The Immortals Who Were Idolized Like Small Gods

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By Irungu Ndirangu

I saw a picture of Kabaka Ronald Mutebi of Buganda, Uganda chatting with Uhuru at State House, Nairobi. I confirmed what I always thought, it is not blue blood, money or long tradition. It is exercise raw political power.

Years ago, I was detailed by the late George Mbugguss to cover the Uganda negotiations between Museveni and the then Uganda Army Generals led by Tito Okelo in Nairobi.

I did so daily for weeks. Ronald Mutebi and his courtiers were living at the (New) Stanley Hotel. The Stanley became my home away from home. I would report there day after day.

Throughout all those weeks, I was barred from ever eyeing Mutebi. I was informed that should Mutebi chance my way, I must not look at him in the face. I should bow low and look down. That looking at his face was impudence. It was like looking at the sun.

One day out of curiosity, I peeked into the next room where Mutebi was meeting his gang. I saw the guy. Just a balding, well fed, round cheeked young man just like me in expensive suits. Surrounded by old men bowing endlessly to him. These power men- my inders- realised I had “seen” God with my naked eyes. They were really unhappy but blamed it on the stupidity and impudence of Kenyan media.

What is the difference between me and Uhuru? None at all. Except exercise of raw political power. Uhuru was staring at the man face in their picture. I did not seen the courtiers jumping to warn him. Traditionally, Uhuru and me are Ambui by clan.

Later I went to Kampala for the coronation of Ronald Mutebi as Kabaka of Buganda. I have never seen such joy. There are 52 clans of the Buganda Kingdom. In that kingdom everything including your wife, children, land, business, industry, music and the arts, houses, schools and all amenities belong to the Kabaka. You merely look after these properties for the Kabaka. A Muganda farmer works on his land on behalf of the Kabaka. He sells his produce on behalf of the Kabaka.

Genuine Baganda think people like me are of lower cast. I had hilarious moments at the Uganda Journalists Association Club House as journalists from other tribes made fun of these Buganda traditions and beliefs.

But underneath this banter, I could detect some detestation of the Baganda. Not unlike the unspoken detestation of the Kikuyu among some Kenya.

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