Return my Kingdom

Says Ankole’s Prince Barigye

Joseph Mazige

Mbarara — Prince John Barigye yesterday  (19 November 2009) added his voice to the growing demands for the return of the Ankole kingdom and said those opposed to the institution need not belong.

A dozen cultural leaders, including Prince Barigye, met in Masindi on Wednesday and asked the government to recognise the traditional kingdoms of Ankole and Bugisu.

Prince Barigye, whose coronation as Omugabe (king) of Ankole was cancelled in November 1993 at the orders of President Museveni, has now offered a way out for opponents who say the reintroduction of the kingdom will resurrect a caste system and divide locals.

“It is not politics and ruling people,” Prince Barigye, 69, told Daily Monitor by telephone yesterday, “in everything there is opposition so government should let those who want to have it after all we are not going to rule people; subjecting to the monarch is voluntary.”

Prince John Barigye

President Museveni, who has been criticised for supporting traditional kingdoms elsewhere in the country and opposing the one in his birthplace, reportedly told the Masindi meeting that the districts in the area would have to consider the request to reinstate the 600-year-old kingdom. Ankole region covers Kiruhura, Mbarara, Ibanda, Bushenyi, Ntungamo and Isingiro districts.

Any debate on the return of the kingdom is likely to polarise populations in Ankole who are split in their opposition to, and support for, the kingdom.

Mr James Kahigiriza, 90, the former prime minister of the kingdom, says monarchists, under the Ankole Cultural Trust, will continue to fight for the restoration of the kingdom.

“Our efforts to have the monarchy restored have fallen on deaf ears with the President,” he told this newspaper yesterday. “The President doesn’t seem interested maybe because he is not from that royal clan.”

The defunct kingdom had its headquarters in Mbarara and the district administrators occupy some kingdom property.

Mr Wilberforce Yaguma, the chairperson of Mbarara District Council, said: “We should get the kingdom back provided it doesn’t go into politics. My district council will support it. If it is purely cultural and other places have got theirs and receiving resources from government, why not us?”

However, Prof John Jean Barya, a strong critic of the traditional institution, yesterday described the demand for its restoration as “misguided” because the kingdom is “detested” in the area.

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