While we empathise with the families who lost their loved ones in Kasese in 2016 and Bulange in 1965, any attempt to manufacture a parallel between the two events is at best a distortion of our history and at worst displaying ignorance of it.
By Sam Akaki
Much has been written drawing a parallel between “King” Mumbere’s troubles with President Yoweri Museveni and what Kabaka Mutesa faced under President Milton Obote.
While we empathise with the families who lost their loved ones in Kasese in 2016 and Bulange in 1965, any attempt to manufacture a parallel between the two events is at best a distortion of our history and at worst displaying ignorance of it. We cite below some of the glaring differences between “King” Mumbere and Kabaka Mutesa as individuals, their times and the role of kingdoms in relation to Uganda as a nation state.
Whereas Omusinga (King) of Rwenzururu, Charles Wesley Mumbere is the product of the 1963 protest by the Bakonyzo tribesmen against alleged discrimination by the Batoro, Edward Frederick William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula, Mutesa II was the 36th Kabaka (king) of the ancient kingdom of Buganda, which goes back at least 500 years.
Whereas King Mumbere’s coronation was a low-key tribal event, born of political expediency, which came to fruit in 2009; Edward Mutesa’s coronation in 1942 was an international cultural, diplomatic, religious and political event, attended by the representatives of several foreign governments, kingdoms and Empires. Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was there as was the British King George V1, who was represented by the then governor to Uganda, Sir Charles Dundas.
Whereas Mutesa was educated at King’s College, Budo, Makarere and Cambridge universities before he became a Lt. Col. in the British Grenadier Guards, Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) and first president of Uganda; very little of substance is written about King Mumbere background.
Whereas Mutesa was forcibly deported twice, first by the British colonial administration in 1953 and by independent Uganda government in 1966, on both occasions surviving on nothing but his dignity; King Mumbere was given Obote’s government scholarship and generous stipend to study in the US in 1982.
He decided to take voluntary exile in the US, where he worked as a care home assistant until President Museveni invited him to come back.
Under a screaming headline, ‘US nurse’s aide becomes Ugandan king’, a leading UK daily, The Telegraph wrote on October 19, 2009, “for years, Charles Wesley Mumbere cared for the elderly and sick. But on Monday, after years of financial struggle, Mumbere, 56, was finally crowned king of his people to the sound of drum beats and thousands of cheering tribal supporters wearing cloth printed with his portrait.”
Whereas it was Edward Mutesa, though a coalition with the Kabaka Yeka (KY) political party, who literally made Milton Obote Uganda’s first Prime Minister at independence on October 9, 1962, it was President Museveni, who also literally made Charles Wesley Mumbere king in 2009. Today, Edward Mutesa’s fingerprints, those of his father, Sir Daudi Chwa and grandfather Mwanga are found all over Uganda in term of social and economic development. For example, it was his grandfather Muteesa who invited the British missionaries, the pioneers of modern education and health services in Uganda.
Later, it was Edward Mutesa himself, who led the struggle to resist closer integration of Uganda into the East African Federation, which was dominated by white settlers in Kenya.
It was also Mutesa’s deportation in 1953, which for the first and last time united all Ugandans in one cause. Post-independence leaders such Yokosafati Engur from Lango and Peter Oola from Acholi and their colleagues from across Uganda went to London to deliver their demands to the British government to bring back the Kabaka. By contrast, there is no record of any role played by Mumbere or his ancestors in the development of Uganda, save for the fact that his father Isaya Mukirane Kibanzanga was a primary school teacher. Nor have we seen other Ugandan cultural, political and religious leaders trooping to President Museveni asking for his release. Whereas the 1966 attack on Edward Mutesa’s palace set in motion a train of events, which led to end of Obote’s first government 1971, it is unlikely that the attack on Mumbere’s “Palace” and his subsequent arrest and detention will have any political impact outside Kasese district.
This is because social and political realities in modern Uganda are incompatible with the politically-motivated creation of tribal chieftains. In fact, it is possible, even probable, that a future president will abolish these over-rated positions, if only to save the public funds now used to maintain the life-long post holders. These funds would be better invested in tackling the runaway youth unemployment.
But, as Milton Obote found out to his cost, not even the most ardent anti-monarchist president is likely to dream, again, of abolishing the ancient kingdoms such as Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro in a foreseeable future. Each is a valued cultural institution, which was serving an ethnic group within Uganda long before British colonial rule. They have also had a long history spearheading in Uganda independence struggle. That is why we insist “King” Mumbere is not Kabaka Mutesa II.
The writer is a Ugandan living in the UK