We can’t allow a minority as a king

Makerere University law don, Dr John Jean Barya, is the legal advisor for Banyankole Cultural Foundation, an organisation opposed to the restoration of the kingdom of Ankole. Michael Mubangizi talked to him about the fate of the Obugabe in the wake of Prince John Barigye’s demise.

Briefly tell me about the court process in respect to the restoration of the Obugabe?

Mr John Barigye, who regarded himself as the king of Ankole kingdom, together with George William Katatumba, who claims to be the Prime Minister of Ankole kingdom, went to the constitutional court in April 2010, seeking for a declaration that Barigye is the king of Ankole. They also wanted a return of all the regalia and former properties like land of Ankole kingdom now held by the central government to him.

There was an application by three people – Mzee William Mukaira, Dr. Godfrey Assimwe of Makerere University and Dr. Yusuf Mpairwe – to join the petition. They wanted to oppose it. The judge hadn’t heard this application, but conferencing notes from both sides were submitted to the registrar. The Attorney General had also replied to the petition, opposing all the grounds Mr. Barigye had sought. As you know, Mr. Barigye died recently and as such, what he was asking for in the constitutional court also died with him.

But can’t that petition be taken over by Prince Barigye’s heir, Prince Charles Rwebishengye?

A court case cannot be inherited. Maybe the young man can draft and file his own petition, [but] he can’t rely on the old petition.

Why are you people still opposed to the restoration of Obugabe even after Prince Barigye’s passing?

We weren’t opposed to Barigye as a person, but to the institution of Obugabe. Firstly, Ankole kingdom has no historical legitimacy. It’s a colonial creation. At the time of colonisation in 1901, Nkore kingdom comprised the present Kashari, part of Isingiro and Nyabushozi. There were also kingdoms like Mpororo, Igara, Buhweju and Buzimba.

The British annexed them to Nkore kingdom and called it Ankole. Indeed, the king of Igara killed himself and refused to submit to the Nkore king. The one of Buhweju was killed in battle, [opposing the annexure of his kingdom].

Secondly, Ankole kingdom was very divisive. It had a caste system with Bahinda on top as the ruling group. Below them were the Bahima who owned cattle and the Banyankole or Bairu [who were agriculturalists]. Between 1962-67, the kingship remained divisive because of those castes and political party lines along DP and UPC. Reviving it would be reviving those historical divisions, which we think have been minimized since the abolition of the kingdom.

Besides, the rules of the kingdom in Ankole have never changed. The king, for instance, doesn’t marry from Bairu, and, therefore, there is no cultural relationship between the Bahinda and the majority of the population. The kingship in Ankole has never been a cultural, but a political institution. The king had no cultural roles. Those roles were among the Bahinda.

The rest of the society, he had nothing to do with them. So there was that cultural disconnect between the kingship and his so-called subjects. So, to say that we have a king of Banyankole now doesn’t make any cultural sense. Since all the administrative, judicial and executive functions have been removed from the kings and cultural leaders, we think this would be an empty institution.

Some people argue that because of the absence of Obugabe, Ankole culture is dying away. Do you agree?

What is culture? Culture is the complete way of life of a given group of people. The way they live, produce their food, their entertainment, religion, language, art, music, drama. All those are elements of culture. Which one of those has died or is dying?

Besides, the king having not been a cultural leader cannot be a custodian of that [Ankole] culture. He can only be a custodian of the Bahinda, but he can’t be a custodian of the culture of the people of Ankole from Ntungamo, Ibanda, Nyabushozi, Bunyaruguru. I think that is a false claim.

I concede that there could be problems with preserving language, but I think what is needed is a systematic effort to preserve, modernise, and update different aspects of our culture in terms of languages, literature, the songs, drama, etc. That is a bigger problem that has nothing to do with the absence or presence of a kingdom.

There has never been a vote on the issue of Obugabe, so how do you people come to conclude that it’s unpopular?

