On October 19, the Rwenzururu cultural institution, the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR), will be celebrating seven years since it was officially recognised by the NRM government but 50 years since the Rwenzururu leader Charles Wesley Mumbere, succeeded the first Rwenzururu leader, Isaya Mukirania Kibanzanga I. New Vision’s John B. Thawite visited the Rwenzururu headquarters in Kasese town at the weekend and writes that preparations for the occasion are in high gear, amidst increasing security to ensure the day’s success and that some of the hands involved in the preparations must abstain from sex
Security has been stepped up in Kasese district as the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR) nears the coronation anniversary for its leader, Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema-Ngoma, on October 19.
The Rwenzori East regional spokesperson, Suwed Manshur, says the deployments are meant to ensure peace during the coronation. “The deployments you are seeing are in preparation and follow a letter from the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR) Prime minister,” says Manshur. He adds: “And wherever the President is expected, such deployments are normal. We urge residents to observe peace. If you are to be in a peaceful environment, you need to be a crime preventer at your household and your community.”
He says the forces that have been deployed will be working 24/7 and will work in turns. “If you want to move in the night, do so with a reason to avoid getting into conflict with the law,” Manshur warns. He clarified that the increased security was not meant to frustrate the celebrations.
Mood at the palace
Meanwhile the palace, (ekikalhi), is a beehive of activities with the Rwenzururu royalists participating in face-lifting the place. Activities include renovating the grass-thatched ekyaghanda (parliament house), the erisingiiro (coronation) and the regalia huts that are constructed between the king’s residence and the palace main gate. When New Vision visited the palace at the weekend, the sweating and dust-raising royalists were rehearsing music dance and drama with rhythmic drumming that was accompanied with a traditional wooden xylophone, musical set locally known as endaara.
Excitedly speaking amidst the sound of the drums and the xylophone, Edson Mbusa, who had travelled from Kyamukube village in Kabarole district, urged all the other Rwenzururu royalists to turn up in big numbers to enjoy the coronation.
“I am very happy that I am about to witness yet another coronation anniversary of our king,” Mbusa said.
One of the excited people, Zakaliya Sundirya said the first Rwenzururu leader, Isaya Mukirania, called for peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic groups in the Rwenzori sub-region.
Isaya Mukirania (RIP) was the leader of the Rwenzururu Freedom Movement of self-liberation in the 1960s that broke into a 20-year bloody conflict between the then Toro kingdom.
Mukirania died on September 2, 1966 and was succeeded by his first son, Charles Wesley Mumbere, the current leader of the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (Rwenzururu kingdom).
Other supporters at the palace were also cleaning the place that was also littered with bits dry spear grass and pieces of reeds and bamboo to beat the coronation deadline.
UWA contributes grass, bamboo
Asked about the source the building materials, the chairperson of the construction committee, Moses Baluku, said the Uganda Wildlife Authority had allowed his team to harvest the spear grass and the bamboo from Queen Elizabeth and Rwenzori Mountains National Parks respectively.
“We have spent the last two weeks cutting the grass from Queen Elizabeth National Park and the bamboo from th Rwenzori Mountains National Park. We are very grateful to UWA,” Baluku says.
He also says his committee ferried the reeds all the way from Kabarole district because the reeds are not in Kasese.
He, however, said cash contributions to construction budget, estimated at the Shs60m, were not forthcoming because the incomes of the supporters were currently low.
“I have a challenge feeding the workers here. The endless drought has affected the incomes of our people who depend on crops like maize, cotton and beans,” Baluku says.
Guarding the coronation hut known as erisingiiro, was a group of three elderly men, who were ensuring the fire inside is constantly on and that people who “are not clean” do not soil the “sacred” hut.
“For seven days before we come here, we are prohibited from having sex with our wives and no woman is allowed into this hut,” said their leader, John Mukirania, 56.
The coronation hut is a two-in-one, with the inner section only accessed by the king to undergo unknown rituals performed on him by a select group of elders, including the king’s maternal uncle.
While this is going on, 13 Bakonzo clan leaders are quietly assembled in another part of the coronation house.
As the king emerges from the inner section, a drum is sounded summoning the clan heads to rise and bow as the king takes up his wound, axle-like wooden coronation stool and signals them to take their seats.
The clan heads are then obliged to convey greetings from their respective clans and also renew their allegiance to the king and the kingdom.
Behind the parameter wall is a barracks of royal guards and a kraal under construction to keep the gifts of goats and cattle expected from the well-wishers.
“But you are not allowed to go there,” Moses Baluku says.
President Museveni invited
Briefing the media about the preparations, the kingdom spokesperson Clarence Bwambale, says President Museveni is expected to grace the occasion as the chief guest.
Bwambale also said national and international delegations, including a group of Congolese, were invited.
“We are working with the relevant government organs to have our guest cleared,” Bwambale says.
According to Bwambale, the entire function is expected to consume Shs650m.
But what have the Obusinga achieved?
“Many things,” says Bwambale, citing the peace dialogue between the Rwenzururu fighters and central government in 1982 and the government scholarship that government granted Mumbere in 1984 to study in the USA.
“Recently, the NRM government recognised and restored our kingdom in 2009, which past governments had banned,” Bwambale adds, saying the recognition had revived confidence among the Bakonzo.
The list of achievements also includes a recently opened public library, an animal farm, university – The Rwenzururu Heritage University.
He says, “We now have someone to rest on. He has united us,” admitting, however, that self-sustainability is among the nagging challenges
“We have a series of projects to implement in the next couple of years. These include establishment of a radio and a TV station to generate income for the kingdom to avoid depending on external support,” says Bwambale.
He salutes government for having secured land for the construction of a modern palace that will overlook the Kilembe Golf Club and Kasese town centre.