THE unresolved issue of the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu has created two nations in the Rwenzori region. The pro-Obusinga group thinks the issue affects government programmes while the anti-Obusinga group thinks the kingship is not an issue in development provided the Bakonzo and Bamba get services from government like any other Ugandans.
However, majority of the Bakonzo and Bamba want the kingship recognised, which explains President Yoweri Museveniâ€™s poor performance in Kasese District during elections. Even if the kingship was recognised, there would be the issue of who becomes King because there are five claimants, each saying he is the rightful crown prince. These are Swaleh Basikania Tibamwenda, Ibrahim Makoma, Akim Isingoma Kisalitha-Buthulhamu, Robert Bwambale Tibamwenda and Charles Wesley Mumbere.
Swaleh Basikania Tibamwenda
His claim to be the crown prince is based on the Obwami (chieftaincy) which is historically popular in the DR Congo. Elders in Kasese say Basikaniaâ€™s grandfather, King Mukeeri, found himself in the DR Congo following the drawing of boundaries by colonialists in 1910. It is said that King Mukeeriâ€™s son and Basikaniaâ€™s father, Mudere, had approached the Government for recognition as King before he died in 2003.
Basikaniaâ€™s palaces are allegedly at Kitswabwemi, Maliba sub-county in Kasese District. But residents say they do not know the palaces. Basikania is currently a businessman in Kampala. Some elders in Maliba advise Basikania to go back to the DR Congo where he could claim cultural leadership of the Basu Clan which his father once headed.
Ibrahim Makoma is the son of Cyril Makoma, an 80-year old former Gombolola chief who stays in Kasese town. He is always smartly dressed in suits and takes his meals from restaurants.
Makoma, a lawyer, left the Catholic Church more than four years ago to join the Islamic faith upon which he dropped his name Bob for Ibrahim. He runs a private law firm in Kasese town.
Makomaâ€™s grandfather, Tibamwenda, was one of the three Bakonzo freedom fighters who were hanged and buried in one grave near Kagando Hospital in Kisinga sub-county. However, Makomaâ€™s father (Cyril Makoma) confesses that he has never been king but only a leader of the Baswagha clan. This undermines his sonâ€™s claim to the throne.
Robert Bwambale Tibamwenda
The youthful Bwambale is from the same extended family as Makoma. He is a grandson of Cyril Makomaâ€™s brother. His family has helped him put up traditional huts around Tibamwendaâ€™s grave. He is helped by his family supporters to perform certain cultural rituals in the huts at least once a year and claims he performs them as King of Rwenzururu.
Akim Isingoma Kisalitha Buthulhamu
Isingoma emerged about three years ago. He is from the Basu Basukali clan.
He claims that his ancestors settled in the present Toro Kingdom but were persecuted and chased away by the Batoro leaders in the 18th century. He further claims that spirits guided him to his ancestral home after identifying him as the true crown prince of Rwenzururu.
Isingoma said he had advised Charles Wesley Mumbere alias Iremangoma to withdraw his claims and proposed that all claimants to the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu be publically subjected to cultural rituals to determine the true King.
Charles Wesley Mumbere Iremangoma
He is the son of Isaya Mukirania, a former primary school teacher who had his roots in Bundibugyo. While teaching at Kitagwenda Primary School in Toro, he is said to have received orders, through a dream, to search for all Bakonzo and Bamba clan leaders and discuss with them the revival of the Bukobi Bayira Kingdom said to have been destroyed in 1830 by Batoro fighters.
Mukirania revealed the dream during a clan leadersâ€™ meeting on August 15, 1953. The meeting resulted into a rebellion against the Toro Kingdom administrators. All elders, clan leaders and prominent Bakonzo and Bamba at the meeting unanimously agreed to revive their kingdom and blessed Mukirania to lead the struggle. In 1961 they formed the Rwenzururu Movement with Mukirania as leader. In 1962 Mukirania presented to the Toro Kingdom Constitutional Conference a memorandum with demands that prominent positions like that of the Prime Minister rotate among Bakonzo, Bamba and Batoro. Toro Kingdom leadership rejected the proposal. Subsequently, Bakonzo and Bamba launched a rebellion.
In June 1962, they declared the Rwenzururu Kingdom and hoisted their monarchyâ€™s flag in Bundibugyo. At the first anniversary on June 30, 1963, Mukirania was led by clan leaders to sit on a stool. He was given a spear and was dressed in robes, which marked formal installation as the King of Bakonzo and Bamba. Mukirania died in 1966 while on a visit to Kalemie Basu in the DR Congo. He was buried in Uganda that year.
His first born son, Charles Wesley Mumbere, then aged 14, was not allowed to see the dead body of his father. Two days after the burial he was installed heir to his fatherâ€™s throne. This is why he is seen as having the strongest claim to the kingship.
In 1982 Mumbere descended from the mountains to the plains following a change of strategy to abandon violence for dialogue.
Mumbere stays in the United States pursuing further studies on government sponsorship. The Government has helped him to visit his people in Kasese and Bundibugyo twice.
The writer is a journalist
The rival claimants to Rwenzururu throne