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Govt now disowns all kings

All 14 kings removed from official government gazette

Government has quietly removed all 14 kings from the official list of recognised traditional and cultural leaders in the country.

On August 4, the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mary Karooro Okurut, wrote to Jacqueline Kaggwa, the managing director of the Uganda Printing and Publishing

Corporation (UPPC), official publishers of the Uganda Gazette, annulling legal notice number 303 of 2014, which lists all recognised traditional and cultural leaders.

The letter titled, Annulment of general notice N0. 303 of 2014, says: “This is to request you to de-gazette the names and titles of traditional or cultural leaders, which appeared in the Uganda Gazette, legal notice number 303 of 2014.”

UPPC received the letter on August 6, and agreed to publish an extraordinary gazette, annulling the names and titles of the kings. Okurut’s letter followed a July 17, 2014 letter from her Permanent Secretary, Pius Bigirimana, which was rejected by UPPC on grounds that it broke the law.

“According to the Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act of 2011, sections 6 and 8, it is the minister who has the powers to cause for either the gazetting or de-gazetting [of any traditional or cultural leader]. So, we require a letter/notice signed by your minister to the effect,” UPPC’s Kaggwa wrote to Bigirimana.

Until the annulment, government recognised 14 kings, according to the gazette. Published on April 24, 2013, the list surprisingly had one Martin Kamya Ayongi who was installed on May 30, 2014 as the Omudhingiya (king) of Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba. His enthronement in May came exactly one year and six days after he was
gazetted as king.

His enthronement sparked protests in Tooro and Rwenzururu kingdoms. Both Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru (Tooro) and Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere (Rwenzururu) accused President Museveni of subdividing their kingdoms.

Interestingly, when the minister of state for Gender and Cultural Affairs, Rukia Isanga Nakadama, presented the list in Parliament last November, it had only 13 recognised cultural leaders in accordance with the 2011 Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act.

The Omudhingiya was conspicuously missing. But when the list was gazette in April this year, he was in. Top on that list was Buganda’s King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, followed by Phillip Ubim Olarkel Rauni III (Alur), David Onen Acana II (Acholi) and Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I (Bunyoro).

Others are, Apollo Ssansa Kabumbuli II (Kooki), Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV (Tooro), Yosam Odur (Lango), the Kwar Adhola (Adhola), Constantine Butamanya Mwogeza Mwatyansozi I (Buruuli) and Augustine Osuban Adugala (Teso).

The list also had Charles Wesley Mumbere Iremangoma (Rwenzururu), Bishop John Chrizestom Wayabire (Bugwere), Wilson Weasa Wamimbi (Inzu Ya Masaaba) and Martin Kamya Ayongi (Bwamba). Buganda challenged the list, noting that it showed there were three kings within Buganda.

Mengo argued that the list was in breach of the August 1, 2013 agreement it had signed with the central government.

No longer kings?

Karooro’s letter does not give reasons why the kings are suddenly removed from the official government list. At the ministry, some officials who declined to be named advanced several theories. One such theory points to last month’s clashes in the Rwenzori sub-region, in which about 90 people were killed.

Government blamed the clashes largely on tribal conflicts ignited by the Bakonzo who were angered by Kamya’s installation as the Omudhingiya. Several government officials, notably the Internal Affairs minister Gen Aronda Nyakayirima and President Museveni, hinted at the possibility of restraining traditional leaders.

Interviewed on Thursday, Karooro sounded unfamiliar with the contents of her letter.

“Does it [the letter] say that all the traditional leaders have to be de-gazetted? Then honestly I don’t know, I think you will need to talk to the director for Gender [Jane Mpagi],” Karooro said.

Mpagi, on her part, said the minister was simply “doing her job.”

“We discovered that there were some inadequacies, and we also had complaints from the legal fraternity that the titles of some of the [kings] were not in consonance with the Constitution, and some were not cultural,” Mpagi said.

To address the inconsistencies, Mpagi explained, the only option was to withdraw the list because the country has many more kings than those listed. The leaders will, however, continue receiving their perks from government, The Observer learnt. Abdul Katuntu, the shadow attorney general, said de-gazetting the kings means they are no longer recognised by the government.

The Uganda Gazette, he said, is the only source of what is officially recognized by government.

“Government does not want to commit itself to which traditional leaders are recognized, it may be backtracking on some leaders they had refused to recognize, like the Omusinga, but were forced by circumstances,” Katuntu said in an interview on Thursday.

“It could be the first step towards non-recognition of traditional institutions,” Katuntu added.

Another lawyer, Abdallah Kiwanuka, said Karooro’s letter has clearly taken the country back to the 1966 crisis when Prime Minister Apollo Milton Obote abolished monarchies.

“It means no more kingdoms, no more traditional leaders; they are just as ordinary as any other Ugandan,” Kiwanuka said.

But Buikwe South MP Dr Lulume Bayigga, said government recognition amounts to nothing.

“As long as the degazetting does not amount to abolition, then it is inconsequential to the existence and standing of genuine [kings],” Bayiga said.

Kingdom officials interviewed yesterday expressed shock at the development. Bunyoro’s minister for the Diaspora, Liaison and Cabinet Secretary, Phillip Katahoire,
said the matter was too sensitive for him to comment.

“Now that is too sensitive for me to handle, I think it is above me; that should be handled by the Omuhikirwa [Rev Jackson Nsamba Kasozi],” he said by telephone.

The Omuhikirwa [prime minister] did not pick or return our calls. At Mengo, the seat of Buganda kingdom, the news was described as unfortunate.

“If it is true, then it is unfortunate. What reasons are they giving? What has changed since the restoration of the kingdoms? Why now?”

Denis Ssengendo Walusimbi, the kingdom spokesman, asked.

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