When echoes of furious monarchists reverberated through the inactive kingdom
By Alex Taremwa
MBARARA. 2011 in Ankole will be remembered mostly as the year when Prince John Barigye passed away, stoking the agitation for the restoration of the kingdom that has been in limbo for over four decades.
On October 15 people of Ankole and more so the monarchists woke up to the sad news of the death of Prince Barigye, 71, from Agha Khan Hospital in Nairobi, the previous evening.
Prince Barigye, the heir to Ankole throne and the vanguard in the failed struggle to restore the kingdom was the last visible symbol of the 500 year old institution.
The kingdom’s royal regalia and other property including houses and land were confiscated by President Milton Obote 1 government in 1967 when kingdoms were terminated and even efforts to secure them under Yoweri Museveni led NRM government remained futile as it was for the move to secure recognition of late Prince Barigye as the king itself.
Prince Barigye’s coronation in November 1993 was cancelled by the government on ground that kingship in Ankole was unpopular because it had caused division between the Bairu who are largely cultivators and the Bahima/Bahinda who are cattle keepers from where Abagabe are recruited.
But the monarchists never bought into that argument and never gave up hopping that one time one day their dream will come true.
Therefore the mourners were not only in anguish over losing the ‘king’ but were also crying for the complete demise of the institution-notwithstanding that the fallen prince left a 20 year old heir.
The sad news spread from Nairobi to almost every corner of the globe; Kampala, UK, South Africa and America. Local and international press attention focused on the development and people took nine days mourning before Prince Barigye was laid to rest on October 23.
Condolence messages to Ankole monarchists and the royal family came in from all corners of the nation and beyond. But notably from the kingdoms of Buganda, Toro, Busoga, Rwenzururu and Bunyoro which are fully enjoying the unfettered monarchical status that was denied to Ankole and Prince Barigye they were eulogizing, by the same ‘benefactor’ (Gov’t/Museveni)
Elderly monarchists recited their experience of a king’s reign with indignation during the speech giving episode at Muhabura Palace on October 22, evoking memories of gone old good times.
Mr Andrew Rwakishaija said, “Barigye was coronated, it is the government that stopped him. I don’t want to mince that…Charles Rwebishenye (heir) is old enough to manage the affairs of the kingdom. He is 20 years, older than when the Tooro king (Oyo Nyimba) was coronated. People in government you will excuse me. Mr President we have given you enough votes, this child has been made heir help us and coronate him.”
Mr Andrew Tendo (Member of the royal clan) said at those opposed to Obugabe are misled by those distorting the facts about the subordination of Bairu and the superiority of Bahima.
Mr Tendo said Njunaki-the mother of Ruhinda the first King of Nkore was a Mwiru who was impregnated by Wamala a Mucwezi at her home in Sheema.
“The clan of Bahindi came from you Bairu who say the kingdom is for Bahima. It’s you who produced us, we are one.”
He added. “Those deceiving you that you were servants and treated inhumanly want to distort facts. It’s you who produced the king. I don’t want to hear that ‘first ask Banyankore whether they want Obugabe!’ Those who say they don’t want Obugabe are actually not Banyankole”.
On Sunday October 23 St James Cathedral Ruharo hundreds gathered to pray, mourn and pay last respects to the prince before he was laid to rest at Nkokonjeru burial site in Mbarara town at 4.30 pm.
Gen.Elly Tumwine said: “Everything has its own time. I believe now is the time for government to hear our people. What we witnessed yesterday at (Muhabura) and today shows that this is the time, people want the kingdom restored.”
Prime Minster William Katatumba said; “If there is anybody doubting the institution of Obugage, the answer is today and yesterday. There is a talk of Bairu and Bahima, it’s meaningless. Bnayankole lets unite. I am Omwiru and Barigye was Omuhima what is important is that we are Banayankore. The debate of whether Obugabe is popular will end today, the answer is obvious.”
After he was installed as heir on October 24, Prince Rwebishengye promised to carry on the struggle for the restoration of the kingdom.
Cultural and political commentators have since spoken about the institution. Buganda Kingdom Attorney General Apollo Makubya said in an interview with Daily Monitor Published on November 16 that diplomacy will not help Banyankole in their quest for restoration of Obugabe.
“What the kingdom of Ankole has not done or the people who believe in Obugabe is jus to stand on their two feet and maintain a position on this thing. They have believed more in diplomacy and appease the political leadership and not to rattle. But you know, where our things are concerned, we don’t care. We have opposed. This lack of principled stand on Obugabe has the net effect of weakening people,” Mr Makubya said.
In a rejoinder, Kesi Nyakimwe and John-Jean Barya, the chairman and legal advisor to Banyankole Cultural Foundation respectively, a group that campaigns against restoration of Obugabe said Mr Makubya’s comments are interference with matters that should be of concern only to Bnayankole.
“It is up to the people of Ankole (not Buganda) to make that decision and to date they (Banyankole) have rejected restoration of Obugabe,” they wrote in Sunday Monitor December 11.
But Prime Minister Katatumba says that Mr Nyakimwe and his group have no following and will not deter them from pursuing the quest.
But two months today after Prince Barigye’s death and the impassioned speeches that were given during the nine days mourning, there is no visible or known moves by the same monarchists in line with coronating his hair; Prince Rwebishngye the king.
Some observers have already declared this renewed agitation for a king as ‘a nine days wonder.’
- Kingdoms were abolished during the President Milton Obote first regime in 1967. At the time Sir Charles Gasyonga, the father to Prince John Barigye was the king of Ankole. Prince Barigye became the heir when Omugabe Gasyonga died in 1980s. As NRM government cleared other kingdoms and kings got coronated Ankole was kept in waiting. Impatient monarchists coronated Prince Barigye as king of Ankole under the guise of funeral rites of his late father at Nkokonjeru in Mbarara on November 1993. When President Yoweri Museveni learnt of it, he told him and his group off and warned that should Prince Barigye parade as a king anywhere in Ankole, police would arrest him. This ignominious gesture from the president forced that monarchists and Nkore Cultural Trust members; Late Prince Barigye, Gen.Elly Tumwine, Gen.David Tinyefuza and Ankole Kingdom Prime Minister William Katatumba ‘abandoned’ the project. It is not until Prince Barigye died this year that calls for reinstatement of the kingdom gained prominence again.