The Observer (Kampala)

25 November 2012

Uganda: Ankole Kingdom Cannot Just Be Wished Away

When our Prince, Charles Rwebishengye, was being installed as heir to his father's throne, he said, among other things, that he would mobilise the youth to agitate for the recognition of Ankole Kingdom by the Uganda government.

Little did he know that the youth would, on their own, take this challenge head-on. This is exemplified in the wonderful work the Historic Resource Conservation Initiative (HRCI), whose leadership is Banyankore youth, is doing for our kingdom.

This is a big challenge for us the old Banyankore, who have watched their culture almost go into extinction, and have done little or nothing to revive it. And some are even engaged in a campaign to have the kingdom abolished. Here, I am specifically referring to a group led by [Kesi] Nyakimwe, [Yusuf] Mpeirwe, Mwambutsya [Mwebesa] and the like.

This group is even attacking other kingdoms like Buganda, Bunyoro and Tooro, which support our kingdom and agitate for its recognition. Nyakimwe group's paramount theme is their objection against what they regard as Omukama of Bunyoro and Apollo Makubuya's "interference with matters that should be of concern to only Banyankore."

Their philistine nature does not allow them to know that no culture looks upon the plight of another with indifference or detachment. Much more importantly, the group does not have the foggiest idea about the traditional fraternity between the Baganda and the Banyankore. For example, they do not know:

That Mugasha, Ruhinda's brother and son of Wamara, is the same person as Mukasa - Buganda's Neptune or Nalubaale.

That during the accession ceremonies the Kabaka is draped in calf-skin (ediba ly'enyana) which Banyankore call oruhu rw'encwamutwe.

The group must have forgotten that it was Nkore's Ntare V who, in 1888, rescued and facilitated Buganda's Christian refugees who included men such as Kaggwa, Mugwanya, Kakungulu, Kisosonkole, etc, men who shaped Uganda's destiny.

This group's resentment against "Makubuya's meddling" indicates that they do not know that the Kabaka of Buganda is the godfather of our Prince. With contempt, the same group refers to the Banyankore who love their king as "a small group of people." Have they been counted? The real issue is whether any number of Ugandans has the right to express their culture through their kingship institution under their Constitution.

In a desperate attempt to denigrate Ankole kingdom, the group sets out to blatantly rewrite history. Shamelessly, they state that "the pre-colonial kingdom.... covered only about three counties"! This is, of course, a ridiculous lie. Since they come from there, let us take the example of Sheema, which they claim was not part of pre-colonial Ankole.

If their assertion is correct, how then could Kahaya ll have been born in 1881 at Rwenshato, Kagango sub-county? How could his great grandfather, Kahaya l, face Rwanda's Kigeli lll Ndabarasa at Masheruka in Kigarama sub-county? Indeed, how could several Bagabe have enjoyed the hot springs of Kitagata?

The most outrageous claim of these revisionists is when they came out and stated that "The Omugabe of Ankole has never been a cultural leader and played no cultural roles."! This simply means that they are challenging Roscoe, Oberg, Chiver, Morris, Kamugungunu, Katate, Karugire, Muvumba, Steinhart, Cunningham, etc.

Now, whether you like it or not, the Banyankore are, together with the Zulu, Ashanti, Yoruba, Baganda, etc, classified as 'centralized' people, where the kingship institution is the fountainhead of societal/ organizational endeavours. In the 'decentralized' societies such as the Acholi, Ibo or Maasai, the clan is supreme - just as the king in the 'centralized' peoples is.

When you deprive a 'centralized' people of their king, they have nothing to fall back on. Regarding the "feebleness" of the Ankole monarchists, it appears that the group has mistaken astute political acumen and maturity for weakness. In a pre-industrial democracy you cannot protest too much.

The faction needs to answer this simple question: if the Nkore kingship was "divisive", how could that kingdom have lasted for so long, occupying the best sub-Sahara African real estate between the Kagera and Katonga and keeping the then most valuable commodity ? cattle?

Finally, let the group know, that with Rwebishengye's accession, a new torch has been passed to a new Banyankore generation, a generation that is bored by aged bigotry and inferiority complexes.

The author is the Enganzi of Ankole Kingdom. This is a slightly abridged version of the author's speech at the close of a workshop on cultural heritage and natural resources in Mbarara on November 9, 2012.

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