The King without a throne

By Alfred Tumushabe

Prince John Patrick Barigye will be laid to rest this Sunday. The prince, who was 71, died after battling a long illness with kidney complications. Prince Barigye had for a long time sought to be crowned as king of Ankole, but it was a battle he never won. History and controversy had a part to play in all this.

The roots of Nkore kingship date back about 600 years. It initially consisted of Kashari, Isingiro and Nyabushozi counties. The kingdom bordered Bunyoro Kitara in the North, Karagwe and Buhaya in the South, Mpororo and Rwanda to the Southwest and Buganda to the East.

Koki and Buzimba were other smaller kingships around it but it later conquered them. When the British assumed control of the entire region in 1900, it subdued areas of Bunyaruguru, Mpororo, Buhweju and Kajara adding them to Nkore.

Bahinda-Bahima, who are cattle keepers and Bairu who are cultivators lived in this kingdom. The Bahinda were the ruling clan.

Almost all the areas Nkore conquered were predominantly inhabited by Bairu who consequently far out-numbered Bahima in the kingdom. The kingdom economy was largely based on cattle and crops.

The kings had unlimited powers of life and death over his subjects. His role was also to arbitrate conflicts and disputes among his people. The king posed as a direct descendant of God. He appointed chiefs mainly from his clan to represent him in sub counties and parishes.

When British colonialism started in 1900, it maintained the same political leadership structure where Bahinda-Bahima remained at the helm and privileged in administration, property and education, leaving the Bairu marginalised.

In 1967, Ankole federal and kingdom government was abolished in favour of a unitary and republican form of government.
When NRM restored monarchies, the Obugabe in Ankole became a contested matter in the community. The agitators for its restoration argued that they wanted the monarchy back for Nkore culture promotion, while those against it argued it was repressive, owing to the nostalgia of ethnic supremacy and marginalisation in the 19th and 20th centuries.

All this led to the formation of Nkore Cultural Trust (NCT), which lobbied for monarchy restoration for culture promotion reasons and Banyankole Cultural Foundation (BCF).

BCF contended that there could be promotion of the Nkore culture without the kingship, arguing that most parts of Ankole, before they were conquered by Nkore, had no monarchical culture.

On November 20, 1993, Prince John Barigye had a coronation at Nkokonjeru Kings Tomb grounds under the guise of funeral rites for his father Sir Charles Gasyonga II. President Yoweri Museveni annulled his kingship, claiming it was done in the dark and did not have popular support as the constitution demands.

In November 2009, Prince Barigye through the Uganda Kings and Cultural Leaders Forum tried to influence Ankole district councils to pass resolutions to support his recognition, in vain.

His claim to the throne also has eligibility oppositions. The descendants of king Kahaya II, especially sons of Late Rev William Mukyakumba living in Kabula, say King Gasyonga was not in the succession queue because he was just a sub county chief in Kashari. Suleiman Mirindi, father of Rev Mucyakumba, who was supposed to succeed his father King Kahaya, was betrayed by family wrangles, which Gasyonga exploited to take over.
Such is the controversy that has shrouded and outlived Prince Barigye.

Nkore kings
The first king of Nkore can be traced as far back as around 1300. Kings who have ruled Nkore Kingdom since then are 😦 Most of them are known by one name)
1. King Nkuba Ya Rurama
2. King Nyaika
3. King Nyabugarobwera (Ntare I)
4. King Rushango
5. King Kagwejegyera Mishango (Ntare II)
6. King Rugamba (Ntare III)
7. King Kasasira
8. King Kiteera Kyabahutu
9. King Rumogye
10. King Mirindi
11. King Ntare Kiita Banyoro
12. King Macwa
13. King Kahaya I
14. King Rwakiberere
15. King Karaara
16. King Karaiga
17. King Nyakashaija
18. King Rwebishengye
19. King Bwarenga
20. King Gasyonga I
21. King Mutambuuka
22. King Ntare V
23. King Nkuranga
24. King Mukwenda
25. King Rwakatogoro
26. King Igumira
27. King Kashaija II
28. King Gasyonga II
29. King Barigye

(Part of the information sourced from Ankole Kingship Controversy authored by Martin R Doornbos in 2001)

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