Bunyoro wants public holiday for Kabalega

Omukama Kabalega being laid to rest at Mparo, Hoima District. He died in 1923 in Busoga region.  Photo | File 

What you need to know:

  • Omukama Kabalega died in Jinja on April 6, 1923, a day that Bunyoro Kingdom wants central government to designate as a public holiday. 

The Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom has asked the government to consider designating April 6 as a public holiday in honour of King Kabalega who made resistance against British colonial forces during the 19th Century.

The Omukama Kabalega died in Jinja on April 6, 1923.

The Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Mr Andrew Byakutaga, asked the lawmakers from Bunyoro Sub-region to table a motion in Parliament and push it through to enable the government to gazette the day.

“King Kabalega’s steadfast defence of our sovereignty and values deserves national recognition. He is known for his courageous resistance against colonial rule and holds a significant place in Uganda’s history and identity,” he said on Saturday.

Mr Byakutaga said the late Kabalega still holds significant historical importance in Uganda for his determination and leadership in the face of hardship, which earned him widespread admiration and respect, not only within the Bunyoro Kingdom but across Uganda as a whole and that he deserves to be honoured.

Former king of Buganda Mwanga (left) and his Bunyoro counterpart Kabalega. They were both believed to have been poisoned. 

“Many believe that honouring King Kabalega with a public holiday would not only pay tribute to his legacy but also serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by Ugandans in the struggle for independence and self-determination,” he added.

He further said Kabalega was a symbol of resilience and unity, stating that declaring April 6 as a public holiday would allow Ugandans to reflect on their history and cultural heritage.

The kingdom also proposed to the government to rename landmarks such as Murchison Falls National Park to Kabalega and Lake Albert to Lake Mwitanzige.

They have also launched initiatives aimed at commemorating the heroic resistance of King Kabalega against colonial rule and revitalising economic activities to revive the once vibrant trading legacy of their departed king.

According to Bunyoro Kingdom, there is a need to unlock economic opportunities for people in the sub-region to embrace its cultural heritage as a catalyst for fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and community cohesion as a way of cultural preservation and safeguarding once trading traditions and customs.

Mr Byakutaga further stressed the importance of preserving and passing on cultural knowledge to younger generations, urging elders to impart their wisdom. Additionally, the kingdom plans to support historical writers to correct distortions in Bunyoro history caused by colonial influences.

“His bravery and commitment to the welfare of the Bunyoro people serve as a beacon of inspiration for generations to come. His patriotic stance, even in the face of promises and bribes from colonial forces, cannot just be forgotten,” Mr Byakutaga said.

Bunyoro Kingdom also announced plans to provide support for historical writers, the initiative that aims at ensuring the accurate portrayal of Bunyoro’s rich heritage and counter misconceptions propagated by colonial ideologies.

Despite these annual calls to designate April 6 in honour of Kabalenga, the central government has always remained tight-lipped about the issue.

About Kabalega

Kabalega was born on June 18, 1853 to King Kyebambe IV Kamurasi Mirundi Rukanama and Kanyange Nyamutahingurwa Abwooli. He was the 23rd King of the Babiito dynasty.

He became King of Bunyoro in 1869 when he was still 16 years old. Kabalega led a historic revival of the kingdom and registered several victories in reclaiming lost territories, increased food production, cattle keeping, and trade given that Bunyoro was the center of iron smelting at that time, and had the Kibiro Salt Works.

Royal tomb of King Kabalega near Hoima. PHOTO | RUPI MANGAT | NMG 

Omukama Kabalega built diplomatic relationships between Bunyoro and other states and expanded the geographical boundaries of the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom. He promoted both local and international trade in the Kingdom.

He was captured in 1899 and exiled to Seychelles Island where he spent 23 years.   While in exile, he continued to resist British colonization, writing letters and petitions to various European leaders and international organisations. 

His resistance to European colonisation is seen as an important moment in African history and his legacy continues to inspire those fighting for independence and sovereignty in Africa. 

Kabalega died on April 6, 1923, at Mpumude in the current Jinja District, Busoga region on his way back home.

About Bunyoro Kingdom

Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom (BKK) is a Kingdom in Western Uganda. The Kingdom is ruled by a Monarch – Omukama of Bunyoro, and the current ruler is H.M. Dr Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I, the 27th Omukama (king) of Bunyoro-Kitara.

The Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara has a rich history spanning over hundreds of years. It is a remnant of one of the most powerful empires in East and

Central Africa from 13th century to the 19th century – Bunyoro-Kitara Empire, the oldest and formerly the largest of the Great Lakes kingdoms stretching as far as present-day Karagwe in Tanzania, present- day Rwanda, present-day Eastern congo, and the Wanga Kingdom in present-day Kenya, but was greatly decimated by the advent of British colonialism in East Africa. Bunyoro-Kitara Empire itself was a remnant of once one of Africa’s mightiest empires.

How public holiday is granted

The deposed King of Bunyoro Omukama Kabalega Chwa II in custody of Semei Kakungulu after being captured in 1899. His right arm was amputated due to the fight during his capture. Next to him is one of his wives.

    The observance of Public Holidays by ministries, departments and local governments is governed by the Public Holidays Act, Cap. 255, which declares public holidays in Uganda under the Schedule to that Act and also empowers the President to declare any other public holiday.

At the commencement of these Standing Orders, the following are public holidays

   1.  New Year’s Day, January 1

   2.  Liberation Day, January 26

    3. Janan Luwum Day, February 16

    4. Idd el Fitr

     5. Idd Adhuha

    6. Good Friday

    7. Easter Monday

    8. Women’s Day, March 8

    9. Labour Day, May 1

    10. Martyrs’ Day, June 3

    11. Heroes’ Day, June 9

    12. Independence Day, October 9

    13. Christmas Day, December 25

     14. Boxing Day, December 26.

Government offices and embassies are closed on all public holidays.