Ankole monarchists’ two decade battle for restoration of kingdom

When NRM restored monarchies, the Obugabe in Ankole became a contested matter in the community. The agitators for its restoration argue that they want the monarchy back for Nkore culture promotion, while those against it argue it was repressive.

Saturday September 22 2012

Charles Aryaija Rwebishengye is installed as the heir of Prince John Barigye recently.

Charles Aryaija Rwebishengye is installed as the heir of Prince John Barigye recently. 



On August 27, a group of monarchists from greater Ankole convened at Rwekishokye Club in Mbarara in yet another move to carry on the struggle for the restoration of the Ankole kingship that has lasted for 19 years now.

The meeting brought together clan leaders in Ankole (there are over 100 clans) to rejuvenate their focus. They drew plans. Among others they want to petition Parliament and start sensitising the young generation about benefits of the kingship. “They were expressing their disappointment over government’s refusal to restore the kingship,” Ankole Kingdom Prime Minister William Katatumba said during a recent interview with Saturday Monitor.

“And there is no giving up, we have drawn plans. We are going to Parliament in a few days and we are rolling out sensitisation campaign targeting the young; those who were born after the kingdom was abolished,” he added.

Even when Ankole Kingship has been in limbo for 45 years and still counting, the monarchists still have hope that at one time in the near future, the institution that ceased to be on September 8, 1967, will rise again.

What derides and equally energises them is the fact that all old kingdoms including the hitherto not much popular compared to Ankole, have been restored.
Even when the key central government figures cast an indifferent posture to the subject on account of its lack of popular support from local masses in Ankole, the resolve of this group downplayed by the anti-kingship group, has not waned since 1993 to date.

Long journey
February 27, 1993 was the birth of this movement. A group of prominent people in Ankole formed Nkore Cultural Trust (NCT) to spearhead the campaign for restoration of the kingship. They included Bishop of Ankole Yoramu Bamunoba, Sheikh Muniru Sebintu, Bishop Amos Bentungura, Y Rwakanuma, P Garubungo, Sheikh Abdu Nuru Kaduyu and James Mugasha.

Six months after August 23, 1993 a delegation of NCT members led by the then Prime Minister and NCT Chairman late James Kahigiriza, the trust patron Prince John Barigye and the Secretary Twinoburyo Omwanawomuntu met President Museveni at State House Entebbe to convince him to allow the restoration of Ankole Kingdom like it had been done in other areas like Toro and Buganda.

Given the repressive and political stance kingships espoused in the past in the community, the President told this group that the kingship was to play only a cultural role and tasked them to first go and sensitise people of Ankole about this role such that there is general acceptability.
However, from the Entebbe meeting, a section of the NCT lead by Prince Barigye went to Kaliro (his home in Kashari) and formed a coronation committee.

On November 20 1993 they gathered at kings burial grounds in Nkokonjeru Mbarara and installed late Prince Barigye as hair to the estate of his father. Mr Barigye, his wife and Mr Kahigiriza then retreated to well-built and decorated huts. Prince Barigye and his wife returned later dressed in befitting kingly robes and suits as the crowd cheered.

They took up their seats next to the Enganzi, Nalinya of Buganda representing the Kabaka, the then regent of Toro kingdom Mr Katuramu and other dignitaries. Mr Kahigiriza declared prince Barigye as the Omugabe (king of Ankole). The Omugabe then performed rituals like, planting millet, yam and receiving milk in a pot as identification that Omugabe was a unifying factor for people of Ankole. The group left for the church service at St. James Cathedral in Ruharo.

Cultural leaders support
The remaining rituals, was to take place at the historical site at Rukoma in Isingiro-the coronation site for the Abagabe. On learning about the development, President Museveni on December 4, 1993 convened a meeting of over 150 civic leaders including sub-county, county, district and area MPs from Ankole in Rwakitura in which the ‘unauthorised’ coronation was slammed.

Since then, a stand-off developed and has continued to grow between those who want the king and the President who argue that the support of the people of Ankole must be sort first and that district councils have to pass resolutions supporting such.

In a November 16-18 2009 Uganda Cultural Leaders Forum in Masindi attended by Barigye, the leaders asked President Museveni to restore Obugabe to which he still declined. Following what transpired at the meeting, the head of cultural leaders Omukama Gafabusa Iguru on November 20, 2009 wrote to district councils in Ankole to pass the resolution supporting restoration.

In December late Prince Barigye met councillors from Mbarara, Bushenyi Ibanda, Ntungamo, Isingiro and Kiruhura districts at his home in Kariro Rubindi Kashari Mbarara and asked them to pass the resolutions to restore Ankole Kingdom. But is alleged that during the meeting councillors received “facilitation.”
As the debate in councils gained momentum, the President’s office wrote to them warning against the move because councillors were reportedly being bribed to pass resolutions.

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