A section of residents and elders in Bugisu Sub-region have asked the government to gazette the new cultural leader of Bamasaba Cultural Institution to end the long-standing impasse between parallel leaders.
Residents say the failure by the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Ms Betty Amongi, to gazette one of the leaders is fuelling infighting and has undermined economic development.
Mr Mike Mudoma from the Buyobo Clan and Mr John Wagabyalire Amuran from Halasi Clan in Sironko District, all from Mwambu family, claim the throne.
"If they had gazetted any of the cultural leaders, this confusion would have been brought to an end by now," Mr Muzamiru Magomu, an elder from Butaaga Clan in Bukonde Sub-county in Mbale City, said last week.
Mr Magomu said as subjects, they are divided over whom to pay allegiance to since both claim to have been duly elected by legitimate organs.
The rivalry within the institution started last year after parallel search committees for the next Umukukha were instituted.
One of the groups was headed by Mr Geoffrey Wetpondi as its secretary general, and the other by Mr James Kangala.
Recently, Mr Wagabyalire unveiled his cabinet and appointed Mr Wepondi as the prime minister and his rival, Mr Mudoma as minister of environment and natural resources.
However, Mr Mudoma described his appointment as foolery, saying the cabinet list was fake.
He added that his rival has no authority to appoint any one as minister before the government pronounces itself on the matter.
"Mr Wagabyalire has continued to veil himself as Umukukha despite a clear government position that we don't have a cultural leader in Bugisu region who is recognised by the government yet," he said.
However, Mr Wagabyalire supporters say he was duly elected and given the instruments of power by his predecessor, the late Bob Mushikori, last year.
Mr Steven Masiga, another resident, said the fights are now escalating to clans.
"The government should quicken the gazetting process because people are losing interest and fights are escalating into clan fights," he said.
Mr Nelson Wedaira, the institution's speaker, said gazzetting the new Umukhukha validates the Cultural Leaders Act 2011.
"The Act states that if people organise themselves into groups, the government would guarantee their wishes by gazzeting the person they have identified as cultural leader," he said.
Mr Wedaira said on May 6, the family of Mwambu, where the third Umukhuka is supposed to hail from, convened a meeting at Mutufu in Sironko and endorsed Mr Mudoma as the rightful leader.
However, Mr Wagabyalire and his supporters boycotted the meeting, saying it was illegal.
The meeting came after the former Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, on May 4, asked the two rival groups to conduct consensus building after which the new cultural leader would be elected and thereafter gazetted.
Mr Wedaira, who led the faction that elected Mr Mudoma, has been recognised by government as the legitimate speaker of the institution deputised by his rival, Ms Rose Nelima, a supporter of Mr Wagabyalire.
Mr Wepondi, however, insists that Mr Wagabyalire is the genuine Umukukha.
"The commissioner for tourism recently visited and met Umukukha Wagabyalire and his cabinet. We discussed important matters like developing Mutoto cultural sites," he said.
During the visit last year, Mr Wagabyalire said his leadership will work with the government to boost tourism.
However, Mr Mudoma on Monday told journalists that the government officials visited the institution not Mr Wagabyalire in his position as Umukukha.
"The government officials visited the institution, which is still in existence and with its offices but not Mr Wagabyalire, who has continued to masquerade as a cultural leader," he said.
The cultural institution conducts rotational leadership among three families of Mwambu, Mubuuya and Wanaale. The first cultural leader, Mr Wilson Wamimbi, who was elected in 2010 was from the Wanaale family while the late Bob Mushikori, who was elected in 2015, hailed from the family of Mubuuya.
Gender minister Betty Amongi (pictured) in her July 7 letter wrote to the parallel leaders, saying the government was in process of operationalising the resolutions reached between the various stakeholders with the then minister, Mr Frank Tumwebaze. "After the lockdown, I shall prioritise the resolution of this very important matter. All stakeholders shall be notified of the next steps," the letter reads in part.