By John B. Thawite
The Rwenzururu king has marked his 47th coronation anniversary during which he extended an olive branch to his Toro Kingdom counterpart.
In his address, the Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema-Ngoma demanded for a meeting between himself and King Oyo of the Toro Kingdom so that together they could discuss and forge a united strategy to develop the Rwenzori region.
The function presided over by Vice President Edward Sekandi at the Kilembe Golf Course was also attended by a Toro Kingdom delegation led by the Prime Minister, Steven Kaliba.
Omusinga Mumbere, who carried to the function by some of his subjects, castigated the people he described as self seekers who he said were creating superficial situations that are seen as conflicts among the people in his Kingdom.
“But the good news in that these self seekers will never succeed”, the Omusinga declared, attracting applause clapping and ululations from the crowd.
However, the Omusinga noted that the Kingdom had experienced some trying moments during the year 2013 listing the major ones as the devastating floods that hit Kasese and Ntoroko districts in the month of May and his being denied a visit to Bundibugyo on June 30th.
On June 30 this year, police and other security agencies deployed heavily and blocked the Omusinga from travelling to Bundibugyo where he was going to officiate over the Rwenzururu Kingdom peace day at Kasulenge in Bughendera County due to security reasons.
On April 14, the king and his subjects were blocked for over four hours from travelling to Kasenyi to celebrate the kingdom’s environment day.
The Bakonzo, Bamba, Basongora, Banyabindi, Babwisi and other minority ethnic groups broke away from Toro kingdom in 1962 accusing the pre-dominant Batoro kingdom of oppressing them.
The Rwenzururu king Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema-Ngoma at the celebrations. PHOTO: Ali Wasswa
Their demands included equality in leadership, including running the office of prime minister on a rotational basis, which the Toro kingdom rejected.
In March 1962, thirteen Bakonzo and Bamba Councillors on the Toro Rukurato (Parliament) stormed out.
On 30 June, 1962, the angry Bamba and Bakonzo declared independence from Toro by positing their own flag at Kasulenge Hill in Bundibugyo.
Led by late Isaya Mukirania Kibanzanga, the father of the Rwenzururu king Charles Wesley Mumbere, they Bakonzo and Bamba then launched a Rwenzori mountains-based 20-year bloody armed war, the Rwenzururu Freedom Movement that left a trail of death and destruction on both sides.
Mukirania died in 1966 and young Mumbere, assisted by regents, took over the Rwenzururu leadership.
To try to pacify the situation, the Amin government curved the current district of Kasese and Bundibugyo district out of Toro in the mid 1970s.
Mumbere descended from the mountains in August 1982, declared a ceasefire and peaceful negotiations.
But the sad memories on both sides remained majorly subdued but not fully cleansed.
Mumbere calls for reconciliation
It was against this background that the Toro Prime Minister, Steven Kaliba’s presence at Mumbere’s 47th coronation will remain historical in both kingdoms.
In his coronation anniversary speech, the Rwenzururu king, Charles Wesley Mumbere, paid special tribute to the Toro premier several times for attending the Rwenzururu function.
At one point, Mumbere, who was reading his speech mainly in English and occasionally translating some parts in Lukonzo, addressed Kaliba in Rutoro, a language that the Bakonzo and Bamba associated with the oppression.
Mumbere asked Government to return the properties, assets and royalties that previously belonged to Toro but currently located in the area under Rwenzururu kingdom.
He said since the Rwenzururu is officially recognised by government, it should also have the assets that belong to it since they now fall under a new occupant (the Rwenzururu cultural institution.
But Mumbere said the Central Government should compensate the Toro kingdom.
He said he was willing to meet with Toro Kingdom’s Oyo over reconciliation for the development of the two kingdoms.