The Omusinga is today expected in the town on the final leg of a cross-kingdom tour. However, the visit has been opposed by a group claiming he is infringing on the cultural rights of the Basongora community.
Local state officials, however, say the group should be ignored. They seem to be trying to provoke an “overreaction” from the government.
On December 6, a one Mr Festo Kajura Nkwatsibwe, identifying himself as acting coordinator of the Ethnic Minority Rights Initiative, wrote to the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development declaring the visit unlawful.
Under current law, cultural leaders fall under the ambit of the ministry. Mr Kajura informed the minister, Ms Betty Amongi, that the Omusinga is distorting cultural history.
“I am writing to bring to your attention a matter of significant concern involving the unlawful encroachment on the cultural space of the Basongora people by Mr Mumbere Wesley Kisembo, the cultural leader of the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu-OBR, a Bakonzo-only cultural institution in Uganda,” Mr Kajura wrote.
He told the minister that “despite OBR being for only the Bakonzo ethnicity, it operates in a district that is home to various ethnicities including Basongora and Banyabindi”.
“Mumbere has designated the whole lowland region of Kasese as his chiefdom. Announcing his intention to visit Katwe K’abatooro Town Council on Tuesday (12th), and deliberately distorting historical and sentimental names like Katwe (calling it Katswebwemi chiefdom). It is these recent actions that are clear violations of Uganda’s law, the Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act-2011,” the petition reads in part.
Calling for swift government action, Mr Kajura warned that such a visit could inflame ethnic tensions.
Hours to the visit, there have been incredulous reactions to the petition from kingdom subjects. A one Neckson Mbayahi, a resident of Kisinga, said Kajura’s reasoning revealed a lack of an understanding of the law.
“His level of reasoning is that cultural institutions have geographical boundaries. He is an attention seeker because for over 100 years, the Bakonzo and Banyabindi have lived in harmony,” Mr Mbayahi told reporters from Daily Monitor.
He added: “How about the Bakingwe, Bagabo, and the Bambuba? Do they share cultures with Basongora? Why is he trying to recruit them into this senseless conflict?”
Rwenzururu Kingdom’s acting prime minister, Mr Selevest Masereka also agreed with Mbayahi’s opinion, saying the king’s visit would go ahead.
“That letter was addressed to the government. I haven’t also received my copy although I am copied in… However, its contents indicate a clear lack of knowledge about the law since it creates an impression that the kingdom has boundaries,” he said.
In an interview, Kasese deputy Resident District Commissioner, Lt Maate Magwara advised locals to ignore the letter. He also said that the author intended to provoke an overreaction which his office will not give him.
Source: Daily Monitor
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