A select group of leading immigrant Bakiga, the Bafuruki, and indigenous Banyoro met an uncompromising President Museveni for close to seven hours last Friday, September 4, who urged the Bafuruki to start speaking Runyoro if they want to stay in Bunyoro. Museveni said that language is one source of conflict. The President also defended his controversial proposal to ring fence top elective positions in Bunyoro for indigenous Banyoro. He said ring-fencing is constitutional and it is already in force. He said representatives of youth, women, and people with disabilities were all ring fenced. He said he is basing his proposal on constitutional provisions. The President reportedly told his guests that he is tired of dealing with Bunyoro issues and that is why he is looking for constitutional means of solving the ethnic conflicts in the sub-region. The heated meeting that started at 5:30p.m. ended at 12:30 a.m. (past mid night) and was convened in State House Entebbe. It was attended by representatives from the Bafuruki, Banyoro and Bunyoro Kingdom officials. Cabinet ministers from the ethnic-torn region and Minister for the Presidency, Dr. Beatrice Wabudeya, were also present. When President Museveni entered the meeting room, he first ordered journalists to get out. He also ordered his escorts out, except his ADC, Col. Mbadi. He told his visitors who were about 70 in number, that the purpose of the meeting was to hear from both sides. He invited the Banyoro to speak first. The Bunyoro Kingdom Prime Minister, Eng. Yebezi Kiiza, rose to speak. According to our sources, Kiiza said Banyoro have three concerns; land, politics and the uncontrolled influx of Bafuruki into their region. He said the Banyoro support the Presidents ring-fence proposal for top elective positions in Bunyoro. Next to speak was Kibaale District Vice Chairman, George William Bizibu, who made similar points about ring-fencing. The third speaker, Masindi District Chairman, Stephen Birija, asked the government to declare Bunyoros share of the oil wealth. BAKIGA SPEAK After the Banyoro, Museveni turned to the Bafuruki and Bugangaizi County MP, Marble Bakaine, immediately grabbed the microphone and started by rubbishing the ring-fencing proposal. She said that the proposal would leave the Bafuruki out in terms of service delivery and would deny them their rights. On his part, Rev. Geoffrey Tibenda suggested that the ethnic tension in the district could be sorted out amicably by the conflicting groups themselves without external help. He urged the President to sit the feuding communities on a roundtable. Aryampa Jackson, the LC-III Chairperson of Kisiita Sub-county, another mufuruki, said ring-fencing elective posts in Bunyoro would deny them (bafuruki) their inherent rights as enshrined in the 1995 Constitution as amended. Then Buyaga County Member of Parliament, Barnabas Tinkasiimire, told the President that ring fencing would make the bafuruki politically vulnerable. Tinkasiimire added that the government should operationalise Kagadi District, which was announced in February 2006. He also said that Buyaga County should be split into two counties to create political space in the district. But President Museveni silenced him, saying that he was well informed about the issues surrounding the proposed Kagadi District. After listening to all sides, Museveni got a marker and a manila paper and started lecturing to his guests. He strongly defended his ring fencing proposal. As discussions continued, some Banyoro proposed that the Bafuruki should be regarded as a special interest and marginalized group so that one parliamentary seat can be created for them in the district. The Bafuruki, however, roundly rejected this idea. The President on his part argued that ring fencing was needed to correct the historical injustices in the ancient monarchy. The President set himself a deadline of October 9, 2009 (Independence Day) to sort out the leadership problems in Bunyoro. Museveni further said that in order to ease the ethnic tensions in the region, the Balaalo (pastoralists) in Buliisa District must leave the district after losing a court case. He said that his government is committed to solving the land question in Kibaale District, and elsewhere in the Bunyoro sub-region.He also said that the government will continue paying off absentee Baganda landlords in Kibaale and return the land to the legal beneficiaries in the district. The Banyoro told the President that they were unhappy with the uncontrolled influx of the Bafuruki and even foreigners into the district. They demanded an immigration policy. The President said that very soon he would flag off the issuance of national identity cards which would curb illegal entry of non-Ugandans into the district and the country at large. Reconciliation committee At the end of the meeting, a 20-member committee was instituted to reconcile the feuding communities. The committee has both Banyoro and Bafuruki. It is chaired by the Minister for the Presidency, Beatrice Wabudeya. The Banyoro on the committee include; Senior Presidential Advisor on Lands, Dr. Kasirivu Atwooki, Kibaale District Vice Chairperson, George William Bizibu, Kibaale District Chairman, George William Namyaka, and Emily Kugonza, among others. The Bafuruki on the committee couldnt be established by press time.