There is overwhelming evidence to show that. First, during the colonial period in the 1940s, there was an organisation called Kumanyana Movement formed to oppose the kingship in Ankole and the domination of the Bahinda. The movement led to the election of the first popularly elected Prime minister called Kesi Nganwa.

In 1967 when the kingdoms were abolished, the Banyankole jubilated. In 1971, while there were calls for the restoration of monarchies by other groups, notably the Baganda through petitions to Amin, the people of Ankole wrote a memorandum to Amin opposing the restoration of the kingdom and that delegation included Barigye’s father, Charles Gasyonga.

If you look at the 1993 Odoki report, whereas in Buganda there was overwhelming support for the restoration of the monarchy, the district and local councils, opinion leaders including religious leaders in Ankole opposed the restoration of Obugabe. There are resolutions to that effect. The Prof Ssempebwa Constitutional Review Commission got a similar finding in respect to Obugabe.

In November 1993, when Prince Barigye was enthroned, life went on normally. Banyankole never protested until two or three days later when government announced that it had cancelled his coronation. What’s your take on this?

There was no need to go on the street. It was a secret thing in Nkokonjeru. Why go on the street, especially if we knew that the thing was so unpopular and may not go further? [Supporters of Obugabe] agree that they are unpopular, but still say that their minority view should be respected.

So would you support a referendum to weigh the popularity of Obugabe?

The solution provided for in the Institution of Traditional and Cultural Leader’s Act is that where the issue of traditional leaders is not resolved, it should be referred to a council of elders and clans. When there is no consensus, then it should go to court. We had thought it would refer the issue to a referendum. I think the law assumed that all kingdoms follow the structure of Buganda. The clans in Ankole aren’t structured that way, they have no heads.

Would a proposal to have the kingship rotational or have the Omugabe marry from all clans make Obugabe acceptable to you?

That is not for me to make, it would be those that want the kingship to propose it. Incidentally, monarchies aren’t constructed that way; they have some claim to legitimacy from certain aspects. The legitimacy of this kingdom is from that lineage. If you break it and make it rotational, it will not be a king of Ankole; it will be a cultural leader of Banyankole because he will have no reference to the historical monarchy.

It will be a new institution like the Emorimor in Teso. Take for instance the kings who were created between 1962 and 1967 like the Rutakirwa of Kigezi and another one in Bugisu. They all died because they were artificial and I believe that even these new traditional leaders who have been artificially manufactured are not going to last.

No one is forced to pay allegiance to a king, so what’s wrong with having Omugabe since you won’t be forced to recognise him?

That is not true. First of all, he will be my king; he will be a king of Banyankole without my acceptance. Secondly, whereas they say nobody will be forced; there are many ways of forcing you. For instance, if a district council or central government decides that they are going to maintain a king; that they are going to pay Shs 5 million a month and a car, you will be paying.

How do you respond to allegations that you people are using your Bairu [population] dominance to oppose the kingdom cherished by most Bahima?

We respect the minority views in as far as they don’t affect us. I have never heard of a minority king anywhere in the world. I think the minority should accept the views of the majority.

Some people argue that the 1993 Act on the restitution of cultural leaders and the 1995 constitution restored all formed kingdoms, including that of Ankole.

Article 246 allows traditional leaders to exist in areas where people want them. It is not mandatory. The 1993 Act was repealed by the constitution, but it is also hinged on the wishes of the people. And that is what we are saying, that the majority people of Ankole don’t wish to have Obugabe.

So how do you see things panning out?

First of all, I think it will be more difficult for Prince Charles Rwebishengye to lay claim on kingship because whereas Barigye’s father was a king, for him he has less historical claim because his father was never a king. I also believe that Museveni thought that he would use traditional leaders for his political purposes.

