One of the things that have greatly helped me in life is that I approach things with a blank slate(tabula rasa) ready to learn. There’s nothing sadder than being a know it all because that means that you have stopped learning and have one version of “deep held truth”. This truth maybe relative or a simplification of ideas to suit a narrative . Some people can believe a lie the entirety of their lives because a clique of individuals have set up the narrative. That is what came to my mind while reading this book. There were a lot of questions in my mind and Dr Sam Mayanja’s written pieces answer them or at least tries to. Over the years, the learned doctor has opined on issues like land governance, banking and emerging contemporary legal issues to make his voice heard. Many people think that he fell out with the Mengo Establishment because he writes about what many Elites don’t want to talk/write about and gives a good and balanced historical context of the political events from 1899 up to present day. This is therefore a cocktail of themes but these stood out for me as a reader.I should make mention of Racheal Kiiza who asked me to review the Second Edition of the book and my answer was an automatic yes because I have been reading the Doctor’s opinions in the New vision and the Nile post. Reading is Liberating and I must say that reading the 260 page book up to the last paragraph, these are my reflections. The writer begins by pointing out the rich Christian history and how he began Street preaching. He tells of a time he went to meet Idi Amin Dada,a leader who has been said to be ruthless to demand for the release of his colleagues.
The dark accord and Mailo thereafter. The writer States that March 10th 1900 will forever be a dark day and that’s when the Uganda/Buganda Agreement was signed. The Colonialists wanted to refer to Buganda as a province but Apollo Kagwa insisted that it was a Kingdom to which the the Colonialists obliged. Land was therefore parceled out to the collaborators leaving the peasants landless. I have read Dr Mayanja’s pieces and while pointing out the land grabbing which was simplified as an agreement, a colleague had this reply in defense of the wanton crime.
“Land is by blood or through blood, the labor party in the UK has that song God gave man land and man makes man pay for the land.Nelson Mandela gave the world an example by signing off all land to the Settlers, The USA sits on land by blood and it’s the land of milk and honey” The reply was telling full of whataboutery and admitting that colonial injustices happened but, so what? It is from this history that the writer accentuates the history and the injustice that the mailo land tenure caused. I vividly remember Mr Expedit Kaaya a lecturer on our Induction into Law School 2009, talking about the absurdity of the system, whereas I may not reproduce the exact words,he was referring to absentee landlords and the bibanja holders not able to hold the title in perpetuity. In brushing aside the 9000sq miles,he writes, ” Akenda is akin to when William the conqueror and French Norman Barons conquered England and immediately divided land among themselves while the local owners were designated peasants with no rights to their own land. the British exported the idea to Uganda” In an interview reproduced in the book,he says, ” A Chinese Peasant interviewed by WR Geddes of the publication peasant’s life in Communist China ” is quoted to have said “land is there.You can see it everyday. Robbers can not take it away.The incentive to hold land directly is directly related to the sense of security” The central theme in the book are different articles showing the injustices and origins of the mailo land tenure with the learned doctor saying that the system is actually foreign and imported. He makes a strong case supported with legal authorities on why the restitution of properties to Buganda Kingdom is unconstitutional. I have not read any rebuttals save for dismissals that Dr Sam Mayanja is a hired gun to destabilize Buganda by the Central Government.
The first official bribe The writer States that , “The Katikkiro Apollo Kagwa was given 100 government cattle from kavirondo district. The Memorandum used the words,”further compensation” in today’s language it is called a bribe. Mailo was actually used to bribe chiefs . Apollo Kagwa who he refers to as Kabaka We bweru(the outside King) and gives the reasons. The land bonanza was so huge that he began dishing it out to his unborn babies. The writer establishes the class struggle and educates the reader about abakungu,abatongole and bakopi. That was the beginning of the class struggle in Buganda. He goes ahead to write about the 1908 laws, the Busuulu and Envujjo laws of 1928 and the Bataka movement
It’s interesting to note how the writer reports about the 1966 Kabaka Crisis.He calls it a revolution basing on the famous ‘Xparte Matovu’ case that happened in 1966 were a Successful Revolution. There are different versions of what happened but this is how he puts it, “The British Government declined the request for troops. M/s Gail and Roberts also declined to supply the group with guns. However, through other means, President Mutesa and group managed to smuggle guns into the country. On the political side President Mutesa’s clique caused Parliament to pass a vote of no Confidence in the premier throwing the country into a power vacuum. The country became leaderless” He further writes that there was a confrontation and the Kingdom ran out of ammunition . Relatedly I have the same opinion and I once wrote about it . I don’t know what the writer thinks about Article 3 of the current Ugandan Constitution .
The Establishment The writer seems to state that the Mengo ruling clique is a powerful group of Elites that advises the cultural leader and how they have always wanted to have special status from the nation of Uganda. He writes about how the establishment sidelined Benedikto Kiwanuka and how they have fallen out with people like Apollo Nsibambi and Mugwanya. He gives a good constitutional history of the events leading up to the Independence with emphasis on the Kabaka Yekka -UPC alliance and the fall out thereafter. One may rightfully ask, where does the writer get the information? The answer is in three words, History rewards research This perhaps may sound controversial, he writes, “The hurried coronation of Ronald Mutebi barely a few months before the constituent Assembly was an opportunistic calculated move by the newly reconstituted Mengo Establishment” He takes a chide at Buganda saying that the last King was Mwanga . One thing I take away is that the writer is a free thinker not confined in the monarchial thinking. Society should have more non conformists like Dr Sam Mayanja who should set the record straight with context, history and perspective.
One of the sources of International Law are, “Writings of The ‘most highly qualified publicists’ and those with the most expertise when it comes to matters of International Law and I think when it comes to Foundation of Land Law and Land Transactions, the writer fits the definition. It’s why he was invited to the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Commission to give his considered opinion. This book should be read by every Ugandan who wants to have a rich history of the country but moreso the law students as an additional text to Constitutional history/Law, Foundation of Land Law and Land Transactions.
One can’t accuse the writer of bias, it’s simply his candid views. One of the greatest minds Bertrand Russel had this to say, “Since I do not believe that a person without bias exists, I think the best one can do is admit one’s bias and for the dissatisfied readers to look for other writers that express an opposite bias, whichever bias is nearer to truth must be left to posterity. You can only get a different viewpoint after reading what one says.
But before you get dissatisfied, it’s imperative that one reads this book. The book is available in Aristoc booklex, Uganda Bookshop and Mukono Bookshop at Ugx 80,000