Clergy and local leaders condemn police brutality against Besigye and other opposition protesters
On April 13, Kabaka Ronald Mwenda Mutebi celebrated his 56th birthday at St. Andrews Church in Gayaza at a low-key function in the neighbourhood of opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye.
The decoration at church would pass for an ordinary wedding ceremony of a middle income couple; there was no glamour, except for a few excited youth supplicating to the Kabaka.
It was a birthday celebration, which ordinarily would be joyous but the mood was mournful. Kingdom leaders and most of the other leaders who spoke decried the denigrating status the kingdom has been reduced to. Although they did not accuse anyone in particular it was clear they were blaming the kingdom’s woes on President Museveni’s government which has had icy relations with the monarchy over the recent years. The speakers condemned the government’s highhandedness in suppressing the opposition’s protests over the rising prices of fuel and other commodities.
As part of his birthday activities, the Kabaka visited the Katalemewa Chelshire Home for children with disabilities where he donated 20 wheelchairs, a 10,000-litre water tank, six saucepans, 50 pairs of bed sheets and planted two fruit trees. The Kabaka did not do or say anything that could be deemed political and annoy the powers that be. However like the elders say, a big man does not speak for himself. There were other voices to do this for him.
In his sermon, the Anglican Bishop of Luweero Rt. Rev. Evans Mukasa Kissekka, expressed his political views in parables, citing the Biblical Nicodemous who kept on asking Jesus how a person could be “born again” (a reference to baptism, which is a liberation from sin). He said today the country is witnessing more Saint Pauls who are being beaten and dehumanised for trying to liberate Uganda. It was an allusion to St Paul who was persecuted for spreading Christianity to liberate the world from sin. This was a veiled reference to the opposition who have been beaten and hounded by government security forces for protesting against the high commodity prices.
“How can a leader be made to sit down or bundled on a truck like a common thief in a supposedly peaceful country?” Kissekka asked, in reference to the beating of opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye for walking to work under the ongoing Walk-to-Work campaign following high transport costs that have hit the country. The bishop did not name anyone, but the audience understood the Pauls he was referring to. They kept clapping for him.
“We need to pray for this country, the Lord can change this country,” the bishop added.
Contrary to the government view that cultural leaders should not engage in politics, former Buganda Katikkiro Dan Muliika said the Kabaka is a political symbol and cannot be blamed for making political statements because that’s his role as a leader. In February the government passed a law that makes kings and cultural leaders liable to criminal proceedings if they engage in politics.
The birthday service was attended by several Buganda royals and kingdom officials, opposition FDC party president Col. Kizza Besigye, the city mayor-elect Erias Lukwago, MPs and several local government officials. The absence of government officials and Buganda MPs in the ruling NRM party was conspicuous. Buganda’s Minister for Information and Cabinet Affairs Charles Peter Mayiga said they invited all government officials including all Baganda MPs but none showed up.
“We do not know why they did not turn up because they did not give us any reason,” Mayiga said but declined to give the list of the invited guests.
Later President Museveni’s Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi said the absentees could have forgotten about the invitation and need a reminder. But it’s unlikely that all government officials would forget the invitation.
However, Tamale hinted at what could have kept his boss and other state officials away. He said that in the past the opposition has hijacked such traditional functions and embarrassed government officials. “If you are hostile to me, chances of me attending your function will be less so this is not surprising,” he said.
In June 2008, Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi was blocked by FDC supporters from delivering a speech during funeral prayers for the party’s national chairman Dr Sulaiman Kiggundu. In March 2008, Minister Kahinda Otafiire was also blocked from speaking at the burial of DP member Winnie Makumbi.
Tamale took a swipe at Buganda MPs whom he described as hypocrites. He said they pretend to support the Kabaka or the kingdom only when they want votes. He said if the Kabaka’s birthday had come during election campaigns, all Buganda MPs would have swarmed the venue.
written by kizzab, April 26, 2011