By George Bita and Joshua Kato
He had been fighting for his life for a long time but yesterday, Henry Wako Muloki, the Kyabazinga (king) of Busoga, passed on.
The 87-year-old leader had at least two million subjects, who are now in mourning.
Although he spent his early years in Nakabango near Jinja town, Muloki was born in Bulamogi county, Kamuli district on February 18, 1921.
From Kingâ€™s College Budo, Muloki joined Makerere University where he obtained a degree in agriculture in 1946. His political qualities were at work even then, landing him the position of guild president.
The handsome prince lived his youthful days to the full. He socialised a lot and liked to make friends. One of them was the king of Buganda, Sir Edward Mutesa II. The friendship was so deep that when Muloki wedded Alice Kintu in 1956, Mutesa was the best-man, the role Muloki played when Mutesa also tied the knot.
Muloki played his civic duties well. He worked in the civil service for a long time. For example, he was at the Civil Aviation Authority up to 1965. He was also the Uganda manager of the East African Airways up to 1968. In 1970, he went to the UK and worked there until 1974 when he returned to head the Soroti Flying School. He was also the board chairman of the Uganda Airlines from 1980 to 1985.
Although among the five most powerful kingdoms in Uganda, at 70 years old, Busoga kingdom is among the youngest.
The first seed of the kingdom was planted around the 16th century by Prince Mukama Namutukula of the Bunyoro royal family and his wife Naudo when they migrated to Busoga. Namutukula was descended from the Abaise Ngobi of the Babiito dynasty.
The coupleâ€™s first born, Ezekiel Tenywa Wako, and his wife Yunia Nakibande, begot Henry Wako Muloki in 1921.
Namutukula settled in Iyingo in todayâ€™s Kamuli district and had five other sons whom he allocated portions of land to â€œgovernâ€.
Wakoli took Bukhooli in present day Buguri district, Zibondo had Bulamogi in Kamuli, Ngobi was given Kigulu in Iganga, Tabingwa controlled Luuka also in Iganga and the youngest son, Kitimbo, got Bugabula in Kamuli. Overall, Busoga has 11 clans, which elect the Kyabazinga from the five royal clans.
This administration, however, was disrupted when Uganda became a protectorate in 1894. The colonial bosses introduced a federal government termed as Busoga Lukiiko (legislative council).
William Grant, the first district governor, visited Chief Lubaâ€™s palace at Bukaleba in todayâ€™s Mayuge district to arrange for a central government in the area.
The heads of the 11 clans selected Prince Kisira, the Zibondo of Bulamogi, as chairman of the Lukiiko at Bukaleba. Ezekiel Tenywa Wako became the first permanent resident chief at Bugembe in Jinja, the seat of the kingdom.
Chief Wako became the first Isebantu (father of the people) Kyabazinga on February 11, 1939. Ten years later, the Lukiiko declared that the office of Isebantu would be rotational. It agreed that the office-bearer be elected from the descendants of the five princes.
In line with their ancestry, the Abaise Ngobi bury their dead with their heads facing Bunyoro kingdom. This will be the case in a few days time when Muloki is buried.
Muloki took over the throne in 1956, from William Wilberforce Nadiope III who reigned from 1949 to 1955. Mulokiâ€™s first rule ended in 1967 when President Milton Obote abolished kingdoms. He resumed the throne on February 11, 1995 when the current government restored monarchies.
Muloki married Inhebantu (queen) Alice Muloki on January 21, 1956. Inhebantu passed away on November 6, 2005.
The couple had eight children, four boys and four girls. However, none of them may succeed him. Unlike in other kingdoms, for example Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro, the Kyabazinga is not automatically succeeded by one of his children. The king of Busoga is elected from among the five royal clans. And the race to replace him may well have started.
Conflict over right Kyabazinga
Before resuming power, a rift emerged between Muloki and Eriakesi Kiregeya Ngobi, over the throne. Kiregeya, a prince from the Abaise Ngobi clan, held his own coronation in Igenge, Iganga district. His action was not recognised. Kiregeya sought a court injunction to stop Mulokiâ€™s crowning. However, the conflict was resolved following talks between the two clans of Kiregeya and Muloki. Former Vice-President Specioza Wandira Kazibwe and deputy prime minister Al-Hajji Ali Kirunda Kivejinja were key in the negotiations. Kiregeya was named Ssabalangira (the head of the clan heads) as part of the deal.
By the time he died, the kingdom was due to amend the constitution to address such conflicts. Prince Patrick Izimba of the Ngobi lineage in Kigulu said Muloki was at the centre of the process.
In June, Muloki reshuffled the cabinet, appointing little-known Wilson Muwereza as the seventh premier to replace Prof. Juma Wasswa Balunywa who was acting. This sparked a rift between the kingâ€™s subjects well known for endless intrigues based on local factionalism.
Even if Muloki side-stepped the custom twice to name two subsequent cabinets without the hereditary chiefsâ€™ involvement, an unwritten rule exonerates the Kyabazinga from being dragged to court which this group went ahead to do.
Although Jinja High Court registrar P.P. Okello had issued a court order blocking the swearing-in, Kamuli district magistrate Agnes Nambafu presided over the function at Mulokiâ€™s palace.
According to Izimba, the Kyabazingaâ€™s enemies are the Basoga who do not cherish the establishment. His two reshuffles in the last year of his reign portrays his attempts at solving these conflicts, he said.
â€œThe funding of the kingdom must be from subjects, well wishers and friends but lately such helpers have become scanty. Interestingly, Basoga donate a lot to other kings,â€ Izimba emphasised.
Sword of sickness
Muloki has been hospitalised several times in Padova hospital in Italy. He was always accompanied by his health minister Dr. Benon Wanume, the medical superintendent of Jinja Hospital. In 1999, he had a throat operation in Padova. This year, he was admitted to various hospitals in Uganda and India. The government footed the bills. One time, the President offered him his presidential jet to fly to India.
His prolonged illness impacted on his role as the Kyabazinga.
What others say
George Patrick Bageya, former Busia RDC and seasoned politician, remembers Muloki as an agricultural officer.
â€œI used to see the young prince in Entebbe, the then capital city, very busy helping the colonialists to boost the agricultural potential of this country,â€ Bageya says.
Muloki, Bageya added, was responsible for the unity in the region and hoped that his death would not spark chaos.
He was supported by Idi Kitakula, a driver in Jinja town, who said the death meant a new power struggle for the seat.
History may repeat itself since in the 1990s, we had Kiregeya and a couple of others fighting for the seat.â€