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Why Kabaka’s health status remains secret

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Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II is carried shoulder-high during his 30th coronation anniversary at Lubiri (palace) in Mengo, Kampala, on July 31, 2023. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA. 

While returning from a forest where he had gone to seek the services of a traditional healer, Ssekabaka Ndawula Kanakulya encountered his friend Ssiloganga, who was hunting and picked interest in knowing what the unguarded king was doing in the wilderness. The kind and gentle king shared his story and diagnosis with Ssiloganga, and asked him not to share a single detail with anyone.

“I am your friend, I will never tell anyone,” Ssiloganga assured the king.
Little did Ssiloganga know that the traditional healer had instructed the king that whoever got to know about his diagnosis should keep it to himself or get killed in case they shared it. Upon recovering from the illness, the king organised a party and invited Ssiloganga, who got elated after drinking and shared the king’s secret. Ssiloganga was executed.

How have issues around Kabaka’s health been previously handled?
Mr Ali Mubiru, a cultural researcher and a Ganda history enthusiast, who shares this story, explains that the issue of the King’s health has for years been treated with utmost secrecy.
“Traditionally, the king does not fall sick. In Buganda, the communication usually is that Kabaka adugadde (darkness has befallen the throne) and no further explanation is shared with his people except those close to him,” Mr Mubiru explains, adding that Buganda monarchs have always weighed announcing their private health struggles against the vulnerability of the throne (Namulondo).

Mr Mubiru notes that whereas some historians suggest that Kabaka Kiyimba assumed the throne of his father (Kabaka Kigala) because of the former’s old age, undocumented data indicates that the latter was driven by an urge to protect his father’s throne because he was ill. Kigala, a 14th Century monarch, was his father Ttembo’s heir. He is said to have been very disciplined and died when he was very old. Kiyimba, his son, became king for some time after he abdicated due to old age. Kiyimba was very ugly in his outlook and people insulted him for it.

Katikkiro of Buganda Charles Peter Mayiga 

Why the silence?
Mr Israel Kazibwe Kitooke, the kingdom’s information minister,  asserts that matters regarding the king’s life are often kept secret. He says in case anything has to be said, a mild language or expression is considered to protect the integrity of the king and the kingdom.

 Kitooke emphasises the right to privacy, stating: “Everyone has a right to their personal life. Some can choose to declare their health statuses to those interested, while others do not.” 
He clarifies that while the katikkiro (prime minister) can speak on the kabaka’s health, it must be with the king’s consent. 
Kazibwe acknowledges that he is aware of the dissenting voices on social media, but advises the public to rely on official information to avoid misinformation.

“We have seen the katikkiro of Buganda, Charles Peter Mayiga, coming out to inform the public about the king’s health,” he elucidates, further noting that there is no harm when people get to know that the kabaka is ill.

Is Kabaka Mutebi critically ill?
It was initially understood that, earlier in March, the kabaka had an appointment with his doctors in Germany. However, it later turned out that he was pictured at a game park in Namibia.
In a joint press conference held by the king’s brother, Prince David Kintu Wassajja, Buganda ministers and chiefs’ council speaker Augustine Kizito Mutumba, on Tuesday this week, the katikkiro revealed that the kabaka is receiving medical treatment in Namibia and is not bedridden.

“The kabaka has been unwell in the past years, which has affected his life and his work. However, he has over the years received medical treatment from both Uganda and abroad. As we speak, he is still in Namibia under the care of experts,” the katikkiro disclosed.

Mr Mayiga further shared that the kabaka will return at the right time, noting that he still needs more time to get adequate rest, under the watch of medical experts.
“When the kabaka travelled to Germany in March, health experts who he had gone to see advised that for him to get relief, he needed to have adequate rest since heavy workload had affected his health,” Mr Mayiga revealed.

It is understood that the kabaka’s German medics linked him to Namibian health experts, who informed them that the place where the monarch is getting treatment was convenient for him to get adequate rest as he continued to receive treatment.
“As we continue to pray for him, it is important for Buganda to know that the kabaka’s health is being taken care of by experts. Official communication about the kabaka’s health should come from the prime minister,” the Kingdom further noted in a joint statement.

What are the kingdom’s efforts in controlling the narrative around the kabaka’s health?
In the digital age, the kingdom can only call for calm. The katikkiro consistently asks the public to respect the kabaka’s privacy, insisting the king’s health is managed by the best medics.  
In an interview published by the Sunday Monitor on Sunday, May 14, 2023, Mr Mayiga shared that he understands how people feel about the kabaka’s health because his subjects must surely be concerned about the health of their leader.

“I do not know whether people expect me to go on any platform and start telling them about the kabaka’s health. When you go to the doctor with an ailment, that doctor is not even supposed to tell your wife unless you authorise him,” he says.

Several people close to the king have recently given assurance to the general public that the kabaka is in safe hands. 
While appearing at a function in Wakiso, Mr Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere, a retired katikkiro, assured the public that he had an opportunity to hear from the kabaka and he would be safe.
Similar communication was done by Prince Crispin Jjunju Kiweewa, the kabaka’s son, while representing the king at an event in Canada.

Kingdom’s Information minister Israel Kazibwe Kitooke 

What is the backstory of the kabaka’s health situation?
Early in 2021, the kabaka’s absence from public events fuelled rumours about his health. His no-show at  the final of the Masaza football tournament at St Mary Stadium Kitende further raised eyebrows as unverified photos emerged that he was in Kenya.

It was later communicated that the kabaka had travelled to Kenya to visit Nnamasole Margret Siwoza, who had been admitted to Nairobi hospital.
On March 15, Katikkiro Mayiga informed the Lukiiko (Buganda’s parliament) that the kabaka was in good health and still in full control of his kingdom.

Despite assurances from the katikkiro, the kabaka’s frail appearance at his 66th birthday celebration intensified public anxiety.
The kabaka was later pictured receiving a Covid-19 jab together with the Queen, (Nnaabagereka) Sylvia Nagginda. Later, Kabaka Mutebi was seen shopping at a busy supermarket in Ntinda, a city suburb.

What is the kabaka really suffering from?
On April 16, 2021, the katikkiro, dispelled poisoning rumours, stating the kabaka was dealing with allergies causing breathing difficulties. 
“They (rumours) are totally wrong, baseless and unfounded. They cause unnecessary anxiety,” Katikkiro Mayiga said in a televised address.

Other countries

The 19th Century, English essayist Walter Bagehot, while referencing the secrecy surrounding the health of monarchs, wrote: “Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic.”

Recently, the UK Independent reported that 72 years ago, on February 6, 1952, when the nation heard that George VI had died at Sandringham, he had been suffering from lung cancer. 
The news came as a great shock to the country. Although the king had been ill for several years, the full facts of his condition had been kept secret from his subjects.

Recently, in what appeared to be a new occurrence in the British Monarchy, a statement issued by the Buckingham Palace confirmed that King Charles (pictured) has cancer. The 20th Century mindset has been cast aside.

His Majesty reportedly chose to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope that it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer.