King Oyo’s 28 years of roses and thorns

King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV sounds a royal drum at Karuziika Palace in Fort Portal City ahead of his 23rd coronation anniversary in 2018. PHOTO/ALEX ASHABA 

What you need to know:

  • As the Tooro king marks his 28th anniversary today, we take a look at some of the achievements and challenges he has encountered.

When Tooro King Oyo Nyimba Iguru Rukidi IV was enthroned at the age of three, 28 years ago, the task seemed impossible given his tender age.

On September 12, 1995, Oyo became the 12th ruler of Tooro Kingdom, succeeding his father King Patrick Matthew Kaboyo Olimi III.

As a result, every September 12, the kingdom celebrates King Oyo’s coronation anniversary.

As the king marks the 28th anniversary of his reign with celebrations to be held at Karuziika Palace in Fort Portal City today, we take a look at some of the achievements and challenges he has encountered.

Before turning 18, King Oyo had three sets of regents as his mother, Queen Best Kemigisa, played a big role in his upbringing.

Reminiscing the king’s journey, the head of the Babiito royal clan and King Oyo’s uncle, Musuga Charles Kamurasi, said the regents were appointed to the kingdom’s supreme council (Orukurato) in consultation with Omujwera Musuga, whose key role was to look at the administration of the kingdom.

He said the first set of reagents comprised John Katuramu (former kingdom prime minister), Rev Can James Rabwoni (deceased), Mgr Thomas Kisembo, Prof Oswald Ndolereire, Mr Zerio Byabagambi, Mr Isaiah Kalya, Rev. Richard Baguma, Mr George Nyakairu, and Mr Justin Bakahumura.

The regents handed over the kingdom administration work in 2010 when the king turned 18 years.

However, one of the stern tests the kingdom faced was when one of the regents, Mr Katuramu, was in 1999 arrested in connection with the killing of Prince Charles Happy Kijanangoma and his guard, Stephen Kaganda, at Palace View Bar in Fort Portal.

Stern test
In 2001, Katuramu was convicted of murder, with now-retired High Court Judge John Bosco Katutsi concluding that he had financed the heinous act. Katuramu and others initially faced death sentences, which was later amended to life imprisonment (20 years) by the Supreme Court in 2009.

During King Oyo’s 26th year on the throne, in 2021, Katuramu was released after serving his life sentence.

Despite this, Musunga Kamurasi says the king has made several accomplishments for his subjects in regard to welfare and development of Tooro Kingdom.

King Oyo plants a tree on the banks of River Mpanga in Fort Portal City in 2019. PHOTO/ALEX ASHABA

Mr Kamurasi says the king has been instrumental in launching projects geared towards promoting education and ICT, as well as initiating health camps to offer free medical services to his people.

“A lot has been achieved for the kingdom of Tooro, we have a youth centre, and an ICT centre under construction, among other things,” he said.

In 2016, King Oyo was named a UNAids ambassador in the fight against HIV/Aids and since then, he has been at the forefront of fighting the spread of the disease.

In 2020, King Oyo signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health to end disease burden in Tooro, especially maternal deaths, and malnutrition.

King Oyo usually organises annual health camps a week to his anniversary, where hundreds of his subjects receive free medical treatment.

The camps have provided medical services, including eye care and surgical operations for children with clubfoot, while children with disabilities receive wheelchairs.

The king also sought the return of the kingdom’s properties, which had been seized by the government in 1967.

Although 17 land titles were returned in 1999, negotiations for the rest are still ongoing.
In 2017, a 17-member committee was formed to engage in negotiations with the government, and in 2019, President Museveni signed a memorandum of understanding with King Oyo to facilitate the process.

In 2020, the government initiated a verification exercise led by the State Minister for Lands, Ms Persis Namuganza.

Mr Kamurasi urges the government to speed up the verification process.

Kingdom projects

In 2021, during the 26th coronation anniversary celebrations, King Oyo unveiled a 25-year transformative vision for Tooro, with a focus on promoting, preserving, and protecting the kingdom’s cultural heritage.

The vision also aims to empower the youth with essential skills, alleviate poverty, promote health, and advance tourism.

King Oyo also established a model farm in Kyenjojo District, which offers his subjects a free opportunity to learn about various farming enterprises and modern agricultural technologies.

The farm, situated in Bugaaki Sub-county, features nine agriculture enterprises, including dairy farming, mango cultivation, fish farming, coffee production, banana plantations, tomatoes, goat-keeping, and poultry.

“I established this farm with a purpose because I want all people to draw lessons and put into practice what they have learnt to better their lives,” King Oyo said in April last year when he hosted a team of performing artistes at the farm.

The government through the Ministry of Agriculture gave him tractors to use on the farm.

 The promotion of sports and community engagement is also a priority for King Oyo. The kingdom has been organising the Masaza Cup tournament annually and bicycle racing over the past two years.

 Additionally, he championed the campaign to save River Mpanga, a vital water source that spans more than 200km, serving people in three districts of Kabarole, Kamwenge, and Kitagwenda and Fort Portal City.

His message to his subjects was to actively engage in preserving the river’s buffer zones and catchments.

King Oyo in a tomato garden at his model farm in Kyenjojo District in 2022. PHOTO/ALEX ASHABA

The kingdom deputy prime minister, Ms Harriet Nyakake, expressed her delight at King Oyo’s achievements during his 28-year reign. She commended the king for his focus on improving the health sector and providing medical services to the people at no cost.

Plot from within 

Despite the Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act ,2011, providing the succession of any cultural leader after the king’s death, King Oyo faced threats of being overthrown in 2013, only three years after turning 18 years.

His cousin, Prince David Kijanangoma, initiated a move to overthrow him, accusing him of incompetence, and failure to reign over his Kingdom, among other reasons.

This led to a section of the royal family members and some Batooro rallying behind Prince David.

Security operatives thwarted several of Prince Kijanangoma’s efforts to organise his coronation anniversary between 2014 and 2016.

The situation escalated in March 2015 when Prince David was arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

Seeking a resolution to the matter, the king and the prince in 2015 met President Museveni.

The President then formed a committee led by Bishop Reuben Kisembo of Ruwenzori Diocese to investigate the issues plaguing the Tooro Kingdom and make recommendations.

In April 2017, Prince David requested a dialogue between himself and King Oyo and reached out to President Museveni for support. In February 2019, Prince David declared peace with his brother, King Oyo.

Amidst these attempts to undermine his reign, King Oyo faced additional challenges from a section of Babiito clan members in 2020.

They accused him of mismanaging the kingdom’s properties and alleged that he had been transferring land titles into his name.

Prince David Kijanangoma (R) and his brother King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru (L).

In response, King Oyo warned some of the Babiito clan members against sabotaging the process of returning the kingdom’s properties.