Kampala- The acting Kyabazinga is a rather reserved man. He talks with the calmness and collectedness you only see in royals — pausing in between statements as if to reflect on what he has said, before he says anything else.
As we sat in a corner at his home on second lane in Jinja, David Kaune Wakooli fondly spoke about the forthcoming swearing-in of the Lukiiko by President Museveni - It was a week away.
“That is going to be the beginning of a new dawn for Busoga,” he said. “There have been many disagreements, everyone is pulling to their own side, the Basoga have been left aside but if the President comes to Bugembe, I will know that we have started a move to solve all this.”
The swearing-in happened at the close of last month. One of the things the Lukiiko is expected to do is discussing and passing the draft constitution, a document borne out of wide consultations dating back to 2004.
Mr Shaban Nkutu Muziransa, whose firm was hired by the late Henry Muloki to review the constitution, said the late Kyabazinga took the step to review the constitution because he had seen a problem with the status quo then.
He says Muloki had started seeing squabbles among the six hereditary chiefdoms that had been categorised as none Baise-Ngobi and so could not produce a Kyabazinga, yet they had been part of the 11 clans who from inception had been part of the Kyabazinga process.
Ring fencing the Kyabazingaship for only five clans out of 11 had been done under the leadership of Muloki under the belief that the seat was only for those clans believed to be royal clans from Bunyoro.
“Because of that reason some people were indifferent because they were contesting the logic of selecting only five out of the 11 chiefdoms to produce a Kyabazinga,” Mr Muziransa said. “One of the major problems of the Obwakyabazinga bwa Busoga is that the Basoga have never come out to properly own, support and cherish the institution. It has always been lukewarm.”
Mr Kakaire Tutu, the minister for culture and research in the Menhya government, says the lukewarm behaviour of the Basoga towards their region is the continued infighting among those who were supposed to be leaders.
“They should first put themselves right in their own chiefdoms before they start expecting Basoga to listen to them,” he said. ?“You might find that those who are making noise do not even have councils back in their counties,” Mr Kakaire said.
Talking to those who come from the different chiefdoms, the feeling is that of entrenched distrust. Those from Bulamogi argue that most of the current chiefs, but themselves, are imposters installed by Sir William Wilberforce Nadiope for selfish interests.
There have been several incidents where Ms Maureen Walube Kyalya, who was sent to Busoga to fight poverty has paraded old men saying they are the right chiefs.
She is currently in court, through Mayanja Nkangi and Company Advocates, challenging the seat of Menhya of Bugweri. She says the current chief, Samwiri Zirabamuzale Nkutu, is not the right person for the sit.
Ms Kyaalya is married in the Menhya family. When I visited Mr Fred Menha at his country home, he challenged whoever is calling his son to go and tell him the right person to be on the seat.
“Look at the photo (pointing at a wall portrait of the late Menha Zirabamuzale), and look at me,” he said. “That was my father the one I inherited this throne from. I asked my son to take up from me because I am too old and sick. So if there is someone challenging it, let court come and tell me who I am supposed to give it to.”
Such accusations and counter accusations are what you find among the chiefs and those who are close to the royal families.
Mr Daniel Lubogo, a lawyer who also works with the law firm through which Ms Kyalya is challenging the Menha chieftaincy, believes that many of the chief are imposters and they should be weeded out if Busoga is to change.
Lubogo is in the lineage of Yekonia Lubogo who was a prominent Busoga scholar and writer of Busoga history who worked closely with the Zibondo family.
“To streamline the traditional hereditary section of the chiefdoms, we must bring back the actual chiefs who were succeeded by their sons,” he said. “And our people the Basoga must be supportive but it is also our role to help them,” Mr Lubogo said.
Some of the chiefdoms believed to have fraudulent chiefs, he says, are Bugabula where Chief Naika is the right one and the Bugweri Chiefdom.
“The son of Naika was overthrown and Yosia Nadiope was installed as a political arrangement,” he said.
“The challenge is the unity of the people of Busoga through their chiefs,” he said. “We would like to see a united Busoga.”
Giving a sneak peek into the draft constitution, Mr Muziransa however, says the Basoga are interested more in an all-inclusive election process for the Kyabazinga than the politics of chiefdoms.
“They want a Kyabazingaship which will take into account each and everybody’s interests. They are saying that they are all stakeholders and they need to have a hand in one way or another in determining the leadership of Busoga,” he said.
