FIVE decades ago, a beautiful girl named Yuspina Nyakirya, from present-day Amolatar district, was handed over to Kabaka Mutesaâ€™s entourage.
The Kabaka had visited Kyoga county, then part of the northern province on the invitation of Misaki Kirya, then Kyoga county chief.
â€œMy father was unsure, but the county chief convinced him that the Kabaka was interested in marrying me. That was in 1956,â€ she said.
Nyakiryaâ€™s father, Isaiah Engicu, a Kumam, was one of the officials at the county headquarters. Kirya, a Munyala from present-day Kayunga district, was Engicuâ€™s boss and close friend. So when they got a daughter, he persuaded the parents to name her Nyakirya though this name is not used among the Kumam.
With such close ties, Kirya did not have much trouble convincing the girlâ€™s father. She has memories of the Lubiri palace, where she lived, together with many other young women.
â€œWe were not doing work. Even the food we ate was cooked by other people outside the place where we were staying. They would just bring in the food when it was ready.â€
Some of Naykiryaâ€™s claims add up to historical facts. In the 1950s Kabaka Mutesa was living in the Lubiri palace. In a September 2009 article published in Daily Monitor, veteran politician Adoko Nekyon pointed out that the Kabaka visited Kyoga county in the 1950s and that the county chief at that time was Misaki Kirya. The Kyoga people gave the Kabaka gifts, including cows.
However, Nyakiria might have over-stated her role in the palace. To-date, Nyakirya believes she was one of the Kabakaâ€™s wives and she still dreams about him. But those who know the way the Ganda palace was organised say she must have been a maid.
Traditionally, palaces had many maids referred to as abazaana and the Kabaka had a right to sleep with any of them. The Kabaka, however, had an official wife, known as the Nnabagereka.
â€œLater on in 1959, I was sent back home. Up to date I have not been married because most people had fears on me that I was still the wife of the Kabaka, â€ Nyakiria lamented.
She was sent back home with some gifts and sh500. At that time, she says, you could buy a cow and a goat and still have a balance with that money.
Today, a local cow costs about sh400,000 and a goat costs about sh70,000 in Amolatar.
Back home, all men feared to touch Nyakirya because they considered her the Kabakaâ€™s wife. She did not bear any children.
Nyakirya, who still speaks Luganda, now lives alone in a mud and wattle hut in Amirimir cell, Amolatar town council. She is frail and feels general body pain, so she cannot do most things.
Her brotherâ€™s teenage granddaughter comes to help her with tasks such as cooking and fetching water from the well. In the evening, the little girl goes back to her home and Nyakirya is left all alone. She barely has food to eat.
When she gets cassava, she dries and preserves the peels to eat on days when she has no other food. â€œI would like to appeal to the royal family of Buganda, to at least build me a residential house and give me other necessities like money, since I do not have any child to do it for me,â€ she says.
However, the Buganda Kingdom spokesman, Charles Peter Mayiga, said they cannot help Nyakirya because they do not know her.
Who is a Muzaana in Buganda?
In Buganda, every woman is omuzaana (servant) of the Kabaka. The Kabaka (King) is free to choose any woman out of the servants and assign her responsibility at his will.
In the past, if the Kabaka admired someoneâ€™s wife and took her on as his own, the husband had no powers to resist because it was considered that the Kabaka had chosen from his servants.
In every palace, the Kabaka must have a chain of servants who take charge of a number of daily activities, like looking after his animals and gardens.
The Kabaka is free to assign them other responsibilities.
Buganda has 56 clans and each of them has a specific responsibility in the palace. Clan elders ensure the Kabaka has enough servants in the palace.
All the other members of the royal family are assigned servants who help them with their day to day lives.
Woman claims to have been Kabakaâ€™s wife