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Friday, May 21, 2010

Oli Otya!(Ohlee-ohtee-ya) That means hello in the local language: Luganda. After our morning visit to the Ugandan Parliament, we traveled back to MUBS campus for a lunch of traditional food. Most all of the group was brave and adventurous as we tried the different menu items. These included traditional rice, vegetable greens, and matooke (a side dish made from bananas that are steamed and mashed a thick, creamy texture). Our MUBS friends were excited to share the experience of trying new foods with us.

After lunch, we headed back into the city to the Bugandan Parliament grounds. This parliament represents the Buganda Kingdom and is governed by Bugandan royalty. Additionally, they still fall under the rule of the Ugandan parliament, and this is the cause of debate on many issues. Some questions that were brought up in our discussion and should be considered by my colleagues are: How much power does the Bugandan Parliament have under the power of the Ugandan Parliament? How does having an unelected king represent the Bugandan people affect the government positively and negatively? What measures can be taken to insure that the Bugandan King and Parliament are accurate representatives of their constituents?

As we explored these issues, we got the chance to hear a presentation from the Minister of Education on the general procedures of the parliament. It was informative, but as we asked him questions, there seem to be some tension in the room as we discussed particular issues, especially those involving student protests. An additional question for my fellow students is: how did you react to the tension that came about during discussion today?

The thing that struck me most about the visit was their pride for Buganda and their king. They kneel before the king when they greet him, they sing a sort of Bugandan anthem at the start of meetings, and they accept no national funding for their salaries or programming. It was neat to be able to see their passion for their culture.

We continued our visit by traveling up the street to the Bugandan Royalty grounds. Here we were greeted by an awesome view of the city, a helpful tour guide, and a bunch of sweet young children. This was the highlight of the day for many students. We concluded our day with an evening meal at Fang Fang Restaurant where we enjoyed some Ugandan, Chinese food. Our trip is off to a great start, and we look forward to learning more. Welaba! (Way-la-ba, meaning goodbye)


  1. I think the Bugandan parliment has more power under the Ugandan parliment than the Ugandan government would like. The Buganda tribe is huge, and the people are united and strong. Like we saw in the recent riots, if the Ugandan government does something against the Bugandan tribe, the people will respond and will be noticed. I think the unelected king could very easily be negitive towards the Ugandan parliment. There are no checks or balances to insure that the king has morals or values that will benefit the people. I think a way to insure accurate representatives would be to allow the tribal members to vote for representatives on some level.

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  3. I think it is ironic that the Bugandan Parliament claimed to be apolitical. Once a governing body riots where people are killed in the name of that governing body, their hand is forced into politics. It was also very clear when the minister responded to Robinah's question and stated "what would you have done?" and referred to the riots as a "strike." This to me clearly implies that he condoned this "strike."

    I think these tribalistic beliefs are extremely dangerous and are no different from racism other than that it is not by skin color. It is these kinds of ethnic superiority beliefs that cause devastations such as the Rwandan genocide, the holocaust, and slavery. I believe that these are rooted in ignorance, and therefore will be very hard for Uganda to rid itself of. I think that it is up to the Bugandans to realize that these types of beliefs are not only detrimental to Ugandan progress, but also to Bugandan progress. However, this day is surely far in the future.

  4. I think the Buganda king and queen do do disrupt national politics because people follow their tribe so closely here. The people of Buganda feel strongly enough about their country to riot and rebel for their beliefs and voices to be heard. The Minister of Education from the Buganda Parliament spoke with us and was extremely short with a couple of the MUBS students which surprised me. He really did not want to talk about the riots that happened in Kampala last September. In the past, the Buganda Parliament was only concerned with culture. There duty was to unite the kingdom and the 52 clans that Buganda represents through health care policies, education, environmental issues, and other quality of life concerns. Recently, they have interfered with economic policies which has upset many Ugandans. The Buganda king tried to request permission from the Ugandan Parliament, or Museveni, to speak with other kingdoms. Museveni felt this would undermine his power and refused; he did not want the tribes to rebel against him. As a result, the people of Buganda came to Kampala to protest by burning down local businesses and shops. This creates financial decay and doesn't allow Uganda to flourish when the private sector is further destroyed. In retaliation, it is believed by Buganda (which is what the MUBS students were questioning), that the Ugandan government burned down their sacred tombs. Buganda Parliament claims it is apolitical and that these mass demonstrations were in no way connected to them, but when large bodies of people seek representation by the kingdom, the government does share some responsibility.

