Rukirabasaija Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV has occupied the Toro kingdom throne for nearly two-and-a-half decades now. We take a look at how far he has come.
CULTURE | EMPANGO
By Joseph Kizza
Toro is celebrating the 24th coronation anniversary of 27-year-old King Oyo, who ascended the throne at the tender age of three. Take a look at how far the young monarch has come thus far.
After Oyo's coronation in 1995 following the death of his father, Patrick David Mathew Kaboyo Olimi, it took some convincing by Prince Jimmy Mugenyi to get his young nephew to settle down and place the crown on his head during the elaborate activities marking the installation.
Instead, the young monarch appeared more interested in playing with his toys than attending to royal matters.
But Mugenyi, the late Kaboyo's brother, was relentless, eventually succeeding to pacify the understandably playful toddler.
Little did Oyo know that he had just officially taken charge of an entire kingdom. An area that once was part of the larger empire of Kitara, under the reign of the Babiito dynasty, dating back to the 16th century.
A brand new chapter for Toro Kingdom with a new, young leader: Rukirabasaija Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV - under the guardianwhip of his uncle, Jimmy Mugenyi.
When Kaboyo (not pictured) was alive, his son Oyo was the Crown Prince. When the king died in 1995, it meant that the Crown Prince had to take over, irrespective of the age. Oyo was only a toddler. Nonetheless, he had to assume the role of king.
Good enough for the young king, there was a bubble of regents, family and subjects around him that would be responsible for making things work.
For now, all Oyo had to do was, simply, live as any other child of his age - go to school and play with mates - and think less about the dynamics around his new status.
Thinking about his position would come later in life. Now now.
His uncle, Prince Jimmy Mugenyi, was a fundamental figure around the young king. By the way, according to Toro customs, if Kaboyo (Oyo's father) had not fathered a boy, it was Mugenyi who would have been crowned king after his brother's death.
In the photo below, the newly crowned king was introduced to the Babiito as a Babiitokati after leaving his throne to participate in the Empango royal dance after his coronation.
Meanwhile, before his coronation, Prince Oyo was pictured seeming uncomfortable when he was served the royal meal - millet. He was flanked by his uncle Mugenyi and Omusuga Charles Kayondo Kamurasi. This ritual is performed in a small hut behind the Palace.
Traditional eating habits of the Batooro left them prone to malnutrition as their choice of acceptable cuisine was very limited. Many of the good, nutritious foods that abounded in their kingdom were taboo. A mutooro did not eat "birds" or their eggs. So, for the longest time, the Batooro did not eat chicken or eggs. A Mutooro did not eat "frogs" (a derogatory name generalized over everything from the water, including fish). It was ironic, therefore, that while Toro boasted of having two fresh water lakes teeming with delicious tilapia nilotica, they considered it beneath them to eat the fish! A Mutooro did not eat the meat of any animal that had upper teeth, because such an animal was like a dog. This ruled out pork. For some reason, Batooro women were, and still are, expected to be even more dignified than their male counterparts. Whatever the taboo was, it went double for the women. As modern times slowly caught up with us, we slowly started breaking some of our long held traditions. To this day, however, there are some old Batooro women who will not allow chicken, fish or pork to be cooked in their kitchens! (Source)
King-to-be Oyo was led to bury his father on September 4, 1995. Prince Jimmy Mugenyi, who led his nephew, briefed President Yoweri Museveni (right) about funeral rites at Karambi Royal Tombs. On the left in the picture is the head of the Babiito clan (ruling clan), Charles Kayondo.
[Prince Mugenyi died in 2016 at the age of 69]
After his father's death, Oyo was taken back to London, UK, where he was schooling.
Oyo is pictured below looking sharp on his return to London after being installed as Toro king back home in Uganda.
Oyo's father, unlike him, had two very sort reigns. Kaboyo's first reign was terminated in 1967 (having succeeded his father in 1965) when then Prime Minister Apolo Milton Obote abrogated the constitution and made Uganda a republic, with himself as president.
When the President Yoweeri Museveni's NRM government reinstated the institution of king in 1993, Kaboyo became Omukama of Toro for the second time, but his second reign was very short. He died two years later, paving way for his son to succeed him.
Oyo was the sporty type. At school, he enjoyed spending time with his mates, perhaps most of whom didn't know - or even care - that he was of a special status. Even while enjoying a kick-about on the school compound, Oyo's mates would never have known that they were in the company of the youngest king on Earth.
They were simply doing what children their age love to do: play.
Back in the day, being a minor, King Oyo was suitably placed under the guardianship of several capable individuals to guide his smooth transition into his role as cultural leader of the people of Toro.
Among his guardians include President Yoweri Museveni, his uncle Prince Mugenyi and his parternal aunt Princess Elizabeth Bagaya.
A young Oyo posing for a photo with his first cabinet.
On August 27, 1999, King Oyo attended the wedding of his Buganda counterpart, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II and Sylvia Nagginda, the Nnabagereka.
President Museveni also attended - as did several other high-profile figures.
Birthday celebrations have always been a part of Oyo's life. He wore a coat over the iconic tunic on his sixth birthday in 1998, flanked by family and friends to celebrated yet another year added onto the young monarch's life.
On his sixth coronation anniversary in 2001, Oyo had a special guest: Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi, who was the president of Libya at the time.
Gaddafi was a patron of Toro kingdom, with close ties to the royal family. Oyo named the Libyan stalwart the "defender" of the kingdom and invited him to attend his coronation. Gaddafi had made donations to the kingdom, helping pay for refurbishments to the Karuzika palace in Fort Portal.
Meanwhile, President Yoweri Museveni also attended this coronation. It was a cultural affair, and the dress elements showed exactly this
Sports has been an important component of Toro kingdom. In the picture below, King Oyo, inspects football teams of Batoro clans.
Oyo sounds the drum during a tour in Kibiito in 1998, three years into his reign.
The growth of a king . . . commanding respect from his subjects.
Oyo typified a demeanour of calmness wherever he appeared - even at this function in 2008.
Then-Speaker of Orukurato (Parliament) Clovis Kyalimpa greeting the youthful king.
For Oyo, it has been progress in many aspects of his life, including academics.
On April 26, 2008, one of the newly sworn in Toro kingdom ministers paid allegiance to Omukama Oyo at his palace in Fort Portal.
On his 10th coronation anniversary on March 4, 2006, King Oyo was welcomed by Princess Bagaya inside the princess' hut at Karuzika palace.
Here, Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda received a medal from King Oyo on behalf of President Museveni.
Ahead of his 22nd coronation anniversary in 2017, King Oyo launched an agriculture expo.
It has been over two decades of growth at the helm for King Oyo, and many more years lie ahead of the Toro leader.