Rayan Kiwanuka is not your usual Kampala motorcyclist. From the facemask and helmet he wears, to the writings all over his motorcycle, he is a true definition of a moving billboard; not for a telecom company, but for Buganda Kingdom.
The blue and white Buganda flag, with a shield drawn in the middle of the white strip tied between the handles of his motorcycle equally communicates his love for his kingdom.
When the Pewosa programme whose mission was wealth creation through propagation of people-friendly saving, credit and investment models spread its wings to Busiro East at Buloba in 2012, Kiwanuka saw it as an opportunity to start a local radio station, Voice 11.
His aim was to, among other reasons, promote the Pewosa programme as a way of uniting people. He remembers working with a one Miss Luwedde who headed the Powesa programme at Buloba, Lule who was the program Chairman and his deputy, one Moses to popularise the programme.
Then 30 years old, Kiwanuka’s radio station did not stand the test of time much as it had garnered him a certain level of local popularity.
“I was an innovative young man and some locals with authority fought the innovation. The local announcements the locals paid for were no longer coming in and the station wasn’t making any money yet it had to run. The development (radio station) was not welcomed by many,” Kiwanuka starts.
On his death bed, Kiwanuka’s father, the late Morris Kiwanuka who passed on in 2005, urged his son to love and serve the Buganda Kingdom and unite its people. His father’s wish stuck in his mind that when the Kabaka was visiting Ssingo in 2005 during the Masaza cup, Kiwanuka rode his Jaguar motorcycle that he hadn’t taken for a long distance with other motorcyclists to Ssingo.
“Along the way, the motorcycle broke down at Kalangalo. I tried to carry out a quick repair but I didn’t succeed. I cried because I did not complete my maiden journey of escorting the king,” Kiwanuka recalls.
Loving his kingdom
After selling off the radio equipment and getting contributions from well-wishers, including his mother whom he had asked for a loan of Shs100,000 but who instead gave it to him as a contribution, Kiwanuka bought a Bajaj motorcycle at Shs2.5m to start his journey as a commercial motorcyclist in 2016. It was then that he started the Buganda Bumu (One Buganda) Association of which he is the chairman.
He beautifully decorated the Bajaj motorcycle in Buganda colours and within a month, Kiwanuka had earned himself the nickname Mafu mafu because of how popular he had become. His motorcycle was also nicknamed Bombardier by his colleagues because of how carefully he rode his clients. As a matter of fact, Kiwanuka says when there are demonstrations targeting motorcyclists, his bombardier is spared because it is believed to be the spirit of Buganda that is loved by many. It has also, in way, gained him popularity.
“Many people like the motorcycle because it is branded with Buganda colours. I recently rode a client to Buloba Police station a few days ago and instead of giving me Shs5,000 for the journey, they gave me Shs15,000. The client walked around the motorcycle and admired it and it alerted me that many people love Buganda,” recalls.
How he benefits
Kiwanuka and other 24 members who make up the Buganda Bumu Association are selfless motorcyclists who promote unity within Buganda and love for the King with nothing to expect, other than blessings.
“Many motorists hoot at me many times and give me tips. I have received tips of Shs20,000 and Shs30,000 and this keeps me going. It shows there are people who love what I do,” he says.
On one occasion, Kiwanuka was honoured by the Buganda Prime Minister, Charles Peter Mayiga as innovative and creative. On another occasion as the Buganda Bumu Association members participated in community service programme at Bbiira along Mityana Road, Mr Mayiga admired Kiwanuka’s motorcycle that a photo moment was not optional.
“I can park at any motorcycle stage in Kampala and ride away with a client even when I do not subscribe to that stage. I have never met the Buganda King but I am hopeful I will meet him one day. The closest I ever got to the King was waving at him in large crowds,” Kiwanuka says.
Recently when Mr Mayiga was being publicly attacked and criticised for not speaking about the health status of the Kabaka who had appeared not to be in good health as he celebrated his birthday earlier this year, Kiwanuka says he was one of the youth who publicly came out in defence of the Prime Minister around those in his circles.
“We have Baganda who do not like Buganda as a kingdom and want to destroy it. It is hard to point a finger at someone but it is information I have. It hurts me that such people exist and do not wish their own well. It is a shame that there are people from other tribes who love Buganda and its king but the native Baganda do not,” Kiwanuka explains.
Belonging to Buganda Bumu Association
According to Kiwanuka, it only requires you love for Buganda to subscribe as a member of Buganda Bumu Association. The members also have different uniforms worn at different functions wherever the Kabaka goes. You also have to participate in every programme that members of the association are a part of.
“As an association, as we ride following the Kabaka wherever he goes, it is not that we have money to burn fuel but it is something we do out of love. Along the way, we get tips in form of money from people who love the Kingdom and wish us well. We use part of the tips to buy fuel and buy refreshments along the way,” Kiwanuka says.
During one of the trips to Nkoni in Masaka District, Kiwanuka says he reached the destination and had accumulated as much as Shs100,000 in form of tips from well-wishers upon checking his pockets. The well-wishers, Kiwanuka says, are the people who have Buganda and Uganda at heart.
“As an association, we do not want anything from following the Kabaka wherever he goes because we believe he is the one to be given. We are very hopeful that one day we will meet and greet the king as his subjects ,” Kiwanuka adds.
Besides being the Chairman of the association , Kiwanuka was also appointed the Red Cross Ambassador through the Kabaka Foundation. He serves as a mouthpiece of the organisation, at no cost, to encourage motorcyclists to donate blood. During Masaza cup competitions, he ties a megaphone to his motorcycle, encouraging motorcyclists to donate blood, among other causes.
“There was a day I did not leave any money at home and told my wife I had gone for work. I was captured on television the same day encouraging the populace to donate blood and she found out I was lying. She questioned me and I apologised to her. Since then, we agreed that I should never lie to her again,” Kiwanuka recalls.
“Many motorcyclists wish to join the group but I decided to have a small number for easy control and follow up. Everyone in the association knows each member’s home in Kampala and their upcountry roots. We occasionally take time to visit each other,” Kiwanuka says.
Majority of the Buganda Bumu Association members are from Buganda, except one who is from Busoga. If entry into the group is revised to accommodate more members, Kiwanuka says he would not mind about the tribe or origin of members as long they share a common cause- uniting Buganda.
Advice to motorcyclists
Kiwanuka urges fellow motorcyclists to be good listeners. For instance, when Covid-19 broke out in Kampala, he drew the Uganda map on a metal plate and engraved it with words, “Buganda let us fight Covid-19” as a way of attracting other riders’ attention.
“Most motorcyclists have not embraced the fight against Covid-19. Many still carry two passengers as well as those without facemasks. I urge all motorcycle passengers and riders to observe the recommended standard operating procedures. It is also important that you maintain discipline to earn respect from your clients,” Kiwanuka advises.