  5. I wanted to add a portion to Nate’s post about the final visit to the Buganda palace. He didn’t mention the chambers used during Obote’s Reign of Terror. I wanted to make sure this information was included for everybody to read because of the impact it had on me and I am sue others that day.
    When walking away from the palace towards King’s Lake (Africa’s second largest manmade lake), you can turn left and walk down an earthen corridor towards a dark cave with broken iron hinges where a gate once blocked the entrance. The cave contains five chambers. The guide informed us that these rooms were used by Obote during the early 1980s to kill citizens of Uganda, primarily those of the Buganda kingdom.
    According to the guide, they would capture the people, blindfold them, drive them around the city five times until they felt disoriented, and lock them in these dungeons that at the time had bars and several feet of electrified water on the outside. The people were left there without food or water; their only escape was death.
    Looking into the first, I noticed several ribs and vertebrae lying on the floor. At this point, it hit home. People had died in these cells—hundreds or maybe even thousands of Buganda’s people. Just the thought of this sobered and saddened me beyond words. Even though I have mixed feelings towards the impact of Buganda on Uganda’s well-being like the other commenters, this experience forced me to at least appreciate the history of the people and recognize and understand their desire to continue their allegiance to a kingdom that represents their past.

  6. I was also surprised by the commitment and pride that the locals showed to their King and the surrounding kingdom. It was a different experience to see the actions and adoration towards the Buganda Nation. The tension during the discussion really kind of made me nervous. Since this was my first interaction with this type of government system and the first time I was truly understanding how everything worked I was looking forward to a good presentation of the government…instead I started really questioning the legitimacy of this system because questions did not seem to receive direct answers. Something that really stuck out to me was the presenters reply to where they receive their money/funds. The answer was not from the central government (almost sounded like they are too proud to beg), but from the people of the Buganda kingdom. He said they have their own “assets”. Well halfway through the presentation we were asked to buy gifts from their souvenir man, I wondered if this would be added to their “assets” pie. Overall, I am glad that we got the opportunity to attend both kinds of parliaments because now I believe I have a grasp on how Uganda’s government works.

  7. When we were at the Bugandan Parliament was when it was made clear to me what the difference between the Uganda Parliament and the Buganda Parliament was. One of the Drake students specifically asked what the differences were. The Minister of Education answered this question. He said that the Ugandan parliament is focused on politics because it is the government side of Uganda whereas the Buganda parliament is focused on the culture and involvement in the Buganda district. The Buganda parliament does not do anything with politics. They are also not compensated for their job. They come and volunteer their services and then go off to their full time job. The Buganda parliament supports the King of Buganda. Understanding the difference made me question why the Bugandan parliament and Ugandan parliament are not working together. It seems that in order to have sustainable development within Uganda the two parliaments should be working together towards making a more developed Uganda rather than in opposition making it harder to develop Uganda.

  8. I found it interesting that the speaker at the Bugandan Parliament claimed that they're not political at all. I know that a big issue that the government has with the Bugandan Parliament is that it has too much influence over what its people, the largest group in Uganda, do and think politically. I definitely noticed the tension in the room as the riots got brought up. I think they were just trying to avoid the negative backlash from those riots. I noticed that they continued to avoid answering questions by stressing that they don't discriminate against anyone and they welcome any person of any background to visit their parliament at any time.

    I don't really see how a parliament could claim to not be political, but they said that they only talk about Bugandan culture and logistical topics about the kingdom. The MUBS students continually challenged the speakers with their questions and the speakers kept avoiding them. I thought it was interesting when we left when a couple of the MUBS students were really upset by the obvious avoidance of their questions. It seems like the Bugandan Parliament has power over politics through their strength in numbers, but they try to avoid conflict by subtly wielding that power and saying publicly that they aren't a political group.

    Having such a large group that could potentially oppose the government can be very counter-productive for a country's sustainability because it can really inhibit progress. Decisions could really be slowed down, even more than they already are in political environments, just because of the opposition from the Bugandans. Anything that the Bugandan royalty doesn't approve could be slowed or stopped because of the number of Bugandans there are, which could mean that decisions that would be good for the country as it develops could take longer to happen, which will make it take longer for the country to get more developed.

  9. The Ugandan Parliament also doesn’t seem to be very straightforward with the people, which is wrong for government leaders. The PR representative was always on his phone which seemed like a power play or like the people, and us, were so insignificant compared to his daily duties. It seems like government leaders in Uganda don’t want the people to understand what is going on because they are not doing what they are supposed to.

    The ministers don’t seem to recognize or truly represent their constituents well. Last week, one minister refused to sit down after a subject matter was closed by the Speaker. He was escorted out of the building and suspended; other ministers followed him. I think this shows that even Ugandan ministers aren’t allowed to fully voice their opinions while in session which means that the people are heard less too.

    The president is head of government and appoints the prime minister and the committees, so obviously corruption is easily obtained since the president can just choose members of his party to represent in government. I also noticed that the PR representatives skirted around many questions, one in particular dealt with the salary of government ministers. This seems to indicate that some money is skimmed off the top for members of parliament and that all the money does not reach the people. The salary figures are not known to the general public, which also seems strange.