Govt moves to mediate in row over new Umukukha

A parallel Bamasaba cultural leader, Mr Jude Mike Mudoma, receives a spear from Mr John Musila, the  Manafwa District chairperson, during the installation ceremony in November last year. PHOTO | FRED WAMBEDE

What you need to know:

  • Background. The institution conducts rotational leadership among three families of Mwambu, Mubuuya, Wanaale and Babukusu of Kenya (Bamasaba of Kenya). 
  • The descendants of Mwambu live in Sironko and Bulambuli districts, those of Mubuuya live in Manafwa, Bududa and Namisindwa, while those of Wanaale live in Mbale District.

The State minister for Gender and Culture, Ms Peace Mutuuzo, has said the government will gazette the new Umukukha (king) of Bamasaba Cultural Institution within this month.

The minister’s statement comes contrary to reports that the government had already gazetted Mr John Wagabyalire Amuran as the successor of late Bob Mushikori.

Mushikori, who was elected as the second Umukukha in 2005 to replace Wilson Wamimbi, died early last month of Covid-19.

The deceased was buried at his ancestral home in Shisabasi Village, Bududa Sub-county in Bududa District on Saturday. The ceremony was attended by leaders across the sub-region and country at large.

“We are yet to gazette the next Umukukha and a pronouncement will be made within two weeks from now,” Ms Mutuuzo said.

She made the remarks during the funeral service for the deceased at St Andrew’s Cathedral Church in Mbale City on Friday.

Govt plans

The minister said within the two- week period, the government will organise a series of meetings to resolve the standoff that led to elections of two parallel cultural leaders in the institution and thereafter gazette a genuine one. “The government is going to hold a number of meetings to ensure that this stalemate comes to an end because there is no fall-back position now due to the fact that the previous leadership of Mushikori is no more,” she said.

Ms Mutuuzo said wrangling parties should cooperate and reconcile in order to have peace and unity.

“I only ask that parallel factions agree so that  our work is made easier as a ministry. They should also respect the decisions so that we have peace and unity among the Bamasaba,” she said.

The rivalry within the institution started last year after parallel search committees for the next Umukukha were instituted.

One of the groups was affiliated to Mushikori, and was headed by Mr Geoffrey Wetpondi as its secretary general, and the other to Mr James Kangala, who also served as secretary general.

Mr Wetpondi’s group elected and installed Mr Wagabyalire from Halasi Clan in Sironko District as the next Umukukha amid heavy police deployment at the institution’s headquarters in Maluku, Mbale City, in December.

The other group also elected and installed Mike Jude Mudoma from Buyobo clan in the same district as Umukhuka III in November last year.

Mr Mudoma, who formerly worked with  the National Agricultural Research Organisation, was installed after approval by the council of elders.

Rotational leadership

The first cultural leader, Mr Wilson Wamimbi, who was elected in 2010, was from the Wanaale family while deceased Mushikori was from the family of Mubuuya. The Umukukha III will come from the Mwambu family.

Ms Mutuuzo said the family of Mwambu should be at the forefront of resolving the matter, so that transition of power is not hampered with.

“The Mwambu family that will produce the next Umukhuka should take interest and come up with a very firm decision on who becomes the next Umukukha three,” she said.

Mr Eric Stephen Mukwana, the public relations officer  of the institution, however, said the minister had been misinformed, saying the institution already elected Mr Wagabyalire as the next Umukukha.

Mr Wagabyalire, one of the parallel cultural leaders, said all Bamasaba are united behind him. “The Bamasaba are more united than  ever before. It’s just a few individuals who are saying we are not united,” he said.

His rival, Mr Mudoma, however, said his opponent was elected by an illegal general assembly.


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