That’s why the kingdom of Buganda was established in 1993, but it has since become a problem for him and therefore, while he has tried to divide Buganda by propping up these minority monarchies, he might be thinking that he may not be able to contain all these traditional institutions that have come up. Therefore, the government is likely to be more conscious on the restoration of [Obugabe].

I think Museveni knows Ankole society very well, and he believes that it might ignite unnecessary controversy and divisions and therefore cost him support. I don’t see Museveni restoring Ankole kingdom unless he is no longer interested in contesting for political power or if he says he can leave the ramification of the restoration to whoever follows him. I don’t think he would love to create another centre that would give him headache.

Even after Museveni, it is unlikely that the Ankole monarchy would be a source of political capital to whoever comes after him. In short, unless the Ankole monarchists re-invent themselves, by for instance demanding for a king of the members of Nkore Cultural Trust, I don’t see headway for them.

You say you are opposed to kingdoms, but how come we see you align yourselves to kingdoms like Buganda?

We don’t owe allegiance to any kingdom, not even Buganda. What took us to Buganda was not to pay allegiance to Buganda or the Kabaka, but to explain our position. We wanted to tell them that if the kingdom in Buganda is popular let it be, but they shouldn’t interfere with the affairs in Ankole.

The Katikkiro and his ministers listened and [understood]. A recent interview with Apollo Makubuya [the Buganda Attorney General] showed something different, but of course they will prefer to have so many kings around to boost their numbers.

[Makubuya] is right that it’s not government that creates kingdoms but the people. Government only provides the law creating kingdoms, but it is people who create it. That’s why we say that for us we aren’t interested and it should be us to say, not government, not Buganda and obviously not any other group. And for us we are ready not to interfere with Buganda. If their king is popular, that is okay with us, but if the king is not popular in Ankole they should also accept it.

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+1 #1 Rwamutwe 2011-12-15 06:20
Prof. Barya should be told off, the way he did Makubuya. Barya is from Kitagwenda, a kingdom separate from Nkore. So he has no locus on matters Nkorensis.

He cant call Nkore a minority since it is a complete unit, an entity made up of Isingiro, Nyabushozi, Kashaari, Kabura, Rwampara. Since according to him Ankole is a colonial creation, he should not argue in that context, for he cant reject Obugabe and recognise Ankole.

Reject Ankole, revert to your Kitagwenda, and leave matters Nkorensis to Banyankore. Your outfit is misnamed, since it is not from Nkore: it can be Batagwenda or whatever amalgam you can concoct, but not Banyankore.

Britain, on whose traditions and customs your education and profession as a lawyer is founded, is a kingdom. You would have made a great contribution to your motherland, had you spent time using your expertise to create an appropriate politico-legal system that strengthens the institutions as existed ante-colonialis m, instead of pandering to another product of colonialism: republican democracy in a colonial creation called Uganda.

You fail us there. Systems and polities that have survived were created by thinkers and philosophers in those societies, which the Ugandan intelligentsia is failing to do for Uganda. So let Nkore be.
0 #2 Stephen Kakooza 2011-12-15 07:03
Its now clear that this new King is a Head of Bahinda Clan and therefore can be installed as a traditional leader of Nkore (3-sub-counties ). While the majority of Banyankole dont want to associate themselves with Ankole Kingship.

The minority should go back to the drawing board and start afresh as Nkore Kingdom. The unpopularity of Kings will soon hit Bunyoro as the allegency to Omukama is fading away.
0 #3 ken kan 2011-12-15 07:08
Dr.john thnx 4 ur clarification on the kingdom issue.. a person lyk mi i have grown up not knowing tht the king even existed so its going 2 be hard for me to respect him...
0 #4 Francis 2011-12-15 10:47
Its an interesting article. I am not a munyankole, therefore the composition of what we currently understand as Banyangkole can be difficult.Dr Barya in this article breaks down the Ankole into its constituents before colonialism; Nkore kingdom comprised the present Kashari, part of Isingiro and Nyabushozi.

