The relationship between the Museveni NRM government and the country’s ‘traditional’ institutions is a complex one. It was the post civil war Museveni government of the early 1990’s which allowed the re-establishing of cultural kingdom’s such as Buganda which had been abolished since 1966. And Buganda here is key. The deteriorating relationship between the Buganda king, Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, and Museveni appears to have coloured the issue of traditional kingdom’s at a more general level. While support for Museveni in other reinstated kingdoms has remained strong, the increasing involvement of Baganda spokesmen in ‘politics’ through their call for ‘Federo’ (increased federal status within Uganda to give separate areas more autonomous powers to control their territories) has undermined the perceived nature of the cultural institutions. The NRM tolerated and even encouraged the re-establishment of traditional leaders and territories on the basis of their solely cultural and historical significance. They were to play no role in the political destiny of the country. The resurgence of kingdom loyalists in areas such as Buganda, however, has caused significant problems for a national government worried by the spectre of ethnic bloc voting. This is the basis for the current and highly controversial ‘Cultural Leaders Bill’, introduced into the Uganda parliament in 2010. The bill seeks to prevent cultural (and to some extent religious) leaders from involving themselves in ‘partisan politics’. In other words the bill seeks to limit the capacity of traditional leaders to direct political capital; especially where such actions undermine the government. The persistent rumours over Baganda endorsements of opposition FDC candidates for the national election is one prime example.
The bill has raised widespread opposition as unwanted and unconstitutional but it remains to be seen how its fall-out might affect Museveni’s support in the up-coming election.