King of Ankole’ interview

Article Published on:

31st March 2005.

Omugabe for all  ( read it as a history to remember the King )

The man who would have been King of Ankole, PRINCE JOHN BARIGYE (65), lives a rather quiet life in Mbarara � having been denied that honour by President Museveni under very debatable considerations. He recently spoke to BENON HERBERT OLUKA about what might have been, especially the benefits the kingdom (Obugabe) would bring to the Banyankole who cherish this traditional institution:

When other kingdoms were restored in 1993, the government banned the Ankole Kingdom. Why?

That development was difficult to understand because a law was passed, which was very clear, stating that previous kingdoms were restored but then we were told that in the case of Ankole, the government would not allow it.

So the government was unfair to deny the people of Ankole a king?

It is not easy to justify it or understand why Ankole had to be treated differently. And there are many people in Ankole who are very attached to a monarchical culture, who aspire to have our culture preserved and monarchy restored. Okay, there are also those who didn�t like it, who were against it. But that is everywhere. There is nowhere you will find unanimity.

President Museveni says the people of Ankole have to decide. Why was that position taken for Ankole?

I really don�t know. You will have to ask the government. I can�t speak for them.

How have you come to terms with government�s refusal to recognise you as king?

It is not a personal matter which concerns me alone as an individual. It concerns all Banyankole, so if the government says they will not allow the restoration our kingdom; I just have to live with that. There is nothing else I can do about it. I just continue as before. I have always managed somehow and I am managing somehow.

You have kept a low profile since that failed coronation. Is there any particular reason why?

It is not a question of deciding to keep a low profile. I mean I can�t start making noise if I have nothing to make noise about. I just live my normal life and I don�t seek publicity for the sake of publicity. I just do whatever I do normally and that is that. There isn�t much to make public noise about really. It is not that I have deliberately sought to keep a low profile.

Why is the Ankole kingdom so controversial?

In the case of Ankole, we had a number of Ankole politicians who were in prominent places in government who were particularly anti-restoration of the monarchy. I think that was the problem. But apart from that, I don�t really understand it.

Do you still have hope that the kingdom will be restored?

Who knows what the future has in store? You know anything can happen. Time is not something you can predict. Things change. You never know it might be restored; it might not.

But if you had a personal wish?

The Kingdom of Ankole was one of the earliest kingdoms in Uganda. [It] was more than 600 years old. We had about 37 kings and we have a very rich culture. The royal drums of Ankole were more than 600 years old. They originated from the time of the Bachwezi dynasty who ruled most of what is now Uganda. It would be a great pity if that culture simply died away. And I think it is beneficial not only for Ankole but even for other parts of Uganda to preserve that culture. And I do not see what harm it does to preserve it because the kings as we know them now are purely apolitical.

You were a member of the NRC (interim parliament) between 1989 and 1993. When you look back at the NRC and what is happening in Parliament now, what difference is there?

The time I was there, Uganda was being rebuilt from the chaotic period when the economy had collapsed. There was no party politics as such and it was like a movement of national unity so it was very different from what it is now.

Now we are in a transition period to multiparty politics so Parliament is engaged in that exercise of preparing the country for multiparty politics.
So there wasn�t so much polarisation as there is now because we were really in a national unity government. We were all focussed on issues of reconstruction whereas now there is polarisation. Political leaders are all focussed on preparing for multiparty [politics].

This seems to be a time when everybody is making political demands. Why are you lobby-quiet?

You see, it is not for me to lobby for anything. I don�t have to lobby for the kingdom because it is not personal property. It is for the Banyankole to ask for it. I happen to be a crown prince but it could be somebody else, so I don�t have to lobby for it at all. In any case, the President himself is a Munyankole, so he is also affected like other Banyankole.

What are your views on the current political events? What do you think our political leaders should do to guide this country through the transition?

It is very important that whatever is done is done peacefully. Uganda has suffered a lot. We have gone through terrible times and I would hate to see Uganda suffer again. I would hate Uganda to be in a situation where we are fighting each other. I hope and pray that whatever anyone does in Uganda now and in future they should do it peacefully. However much they feel about any issue, it is very important that they pursue that issue in a peaceful manner.

The other thing I feel is that it is important to pursue whatever is pursued in a democratic manner. We should try to build a consensus rather than polarisation and it should be done in a democratic manner. If those two important aspirations can be observed, the rest can be agreed upon.

What about issues like federalism? Do you think Uganda should become a federalised country?

I pray very much that those who pursue federalism can reach an agreement with the government so that everybody � both the government and those who pursue federalism � can be satisfied that they have found a formula which can work for everybody, for the whole nation.

Do you think Uganda still requires the leadership of President Museveni or is it time for him to pass on the baton?

I think emphasis is being driven in the wrong place because I think it is not so important whether A, B, C, D is the leader as long as that leader is chosen democratically by the people in a free and fair election. What our political leaders should be emphasising now is to ensure that the people�s will can be exercised freely and democratically in a fair manner. If that can be done, it doesn�t matter whether you have one, two or many terms because the people would have chosen. That is what is important.

What do you think the future holds for this country?

Well, we are entering the period of transition. So I hope some of these burning issues will be resolved peacefully so that we can enter this new phase of multiparty politics. This is not the first time we are going to multiparty politics. I hope this time we learn from our history and the previous mistakes so that multiparty politics doesn�t lead to acrimony as in the past.

In the past, people were almost at war with each other just because of elections and that is very unfortunate. So I hope we will not go back to that. I hope we will have elections peacefully and people will realise that in an election, like in any context, there has to be a winner and a loser, and if you lose it shouldn�t be the end of the world. And if you win, you shouldn�t treat your opponent as an enemy.

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