District, kingdom, or vegetative central government; where does your loyalty lie?

Rwenzururu King Mumbere and his wife at a past function. Over the years, many kingdoms have been formed.

In addition to corruption, the other legacies of this regime will be the creation of kingdoms and districts. From January 1986 to date, the number of districts has increased by more than 300 per cent. And since the number of kingdoms was zero in 1986, it is also mathematically logical to say that the kingdoms have also increased by over the same percentage.

In my corer of Uganda, where we had Tooro Kingdom, we now have two more kingdoms namely Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, Obudingya Bwa Abamba. And where we had three districts in 1986, we now have seven districts namely Bundibugyo, Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, Ntoroko and Kasese. So much is this craze for the kingdoms and districts that even communities that once boasted of their republican heritage now have kings.

In the case of the Tieng Adhola and Rwenzururu Kingdom, the kings leading these new kingdoms may not even share the blue blood associated with traditional feudal formations of old. And oh yes, even Buganda Kingdom now has two kingdoms in it. Ankole Kingdom has not yet been re-instated by the State; but they ‘revenged’ by creating more districts. As at 1986, Ankole Kingdom only had Mbarara and Bushenyi districts; now they have nine districts.

Yet in spite of what appears to be a strong opposition to the creation of more districts (and kingdoms), every new district created has a story and history behind it.

The creation of Kibaale District (carved from Hoima District) was intended to address lost counties issue. Kisoro was created for the Bafumbira Community while Ntungamo was created to ‘liberate’ the Banya’Rujumbura from Ankole. Which brings us to the split of Kasese. What are the historical reasons for the split of Kasese District? How come the idea of splitting the district is not popular in Kasese?

Kasese split
The Bakonzo of Kasese are divided into three groups namely the Bakonzo Basongora, Bakonzo Baghendera and Bakonzo Banyangetse (the lake people: Baholhu and Bakingwe have integrated into fishlore’s pseudo-urbanite culture).

The Bakonzo Basongora should NOT be mistaken for the distinctive cattle-keeping pastoralist Basongora community. Between River Nyamwamba and River Rwimi (Lhume in Lhukonzo) is the provenance of the Baghendera in Kasese District. And from River Nyamwamba up to River Lhubiriha (the Uganda-DR Congo border), is for the Bakonzo Basongora.

The Bakonzo Baghendera are also the dominant group in Bunyangabo County of Kabarole District, Bughendera County of Bundibugyo District and Karugutu Sub-county of Ntoroko District. With his origin in Bundibugyo District, King Charles Wesley Mumbere is a Mukonzo Mughendera.

Our research doesn’t show any record of a conflict between Bakonzo Basongora and Bakonzo Baghendera either in folklore or document. And the classification of Bakonzo Basongora and Bakonzo Baghendera has been dismissed by some people as mere academic labelling.

In common speech and diction, the Bakonzo Baghendera use a lot of Rutooro-Rwamba words and intonation while the Bakonzo Basongora use Lhundandi (Congolese ethnic Lhukonzo) influence in their common speech.

The dialectal variations in diction between the Bakonzo Basongora and Bakonzo Baghendera are very negligible. But what is NOT negligible is the apparent domination of the district political and administrative leadership by the Bakonzo Basongora. In fact it is NOT apparent; it is overly conspicuous.

Living in the frontline territories during tribal wars between Batooro and Bakonzo, the Bakonzo Baghendera faced the brunt of the Rwenzururu war more than the Bakonzo Basongora.
And whereas they (the Bakonzo Baghendera) constituted the bulk of fighter corps, the ideological and administrative leadership of the Rwenzururu Rebellion (now a Kingdom) was still dominated by the Bakonzo Basongora.

The Bughendera Question
“Give the devil his due,” said William Shakespeare. Dr Kiyonga has attempted to resolve the Baghendera Question. However, there are accusations that he is merely looking for supple and pliant cadres who would accord him total loyalty. That may explain why Kiyonga supported the seemingly weak candidature of Ms Rehema Muhindo (a Mukonzo Mughendera) in the recent by-election for District Woman MP.

The immediate former district chairperson, the Rev. Julius Kithaghenda, was a Mukonzo Mughendera who enjoyed the support of Dr. Kiyonga. But Col. Mawa Muhindo (a Mukonzo Musongora) ‘beat’ him in the NRM primaries.

Frustrated, the Rev. Kithaghenda plotted the split of the district as the only way the Bakonzo Baghendera could avoid the dominance of the Bakonzo Basongora. According the provisional boundaries, the Baghendera will have Rwenzori District and the Basongora will have the Kasese and Bwera Districts.

Membere endorses split
Now, in a October 2, 2012 letter, Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere, the King of Rwenzururu Kingdom, wrote to the Minister for Local Government endorsing the proposal to split Kasese District into three districts.

The issue of splitting the district is said to be promoted by the NRM. However, they are clever enough not to take an open lead in the matter; they apparently know that the split is not popular and may have a negative political fall-out. Because the idea of splitting the district is unpopular, there is a feeling that the district NRM leadership’s ultimate objective is to alienate the king from the population.

One wonders whether the king and the NRM district leadership think the creation of three districts the best response to the strategic challenges facing the people of Kasese. If it takes a district council resolution to challenge the powers of a king, what guarantees does King Mumbere have that these new districts curved from Kasese will not challenge his royal authority?

Yet there are cases for Mumbere to learn from. The Kingdom of Tooro was at the forefront of creating Ntoroko District. Ntoroko (formerly Ntoroko County of Bundibugyo District), was assumed to be in Rwenzururu Kingdom.

The Queen Mother of Tooro, a Mutuku tribeswoman from Rwebisengo comes from Ntoroko. But to the surprise of the Tooro Kingdom leadership, Ntoroko leadership has said they will not pay any allegiance to them. Neither will they pay any allegiance to Rwenzururu.

The king should be reminded that even from the beginning (when his father rallied our fathers); it was always about the people, not the leader, be him king or politician. That’s why and how his father easily transformed morphed from President to king rather easily: what mattered were the issues, not the title of the leaders.

Mr Bisika is the editor of the East African flagpost