Three years after Banyala leaders advocated for a king and slapped a ban on the king of Buganda from visiting Kayunga District, the leaders say they have achieved what they wanted and have no regrets.
The Banyala say in the three years of ‘autonomy’, the kingdom has been able to establish itself and offer scholarships for at least 200 subjects, among others.
Speaking on Thursday to this newspaper, Bunyala Kingdom spokesperson James Rwebikire said since 2009 when they became ‘independent’, the Ssabanyala Capt. Baker Kimeze has assumed full control of the kingdom and has carried out mobilisation activities geared at improving the socio-economic status of the kingdom.
“We had for long been oppressed under Buganda Kingdom after the British and its Buganda allies fought Bunyoro where we belonged and after winning the war, we were forcefully assimilated by Buganda, which resulted in abandoning our culture,” Mr Rwebikire said.
“Because of this, we had no leader to mobilise us so our area lagged behind in development because Mengo was doing little to ensure that the area attains equal development like the rest of the counties in the kingdom.”
The Banyala root their struggle for independence in the premise that they are non-Baganda and the areas in which they live should not be claimed by Buganda Kingdom. And based on this, in 2009, they asked the Kabaka to seek permission from the Ssabanyala before visiting the area to preside over the annual Buganda Youth Day celebrations, something Mengo rejected, saying the Banyala are under the Kabaka of Buganda.
The ban resulted in the September 2009 Buganda riots that left 27 people dead, thousands injured and lots of property worth billions of shillings was destroyed. Government also barred Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi from visiting Kayunga citing insecurity.This, Mr Rwebikire says, has improved and built capacity of the people in the kingdom.
“With a well educated population, we have begun realising faster development of the area and we have exported labour to Arab countries, thus creating jobs for our people,” he says.He adds that owing to the independence of the kingdom, they have embarked on construction of a Shs2b Ssabanyala’s palace in Bbale town. Located on a three-acre piece of land, and still on the foundation stage, the double storeyed building will have offices for kingdom officials according to Mr Rwebikire.
“With the 25-man cabinet in place, we have tried to establish warm relationship with other kingdoms in Uganda and outside. But above all, our tribe is now recognised by all people and the Banyala are happy to be called so unlike in the past when it was an abuse to be called a Munyala,” Mr Rwebikire, who is the private principal secretary to the Ssabanyala, said.
The district vice chairperson, Mr Joseph Ouma, however, says it is hard for the district leadership to know what the Banyala had achieved in the three years owing to the fact that the leaders don’t directly take part in their activities.
“We recognise them as an independent kingdom and we are enjoying a warm relationship with the Ssabanyala and kingdom leaders,” Mr Ouma said. But despite this, the challenge ahead for the kingdom is enormous, ranging from acceptance of the king by his subjects to the official installation.
Though the government has recognised Capt. Kimeze as the king by giving him a vehicle, a monthly upkeep allowance of Shs5 million and guards, his installation has been postponed twice under unclear circumstances.
State minister for culture Rukiya Nakadama said the government was ready to officiate at the coronation of the Ssabanyala so long as the kingdom organises and fulfills all the constitutional requirements but the kingdom faulted the government for postponing the coronation. Bunyala Kingdom is made up of nine sub-counties that make Kayunga. A section of the population continues to pay homage and respect to the Buganda King.
And because of this, the Ssabanyala rarely appears in public and only presides over kingdom functions in Bbale County, where the majority of his loyal subjects are located. Mr Ssevume Musoke, the Bugerere Mengo County chief says the Ssabanyala is a self-imposed title because it had never existed.
“Mengo had Namuyonjo who was heading that area but not Ssabanyala. He was put in place just to create disunity among the Baganda,” Mr Musoke, who insists Banyala are still under the Kabaka, says. Mr Rwebikire also points at inadequate funds as one of the obstacles that are affecting their activities like mobilising residents for development and construction of the Palace and also the fact that many Banyala are landless.
This has negatively affected food production in the area leading to food insecurity in homes coupled with hostile climatic conditions in the area.
Buganda continues to chest thumb
Despite spending three years without visiting Kayunga, the Mengo government maintains that the district is under the jurisdiction of the Kabaka and he will visit the place when he wishes. Buganda Kingdom spokesperson Mr Peter Mayiga says arrangements at an opportune time would be made to have him visit the area.
“Even though the Kabaka has taken three years without going to Kayunga, his ministers and other Mengo officials have been going to the area and carrying out Kabaka’s tasks in the district like the recent free health camp at Kayonza Sub-county organized by Mengo,” Mr Mayiga said.
The Kabaka has also appointed Mr Kumama from Kayunga as state minister for cooperatives as a sign that Kayunga is still under him. “Life is full of challenges but we know we shall achieve more as our kingdom grows,” Mr Mayiga adds.