By Obed K. Katureebe
Most commentators as expected have heaped all the blame of the current tribal conflict in the Rwenzori region to President Yoweri Museveni. Among those peddling the blame games is none other than the cultural leader for the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu Charles Wesley Mumbere.
The critics are accusing the president for having a tendency of recognising minority tribes who seek to have their own identities from the dominant tribes in the various kingdoms and chiefdoms across the country.
In this case of the Rwenzori conflict, they are accusing the president for having recognised the demand for the Bamba/Babwisi to have their own traditional leader Col. Martin Ayongi Kamya and even attended his coronation ceremony. Meanwhile, the Basongora community quietly crowned their own cultural leader Agutamba Ivan Bwebale. Although this was not officially recognized, government did condemn it or declare null and void.
Foremost, Mumbere who was allowed to be crowned a cultural leader after a protracted struggle was advised by the government to dialogue with the other communities that felt were not part of the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu of which he is the cultural head.
Like the President explained recently in his missive about the Rwenzori conflict, Mumbere’s ascendency to be the cultural leader was resisted by many including his fellow Bakonzo because there was never a kingdom in the Rwenzori area from time immemorial. Mumbere’s claim to be the cultural head of the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu was because his late father Mukiraine led a revolt of the Bakonzo and Bamba against the Tooro kingship whom they accused of neglecting and undermining them.
Upon ascending to the throne as the cultural leader, Mumbere got inflicted by the endemic curse that tends to afflict most of our cultural leaders who treat minority with utmost condescension and arrogance.
For example, instead of filling his cabinet with representatives from all tribes and ethnicities that form the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, he picked on only Bakonzo and largely those that were in one way or the other associated with the Rwenzuru Movement of which he was the leader after his father’s death.
In fact, it would have made a lot of sense if the Prime Minister had been picked from the Bamba/Babwisi and probably the minister for Internal Affairs picked from the Basongora and another senior ministry was given to the Banyabibndi. In this way, Mumbere would have neutralised the negative forces from these tribes that were vehemently opposed to his enthronement.
Besides, the constitution of Uganda is clear that no cultural leader can impose his authority on any community that for whatever reasons chooses not to recognise him or her. Subject to Article 246(3)(d) of the Constitution, a person shall not be compelled to pay allegiance or contribute to the cost of maintaining a traditional or cultural leader.
A person who compels another person to pay allegiance to a traditional or cultural leader commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty four currency points or imprisonment not exceeding twelve months or both.
Therefore, it was naïve for Mumbere assume that just because the three rebellious communities in the Rwenzori area would automatically pay allegiance him after being crowned simply because his father led them into rebellion against the Batooro.
Museveni as president is right to be sensitive to the concerns of the minority communities especially if the cultural leaders who are in most cases are from the bigger tribes are treating them with arrogance. Some cultural leaders from the dominant communities usually refer to the minority groups as subgroups and treat them as second class citizens. They are at times denied a voice simply because they mean nothing in terms of numbers.
Cultural leaders must realise that they are living in a new cultural setup which is very different from what their grandfathers lived in. There is no more conquests and domination as it used to be. There are no more lords, serf and slaves in the new setting. The practice of paying homage to the dominant communities by the conquered sub groups is no more. Paying homage is now mandatory and no longer compulsory as was the case in the pre industrial era.
Therefore, the current cultural leaders ought to realize that they must engage candidly with minority groups as equal partners in the cultural heritage if they are to remain relevant in this era and time.
Privileges and the attendant respect should be accorded equitably. The common outdated reasoning that kings are born is so unappealing and does not rhythm with new capitalist generation.
Such statements can only generate rebellion because for we all we now is that cultural leaders are there to promote cultural values and peaceful coexistence across the board without informing people how they are lesser mortals just because they were not “lucky” to be born from certain communities.
Statements from our cultural leaders should be unifying and offering equal treatment across board.
Finally, Uganda’s cultural leaders should look at President Museveni as their chief ally in this whole struggle to exist in the neo liberalized minds of Ugandans. Am sure if a referendum was to be conducted across Uganda, the results would send some cultural leaders into comatose.
The writer works with Uganda Media Centre-Office of the President