Bunyoro has said nobody, including President Museveni, can silence the sub-region's agitation for a fair share of the oil revenue, which has grown louder in recent weeks.
The Albertine region, which is home to the oil wells that are set to be exploited, lies in Bunyoro kingdom. During the Empango cultural ceremony in Hoima, on Monday, the First Lady, Janet Museveni, who represented her husband, advised the Banyoro to concentrate on farming rather than oil revenues. This didn't go down well with a cross section of Banyoro, who reacted angrily.
"Previously the king wouldn't have gone to Parliament, but would rather have just declared war. The President is taking the kingdom and the people of Bunyoro for a ride. You can't tell us that the demand for a share of royalties from oil is premature when the bills are in Parliament," said Ford Mirima, the press secretary of the Omukama.
Early this month, the cultural head of the Banyoro, Omukama Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, stormed Parliament to demand 12.5% of the total revenue from oil royalties for his subjects.
"The Omukama is planning to storm Parliament again in case the kingdom's demand is not granted," warned Mirima.
Jackson Wabyona Rugambwa, chairperson of Bunyoro Oil and Gas Advocacy Group, accused the President of seeking to make the debate on oil one between him and the oil companies. "But we shall call him to order," Rugambwa threatened. A youth group, Empagi za Bunyoro, was furious, with the head of youth affairs in the kingdom, Allan Bamuha, posting a statement on their website that said Bunyoro would not be shut up like a child.
"We all know that this is a national resource. But Bunyoro as a region is bound to suffer the adverse effects of oil drilling, which will automatically lead to environmental degradation and for that matter Bunyoro deserves special attention," Bamuha said. He added: "Bunyoro must get the 12.5% shares and that should not be debatable; conquer or die is Kabalega's motto. Enough is enough!"
But Museveni's press secretary, Tamale Mirundi, poured scorn on those attacking the President.
"You cannot use obscenities to open up a padlock. The law about oil is in the offing. Oil is an asset of Uganda found in Bunyoro. The constitution is clear; let them lobby Parliament. They should not use a feudalistic approach but rely on the constitution," Mirundi told The Observer, on phone, Thursday.
The Public Finance Bill 2012 states that the central government will receive 93% of oil revenues while the remaining 7% will go to the districts in the exploration and production belt. A district is given liberty to give part of its share to a cultural institution. However, the kingdom wants its own 12.5% share.
Whereas there is consensus amongst the Banyoro with regard to royalties, there is no agreement on how to lobby Parliament or the central government to this end. Mirima told The Observer that the Omukama was forced to visit Parliament himself because Banyoro are divided.
"[Bunyoro] MPs should have done it but they did not. That is why he went to Parliament," Mirima explained.
Mirima also defended the decision of the Omukama to go along with the controversial Maj Roland Kakooza Mutale, a presidential advisor on political affairs.
"[Kakooza Mutale] is a Munyoro from Buruuli and he is from the Abasiita clan," Mirima revealed.
However, some Banyoro said the Omukama's move reflected badly on the institution.
"[The Omukama] storming Parliament was a desperate action that embarrassed Members of Parliament and the nation," said Rugambwa, the youth leader. "The Omukama should have used different structures of the kingdom, like the office of the prime minister [Omuhikirwa]."
The chairperson Kitara Heritage Development Agency (KHDA), Shem Byakagaba, blamed weak leadership.
"The challenge is the weak leadership in regard to the Prime Minister [Father Bonny Kyaligonza]. He should have prevented the Omukama from such an embarrassment. We should have an economic arm like the Bunyoro Development Trust to pursue such matters," Byakagaba said.
He added that royalties are not a favour but an entitlement for the Banyoro.
"I think it is a correct thing for communities where resources are found to receive government royalties. Go to Ghana, to South Africa and Alaska in the United States; this happens," argued Byakagaba, a lawyer. "Bunyoro's demands can also be justified by the historical injustices."