KAMPALA. Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II used the silver jubilee anniversary of his coronation to call for a halt to widespread greed and corruption that he said have placed Uganda on a path of self-destruction.
“Previously, parents taught children how to avoid greed and indeed children grew into good-mannered citizens. But during this era, there is a lot of greed among people and this is why we witness a lot of corruption,” the Kabaka said.
Uganda, he noted, will continue to “deteriorate if prevailing levels of corruption remain unchecked”.
In a more cryptic message, which echoed nationwide distress over official graft, the king of Uganda’s most populous region, said: “You cannot fetch water in a basket and deliver it home. If greed is not decisively handled, our nation will not develop yet our people are determined to work for national development.”
The Kabaka spoke amid deafening ululations by subjects who trooped in from the kingdom’s 52 clans and thronged Mengo palace, the venue of the fête outside the city centre.
Majority wore bark cloth and the traditional kanzu and gomesi outfits, reinforcing the event’s cultural blend.
Loyalists carried the king shoulder-high to the rostrum and he waved to the multitudes from side to side while grinning.
In the royal tent was a special guest; the Asantehene of Ghana’s Ashanti Empire, Otumfour Nana Osei Tutu II.
He had arrived two days earlier, with his own dancing troupe, and two of the female Ghanaian entertainers besotted the crowds by dancing beautifully to the approval of the royals and onlookers.
Kabaka Mutebi, in his speech, adopted a more universal message, speaking broadly on subjects from inequality to crime, government’s missteps in revival of cooperatives and the gloom of rising HIV infections, as well as haemorrhaging of public resources.
“I appeal to leaders and parents to caution our youth to be wary of greed. I appeal to whoever is responsible for money to deliver it to intended destinations so that people can receive services to develop our nation so that people are happy in their nation [instead of] looking for greener pastures,” he said.
It was a message that echoed beyond the kingdom.
Massive corruption, the king added, has led to a broken healthcare system, education, politics, economy and a retarded national growth.
He decried the counterproductive re-engineering of Uganda, marked by islands of the super-rich living in a sea of poverty-stricken people.
“This is not good at all”, he stressed, linking the growing crime in the country in part to this inequality.
Mr Edward Ssekandi, the Vice President, represented the central government at the celebrations attended by a horde of ministers, Members of Parliament, cultural and religious leaders, and diplomats.
The Kabaka decried the high unemployment rate among Uganda’s youth, many of them university graduates.
“Farmers’ cooperative unions enriched ordinary people, who earned from cotton and coffee sales to support families and educate their own,” he said, crediting the foresightedness of our grandfathers who initiated the cooperatives to spur economic growth.
“These unions died in wars and, unfortunately, many have not been revived. Cooperatives come from people and not the government and the government is simply a regulator,” he said.
The Kabaka added: “I implore our people to do all [that] is possible like our grandparents did; to revive cooperative unions so that we work together and mobilise money [so that] our children will be employed.”
He spoke approvingly of Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga, whose rollercoaster work includes public fundraising to finance reconstruction of the gutted Kasubi royal tombs and building of a perimeter wall fence there, alongside popularisation of coffee growing in the kingdom.
Mayiga took in the praise gaily, having in his speech earlier exalted the Kabaka for being the glue between the kingdom and its subjects by caring for all, over the last 25 years.
“Despite the challenges,” Katikkiro Mayiga said yesterday, “Kabaka has united the people of Buganda and a number of development programmes have been witnessed over the past 25 years.”
The crowd roared.
Message to Buganda
He asked the Baganda to implement the Kabaka’s directives, endure and keep united so that the kingdom can regain its former glory.
“The kingdom defines our lives. Since Kabaka’s enthronement, we have witnessed a lot in education, health and poverty eradication,” Mr Mayiga said.
In his speech at the function, that delayed by two hours, the Kabaka warned that official statistics indicate that HIV infection is again rising after years of decline.
The Kabaka, who is a UNAIDS goodwill ambassador, urged people to go and test for HIV so that they can start medication early to live longer.