A section of clan leaders in Sebei Sub-region on Tuesday elected a new king of Sebei cultural institution amid protests by the leaders of Kapchai clan who claim the seat is hereditary.
Mr Stephen Kapkweyin Chemonges, 70, was declared king during an election, which took place at Binyinyi Church of Uganda in Binyinyi Town Council in Kween District.
Mr Chemonges, a resident of East Division, Kapchorwa Municipality in Kapchorwa District, has been one of the candidates aspiring to be the king of yet-to-be registered Sebei cultural institution for long.
The meeting was attended by 100 clan leaders from the districts of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo, which make up the sub-region.
It was characterised by disruptions from those protesting the decision.
Police led by the officer in–charge of Kween Central Police Station, Mr Gastone Twinamasiko, attempted to block the meeting but in vain.
The clan leaders, who reportedly constituted the supreme cultural council, insisted and unanimously declared Mr Chemonges as king.
Mr John Yeko Mangusho, the chairman of the electoral body, said despite the continued denunciations from opposing groups, Mr Chemonges remains the rightful elected cultural leader for now.
“Mr Chemonges is duly elected king and he is going to start the work of ensuring the institution is formerly recognised and respected,” he said.
Mr Twinamasiko, however, said the process was illegal because the pronouncement was made after he had closed the meeting.
“I stopped the meeting because of security concerns and whatever they did afterwards was not genuine. That was an illegality and will remain so,” he said.
He added that they have confiscated the stamps and documents affirming the election of the new king.
“We had to stop the meeting because angry youth were vandalising church property and causing insecurity,” Mr Twinamasiko said.
The Kween Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Denis Balwaniregho, expressed shock about the news of the elected cultural leader.
“I was invited to attend the meeting not an election. I am shocked that they elected a king but that was illegal,” he said.
The election of Mr Chemonges comes a few months after another group of elders in February this year, forwarded the name of Lawrence Mutai, 36, to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development for both approval and registration as the head of the Sebei cultural institution.
Mr Mutai is a resident of Chemutare Village, Tegeres Sub-county in Kapchorwa District, son of Kapchai clan and was reportedly appointed with guidance of ‘Prophet’ Mukung Tafala.
Mr Simon Nyangas, an elder, said the election of Chemonges as king was null and void because it was conducted without the knowledge of the clan prophets and district leaders.
“It was an illegal meeting organised by opportunists. They were looking for personal interests, not Sebei as a region,” he said.
Mr Nyangas said Mr Mutai remains the rightful person.
What others say
Ms Emma Rose Cherukut, the RDC for Kapchorwa, said the government is willing to grant them the cultural institution but everything should be done within the law.
“It’s unfortunate that my people are rushing and many of them are interested yet the position is one,” she said.
The chief executive director of Sebei Cultural Centre, Mr Kalifani Chemutai, however, maintained that the elders should first register the cultural institution before they rush to appoint the leader.
Mr Sam Cheptoris, the minister of Water and Environment, who also doubles as MP for Kapchorwa Municipality, said he has no problem with who the people elect as long as that person is loved by the people.
“As leader, I have no objection as long Mr Chemonges was subjected to the will of the people,” he said, adding that people of Sebei are also interested in sharing the national cake given to cultural heads.
Mr Chemonges, who is a retired civil servant and chairperson of Kapchogen clan, said he will use the position to fight female genital mutilation and solve border disputes between Bugisu and Sebei.