There were also kingdoms like Mpororo, Igara, Buhweju and Buzimba. My question is whether these kingdoms used same language as they do now. Secondly, what was the significance of the kings of these kingdoms to there subjects before the British forcefully annexed them to the Nkore Kingdom.

Thirdly I get the impression that the word Banyankole is derived from the word 'Nkore', how comes there is no opposition to being referred to as a 'Nkorian' but the leadership of the Nkore institution?
0 #5 Akot 2011-12-15 14:35
Dr. John Jean Barya is right, this system of divisive rules by preserving past culture etc. has no place in today's world!

True, at the time of the British Protactorate, this tribal rules was a means of keepting the people of Uganda seperated thus there could be no danger in the continuity of the British rule over Uganda.

Museveni knew this from start & the first thing he did was to repatriate the body of Sir E. Mutesa ll in order to get the complete support of the Bagandans! He then proceeded with the restoration of the different tribal rules thus like the British, Museveni is keeping the people of Uganda divided ensuring the continuity of his rule & dynasty!!!

The question we must ask is "who are benefiting from Musevenis dictatorship & who are benefiting from the restored tribal kingship in the country".
It looks as if Ugandans believe that their enemies are the tribes they do not belong to!!

Then I ask "why are you calling Uganda a country when in fact everything is being done to make it stay "a zone" of divided people on tribal clans who cannot live & work together for the good of all?

As it is, Museveni is the king of the king of Ankole & all the other tribal kings/rilers in this zone called "Uganda", which belongs to Museveni, the king of kings & lord or lords!
We called Dr. Obote names, but under his rule which left many disappointed of course, Uganda was a country & that is why many believed in him - hoping he would wake up & give them a better life - who would not have believed that with the national support he had! There was a little hope!!!
0 #6 Soul 2011-12-15 15:58
Mr. Michael Mubangizi, thank you for that interview. when should we expect the other side of the interview. I am anxiously looking forward for it. Thank you
0 #7 Muzzukulu Paulo 2011-12-15 17:21
Dr.Barya is a mutagwenda . The batagwenda and Banyaruguru are baganda who immigrated from Buganda with the intention of settling in Tooro .

Because of the hardships they faced along the way , one group decided not to continue to Tooro . This is the group of baganda and settled in north- east Ankole now known as Ibanda . They were called batagwenda because they "failed or refused to walk on "

The other group tried to continue but stopped after many of them were either eaten by wild animals or died after drinking what they thought was poisoned water .

The wild animals were many in what become to be knows as Queen Elizabeth National Park , The "poisoned water " was actually salt water that is still there in the salt lakes around Katunguru

The banyaruguru who survived decided to settle in the hills just before the national park . The Banyaruguru got this name because they were the ones with "strong legs" . For many years , most of the banyaruguru used four names : catholic christian , kiganda , kinyankole plus a Tooro mpako.

Dr. Barya is therefore not telling the whole truth . If he wants to be taken seriously , he should mention the fact that the Omukama did not regard the Banyaruguru and batagwenda as indigenous banyankole , which means that Barya is hiding his real reasons to oppose the monarchy in Ankole. He is simply opposing the monarchy out of spite .

Dr. Barya says that the British annexed Ankore and named it Ankole . This is misleading and not entirely correct either . The name Ankole was simply a corrupted way of spelling Ankore . The Baganda who were the first to read and write had problems with "R" while the British had theirs with "L"

and some other letters . Sometimes local words were spelled as they sounded . Lubaga become Rubaga, etc.

It is also not right to blame divisions in Ankole on the monarchy.
We all know that it was not because of the monarchy that Rwakasisi turned his guns on the bahima . Many years after kingdoms were abolished , Ankole continued to practice political sectarianism- sometimes violently .

Banyankole prostestants belonged to UPC or UPM , while catholics and some Bahima prefered to join DP.

