Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kwar Adhola Moses Stephen Owor has challenged government to consult cultural leaders before making legislative decisions in matters that affect their people.
“A number of important matters have been brought to parliament which grossly affect culture and other things in Uganda, and about which cultural leaders have more knowledge. Many times however, we have heard those things debated in Parliament with no consultation,” Kwar Adhola said at the launch of the Ugandan Chapter of the Council of Traditional Leaders of Africa (COTLA) in Kampala on November 27, 2020.
The King of the Jopadhola was speaking on behalf of the founding members of the Forum of Kings and Cultural leaders of Uganda at a meeting where Minister of State for Gender, Labour and Social Development (Youth and Children Affairs) Florence Nakiwala Kiyingi was chief guest.
Kwar Adhola, 94, said the constitution of the Kings’ Forum stresses the need for the voices of the traditional leaders to be heard in all matters affecting Uganda.
“While the government officially and constitutionally recognizes the position of cultural leaders as stipulated in article 246 of the Uganda Cconstitution, sometimes government seems not to give full recognition to the importance and usefulness of the cultural institutions in Uganda,” Kwar Adhola said at the COTLA launch, organised by the Ministry of Gender, the UN and the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU).
Forum headed by Omukama of Bunyoro
The Kings’ Forum was formed in 2009 and is headed by the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, Solomon Gafabusa Iguru.
Before the Kings’ Forum unanimously voted to work with COTLA by seconding the launch of the Ugandan Chapter, Kwar Adhola outlined several challenges they face, many of which are actually worldwide.
“Before I came here, one of the international televisions I was watching featured the concern of the United States and its people about child marriage in the US. It is now clear is not just a matter of concern for Africa, but it is a worldwide problem,” he said.
The launch was part of sixteen days of activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) being marked across the world.
Guest of honour Nakiwala Kiyingi stressed that traditional and cultural leaders are key partners in promoting mindset change which contributes to reduction of Gender Based Violence, HIV and child marriages.
She said by launching COTLA, traditional leaders will systematically contribute to the elimination of Gender Based Violence. This includes all practices like early child marriage, genital mutilation, teenage pregnancy and other negative practices that perpetuate violence against women in Uganda.
UN’s Dr Maxime makes case for COTLA
UN Country Representative Dr Maxime Houinato said COTLA wants to help the kings address fundamental gender and social issues they are facing. He said COTLA would lift an important burden from the Kings’ Forum — issues of social norms and gender issues
“The idea that good values come from outside of Uganda is a big mistake. As Africans we have values that people did not have centuries back. We have been proud of our values in terms of respect for the people, for women and for the weak in society in this country and in Africa,” Dr Houinato told the traditional leaders from across the country.
“We aim to revive our good culture. The value of women and children, fear of God, are values we always had. We should drop the bad ones. Rape was taboo in our communities, now it is common. We need to revive our good culture that we lost after meeting people who made us drop our values,” Dr Houinato added.
“Why are we targeting women and children? One of the reasons poverty is increasing is we are losing out on the full potential of girls and women due to Female Genital Mutilation, (FGM), child marriage, little education support and Gender Based Violence.”
Youth key for cultural revival
Houinato recognized the dilemma many communities face in Uganda saying, “either the kings and chiefs support what is going, or are not aware, or people are not respecting our pronouncements. Are young people still listening to us?”
He promised that the UN would support creation of a link between the kings and chiefs, to the younger generation who are the majority. Up to 46% of Uganda’s population is below 14 years.
“We should aim to keep what is good in our culture, and drop what is bad. That is progress,” he concluded.
Queen Best Kemigisa, the Queen Mother of the Toro Kingdom who is a founder member of COTLA, highlighted its key activities since it was formed in Addis Ababa in 2019.
She said the continental body’s main aim is to preserve traditions, transform and eradicate negative customs like Female Genital Mutilation, plus end child marriage.
“Traditional and cultural leaders are the backbone of our communities and symbol of our identity as Africans, as they preserve our culture and historical roots. I believe CCFU and the UN have made the best choice to invest in ending these bad practices.”
She observed that traditional leaders are increasingly realizing how early marriage and harmful cultural practices affect girls in many ways, especially their education and health.
“We have to do more and end these practices by 2030,” Kemigisa said.