Why kingship is illegitimate in Ankole

Sunday October 28 2012

In 2009, when police blocked Buganda Kingdom officials from going to Kayunga District

In 2009, when police blocked Buganda Kingdom officials from going to Kayunga District, violent riots errupted in Kampala resulting in destruction of property worth billions of shillings. File Photo 

By Mwambutsya Ndebesa

Let it be known to Apollo Makubuya and those who think like him that there is no need for a peace and reconciliation commission on Ankole Kingdom’s restoration. To the contrary, there is a need for a peace and reconciliation commission in kingdom areas like Buganda, where the monarchies were restored since 1993 or have just been newly established such as the Rwenzori region. There has been tension in Buganda region between Mengo and the small communities in Buganda such as the Baruli, Banyala, Bamoli, and to some extent, Bakoki, where the latter groups are seeking recognition and identity in Buganda and the former is asserting its hegemony. The tension between the Banyala of Bugerere and Mengo over the Kabaka’s visit resulted in bloodshed in Kampala in 2009.

I have watched some unfortunate drama unfolding in Busoga region over the succession dispute for the Kyabazingaship. The clashes in that region have been on TV for everybody to watch. The controversy over Tooro Kingdom leadership resulted in the assassination of Prince Kijanangoma and the tension has never really died. Today, as I write this article, police are on high alert in the Rwenzori region where the Bamba and Basongora communities have rejected the Mukonzo king from Kasese and the former have already crowned their kings and the latter is trying to assert its hegemony. So Makubaya, is it in Ankole and other republican areas of Uganda where there is need for a peace commission or in monarchical areas such as Buganda, Busoga, Tooro and now Rwenzori area as there is a threat of communal violence?!

Makubuya, in his article, rubbishes Banyankole Cultural Foundation’s (BCF) historical argument that Ankole is a British creation. He is entitled to his flame of mind which informs his interpretation of history but the historical facts on Ankole creation are clear. Let it be known that there is a difference between Ankole and Nkore, just as there is a difference between Uganda and Buganda. Admittedly the name Ankole, since 1901 is derived from Nkore (which existed from around 1500 AD to 1901) just as Uganda is a derivative from the noun Buganda. However, just as Uganda is bigger than Buganda and the latter cannot be equal to the former, so is Ankole and Nkore.

Actually the Banyankore (note with “r”), the original inhabitants of the small kingdom of Nkore are today a numerical minority in the larger territory of Ankole, which has only existed since 1901.

Makubuya refers to S.R. Karugire while trying to show how Ankole predates colonialism. It appears Makubuya just heard about the book but never read it. The book in question is titled “A history of the Kingdom of Nkore in Western Uganda to 1890”. Karugure, arguably an authority on Nkore, was very careful not to confuse Nkore with Ankole. He never pretended to have written the history of pre-colonial Ankole and would only make occasional references to the other kingdoms such as Mpororo, Igara, Buhweju and Buzimba in as far as the latter were neighbours to Nkore.

What Karugire says in his book
In the said book, Karugire clearly shows how the other kingdoms were forcefully merged into Nkore to form the larger Ankole in 1901. There is even a map in that book showing the pre-colonial Nkore and colonial Ankole boundaries. On page 233 of his book, Karugire states “these areas (sic) were eventually merged into Nkore Kingdom not because of the latter’s control over them in the past, but because the British forced them into the union”. The King of Buhweju Kingdom, Ndagara, together with his son Nyakiiga, were shot dead by the British before merging Buhwerju with Nkore. In 1901 before the Agreement, King Musinga of Igara Kingdom committed suicide rather than face the indignity of his kingdom being merged with Nkore.


Therefore the purported Bahinda-led kingship in Ankole is not legitimate in the eyes of Banyankole because it was an imposition by the British and has no historical and cultural roots and ties with the majority of Banyankole (note with “l”). Indeed the resistance against the Bahinda rule in Ankole did not start with the current Banyankole Cultural Foundation (BCF).

In the 1940s there was a very active anti-obugabe movement known as “Kamanyana” and when kingdoms were abolished in Uganda in 1967, the people of Buganda where kingship was legitimate and popular mourned while in Ankole where it was illegitimate, people jubilated. When Amin came to power in 1971, the Banyankole elders quickly signed a memorandum to Idi Amin requesting him not to restore the obugabe.
During the Odoki constitutional commission hearings in the run up to CA in 1994, the Banyankole overwhelmingly rejected the restoration of obugabe. There have been many meetings of LC5 councillors in Ankole and the majority have repeatedly rejected the restoration.

Makubuya and the like argue that the monarchists in Ankole have a right to their culture. That’s fine. Nobody has stopped them from exercising their right of practicing their culture provided they do not impose it on others. Just like in a democratic country, when a leader of the majority party becomes a head of state after elections, the opposition parties have a right to exist and carry out their functions without interference from government.

However, the leader of opposition in such a case cannot declare himself the president of the whole country. He would be accused of treason. Likewise the minority monarchists in Ankole cannot impose obugabe on reluctant Banyankole and declare Ankole a monarchist society when the majority are republicans! Let the monarchists adore their king, pay respects to him, dance or kneel before him and perform any activity without hindrances provided they do not define Ankole society as a monarchical society through imposing a kingdom on republicans.

Would a restored obugabe be harmful to republican Banyankole? Yes, the obugabe institutions in the whole of Ankole were founded and maintained on promoting cultural hegemony. The cultural space or rather political space in Ankole was monopolised by a few ruling clans who were a minority. Because the rulers were a minority, they sought to control people through use of soft power (cultural ideology) to keep the majority subjects loyal.

Therefore, the obugabe has been rejected mainly on two grounds. It is illegitimate in the eyes of Banyankole and they are also mindful of the dangers of the potential of soft power perpetuated through the cultural hegemony of the monarchist group who still aspire to restore their hegemony over the majority Banyankole.

The writer is a senior lecturer at Makerere University