“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.
“The current president should be terminated and be replaced with a new president… because the current president spoils the country and the country has never been at peace since he started to rule,” the letter read.
The letter further informs Mr Elliot that Mr Wako, while chief of Bulamogi, lost Shs1,200 in poll tax belonging to government. In 1924, he lost Shs36,000 in poll tax also belonging to government and placed the blame on his brother Yowasi Nyiro. Further accusations against Wako included a claim that in 1934, while president of the Lukiiko, he misappropriated Shs30,000 belonging to the Lukiiko.
“On the account of these bad things, he is unworthy to continue being our ruler as he is not trustworthy and the country doesn’t like him on account of his treacheries which he always does to the chiefs,” Mr Luba wrote.
“Sir, I am not backbiting but I am giving information so that the government may always consider or always examine, carefully, allegations which may be brought against government chiefs.”
Mr Lubogo says the first mistake was made by the colonial government when it chose to elevate two chiefdoms of Bugabula and Bulamogi out of the eleven chiefdoms creating an imbalance among the chiefs.
“They educated and trained Wako and Nadiope hence creating two competing chiefdoms who had been somewhat put on a high pedestal than the rest,” he said.
Cracks begun to widen among the chiefs in 1955 when, through a political manoeuvre by Governor Andrew Cohen, the chiefs were influenced to recall Yosia Nadiope, who had only served for five years.
“Nadiope was politically active and the governor feared that he would rally Busoga against the colonial establishment,” Mr Kakaire said. “The chiefs then chose Henry Wako Muloki - because his father had served well and because he was educated- with a diploma in agriculture”.
Henry Wako Muloki, the son of the first president, went on to occupy the position between 1955 and 1962.
Nadiope harboured a grudge because of the way he had lost the Kyabaingaship. He would go on to resort to politics - the influence of the Uganda Peoples Congress – to return to power.
At the turn of independence in 1962, the Uganda constitution provided that the person who would be Kyabazinga of Busoga on Independence Day would continue holding the post for five years after independence.
Using his political clout, Mr Kakaire says, Sir William Nadiope with the blessings of UPC leader, Dr Apollo Milton Obote, manipulated the Busoga Council to pass a resolution sacking Henry Wako Muloki and electing him as Kyabazinga.
“Because of politics, the ascendance to the office of Kyabazinga ceased being out of mutual consent between the chiefs and the governor to how much political influence one had,” Daniel Lubogo said. “Because Muloki was perceived to belong to Democratic Party he stood no chance since Obote was UPC and Nadiope was his close ally.”
Although the High Court quashed the Busoga Council decision to eject Muloki, Nadiope and Obote pulled a quick one and passed a Busoga Validation Act of 1962, amending the Constitution and validating Sir Nadiope’s election as Kyabazinga and placing him in the positin for life.
“Nadiope’s political activism and selfish interests to get the status like other kings, even if he was not a king, killed it all. It was the source of all the chaos we are now witnessing in Busoga,” Kakaire said.
After ejection, Muloki was, as Kakaire says, given a consolation job in government where he worked until the early 1990s.
Meanwhile, Nadiope who was also the UPC national chairman was, according to Lubogo, entrenching himself, alienating the chiefs who didn’t not approve of his ascendance and then replacing them with UPC stalwarts.
“Hereditary leadership in the chiefdoms was tampered with and that’s why you see many people coming up claiming to be the rightful chiefs,” he said. “If Busoga leadership is to be put right we need to start by streamlining the hereditary leadership in the chiefdoms by installing the actual chiefs in most of those chiefdoms that disagreed with Nadiope.”
However, that line of argument is contested by David Kaunye, the acting Kyabazinga, who says there was no attempt by Nadiope to make himself Kyabazinga for life.
“He became Kyabazinga in 1962 and just as the chiefs and the Lukiiko were preparing to vote on the next leader, in 1967, the kingdoms were abolished by President Obote and that’s how Nadiope came to die on the throne,” he said.
