they have turned the cultural institutions into commercial institutions all carefully parcelled in the name of the traditional leaders whereas not.
A search at The Registration Bureau reveals that all these bodies being held out as cultural organisations are actually commercial entities’ owned by a diversity of shareholders with only profit as a motive.
In the end the cultural institutions have become commercial empires with only few courtiers and shareholders benefitting.
Cultural activities have not had any advancement at all. Instead cultural assemblies have been used to express anger and objection to government policies and legislations which the cultural leaders believe are not in their interests.
Sports events and birthday parties have become the major preoccupation of the institutions.
The huge turn up at these birthday parties and sports galas have convinced the cultural leaders that dancing and singing other than service delivery is what their people need.
It is noteworthy that although these cultural leaders are quite educated, they have intentionally misinterpreted the constitution to read into Article 246 conferment upon them territorial authority whereas not.
They have accordingly claimed vast areas of the country as their own tuff to the exclusion of other cultural leadership which may exists in those areas.
There have been instances where government had warned some cultural leaders for security reasons not to travel to certain areas being contested by another cultural leader but in vein. The result of ignoring those governments warnings was loss of blood and property.
The cultural leader concerned instead of apologising to the people of Uganda demanded that certain things which his fore fathers enjoyed before the 1966 revolution be passed on to him, even oblivious of the constitutional limitations or even the locus to negotiate for those properties.
In other instances, these cultural leaders have stood in the way of government legislations publicly opposing certain bills being passed into law, thus setting the scene for confrontation with the government in power or acting like a de-facto opposition party.
There are instances where government security forces have had to exchange fire with cultural leaders, cause arrest and alignment in court.
It is unfortunate that cultural leaders have ignored their constitutional position and re-asserted de facto all the institutions which existed in the federal administrative units prior to the 1966 revolution.
They have pushed the Bataka clan leaders to the periphery of the cultural leadership, instead pushing to the forefront political organs of the federal administrative units of the defunct 1966 Constitution.
The clan cultural leaders now only found at the periphery were in yesteryears at the fore front in articulating the many demands of their people during the colonial period.
They were also the vanguard in pressing the NRM administration to find a place for cultural institutions in a liberated Uganda.
Their independent mindedness in advancing the cultural freedom of their people definitely threatens the position of the dominant cultural chief and thus there being pushed into oblivion if possible.
Ugandans are a decent people.
They are proud of their culture and like to express It.
The liberty ushered in by the NRM gave Ugandans the right to express that cultural freedom. However, the institutions which have come in to espouse those cultural expressions, have abused that privilege with untold arrogance.
Prior to putting in place the Constituent Assembly which debated and promulgated the 1995 Constitution, a Constitution Commission of Inquiry gathered the views of Ugandans as to what they wanted in the constitution.
A cry in the wilderness must now be heard calling for another inquiry, this time specifically gathering views as to how to create constitutional framework which protects personal and civil liberties, at the same time ensuring public safety in an atmosphere of a cultural expression responsive to the changes ushered in by the National Resistance Movement.
The author is aSenior Partner atKampala Associated Advocates