Members of Parliament sitting on the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee say there is need for Constitutional Clarity in the definition of traditional leaders and kings. The MPs argue that one can be a traditional leader without necessarily being a king and this needs to be clarified in the law.
The legislators note that Chapter 16 of the 1995 Constitution makes mention of traditional or cultural leaders and kings yet these are intrinsically different. They argue that a cultural leader may not need a geographical jurisdiction while a king requires one hence suggesting a need for greater clarity on this matter.
This is highlighted in the Committee’s draft report to Parliament on the Ethnic Tensions in the Rwenzori Sub-Region following the July 2012 clashes between the Bamba, Bakonzo and Basongora. The committee was tasked to investigate the clashes after Busongora North MP William Nzoghu petitioned the House on what he called a matter of national importance.
The MP raised this in respect to the security of the people of the Rwenzori region and the Rwenzururu Kingdom in particular. He cited the fracas pitting the Bakonzo against the Bamba during the celebration of the 50 years of the Rwenzururu Freedom Day that took place on 30th June 2012 in Bundibugyo. The Bamba, who are the majority in Bundibugyo, accused Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere of mobilizing fellow Bakonzo to impose their culture on the Bamba-Babwisi. In the clashes that followed, at least 400 people were displaced.
Nzonghu further noted other social disturbances in Kasese district largely caused by pronouncements made by the Basongora, who installed their own cultural leader on the day Rwenzururu was marking its anniversary. The Basongora leader, Ivan Rutakirwa Bwebale, agitated for the total ban of any form of expression and practice of the Rwenzururu culture in 20 sub-counties of Kasese district.
The draft report further notes that the Institution of Cultural and Traditional Leaders Act lumps traditional and cultural leaders by defining a traditional or cultural leader as a king or similar traditional or cultural leader by whatever name. According to the Act, these leaders derive allegiance from the fact of birth or descent in accordance with the customs, traditions, usage or consent of the people led by the traditional or cultural leader.
The committee believes that there is a need for clarity over who a leader is and who a king is saying that anybody can be a leader. They argue that a leader is basically someone who has followers and a king is a royal backed by claim over people within a definitive geographical jurisdiction. He is someone who has ultimate authority in a monarchy; he sits upon a throne, usually holds a scepter and is honored above anyone else.
The Defence Committee notes that it is clear that one can be a traditional leader but without claim over territory and that in the case of Uganda, this needs to be clarified in the law. The MPs say this will go a long way in resolving the friction that stems from the proliferation of cultural and traditional leaders in Uganda today.
On June 30th 2012, King Charles Wesley Mumbere of the Rwenzururu kingdom visited Bundibugyo District as part of the events to commemorate 50 years of the Rwenzururu Freedom day. During this visit he inter-alia inaugurated a royal shrine and hoisted a flag at Kirindi Village in Bwamba County. Just hours after he left, clashes between the Bakonzo and Baamba-Babwisi communities flared, as the latter argued that they are not part of the Rwenzururu Kingdom.
This clash left one person dead and 400 Bakonzo displaced. The Bamba have since elected their own cultural leader, Omudhinganya, Major Martin Kamya, who currently waiting to be released from the army.
The following day, the Basongora Community, one of the minority tribes in Kasese district installed their own cultural leader, Ivan Rwigi IV Kabumba Agutamba Bwebale Rutakirwa and effectively renounced allegiance to the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu.
This was on grounds that there was a distinct dichotomy in cultures and norms between them and the Bakonzo. This resulted into further tribal clashes. Bakonzo youths reacted by attacking the palace of Rutakirwa in Muhokya near Kasese town and stealing the Basongora flag and royal regalia, which were later displayed at Mumbere’s palace.
Further on July 30th 2012, a section of the Batuku tribe in Ntoroko District allegedly wrote to President Yoweri Museveni banning the visits of both King Oyo of Tooro and of King Charles Mumbere of Rwenzururu in their area.
In August, the Banyabindi, one of the minority tribes in Kasese District secretly installed their cultural leader, Isebantu Elisa Mugisa Entare ya Banyabindi. They now want the government to recognize their King.
In July this year, the events unfolded again after Omusinga Mumbere was blocked from visiting Bundibugyo to celebrate a youth day event. Police had to deploy heavily to disperse crowds that were staging demonstrations in Kasese town.