There has been a silver lining on the dark cloud that has covered Busoga’s kyabazingaship for the last six years.
The fight for the throne between Prince Columbus Wambuzi (son of former Kyabazinga Henry Wako Muloki) and Prince William Gabula IV (son of Prof Arnold Wilson Nadiope Gabula III) was always going to be sorted on one ground – education.
Since its inception in the early 20th century, the kyabazingaship has always been for the highly-educated prince. Busoga has had only three Kyabazingas: Ezekiel Tenywa Wako, Sir William Wilberforce Nadiope Kadhumbula Gabula II and Henry Wako Muloki. All three were educated princes.
It is surprising that Wambuzi never saw this coming. With all the money that his father had, it is shocking to hear conflicting information that Wambuzi is a secondary school dropout. The 24-year-old Gabula, on the other hand, has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree from Kyambogo University.
Gabula, who currently works as a development analyst with ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, will soon be leaving for his master’s degree studies in the UK. This is why his coronation was hastily arranged on Saturday.
Wambuzi’s job record is unclear. We are told that he somehow got close to President Museveni, something that seemed to work in his favour as he tried to push his way to the throne, following his father’s death in 2008. At the time, it looked like Museveni was comfortable keeping Muloki’s lineage than Gabula’s, whose grandfather, Wilberforce, belonged to Uganda People’s Congress (UPC).
Yes, politics plays the other part in the kyabazingaship. That is why as Museveni remained undecided, several faces came up claiming the throne. One actually walked into some newsroom and declared himself Kyabazinga. The impression that has been created is that the kyabazingaship is open to any Musoga, which is not true.
The kyabazingaship is actually for the most highly-educated prince from the five chiefdoms eligible for kyabazingaship. It is the principle that was set at the time of creation of a united Busoga.
Prior to this, the Basoga were organized in 11 semi-autonomous chiefdoms. These were Bugabula, Bulamogi, Bukono, Kigulu, Luuka, Butembe, Bunya, Busiki, Bunhole, Bugweri and Bukooli. When Uganda became a British protectorate, attempts were made to create a central form of administration, as was the case in Buganda. The colonialists formed the Busoga Lukiiko [Parliament] in 1894 – with its headquarters at Bukaleba in Mayuge, before they were moved to Iganga (Kigulu) and later Bugembe in Jinja (Butembe).
All the 11 hereditary chiefs were members of the Lukiiko , and were expected to move to Bukaleba. The first head of the Lukiiko used the title “president”, and was Governor Sir William Grant. But because of language barrier, Grant had issues communicating with the chiefs, which forced the colonialists to hire their Muganda cadre, Semei Lwakirenzi Kakungulu, in 1906 to become the new president. Kakungulu had, at first, negotiated with the colonialists that they give him the title of ‘king’, but they refused.
However, because he was not a Musoga, wrangles amongst the different chiefs and clans continued. Kakungulu was removed in 1913, ushering in rotational leadership, which required every chief to leave his palace and move to Bugembe and rule for three months. This system lasted until 1919.
History has it that the colonial rulers had groomed Chief Yosia Nadiope (of Bugabula) to become the first Musoga president.
He had been enrolled at Naminage Missionary School before he was transferred to Mengo Central School. Following the opening of King’s College Budo, he was transferred to Budo in 1906 – becoming one of the pioneer students. However, the colonial rulers’ dream did not come to pass when Nadiope died of malaria at the age of 24 in 1913.
Good enough, the following year (1914), Chief Ezekiel Tenywa Wako (of Bulamogi) completed his studies at King’s College Budo. With the British support, a good educational background as well as being a prince, Wako was a suitable candidate for the top post.
In 1919, Wako, the father of Muloki, was elected to become president of the Busoga Lukiiko . Chief Gideon Obodha of Kigulu, a contending candidate for the post, was not familiar with the British system, while Wilberforce, who succeeded Yosia Nadiope at the age of three, was still an infant. His regent Daudi Kintu Mutekanga was a ‘mukoopi’ (a commoner) who could not run for the post.
In 1925, Wako became a member of the Uganda kings council, consisting of the Kyabazinga of Busoga, Kabaka of Buganda, the Omukama of Bunyoro, Omukama of Tooro and Omugabe of Ankole.
In 1939, Basoga got tired of the title “president”, which they perceived as colonial. They sought an indigenous title for their leader. They came up with the title “Isebantu Kyabazinga”, translated as “father who unites us”. On February 11, 1939, Wako was installed as the first Isebantu Kyabazinga wa Busoga, until 1949 when he retired due to old age.
The Busoga Lukiiko , then, resolved that the Kyabazinga shall always be elected among the five lineages of Abaise Ngobi (Babiito) hereditary rulers, who were traditionally believed to have been the five sons of Bunyoro’s prince Mukama Namutukula that came to Busoga in the 16th century. These are Nkono, Zibondo, Gabula, Ngobi of Kigulu and Tabingwa. Although Wakooli and Menya also claim to have come from Bunyoro, they were locked out together with the other four chiefdoms who trace their origin largely on Kintu and Nambi.
As a result, Wilberforce, who was a highly-educated prince, was elected Kyabazinga in 1949. He served two three-year terms before he was replaced in 1956 by Muloki. When UPC took power in 1962, Wilberforce bounced as Kyabazinga, amidst controversy. He served until kingdoms were abolished in 1967.
Muloki bounced back on July 27, 1991 when he was, once again, elected by the royal chief’s council and the Busoga Lukiiko , following the restoration of kingdoms. But since his death on September 1, 2008, the election of the new Kyabazinga had been marred with controversy – until last month when there was consensus from ten chiefdoms on Gabula IV.
The author is a journalist with The Observer