interviewBy Raymond Baguma
Kampala — LAST Sunday, the Omusinga Wesley Mumbere, addressed a press conference at Hotel Africana. During the press conference, Godfrey Kabyanga, the Rwenzururu spokesperson, answered some of the questions directed to Mumbere, saying in their culture, questions are never directed to a king. Raymond Baguma brings you the excerpts.
Dr Crispus Kiyonga, who had been opposed to the restoration of Obusinga, recently declared his support for the kingdom. What explains his shift in position?
(Mumbere instructs Kabyanga to respond to the question)
They are on good terms. During Mumbere's last visit to Uganda, he met Kiyonga and they discussed several issues. The essence of that meeting was to bring the two together to iron out some differences. Kiyonga recently declared that he is no longer opposed to the recognition of the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu. In fact, in his own words, he said: "I have been the headmaster of the school, but I have closed it."
I understand the Omusinga and the recognition council will soon meet President Yoweri Museveni. What is the reason for the meeting?
(Kabyanga speaks) We have met the President several times. Since Kiyonga, who has been the Obusinga's biggest opponent has consented; it is incumbent upon the Government to recognise the Obusinga.
Why isn't Obusinga recognised yet there is a statutory instrument for the restoration of traditional cultural institutions?
(Kabyanga speaks) The statutory instrument will be amended in Parliament such that Obusinga gets recognition.
October 19 is the coronation anniversary of the Omusinga. What does it mean to be a Musinga of the Rwenzururu?
(Mumbere speaks) Obusinga is not new like the Baluuli Kingdom. Obusinga has been in existence for over 40 years. So, we are not asking for a kingdom, but its recognition. Every kingdom has a king and a ceremony is always performed to crown him. So October 19, is when our king was crowned. All that we want is recognition of a kingdom which is already in place.
What are the geographical boundaries of Rwenzururu kingdom? Does it include the Banande in Democratic Republic of Congo?
(Mumbere speaks) The kingdom of Rwenzururu is similar to the Aga Khan. The Aga Khan has subjects everywhere in the world. The Bakonzo are scattered all over the the world. I do not think it is necessary to have boundaries.
Don't you think setting October 19 as the coronation anniversary is a contradiction since the law has not yet been amended to recognise the Obusinga?
(Kabyanga speaks) The Government does not crown kings and it does not establish kingdoms. Kingdoms are established by the people. They are also the ones who crown kings. What Government does is to recognise what you have already established. Our kingdom was established on June 30, 1962, when we were declared independent from Toro kingdom. That is also when our first Omusinga was crowned. Mumbere is the second Musinga. He inherited the Obusingaship from his father Isaya Mukirane. We are celebrating the crowning of our king, whom the Government should recognise.
Have you got clearance from the Government to hold the coronation anniversary?
(Kabyanga speaks) We do not have to seek permission from the Government because we have held this function since 1966. Even after former president Milton Obote had abolished kingdoms, we continued existing until 1982, when we decided to negotiate with the Government. Omusinga Charles Mumbere was the first person to be recognised as a cultural leader. In 1982, when he handed over his arms to the Government, he was given the title of chief elder by the Government. You do not seek permission to celebrate your birthday. What you do is to invite people. And whoever is interested can come.
How would you advise the Government to address the current land challenges in Kasese involving the Basongora pastoralists and the Bakonzo farmers?
(Kabyanga speaks) That is a political issue. If you want anything to do with land, you can always consult our members of Parliament.
How do you intend to ensure there is peaceful co-existence between Toro Kingdom and Rwenzururu? Toro is still claiming proprieties in Rwenzururu kingdom.
(Kabyanga speaks) I do not know what they have. Probably one of the politicians can answer that. (Member of Parliament Yokas Bihande, then explains that the land which used to belong to Toro Kingdom was confiscated by the people in 1962 when Bundibugyo and Kasese seceded from Toro. Toro was later compensated by the Government).
You went to the US on a Milton Obote scholarship. Your subjects would wish to know what you studied and what you have been doing over the past 23 years (Mumbere speaks) I have been studying. In future I will make a profile of what I have been doing in the US and pass it on to the press.
What is your vision for Rwenzururu?
(Mumbere speaks) People have been left behind in so many things. So, once our kingdom is recognised, the first thing will be to work for the development of the region in collaboration with the Government. But now the agenda on our table is to get the kingdom recognised. After that, we will work on other issues.
The majority of the Rwenzururu people support kingship. However, there has been a group claiming that you are not the rightful heir.
(Mumbere speaks) Those are newspaper kings. Kings are crowned by the people. You do not go to the media to seek kingship. For us, we know one king, who is Mumbere and he inherited the kingship from his father. We have never known any other king.
Of what importance is the recognition of Rwenzururu kingdom?
(Mumbere speaks) Identity is very important. To be called Mukonzo is important. You may go to Kenya and change your nationality, but you will remain a Mukonzo. In countries like Japan, the nucleus of development is from families. We feel a cultural institution will bring us together to lobby for other things. But the most important thing is identity.
You have been away from your subjects for sometime. When are you coming back to live permanently with them?
(Mumbere speaks) I think I am already in the kingdom. I am here. I think I am back (hesitation). Even when I was away, I kept in touch with the kingdom and carried out my duties.
Do you have a permanent house in Uganda?
(Kabyanga speaks) He (Mumbere) has a palace on Kyebambe Road in Kasese town. For the king, all the houses of the subjects belong to him.
Your subjects would wish to know how you met the queen to be.
(Kabyanga speaks) That is a personal issue (laughter). It is not easy to describe it (more laughter). But the most important thing is that he has a beautiful queen.
The king was previously married. What happened to his first marriage?
(Kabyanga speaks) It is true the king was previously married and he has children, but he is now going to wed in church. And you know, they only wed once in in church.