“They are saying that we have the current impasse because the 11 chiefs failed to put in place a Kyabazinga, which I think is true because there have been a lot of differences among the chiefs so they want to widen the electoral college which will not be easily manipulated.”
In explaining the current impasse, Chief Samwiri Nkutu says the fights in Busoga are being fuelled by mainly non-royals who want to keep benefiting from the kingdom.
“They have sold the kingdom land, they are deliberately misleading the chiefs by posturing as their advisers and that has messed up Busoga,” he said.
He further says that the situation is made worse by some Basoga who are close to the President and want the chaos to continue for selfish gains.
Could this be the reason the President, while attending the swearing-in of the Lukiiko last week, said there were some people who had advised him against officiating the function?
Just days to the event, Ms Kyalya and her team were at Bugembe trying to force her way into the kingdom offices on claims that the closed offices had some documents they wanted to pick.
SALE OF KINGDOM PROPERTY
Although there have been claims that the current stewards of the kingdom property have sold them off, the permanent secretary to the kingdom, Mr Abdul Kiranda, said the kingdom doesn’t have sellable property.
“Where is the kingdom land people keep talking about?” he asked. “Busoga kingdom doesn’t have any land.”
On allegations that he has been part of a racket to sell off kingdom property, he said it is unfair propaganda against his name.
“Go to Bugembe and ask the people who sold them the land, they will tell you it was the late Hamza Nsega and that was the Chairman of the Busoga Land Board and he was right to sale because he had been given permission by the prime minister.”
“But as a leader I have learnt to deal with such allegations against my name maybe time will come when I will have to go to court to clear my name. I want to assure people that if there is land or property, I can only sell if I have got the permission form the Prime Minister,” he said.
Mr Ngobi Farouk Jomba, a member from the royal house of Bugabula, insists land and kingdom properties have been sold and seeks Basoga to join the fight to put issues right in Busoga.
“Those who have bought the land will not be chased out but they will be made to pay Busuulu- the annual fee a tenant pays to a landlord,” he said. “Basoga should come to Busoga and we work together for the good of the Kingdom. Those from Bulamogi should work together with the rest of the kingdom instead of being divisive.”
Thirty-eight-year-old Abubaker Ziraba says Busoga has been torn apart because of selfish greedy leaders who took over Bugembe since the death of henry Wako Muloki.
“This is the time for all Basoga to return home to build their kingdom,” he said. “We now have a Busoga Lukiiko so anyone with any grievance should come out and bring the matter for discussion to the Lukiiko.”
Ending the interview, Mr Kaune, who had been the chief prince before being appointed in the acting position, said he is anxiously waiting to hand over to the rightly elected Kyabazinga.
“I can tell you no one will become Kyabazinga by force. That’s not the way we are going to do things here,” he said. “The day we will vote whoever will be rightly elected will rightly seat in the throne and Busoga will rise again.”
The way forward is for Museveni to exercise the powers of governor to guide the Basoga to respect this institution through cooperation and unity.
“To put Busoga right, we need to put the demands and likes of the common Musoga as the highest priority. We need to package our leadership and make it attractive to all the Basoga. That is how even us the royals will have the respect from the people. The Basoga should stop accusing the president of messing up the kingdom because it is entirely up to us to develop this area,”
Samwiiri Zirabamuzale Nkutu the 24th, Chief of Bugweri
The Basoga in Kampala and overseas should mind more about their Kingdom, they should come and we join hands, through their clans or through anyway they want to join in the development of this kingdom. Most of them no longer want to speak Lusoga and they want to hide behind other tribes and even change names. That does not help the kingdom.
Nalugodha Moses (Jinja Resident)
The people want a Kyabazinga and they do not want him to come from the two warring families. Let those two families step aside and we select from the remaining hereditary clans. That is how we will bring sanity in Busoga.
Hajji Majid Musolo (Head of Baise Kisendo clan in Bugweri)
Every Mugweri in this country knows that the seat of the Chief of Bugweri belongs to Zirabamuzale and that’s how the old man(Fred Menha) became the chief and because he was sick, he passed on the leadership to his son and we all sat here as elders and we installed this young man. Whoever is challenging him should come and challenge the old man and the chiefdom of Menha.
Kakaire Sulaiman (Chief Prince Bugweri)