Five office blocks and a library constitute what is known as the Busoga Kingdom headquarters at Bugembe. Two of the blocks are painted and their grounds are neat and there is some human activity going on. They were leased out to Jinja West MP, Moses Balyeku’s Basoga Baino FM.
Adjacent to those is the main building, which houses the Lukiiko Hall, the offices of the Kyabazinga, prime minister and the permanent secretary and two other buildings. The walls are dirty and the lawns would do with some mowing. The parking space is empty and the corridors are very quiet. The place is deserted.
That in a way tells the story of Busoga Kingdom, five years and two days since September 1, 2008 when Kyabazinga Henry Wako Muloki passed on. Although the symbols of its existence remain, one would argue that the kingdom is in dire need of a face lift.
In April 2009, Mr Osman Ahmed Noor, resigned his post as minister for economic monitoring in Busoga Kingdom warning that the cabinet was being eaten by disunity and that the institution of Obwa Kyabazinga was losing credibility.
“The situation at the headquarters has become increasingly untenable. The spirit of brotherhood has since been devoured. This situation has also eroded the public’s confidence in the cabinet’s ability to respond to its concerns and serve as an alternative tool for the mobilisation of the Basoga into a productive and economically viable unit. We now have the unenviable task of proving our relevance to the people,” he wrote.
Back then, no one seemed to understand what he was talking about, but 52 months later, it emerges that his instincts were right. Busoga is at war with itself. Though the High Court in Jinja upheld his much contested October 31, 2008 election and declared him the lawful Kyabazinga, general acceptability and legitimacy continue to elude Prince Edward Columbus Wambuzi, son of the late Muloki.
His main rival, Prince William Gabula IV, backed up by political heavyweights like the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, and some chiefs, still lays claim to the throne.
At the same time, there is Chief Prince (Ssablangira) David Kauhne Wakooli claiming to be the Acting Kyabazinga and Prince David Bogere Gabulare saying he is the caretaker of the Kyabazingaship. Cabinet meetings are hardly held and the kingdom prime minister, Mr Wilson Muwereza, and Prince Kauhne Wakooli, have been embroiled in fights over control of the kingdom’s property with each writing letters dismissing the other from office.
Elders Japhet Bagoole Isabirye and James Kawuta have also been engaged in their own battles over leadership of the clan leaders’ council. None wonders how matters came to this. But if Dr Frank Nabwiso’s paper on the evolution of Obwa Kyabazinga Bwa Busoga is anything to go by, Busoga, which has never been a kingdom in the real sense of the word, seems to be suffering from the effects of its pre-colonial and colonial history.
Busoga, was by the time of its colonization, constituted of 11 equally powerful chiefdoms of Bukono, Bulamogi, Kigulu, Luuka, Bugabula, Butembe, Bunya, Bunyoli, Bukooli and Busiki, which the colonial Governor, Sir William Grant, sought to bring under single rule by establishing the Busoga Lukiiko where each of the chiefs acted as president on rotational basis.
That was in 1913 replaced by a system that required each chief to move to Bugembe and rule for three months. However, tired of that, in 1919, the chiefs opted to elect one among themselves to rule over the region. Subsequent elections saw Ezekiel Tenywa Wako, father of Henry Wako Muloki, and grandfather to Edward Columbus Wambuzi, elected as first president of the Busoga Lukiiko.
In 1939, the chiefs scrapped the title of president and replaced it with that of Isebantu Kyabazinga (Father and unifier) and elected Mr Wako as the first Kyabazinga. It is against this background that many think the Kyabazingaship is meant to be rotational and Kyabazingas only descend from the Muloki and Nadiope lineages. It also explains why chiefs from some counties feel marginalised.
The endless disputes have left the kingdom’s reputation in tatters. It is now perceived as a problem institution. Though Busoga is known to have a very vibrant political group, critics say it has been busy fighting within, leaving little time for mobilisation. The virtual demise of the institution has left the region without an alternative vehicle around which people can be rallied for development.
The absence of a Kyabazinga is also now being used as a scapegoat in the fight against jiggers.
However, after contributing Shs80m, President Yoweri Museveni and Busoga leaders recently agreed that Busoga has no Kyabazinga and that one would only be elected after a new constitution had been ratified.
A draft constitution is ready, but whether it will be of help given that the law which recognises Wambuzi as the lawful Kyabazinga does not work retrospectively, Busoga waits.
Meanwhile, the Busoga Constitutional Review Committee, headed by Jinja lawyer, Mr Shaban Muziransa, are also seeking to resolve some of the issues that have made it impossible for Busoga to have an acceptable and substantive Kyabazinga and establish a sustainable kingdom.
In the meantime, politics will continue to rule over an institution supposed to bring Basoga together culturally.