Mumbere shuns politics in his seven-year agenda

Rwenzururu king (Omusinga) Charles Wesley Mumbere waves to his subjects in Kasese town on October 4, 2023 upon his return to his kingdom since 2016 when he was arrested alongside his royal guards. PHOTO | ALEX ASHABA  

What you need to know:

  • The king has prioritised cooperation with the government to foster peace and stability in this region.

April 4 marked six months since Omusinga Mumbere of the Rwenzururu Kingdom returned to Kasese District after spending about seven years in custody after his arrest in November 2016, along with 217 of his subjects.

In his inaugural address to his subjects at the Golf Course in Kasese Municipality upon his return, Omusinga emphasised his desire to keep the cultural institution separate from partisan politics. 

Instead, he called for reconciliation, unity, peace, and the promotion of government programmes to address poverty.

Now, six months later, Omusinga has been actively pursuing his new kingdom agenda, which includes the cultural institution’s comprehensive seven-year plan extending to 2030. The plan aims to achieve peace and unity within the region.

The seven-year blueprint for the Rwenzururu institution is based on five foundational pillars: reconciliation, unity in diversity, peace promotion, socio-economic transformation, and mindset change

“You will all be pleasantly surprised to see and enjoy a redefine Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR) and we shall all benefit from the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu either directly or indirectly, let us all cultivate a positive attitude and support one another for a new chapter,” the Omusinga said on October 4, 2023.

He added: “I am tired of conflicts; this is the time for us to cooperate with the government and ensure that we realise peace and stability in this region. We are a community that has suffered conflict for more than 200 years; we need to reconcile and concentrate on wealth creation using the resources that we are endowed with.” 

Reshuffling cabinet

On March 28, Omusinga made his first cabinet reshuffle. He removed nine officials from their positions. Notably, those dropped were individuals who had expressed intentions of pursuing political careers.

The king said the decision to remove them from their positions was to prevent the entanglement of the cultural institution in partisan politics and this was evidenced in the directive he issued on January 14 to all his former ministers, asking them about their political ambitions.

Since his return, Omusinga has consistently cautioned his subjects against using his office to further their political ambitions.

Among those relieved of their ministerial duties during the reshuffle was Mr Edwin Kugonza, who had served as the deputy kingdom prime minister for six years. Additionally, Mr Ericana Ndyoka Baluku, formerly the minister of culture and native administration, and Mr David Bwambale Kongolo, who held the position of deputy attorney general, were among those relieved of their duties.

While addressing his newly sworn-in cabinet recently, Omusinga said: “I heard there were some opposition politicians from Kenya who were seeking an audience with me. I declined to see them because I honestly don’t have any business in Kenya. I don’t want to be involved in avenues that will cause us to be misunderstood, and so all of you ministers, let us be vigilant.”

Preaching peace, unity

A month after his return, Omusinga embarked on a series of visits across the chiefdoms within the cultural institution, including Buthale, Bukangama, Katswabwemi, and Bukangama-Buthale. These visits were aimed at preaching the message of reconciliation, unity, and peace, which are fundamental pillars of his agenda for the Rwenzururu Kingdom.

During his visit to Buthale chiefdom, Omusinga said: “We have lived here long enough and we need to learn that we are all brothers and sisters. This mountain is rich enough to feed all of us; what we only have to do is to discard our differences be they on ethnicity, religion or political party affiliation, and instead work for a common good.”

Government relations

During his visits to the chiefdoms last year, Omusinga appealed to his subjects to embrace initiatives such as the Parish Development Model (PDM), Emyooga, and the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) as part of the collective effort to combat poverty. He encouraged his subjects to actively participate in community programmes, so that households are empowered.

On the day of his return to Kasese, Omusinga promised his subjects that he would soon convene a meeting with President Museveni. True to his word, two months later, on December 13, 2023, he met the President at State House, Entebbe.

Shortly after the meeting, Mr Museveni thanked him for promoting peace and reconciliation.

“I held a meaningful discussion today at State House Entebbe with His Highness Charles Wesley Mumbere, the Omusinga of Rwenzururu Kingdom. I am happy that the kingdom has outlined new objectives centred on peace, reconciliation, and socio-economic transformation, aligning perfectly with our vision and the historic mission in the NRM,’’ the President said via his X (formerly Twitter) handle.

Mr Museveni also committed to constructing the kingdom palace which was burnt in 2016 during a raid by security personnel after a wrangle between government and the kingdom took a turn for the worse . He also revealed that he would procure Springs International Hotel for the kingdom, among other promises.

On the other hand, Omusinga Mumbere in the same meeting asked President Museveni to improve the provision of social services to the people in his kingdom, including initiatives such as offering education scholarships to children from underprivileged families and the establishment of a regional referral hospital in Kasese.

In an interview with this publication at the weekend, Mr David Bradford Nguru, the private personal secretary to the King on April 15, said the king also appealed to the government to expedite the transformation of the Kasese airfield into an international airport. Additionally,  Omusinga Mumbere pushed for the revival of Kilembe Mines.

“The king’s focus is now the socio-economic transformation of his subjects. He is not only imploring his people to work hard but also lobbying both government and other development stakeholders to invest in the kingdom so that it helps in alleviating poverty,” he said.

Mr Nguru also revealed that State House offered 50 scholarships to students from the Rwenzori Sub-region pursuing education at higher institutions of learning.

What they said...

The Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Mr Joseph Kule Muranga, said the king’s return has not only eased tensions within the kingdom but also created a conducive environment for governance.

“We were appointed at a critical time when it was very difficult to do so many things; there were still suspicions between Banyarwenzururu and the central government. I am now happy that we secured the return of the king, and we can now implement our programmes. His return has not only strengthened us as leaders but also built the confidence among the subjects that the government is committed to supporting us,” he said.

The Minister of State for ICT and National Guidance, Mr Godfrey Kabbyanga, said he is happy the king wants to change the mindset of his subjects.

"On behalf of the government, I want to say that we are happy with the king’s message and actions so far. The message of peaceful co-existence, mindset change, and socio-economic transformation is what we have been lacking,’’ he said.

Mr Geoffrey Sibendire Bigogo, who previously served as the kingdom’s attorney general and also as the chairperson for Kasese, said the king’s actions align with the ruling NRM party agenda.

Mr Bigogo, a member of the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, said: “I think Omusinga has done his part. When you scrutinise his new cabinet appointments, you see that almost all the people subscribe to the NRM. Now that those who like the government are in charge, I hope they can listen to us and find a lasting solution to our challenges, not only in the kingdom,  but across the entire region.”

Mr Johncation Muhindo, a peace-building activist and a team leader at Creations Forum Afrika-CAF, said the king has de-escalated conflicts in the area.

“I am happy that the king has created a ministry in charge of rehabilitation to cater to the psychosocial and material needs of persons who were affected by the 2016 violence and other forms of conflict within this area. I hope the central government liaises with this ministry so that we achieve sustainable peace,” he said.