Ugandans have once again been treated to the spectra of the demand for “Federo” by a top official of the Buganda cultural Institution. The demand has obviously been timed at the looming February 2021 elections.
The official was reading from a known text dating as far back as 1900 when a protestant oligarchy which had been installed in power in Buganda with the aid of Capt. Lugard’s Maxim gun had helped the British colonists suppress the joint Kabalega/Mwanga rebellion against colonialism.
The oligarchy became the self appointed spokesmen for Buganda, which it projected as a special province akin to a state within the state of Uganda.
The oligarchy believed that integrating in a united Uganda would weaken its special status.
It was in this scheme of things that in 1922, the oligarchy rejected Buganda’s participation in the Legco arguing that Buganda was an autonomous political unit with special rights enshrined in the 1900 Agreement, and religiously rejected anything which would integrate Buganda into Uganda.
As the country moved towards independence, the oligarchy’s fear of losing their special status and privileges heightened.
The Mengo Establishment demanded from the British colonial authority, a clear timetable for Buganda’s own independence separate from that of Uganda. Indeed in December 1960 Mengo declared her independence.
However within just twenty four hours, the oligarchy apologized to the Governor, explaining that their declaration was just a public gimmick.
That the whole affair was a joke. Having failed in its bid to secede from the rest of Uganda the oligarchy invented something called “Federo”.
This arrangement meant a weak central Government which would dance to the tune of the oligarchy at Mengo.
Uganda rejected this arrogance but agreed that Buganda could have indirect elections to Parliament. In reality this disenfranchised Baganda-a population close to two million Ugandans.
To the oligarchy this was the greatest victory since it meant that the Kabaka would now choose the twenty one Buganda MPs and hand them over to Obote’s UPC assuring himself the promised position of President of Uganda in an alliance with UPC whose Militon Obote would be the Prime Minister.
This “victory” however doomed democracy in Uganda to failure at the crucial time when the country was gaining independence.
The country is still suffering from the effects of that political myopia of the day. What mattered to the oligarchy was not the future of Uganda but securing its special status.
This was its Federo.
In a deal with Obote’s UPC, the oligarchy sought to consolidate its special status in Uganda where Edward Muteesa was to be President of Uganda and Kabaka of Buganda the sometime, and not only a cosmetic gun salute President but wield a executive authority as well.
Tragedy befell Uganda when President Edward Muteesa on realizing that executive authority lay with Premier Obote, fermented a scheme to capture the Executive Authority, through a military coup.
This move desecrated the Independence order and a new constitutional arrangement had to emerge through the 1966 revolution which was given judicial recognition in the landmark constitutional case of Ex-parte Matovu.
The naivety with which the oligarchy approached their relationship with the rest of Uganda was the sole tragedy of its leadership which failed the test of the foresight that was required at that crucial time.
The successful revolution of 1966 and the eventual adoption by the people of Uganda of the 1967 Republican Constitution ended the special status of the Mengo establishment.
It was also the end of the oligarchy’s self appointed posturing as the official spokesperson of Baganda who were now finally integrated within Uganda as equal citizens.
The crop of leaders with national foresight is seen to still be lacking at Mengo as evidenced by the resurrection of Federo back on the menu of Uganda’s politics.
While the rest of Uganda are demanding the creation of more districts and municipal councils to have services moved closer to the people, the oligarchy which has now regrouped, is calling for a Federo scheme which would restore the special status and privileged enjoyed before the 1966 revolution.
The leadership foresight has once again failed Mengo.
The spectra of an apparent government at Mengo posturing as parallel to both the central government and district local administrations but where all positions are by appointment and no known structures of accountability, do not contribute to Uganda’s efforts towards a united nation.
When the top leadership of the Buganda Cultural Institution calls for Federo, students of history predicts a repeat of yesteryears where the independence of Uganda was delayed and also catapulted the 1966 revolution.
It is a retrogressive call which Ugandans must resist and speak out loudly against or else the next generations will curse our memory, because we permitted democracy through our silence to pass away as in a dream.
The author is a Senior Partner, Kampala Associated Advocates
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