Cultural Heritage

Obusinga Obwa Rwenzururu Cultural Heritage

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It is upheld by the people and is held together by Omusinga Irema-Ngoma along with the clan and ridge leaders who together are the gaurdians and keepers of the culture and heritage of their people.

Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu is a cultural institution or Kingdom of the Banya Rwenzururu living on mount Rwenzori and elsewhere just like the Aga Khan whose 15 million subjects are scattered in 25 nations of the world[1] without interfering with both local and international boundaries.

Rwenzururu Kingdom was established in response to the inhuman treatment, discrimination, and brutality of Tooro Kingdom against the Bamba and Bakonzo. This response united the Bakonzo and Bamba peasants to form a classless society under what they called Rwenzurruru district.

On June 30, 1962 the Bakonzo and Bamba declared their independence from Tooro Kingdom just three months before Uganda attained independence on October 9, 1962. At that time, Kingdoms in Uganda (namely Bunyoro, Buganda, Busoga, Tooro and Ankole) were political institutions and all of them had a status of a district with two administrators namely the District Commissioner who represented the Central Government under the British Collonial Governor and the King – the Chief Administrator of the Local government within the District. The districts of Rwenzururu was intended to cover the then counties of Bwamba, Burahya, Bunyangabu, and Busongora. Busongora was later divided by Tooro District Administration into two namely: Busongora and Bukonzo counties. Bukonzo county was named so by the BaTooro intellectuals in order to down play the social-psychology of people who were not aware of the human geography of the Rwenzori region by implicating that the small section of the mountain was the place where you find the Bakonzo people.

The reality is that from time immemorial the Bakonzo occupied the whole of the Rwenzori Mountains and its neighboring plains – all around the Rwenzoris. It was Kabarega of Bunyoro and later Kasagama of Tooro and the British colonialists who pushed the Bakonzo on the Mountains during the rule of Nyamutswa. George Rukiidi massacred the remaining and pushed others farther on the mountains. Later when Idi Amin became President he drew a map of Rwenzururu on a piece of paper in the presence of Mr Daudi Muhindo Ise Biira, Dr Henry Bwambale, Mr Blasio Maate and others but by the time he declared it, he had already divided it into two districts of Bwamba which he re-named Semliki (covering the current Bundibugyo and parts of Burahya county) and Rwenzori District (covering the then Busongora and Bukonzo counties and the whole of Bunyangabu county near a place know as Kazingo). In the original map of Rwenzururu district, Rwenzori and Semliki districts curved the mountain. Tooro district did not come into direct contact with the mountain at all. This was and still is the wish and aspirations of the Bakonzo and Bamba people up to today. The Bakonzo and Bamba wanted it to be so because Tooro Kingdom and Tooro District Administration with the Colonial masters – the British, had for centuries denied them of development in form of roads, construction of schools, political adminstrative units, hospitals, clinics, security, public market places, cultural activities and other services. They wanted to plan for their area also which the establishment of Rwenzururu Kingdom was now doing, although with difficulties of being persecuted and harassed by the Tooro Administration with the help and support of the Uganda Government.

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Mr Ozo, the Idi Amin’s appointed Governor in charge of Western Region was concinced by the Batoro people to let them have their district reach up to the Rwenzori Mountains. This was said to have been a plan to help Tooro have a corridor that separates Bwamba from Rwenzori district as a point of disuniting the Bakonzo and Bamba from being a political and cultural tangible unit. It was also rumored that it would be used as an access road to the mountains for the Batoro to infiltrate teh Rwenzururu Kingdom and if possible make the Bakonzo in Bundbugyo look as if they were different from those in the other two districts. Mr Ozo had been specifically appointed by President Amin to satisfactorilly iron out the conflict between the Batoro and Bakonzo-Bamba district boundaries. In fact, the Bakonzo and Bamba know Idi Amin as a man who tried to solve their problems democratically, but who because of low academic training lacked a democratic method to do so. But he had a good will and had a clear conscious about it. President Binaisa, ruled Uganda for a very short time, therefore he was not able to change the titles of political Counties and Sub-counties that carry with them tribal names into those which carry the neutral names such as of hills, rivers etc. We hope President Museveni will do so, so that people can feel comfortable to live in any part of Uganda without feelings of superiority or inferiority that are both are anti-social syndromes.

