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What Ssemakookiro means for Buganda

When the Buganda Katikkiro, John Baptist Walusimbi, announced on January 17 that the Kabaka had been blessed with a baby boy in July 2011, excitement and curiosity in Buganda led to speculation.

Speculation was rife because the mother of the prince named Richard Ssemakookiro, was not the official wife of the Kabaka, Sylvia Nagginda. All the Katikkiro revealed was that the mother was from the Nsenene clan. No name, no further details. Nevertheless, as far as Prof Livingstone Walusimbi, a veteran university lecturer, is concerned, a prince that qualifies to succeed Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II has been born. Walusimbi told The Observer in an interview on Wednesday, that Buganda Kingdom’s continuity is no longer at risk.

“As a Muganda, my major concern is not whether or not it is the Nnaabagereka who has mothered this potential successor — because even the reigning Kabaka was born out of wedlock — but the fact that he has been born and qualifies to succeed his father indicates the smooth continuation of our kingdom,” Walusimbi said.

He added that after the required customs have been performed, Prince Ssemakookiro will remain the sole candidate for the throne until, perhaps, another prince is born. In case there is more than one possible heir, Walusimbi explained, either the Kabaka would name his successor in a will or the Lukiiko would appoint one from amongst the candidates. Ssemakookiro is Mutebi’s second son among the Kabaka’s five known children. The oldest son is Prince Kiweewa Jjunju Suuna, whose mother is Venetia Sebudandi, a non-Muganda. He was born in London in 1986.

The other three children are Princesses Joan Nassolo, Victoria Nkinzi and Katrina Ssangalyambogo, who was the youngest before Ssemakookiro’s birth, and only child of the Kabaka’s wife, the Nnaabagereka, Sylvia Nagginda. According to Prof Walusimbi, traditionally, the oldest prince, who is named Kiweewa, does not qualify to succeed the Kabaka, as are the princesses. Omutaka Grace Ndugwa Ssemakula, head of the Lugave clan, added that although the first prince could be remotely considered as an heir to the throne, it becomes even more complicated when his mother is a non-Muganda.

History of Ssemakookiro

Kabaka Mutebi named his oldest son Jjunju and the newborn prince Semakookiro, both names of former Buganda kings: the 26th and 27th Kabaka, respectively. The two were sons of Kabaka Kyabaggu Kabinuli, who reigned between 1750 and 1780. Their mother was Nanteza, the 17th of Kabaka Kyabaggu’s 20 wives. Coincidentally, both reigned for 17 years. Kabaka Jjunju Sendegeya reigned from 1780 until 1797. He ascended to the throne upon the death of his father and established his capital at Magonga.

Ssemakookiro Wasajja Nabbunga was Kabaka from 1797 until 1814. He ascended the throne after the death of his brother, Kabaka Jjunju, whom he defeated and killed in battle; the Battle of Kiwawu, in 1797. He established his capital at Kasangati in Kyaddondo county. During Jjunju’s reign, Buganda conquered Buddu (present-day Masaka district) from Bunyoro kingdom. His reign was, however, interrupted by the struggle with Prince Ssemakookiro, who rebelled against him. During the rebellion, Semakookiro ordered his men to capture Kabaka Jjunju and bring him to the rebel prince. The expedition went wrong and Kabaka Jjunju was killed during the attempted capture.

When the regiment sent to capture the Kabaka came back to report that they had killed him, Ssemakookiro was so upset that he expelled all the regiment members together with their families and friends from Buganda, or else they would suffer the same fate as his brother. The expelled people fled Buganda; some went westwards to present-day Kitagwenda in Kamwenge district, others to Bunyaruguru in Rubirizi district, and some to Teso, where they came to be referred to as the Bakenyi (visitors) and settled around Lake Kyoga. Others still went as far as Kisumu in Kenya to an island known as Masangano.

According to other historical records published in, among others, Succession to High Office, by Jack Goody (1966) and Ennono n’Enkulaakulana ya Buganda (Culture and Development of Buganda) by Brother A. Tarcus Nsobya (2000), the feud between the two brothers was over a woman, Semakookiro’s wife. Kabaka Jjunju was jealous of Ssemakookiro and killed his wife and unborn child, then sent his brother to live in the Mabira forest, hoping he would die there; but otherwise left him free to recruit soldiers.

According to historians, Jjunju wanted to sleep with Ssemakookiro’s wife but she refused, saying she was pregnant. He replied: “Sure, the pregnancy is mine”, meaning that since he and Ssemakookiro were brothers, he had the right to claim the woman and the child she was carrying. When she resisted, Jjunju ordered his men to cut her up and find out whether the unborn child was male or female. This angered Ssemakookiro, who ordered his men to capture Kabaka Jjunju.

However, one Kisoko who was supposed to arrest the king ordered the mob to kill him instead. Ssemakookiro was incensed and ordered the killing of Kisoko and those involved in his brother’s murder. Kabaka Ssemakookiro died from an affliction, in old age at the Jjunju palace at Kasangati. He was initially buried at the palace, but in 1869, his remains were exhumed and re-buried at Kisimbiri in Busiro county.

Mutebi chosen

Fifty-five years ago, Kabaka Edward Mutesa II made his will, naming the reigning Mutebi II as his heir — a will he assented to on August 6, 1956 before his trusted witnesses; I.T.M Sewanyana, Musa K. Parma Ntanda and Robert H. Ntambi Mukasa in London where he was exiled twice. Mutebi, son of Omuzaana Kabejja and one of Mutesa’s nine children, was only one year old when his father made the will.

According to historical facts wired at Ugandans at Heart website by K.I. Luts on August 2, 2011, Mutesa’s will was translated into English on March 3, 1970 by Andrew Frederick Mpanga, who was living in London, with the approval of the then Katikkiro, Jehoash Mayanja Nkangi.

“Edward Frederick William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Mutesa II of Mengo: This is my will, which I am making in the event of my demise when the Lord pleases to take me away from this world,” Mutesa wrote.
“My child Ronald Frederick Muwenda Mutebi is my heir whom I have chosen to succeed me (to succeed to my Mutuba).”

He, however, clarified that although he was well aware that succession to the throne is decided through election by the Lukiiko, in his will, he wanted to indicate his wish to his people.
“The princes, enumerated in the following order, should be considered first for election: My heir, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi.

As I have not got a son born within wedlock, my said heir should be considered first of all for succession to the Kabakaship; or one of my children, the brothers of Prince Mutebi; or my younger brother, Henry H. Kimera,” Mutesa proposed.


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