In mid-July, Tooro Kingdom will open its jagged rainforests, undulating hills, verdant slopes and hot-springs to its visitors when Princess Ruth Nsemere Komuntale, daughter to Omukama Patrick Olimi Kaboyo II, ties the knot.
The strikingly beautiful Komuntale will walk down the aisle with her fiancé Christopher Thomas, an African American, at St John’s Cathedral in Fort Portal on July 14.
On that day, as the sun sets above the towering Mountain Rwenzori, it will be merry at the wedding banquet where a taste of culture, history and trappings of modern elegance will be on offer.
Prior to the wedding, there will be a giveaway ceremony, the kujumbura, performed by Omujwera Musuuga, a paternal uncle to Princess Komuntale who is also the head of the royal Babiito clan, Prince Charles Kamurasi, on July 12.
In preparation for the fete, the house of the Musuuga in Gwera, four kilometres along the Kamwenge road in Karambi sub-county has been given a fresh coat of paint.
A day before the giveaway, Princess Komuntale will don bark cloth, a traditional clothing of the Babiito before she sits on Kamurasi’s lap.
“It’s a sign of good luck just before we give her away,” says Kamurasi.
“Kujumbura is different from the kweranga (the other introduction ceremony) because our princess has not yet given birth,” Kamurasi told The Observer recently.
On the day of the giveaway, the bridegroom’s entourage will walk into the compound of the Musuuga dressed in white tunics (kanzu) and jackets and holding walking sticks [emiigo]. Upon arrival, they will be warmly received and relieved of their walking sticks.
“They will also come with a letter not to take us by surprise asking for our daughter and shall also have a certificate of marriage given by the Kingdom of Tooro. The certificate is very important; without it they cannot take our daughter,” says Kamurasi.
The entourage will then proceed to greet Prince Kamurasi.
“They have to greet us in kitooro culture and they have to kneel before the elders. It’s like the analogy that when you go to Rome you behave like the Romans,” says Kamurasi.
“The leader of the team gives reasons of what brought him and because of the long distance we shall choose a few people, probably nine to enter the house and they will be given milk. What this symbolizes is that they have gotten the chance to eat after being hungry for long. Then they will be given dried coffee beans, which means a bond of friendship and unity has been established.”
A group of princesses will then serve the visitors milk in scented clay jars, which in kitooro culture are known as emindi. A mock ceremony will then be performed where a group of princesses will be brought before the groom.
Kamurasi notes: “After negotiations, we shall bring him [the groom] girls and he will try to indentify the princess amongst them.”
According to the Babiito culture, spanning centuries, the princess will be amongst the third group of girls.
“It’s here that the groom, to his relief, will say he has seen her and later dress her with a bead.”
No bride price in terms of money will be offered to the princess’ parents, in accordance with the Babiito cultural practices. However, the groom will hand over a fattened ox.
“We shall even ask someone to check if it has fat,” says Kamurasi. The groom will also offer gourds of local brew (amaarwa) and any other kind of beer to the Musuuga and the family of the princess.
Later in the evening, a bull will be roasted and served to the Omukama’s subjects and Tooro’s friends. Alcohol will also be served as the celebratory ceremonies kicks off in earnest. Celebrations will go on throughout the night where the royal dance, Makondere — a cacophony of music blaring out of wooden flutes and drums will be played.
There will also be the reciting of cultural poems [okwebuga]. On July 13, there will be a stag party at Muchwa in Fort Portal. And the following day, the couple will be wed at St John’s Cathedral in Fort Portal.
It will be followed by a reception at the Karuziika palace, imposingly perched on top of a hill overlooking Fort Portal. Here the Omukama, King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru IV, will host the visitors, subjects and Tooro’s friends to a banquet, where dazzling pomp and pageantry will be at display.
There will also be a royal kids’ fair at KCCA Mayoral grounds attended by Princess Komuntale and a royal ball on June 29 at the Commonwealth Resort Speke at Munyonyo.
Many of the Omukama’s subjects will recall the last time such a big occasion took place was during the wedding of Princess Elizabeth Mpanja, daughter to Komuntale’s grandfather Omukama George Kamurasi Rukidi III to Lt Lt Col William Ndahendekire on December 18, 1965.
Ndahendekire, who was from Ankole, was the first Ugandan to study at the prestigious Sandhurst military academy in the United Kingdom.
There has been talk that a princess or prince cannot get married to a person outside of Tooro but such theory has been discredited. For instance in 1955, Prince Hosea Nyabongo, son to Omukama Daudi Kyebambe Kasagama and brother to Omukama Rukidi, married an African American Ada Naomi Paynter, daughter of an evangelical preacher.
She was born in Bermuda and raised in New York. Having preferred an academic career and later public service to the pampered life of the princes, Nyabongo spent the greater part of his life in institutions of higher learning both in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Long before many Batooro had grasped the concept of an academic degree, Prince Akiiki Nyabongo had earned several of them. Nyabongo earned a Masters degree from Harvard and a PhD from Oxford University. He was a professor at the University of Alabama back in the 1940s and later at North Carolina A&T University, where he taught Philosophy.
In 1963, the son of Omukama Rukidi, Prince Steven Karamagi, who had graduated with a Law degree from Cambridge and later studied a Masters in Law at Columbia University, married Margaret Semugeshi daughter of Chief Semugeshi, of Bufundu, in Butare, Rwanda.
Margaret Semugeshi was given away by the Tutsi King, Kigeli V Ndahindurwa who today lives in the United States.
Some of the personalities who married princesses from Tooro are the Queen’s representative to Buganda and Tooro Kingdoms in the 1950s; Sir Ronnie Bennett who married Princess Victoria Komukyeya and John Simpson who married Princess Mary Mpanja, the founder of Kijura Tea Estate near Fort Portal.
Col Jack and John Bunyenyezi who were brothers married princesses Edith Kakooko and Agnes Nkwenge respectively on the same day in 1975.
The others were John Graham, the East African boss of the then largest British manufacturing company, Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), who married Gertrude Bagaya and former Energy minister Richard Kaijuka who married Princess Beatrice Kaijuka.