As the Ugandan elections on February 18th approach the position of Buganda, the central cultural kingdom within which Kampala is located and which forms the largest ethnic group in the country, remains unclear. Predictions of severe unrest within Buganda have failed to materialise but the strained relationship between the kingdom’s ruler, the Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II, and Yoweri Museveni continues. Previous incidents of conflict between these two parties have resulted in serious rioting and a number of deaths. The September 2009 riots in which Museveni’s government angered Baganda by appearing to support the claims of the Banyala cultural group to autonomy within Buganda’s borders, are undoutedly the most signifcant example. Further evidence of tension occurred in 2010 during this authors’ residence in Kampala when the Kasubi Tombs, burial ground of the Ganda kings, caught fire amid speculation (ultimately seemingly unfounded) of government involvement.
As always, however, the picture is not quite so clear cut. While many urban Baganda have turned against Museveni in a hardening of ethnic ties and in loyalty to their king, the President has in the past continued to command the support of rural communities who fought alongside Museveni in the civil war of the 80s. Whether the Baganda decide to vote for or against Uganda’s incumbent leader one thing which is certain is that Ganda voting preferences will significantly influence the outcome of the February’s election.