By Patrick Kagenda
Politics, greed, corruption, contempt of court take centre stage as Kyabazinga squabbles continue
On August 23, 2014, Prince William Wilberforce Kadumbula Gabula IV was purportedly elected as the new Kyabazinga of Busoga having been chosen by eight out of the 11 royals. With that development, Ugandans thought that Busoga had at last resolved its Kyabazingaship issues.
Hardly a week later however, a group from Bulamogi County announced that they had elected Gabula’s rival, Prince Columbus Wambuzi, as the new Kyabazinga. Barely, a week later, Eriakasi Ngobi Kiregeya also pronounced himself as the rightful Kyabazinga, saying he had been chosen as the successor of the late Kyabazinga Henry Wako Muloki. As it stands, we are back to square one.
According to the Busoga constitution of 2000, which was drafted to guide the operations of the Obwakyabazingabwa Busoga, a Kyabazinga would be elected from one of the five royal lineages called ‘Abaisengobi’ who trace their origins to Bunyoro Kingdom where their ancestors originated from.
The five include Gabula of Bugabula, Zibondo of Bulamogi, Tabingwa of Luuka, Nkono of Bukono and Ngobi of Kiguulu.
Frank Nabwiso, a researcher on Busoga history, says the Kyabazinga has always come from two counties namely Bulamogi and Bugabula, and the rivalry between the two is historical.
“The two counties have rivalled each other in the politics of Busoga from 1949 to today over a period of 65 years now,” says Nabwiso.
Ever since Kyabazinga Muloki passed on in 2008, Busoga has failed to elect a Kyabazinga who is accepted by all. Six years down the road, Busoga has spent more time in Kyabazingaship wrangles than on any other developmental issue.
Former Bugabula North MP Gerald Menya says the Kyabazingaship troubles trace their origins to the confusion that was brought about by the late Muloki wanting to make the institution of the Obwakyabazinga hereditary yet the other chiefs were waiting for their turn on the throne.
“The Busoga monarchy is a democracy and where there is democracy there is politics, maligning, mudslinging campaigning and money. And it’s the winner who takes the day. What you people are seeing is democracy at work,” says Menya.
Observers say what we are seeing are the royals and republicans failing to reach common ground in form of an amicable agreement. Some accuse the government of meddling in the Busoga affairs, an accusation that NRM spokesperson Mary Karoro Okurut denies. “Whatever is coming up in Busoga will be handled. NRM has always handled issues in a peaceful way until a conclusion is arrived at,” she said.
But government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo declined to comment when asked what government was thinking about the Busoga unending Kyabazingaship wrangles. “I have no comment, that’s not a government issue,” he retorted.
But preparations are underway to officially crown Prince Gabula the IV as the substantive Kyabazinga. Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kaihura has promised to provide adequate security to ensure there is no disruption at the coronation ceremony.
Since the death of Muloki in 2008, Busoga has become a hotspot over the Kyabazingaship, with area politicians using it as a bait to seek recognition and as a test of who calls the shorts in the local politics of the area. Yet, historians say the Busoga intrigues in modern Uganda date back to the 1960s when UPC and DP were at each other throats before the ruling NRM started leveraging on it to win political support.
NRM’s politics of populism
In 1986 when the NRM government came to power, Al-Hajji Ali Kirunda Kivejinja attempted to become a power broker in the Busoga politics without much success. When the 1995 Constitution re- introduced cultural institutions, Kirunda fronted Eriakasi Ngobi Kiregeya of the Ngobi clan from Kigulu as the rightful candidate for the Kyabazingaship.
Kivejinja’s scenario was no different from what had happened during the Obote II government when Dr. John Luwuliza Kirunda formed the Jinja-Iganga-Kamuli (JIK) group and made himself head of the group.
However, Museveni never fell for Kivejinja’s bait. Instead, he chose to leave the issue in abeyance though he made Kirunda Kivedinda his consultant on Busoga affairs.
Today according to analysts on Busoga affairs, the area has a population of over four million people – quite a big constituency for any one with presidential ambitions.
Analysts also point out that in his quest for support in the region, Museveni has chosen to ride on the back of the women vote to rally his support in the area. The first woman Museveni propelled to the limelight was Victoria Ssekitoleko who was the minister for agriculture, animal industry and fisheries from 1986-1989. When Ssekitoleko left around 1992-1993, in came Specioza Wandira Kazibwe who first emerged as a National Resistance Council (NRC) woman representative for Kampala. Being a Catholic, which was another positive, she ended up as the second most powerful Ugandan when she was made Uganda’s first female vice president. Because of that, the Busoga vote was assured and Museveni has never lost there in all the elections.