Mr Ozo later changed the boundaries by having Semliki district ending at Kichwamba Technical College in Burahya, and Rwenzori ending at Ruimi (Lhume) River which as a result left thousands of Bakonzo people in Toro district. This created more conflicting situations which the Bakonzo in Kabarole still undergo. Nevertheless, President Museveni is slowly though reluctantly to create sub-counties to serve the Bakonzo people in that area. Katebwa sub-county has been created for the same reason, and Karangura sub-county to end at Mahoma River instead of Kazingo Bark Tree (Omuthooma). Later on President Godfrey Binaisa changed the name of Toro district to Fort Portal – a British nick name – which the Batoro refused to acknowledge and re-named it Kabarole. Rwenzori district was re-named Kasese district and Semliki district was re-named Bundibugyo. President Binaisa did this to all districts of Uganda in order to minimize the tribal naming and dominance all over the country. When Idi Amin gave the Bakonzo and Bamba the two districts, he had created many others all over the country. He raised the number of districts from 18 to 33 country wide. And when Godfrey Binaisa QC ,became President of Uganda, he renamed all the districts according to their Town names.

Incidentally, the 1963 constitutional change emphasized that the President of Uganda should be one of the traditional leaders, and it was on the basis of this change that His Majesty Kabaka Edward Mutesa II became the first President of Uganda. Accordingly, the BanyaRwenzururu instituted a Kingdom in order to, at one time, have a leadership role in Uganda and overcome the unjust treatment to which they were subjected by the colonial rule through Toro Kingdom.

Upon this logic, Banyarwenzururu clan leaders declared Isaya Mukirania King of Rwenzururu in the transitional night of 29th and 30th June 1963.The Rwenzururu Kingdom came into being in the same way as the ancient Egyptian Kingdom whereby peasants from various independent villages united with nearby neighbors, and formed a United Kingdom which formed a generation of nobles and princes known as Pharaohs. By the year 3100 B.C. King Menes was the overall ruler of United Egypt.[2]

The Greeks had similar experience. Alexander the first Emperor of the Greek Empire was a son of a warrior by name Chaeronea Philip of Macedonia.[3] Philip fought between 395 and 338 B.C. and united hundreds of city states. He thereafter installed his son Alexander who continued with military expeditions until he attained the title of Emperor.

When Isaya Mukirania passed away on 2nd September, 1966, the Rwenzururu clan elders came together and agreed to have him succeeded by his first born son Charles Mumbere Kibanzanga II. On 19th October, 1966 Rwenzururu Kingdom Assembly sat and installed Prince Charles Wesley Mumbere second King on the Rwenzururu throne. He was later referred to as Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema-Ngoma to-date. The President of Uganda, H.E. Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni, announced government recognition of the Rwenzururu Kingdom and Omusinga Charles Wesley as its King. He witnessed and participated in the coronation rituals at Buhikira Royal Palace on 19th October 2009 and placed his hands on the Omusinga while in the traditional royal grass-thatched hut. He thereafter attended a public rally and Kilembe Mines Golf Club Course, in Kasese town, from where he made a public declaration of recognizing the Marnarch and its monarch.

[1] Like the Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, the Imam has 15 million Ismaeli Shai Muslims scattered in 25 nations in Bombay, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, North America and Europe, The Banyarweznruru believe that their subjects can live in other parts of the world i.e. London, Madrid or New York as long as they believe in Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu and Omusinga Irema-ngoma or his successor, they belong to Rwenzururu Kingdom without interrupting law and order of the districts and countries in which they live.
[2] T. Walter Wallbank, Arnold Schrier, Bonna Maier and Patricia Gutierrez-Smith. History and Life: The World and Its People. (Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1982), 19,200.
[3] J. B. Bury. A Students’ History of Greec. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1926), p.310-338.