Even today and without the monarchy , most powerful Bahima will not allow their childrem to marry Bairu .

I am sure that Dr.Barya knows this but is too dishonest to touch it .
0 #8 Mukuuma B. 2011-12-15 21:20
Dr. John Jean Barya said; “I have never heard of a minority king anywhere in the world”. Well, the truth is they are there. One of them is the King of Bahrain. The learned Dr. should know of it but he is just dishonest and a lier, too.
0 #9 Jamah .T.B 2011-12-16 09:28
He calls himself a Doctor , but his interview reveals that he is not that intelligent .

I would think that a real Doctor should be able to form conclusions that are based on logic and evidence .

It is obvious that Mr.Barya made his conclusions and is now attempting to create evidence . That is why his "facts " don`t add up .

It would be equally absurd to argue that the state of Uganda should be desolved because " it is a divisive colonial creation which has no historical legitimacy"

Absurd as this argument is , it is easier to provide the evidence to back it up than to prove that Ankole kingdom was never legitimate

It is rather foolish to call for the banishment of an institution on mere emotions . If Barya was as intelligent as his title suggests , he should know that there no such as thing as a perfect altanative to even a bad monarchy .

Uganda`s history after the abolishion of kingdoms in 1967 should lead us to some logical conclusions .
+1 #10 Juma Kato 2011-12-16 14:59
Jamah`s comment makes a lot of sense .

Dr. Barya`s words can ironically be used to challenge the legitimacy of Uganda as one nation . Indeed , the state of Uganda is a creation of the British. Before they arrived , there was never a country on earth called Uganda .

From the very start , the nation of Uganda was divisive. Protestants were favoured , catholics ignored and muslims were not even counted.
Tribes that had nothing in common was lumped together and ruled without their consent. Uganda , thus , is a nation that was put together artificially .This makes some of these kingdoms the only legitimate entities.

Dr.Barya says that the banyankole celebrated when kingdoms were abolished in 1967 . But he does not say what followed .How long did that celebration last ?

He probably does not want to mention that the banyankole become more disunited after the kingdom was abolished. Dr.Barya will not mention that between 1967 and now, banyankole got so divided that it become so easy for of them to be used by all former presidents to kill each other .

Dr.Barya should try and find out how many prominent banyankole were murdered by Idd Amin. The list is very very long . Dr. Barya might have forgotten that during Obote 11 , ankole was divided in 3 groups :
1- UPC led by Rwakasisi , Rurangaranga , Tiberondwa and the like. This group joined Obote to mess up Uganda

2- Museveni and his Nra / fronasa / UPM. This group joined hands with Baganda to fight for their freedom

3- DP led by Mzee Byanyima , Kabaireho and others. This group tried to play normal politics under an abnormal enviroment .

In 1987 , 20 years after the kingdom of Ankole was abolished . Museveni , Banyima and Rwakasisi could not live in one big Hotel without going for each others throat. Museveni was the President , Rwakasis was his prisoner while Byanyima was fighting to keep his farm from being taken over by Museveni`s agents .

Long story short , there is nothing to prove that the kingdom was responsible for the divisions that Barya is talking about .

There is no proof that Uganda has better legitimacy than the kingdom of ankole or any other kingdom for that matter .

But there is proof that kingdoms tried to build their societies with the little that was available . As Gen.Tinyefunza said , we have spent the last 50 years doing nothing but to destroy what kingdoms built for us.

There is also a reason to suspect that some banyankole see no need to call for the restoration of the Obugabe because they see thier "king" in Museveni .
0 #11 Yoga Adhola 2011-12-17 04:50
Please read:
0 #12 Akot 2011-12-17 13:49
With all these comments & contributions, it is high time the different tribes come together to form a NATION in order to join the rest of the modern world as a people with common safering, needs, goals & build a real future for their children & grand children, or is it too much of an effort & not worth it for the next generation who could know a better world than the rest of us?

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