This week has been a stressful one for New Vision, the newspaper I work for in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Last Sunday, one of my favorite reporters in the company, Barbara Among, reported a controversial story about the Buganda kingdom that has incited a serious amount of backlash against her and the paper.
The Buganda kingdom filed a lawsuit against New Vision’s editor-in-chief, Els Temmerman, and reporter Barbara Among, last Thursday, after a week of personal, vicious attacks against Among on CBS radio, and the launch of a New Vision boycott earlier in the week. Simultaneously, angry people have been attacking newspaper vendors and even burning copies of our paper.
The Buganda kingdom is one of the famous kingdoms in Uganda, and the Buganda are one of Uganda’s most prominent ethnic groups. The article Among wrote alleged that a cabinet minister in the central government was holding the Bulange (the seat of the kingdom) land title as a form of security for a $500,000 USD loan that the Kabaka (Buganda king) took out.
According to the Daily Monitor, the Kabaka wants the court to order The New Vision to retract the story, issue a public apology, and also pay both general and exemplary damages.
Last Monday, the Lukiiko (Buganda parliament) demanded that New Vision apologize for the article, but the company has stood by Among and the story, prompting them to go to court with Buganda.
Some Baganda leaders have called for the Kingdom to launch its own paper that will not “mix culture with politics.” Simultaneously, the prime minister of Buganda canceled an upcoming event with Bukedde radio station, in solidarity with the anti-New Vision boycott.
Although New Vision (the English-language paper) has still seen consistent sales, Bukedde’s sales have dropped off, not surprising since Bukedde is written in Luganda, the mother tongue of the Baganda. (FYI: Uganda is a country. Buganda is a kingdom. Baganda are the people. A muganda is an individual. Luganda is the language. Quiz coming soon.)
The article was published during a difficult moment for the Buganda kingdom, which accused the Ugandan government of running a hate campaign against the Kabaka last Monday, due to its partial ownership of New Vision. The kingdom has been clashing this month with the government over management of Kampala– the government wants to take over management of Kampala from the kingdom (where Kampala is located), and the Buganda want Kampala to be relocated to another part of Uganda.
The whole situation frustrates me. I hate that CBS radio, the mouthpiece for the Buganda kingdom, has been blasting Among with personal attacks all week, potentially threatening her safety.
The alleged minister who has the land title for Bulange was not cited, but one minister (Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa) who feels that the paper insinuated it was him said he did not have the title in a public statement. The Buganda prime minister produced what he said was the original land title for the Bulange (Buganda palace), and accused the government of using New Vision to publish hateful statements about the Kabaka. The land title strangely had been shrunk 5.45 acres to 1.643 acres since 1994, the Monitor reported, but the prime minister did have a copy of the title which New Vision reported had allegedly been given to a minister as security for a loan.
New Vision has 15 days to respond to the case filed against it by the Kabaka.