“One thing that should be clear in your mind is that Busoga has never had a king. Remove it from your literature,” said Kakaire Tutu, the minister for culture and research in the Menhya government.
Menhya is a title of the chief of Bugweri chiefdom, one of the 11 chiefdoms of Busoga. Chiefdoms in Busoga tend to have a mini government.
Interactions with different Busoga elders reveals that the post of Kyabazinga was created by the colonial government to enable it have a firm control over the eleven chiefdoms of Busoga that were, at the arrival of the white man, independent states with similar history and language but had refused to enter into a pact with the white man.
Mr Daniel Lubogo, a lawyer who has researched Busoga history, says that even before the advent of foreign influence, the 11 chiefs showed signs of interests in working together.
“They could meet at Bukaleeba in Bunya to discuss issues of common interest and they used to select a chair amongst themselves,” he said.
It was from this arrangement that a colonial official, Mr William Grant, who had been sent to Bukaleeba as the first district commissioner, picked and formed a native chief’s council under his chairmanship in 1894.
When Semei Kakungulu, who had been brought by Governor Bell in 1905 to bring Busoga under a unified system of governance, was dismissed, the 11 chiefs were asked to select from among themselves someone to represent their interests at the seat of the colonial government which was based in Bugembe in Jinja.
Narrations from elders show that all the chiefs, in particular Gideon Ngobi Obodha of Kigulu and Gabula of Bugabula, and Zirabamuzale of Bugweri refused the opportunity and instead picked Ezekieri Tenywa Wako.
“They refused because they didn’t want to leave the comfort of their chiefdoms. They feared they would be killed by tsetse flies which were rampant in Jinja then,” said 76-year-old Dhikusoka James Kiranda, the head of the Baise kiranda clan and one of the genealogists of the Bugweri chiefdom.
Wako, the story goes, was picked because the chiefs regarded him as less of a Musoga. He was referred to as a “Mukedi”- a derogatory word used to describe the group that came from the far east and settled in Busoga and spoke a different language.
“Wako was never picked because he was educated— none of the chiefs were,” said Mr Kakaire. “He was sent to Jinja as a sacrifice because the chiefs thought he would die of tsetse flies.”
Formation of government
The colonial government was galvanising its control by forming a local government through a form of federation with the chiefs delegating all their powers to the one they picked - his title was chairman of the Busoga Lukiiko. This would later change to President, before settling on Kyabazinga on the request of the Busoga Lukiiko in 1939.
Nobody could kneel before the Kyabazinga because he was merely representing the interests of his colleagues; they only bowed while greeting him and there was no cultural function performed when the Kyabazinga was installed. All that was a reserve of the hereditary rulers at chiefdom level.
The chiefs would meet after every three months and get briefings from their representative. It was then that they would choose to change representation, depending on how the incumbent had performed- the position was neither hereditary, nor rotational.
“They picked people who were old enough and would best represent their interests and it was more for administrative cooperation not culture,” Mr Kakaire said. “Actually the governor had the final call on who would be the chairperson and he always picked a person he believed he would work with best,” Mr Kiranda says.
Wako served as chairman of the Lukiiko from 1919 up to 1939 and when the title changed form chairman to Isebantu Kyabazinga of Busoga, Wako was again selected by the chiefs. He served for another ten years before he voluntarily retiring in 1949.
History shows that ascension to the Kyabazingaship was a calm affair in the past without the acrimony being exhibited today.
the role of politics
As early as 1937, there were complaints against Wako.
Documents at the national archives in Entebbe show that on June 8, 1937, the chief of Bunya, Luba Ikulwe, wrote to the then district commissioner, a Mr Eliiot calling for the expulsion of the President of the Busoga Lukiiko over what he called divisive leadership and misappropriation of Bulamogi resources.