That notwithstanding, Kakaire says Nadiope’s Busoga validation ordinance, had a silver lining for Busoga.
“He wanted to bring permanency in the institution instead of it being truly political that someone had to leave or be recalled after a few years,” he said.
That, however, was never realised. When kingdoms were banned, Nadiope had long passed on.
Trouble started brewing in 1993 when the NRM government restored cultural institutions. Muloki was alive and so it as his place to resume a seat he was unfairly ejected from.
Chaos over who should become the Kyabazinga soon ensued. Nadiope’s grandson, Prince Gabula Nadiope IV, was too young. Several chiefs started claiming that the politics had messed up the rotation and so it was their chance. Those on the Muloki side felt it was just right for him to pick up from where he had left off.
“Muloki is on record saying he was just keeping the seat for the young Gabula and he said it when he came to Kamuli and there is a recording of him,” says Mr Muhammed Kitimbo, an elder from Bugabula chiefdom.
Lubogo says the current fights “are the same old fights”, only that the players are different today and warns that if there is no dialogue, the problem will never be solved.
“People will continue going to courts of law to contest whoever becomes Kyabazinga,” he said. “Busoga is a kingdom still going through kingdom formation and the earlier the Basoga realise that, the better and they will then agree to come on the talking table to decide on the best way forward,” he said.
from the archives
Push for hereditary leadership
In a November 13, 1944 letter, the then Kyabazinga, Ezekieri Wako, wrote to the district commissioner making a case for a permanent leader with a hereditary line and to end the hereditary arrangement of the leadership in counties which he proposed should be opened up to “any capable Musoga”
According to the Kyabazinga, that was the wish of the people of Busoga and was the reason for the several petitions that the people were sending to the colonial government.
“While the protectorate government was considering the various petitions, jealousness filled the minds of big chiefs and they begun to persuade the narrow minded people to re-invent the old system of hereditary Ssaza.
“If they are jealous of one post of Kyabazinga; that it is not good for the tribe, how can one expect that 53 posts of Ssaza will do well and progress the tribe?” he wrote.
He ended his letter, “I am leader of one of the five hereditary clans yet I am not in favour of it (hereditary leadership) because I know that this nature of administration will never help the development of our tribe.”
A document titled Notes on Busoga Native administration Organisation shows that there had been, in 1933 a council vote in favour of non-hereditary clan leadership when the councils of 1944 and 1945 voted 47 to 25 and 53 to 16, respectively
In a confidential letter to provincial commissioner for the east dated, November 24, 1944, the then Busoga district commissioner, B.F.C Childs-Clarke, argued against hereditary leadership because it would lead to continued grumbling among the other chiefs.
“There shall be no divine right for kingship because there is jealousy among the candidates for the throne…although one of the ten chiefs would become Kyabazinga, others would always be able to intrigue and gamble on proving the inefficiency or misbehaviour of the enthroned…,” the letter read.
It was then organised in a way that the office holder was to be chosen by vote of the council from the ministers and county chiefs. Names would be submitted to the Governor for approval and the chosen one would remain in office for as long as he worked well and serves loyally his tribe, the Busoga native administration and the protectorate government.
“The proposal to limit the years of office received only three votes and was not seriously considered,” the archives show.
the 11 chiefs of busoga
Before Uganda became a British Protectorate, Busoga had
eleven independent chiefdoms ruled by the following hereditary chiefs:-
1. The Gabula of Bugabula
2. The Zibondo of Bulamogi
3. The Ngobi of Kigulu
4. The Luba of Bunya
5. The Menha of Bugweri
6. The Wakooli of Bukooli
7. The Ntembe of Butembe
8. The Tabingwa of Luuka
9. The Kisiki of Busiki
10. The Nkono of Bukono
11. The Nanhumba of Bunhole.
Each of these chiefs was completely independent and was equivalent to a