Bundibugyo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba (OBB) is steadily toning down resistance against the establishment of the administration of the Rwenzururu Kingdom in Bundibugyo. OBB, which belongs to the Bamba ethnic community, has been enjoying a frosty relationship with the Rwenzururu Kingdom, which brings together Bakonzo.
Although both the Bamba and Bakonzo initially fought together during the Rwenzururu Movement Rebellion that birthed the Rwenzururu Kingdom and its subsequent recognition by government in 2010, the Bamba started demanding a separate cultural institution.
In 2013, even before its recognition, Bwamba held protests against the rituals and cultural functions of the Rwenzururu Kingdom that were being held in Bundibugyo district. Subsequently, police blocked the Rwenzururu King, Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema-Ngoma from proceeding to Bundibugyo to carry out any cultural functions.
In 2014, government eventually recognised Col. Martin Kamya, the son to Edward Kawamara, one of the founders of Rwenzururu Movement as the first Omudhingiya (King) of the Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba Cultural Institution.
OBB officials made public pronouncements then that Rwenzururu King Mumbere and the kingdom, in general, were barred from performing any rituals and cultural functions in Bundibugyo district owing to the fact that another kingdom had been recognised there.
As a practice, Rwenzururu Kingdom had been celebrating her Independence Day (June 30) in Bundibugyo district. This is what seemingly gave birth to a new chapter of ethnic clashes between the Bamba and the Bakonzo within Bundibugyo.
The Bakonzo, who make about 45 per cent of the population in the district, felt the government was not doing much to protect their cultural rights to associate with their kingdom and king.
The Bakonzo argued that Bundibugyo has key cultural and historical sites of the Rwenzururu that ought to be protected. These include among others Kasulenge hill, where the Rwenzururu flag was first hoisted in 1962. But OBB officials would argue that the Rwenzururu Kingdom should hold all their cultural functions in Kasese, the seat of the Kingdom.
Dissatisfied with the way government was handling the state of affairs on July 5, 2014, a section of Bakonzo youth raided military installations in Ntoroko, Bundibugyo and Kasese districts. In Bundibugyo where the conflict was fierce, the youth attacked Kanyamwirima army barracks, which left more than 100 dead. There was no sympathy and condolence message from the Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba.
OBB maintained its stance that Bundibugyo squarely belongs to them and thus no other cultural institution ought to hold cultural functions there. In 2016, Bundibugyo suffered another set of conflict that left several people dead. The government termed it ethnic clashes between Bamba and Bakonzo. However, recently OBB is toning down on their stance against the Rwenzururu Kingdom.
In June when Rwenzururu Queen Mother Christine Biira Mukirania died, OBB never objected to the decision to bury her remains in Bundibugyo. Ms Mukirania was not only highly regarded in the Rwenzururu Kingdom but was also a pillar in the Rwenzururu Movement.
Omudhingiya Martin Kamya sent a ten-man delegation at the funeral led by the kingdom prime minister Wilson Mubulya to represent the cultural institution. Kamya also sent a condolence message and Shillings five million towards the burial arrangements. Mubulya says their attendance and contribution was intended to sympathize with the Rwenzururu Royal Family and the entire Rwenzururu People.
Mubulya says OBB is now preparing a cross-cultural exhibition slated for December. The premier says the exhibition is intended to cement the relationship between the cultural institutions in the district. He adds that it will go a long way in fostering peaceful co-existence amongst the different ethnicities within the district.
The premier also told URN that the Rwenzururu Kingdom has all the liberty to perform whatever functions and or rituals it wants in Bundibugyo district. He added that all Rwenzururu would do, would be to inform the administration at OBB of their intended functions out of courtesy.
In a recent interview, Rwenzururu Kingdom Attorney General Alfred Makasi applauded OBB for exhibiting positive steps in the fight for unity and peaceful co-existence. Makasi said if the pace and rate at which OBB was showing signs of peace could be maintained, it could mark an end to ethnic clashes in this western Uganda district.
Noerine Muhindo, the projects officer at Rwenzori Peace Bridge of Reconciliation, a non-governmental organisation that has been working towards peace-building processes in Bundibugyo and Kasese district concurred with Makasi that OBB had indeed exhibited signs of being pro-peace.
Muhindo says it is now important for the Rwenzururu Kingdom and other stakeholders to exploit this window of peace such that the two cultural institutions can live harmoniously with all their subjects freely enjoying their cultural rights.