Bamasaba institution on brink of collapse

Monday August 31 2020
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The outgoing Bamasaba cultural leader, Umukukha Bob Mushikori, at a function in Mbale District on August 27. PHOTO/ FRED WAMBEDE

The Bamasaba Cultural Institution in Bugisu Sub-region is on the brink of collapse as voices calling for its dissolution grow among the subjects, Daily Monitor has learnt.

The institution, which had its first cultural head, Uwelukosi Umukukha, in 2010, Mr Wilson Wamimbi, has been embroiled in leadership troubles since its initial years but the crises blew up, early this year over the election of the new Umukukha.

Currently, the institution has two parallel groups, one affiliated to the current Umukukha, Mr Bob Mushikori, and the other to Mr James Kangala, the former secretary general of the institution.

Each group has failed each other’s attempts to organise the elections for the new Umukukha.
Mr Francis Wanyina, one of the opinion leaders, told Daily Monitor that the only solution now is to dissolve the institution and find a way forward.
“It is unfortunate that there are a few elements that have captured and personalised the institution. They have held Bamasaaba at ransom even when they know they no longer have legal force,” Mr Wanyina said.
He said there is a need to come up with a new curltural organisation, which is grounded with better reforms, adding that the existing one was formed in a rush.

“We need a new organisation because this one now has ‘diabetes’ and it is irreparable,” Mr Wanyina, who worked as a consultant during the election of the first Umukukha, said.

The institution’s troubles worsened following the general assembly, which was held in Mabanga-Bungoma in Kenya on April 1, 2019.

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It was during that general assembly that some leaders in strategic positions in the institution but opposed to the leadership of the current Umukukha, were reportedly voted out.

The political analysts say this was an attempt by Mr Mushikori, who was elected in 2015, to shield his seat.
Those who were voted out include Mr Kangala, the speaker of the general assembly, Mr Nelson Wedaira and chairperson of culture council, Mr Christopher Bunoti.

They were replaced by Mr Geoffrey Wetpondi, the secretary general of the institution, Ms Rose Nelima, the speaker of the general assembly and Mr Omar Njofu as the chairperson of the culture council.

The State minister of Gender and Culture, Ms Peace Mutuuzo, in her May 27 letter said the decisions taken by the general assembly were null and void.

However, the leaders affiliated to Mr Mushikori have rejected the minister’s guidance and refused to vacate their positions.

Two weeks ago, Mr Kangala called for a special general assembly to elect the new Umukukha on August 26 but the elections were stopped by court after his rival, Mr Wetpondi secured an August 24 court restraint order, stopping all electoral activities.

“An order maintaining the status quo and staying the election process of the applicant’s next cultural leader, Umukukha 111, pending determination of the miscellaneous cause no.15 of 2020,” an August 24 letter signed by the resident Judge of Mbale High Court, Justice Jesse Byaruhanga, reads in part.

The candidates who had been listed to compete for the position included Mr Cosma Busima Mafabi from Sulani clan, Mr Mike Jude Mudoma from Muyobo clan, Mr Patrick Womakuya from Lagu clan and Amran Wagabyalire from Halasi clan.

Mr Peter Mukhooli, a resident, blames the troubles on Mr Mushikori, saying he surrounded himself with too many idlers. “The idlers have helped him to kill our institution but it is only unfortunate that even among themselves, nobody wants to bury it,” he said.

Mr Akim Watenyeri, another opinion leader, said greed for power started slowly killing the institution during its initial stages.

In 2013, another cultural leader, Mr Wash Joseph Kanyanya, going by the title Umukhungu Bukusu, was installed in Bududa District. Mr Kanyanya’s installation has remained a thorn in the unity of the Bamasaba.

“This cultural institution thing is not in our blood that is partly why it has been staggering since its inception,” he said.

Mr Kangala, however, told Daily Monitor, that people who are talking about dissolving the institution are ditractors.
The handover ceremony of the current Umukukha is supposed to take place before November 28 but it might not be possible.

Mr Weptondi said they went to court to correct the wrong, which was about to happen. “We went to court so that it pronounces itself on how best the institution can be managed,” he said.

Mr Wetpondi said confusion in the institution started after Mr Kangala’s group wanted to impeach the Umukukha, something they vehemewntly opposed.

Mr Kangala’s faction accused Mr Mushikori of incompetence, misuse of office, poor dress code, among others, which Mr Mushikori dismissed.

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