After the promulgation of the new Constitution, which had re-introduced cultural institutions, Wandira Kazibwe was at the centre of politics in Busoga. Indeed, she handled the issue of the Kyabazinga diplomatically as she managed to convince all the groups that were bickering for the Kyabazingaship to sit on a round table and ended up voting Henry Wako Muloki.
Meanwhile, in 1999 Rebbeca Kadaga, a lawyer, was a Woman MP for Kamuli District. When Kazibwe was dropped around 2002, Kadaga, who was then the deputy speaker of Parliament, eventually became the Speaker and has indeed emerged as the most powerful woman in Uganda today.
Later in 2005, another Musoga woman – Justice Faith Kalikwani Mwondha – was propelled into the limelight to become the IGG and a Justice of the High Court. Recently, Justice Irene Mulyagonja – another Musoga – succeeded her in the same position. These two women have a lot of influence and are symbols of the confidence Museveni has in Basoga women. But the emergence of Justine Kasule Lumumba, the NRM chief whip, and the authority she wields is what could have sent jitters running down other Busoga politicians’ spines thereby opting for the alternative that would raise their profiles and rankings in the area.
Busoga political analysts say until January 2014, Kadaga was seen as the most credible candidate to succeed President Museveni until the ‘Kyankwanzi Resolution’ changed the programme by endorsing Museveni as the sole NRM candidate for the 2016 general elections.
After the ‘Kyankwanzi Resolution,’ Kadaga embarked on a Busoga tour programme that saw her inviting President Museveni go to Kamuli District where he inaugurated a ferry and launched her hotel.
While addressing the residents, Museveni directed that the ferry crossing be relocated from Nabuganyi Landing Site to Kasana Landing Site – three and a half kilometers away. The ferry had been earmarked to link Nabuganyi landing site in Kayunga District to Mbulamuti in Kamuli District.
Earlier attempts to relocate the ferry had been met with resistance from the local residents and politicians, saying the vessel was a political pledge to them and therefore should not be relocated.
With the presidential directive, local area politicians were silenced and Kadaga is said to have won the day because the ferry would ease transport to her four star hotel in Kamuli Town.
Riding on Kyabazinga for votes
As 2016 closes in, the political temperature is rising in Busoga. The Kyabazinga issue is back into the limelight and is a hot political potato and whoever wins it will sweep the Busoga votes. Busoga area has 32 members of Parliament each of them with an obvious interest in who the Kyabanzingaship goes to. Indeed, Kadaga was conspicuously present and visibly excited when Gabula was being elected. She knows that for Gabula IV to become Kyabazinga means the majority votes from Busoga. Kadaga is not alone in the game, however, Isaac Musumba, husband to the Kamuli District chairperson Proscovia Night Salaam Musumba, is said to be nursing a desire to return to Parliament having lost his seat in the previous election and is said to be close to Kadaga. During the just ended Kyabazinga elections, up to Shs 80 million reportedly exchanged hands, which resulted into two of the royals voting by proxy. While Fred Kakaire sent his son to vote for him, the chief of Busiki also sent someone to vote for him, which apart from being strange in the election for the Kyabanzinga, was also said not to be provided for in the Busoga Constitution. This is the same constitution that was illegally reviewed in contravention of a Constitutional Court that had pronounced it as a valid document.
Spearheading the review was Mutyabule, who is said to have been a personal assistant to Sir Wilson Nadiope, father to recently-elected Kyabazinga. Political analysts in Busoga say with Gabula on the throne, chances are high that Kadaga is set to retain the Woman MP seat for Kamuli while Musumba’s chances of winning the Buzaya County seat currently occupied by Asuman Kiyingi an independent are also high.
Meanwhile, sources told The Independent, that Kadaga and Asuman Kiyingi don’t see eye to eye over the Kyabazinga issue. These are the divisions Museveni might not be willing to put his hands into.
Indeed, failure by the three most powerful Busoga MPs namely; Leader of Opposition Wafula Oguttu (FDC), Kasule Lumumba and Kadaga to come together is said to be what is fueling the Kyabazinga battle.
Political analysts say that now that the Kyabazinga issue cannot be resolved culturally, the legal arm should take over. They say the government through the attorney general or the courts of law, should come out to establish who the rightful Kyabazinga is supposed to be.