Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | On Saturday, the King of Tooro, Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukiidi IV will celebrate 25 years on the throne. Oyo ascended to the throne on September 12th, 1995 at the age of three years following the death of his father King Patrick Matthew Kaboyo Olimi VII in August 1995, at the age of 49.
Being a minor, King Oyo was placed under the guardianship of several people namely: President Museveni, the Queen Mother Best Kemigisa, his aunt Princess Elizabeth Bagaya and Kabaka Ronald Mwenda Mutebi of Buganda.
The Tooro Kingdom’s Supreme Council, the Orukurato also appointed Prof. Oswald Ndolelire, Zaverio Byabagambi and Isaaya Kalya as regents offering advice to Oyo until he turns 18.
In 2010, King Oyo clocked 18 years and finally came of age taking full control of the kingdom.
The infant king so fascinated the world that on one occasion, when South African freedom icon President Nelson Mandela was at Kololo ceremonial grounds and wanted to greet the King, Oyo was busy playing with his toys behind the VIP tent. Mandela had to wait patiently until the royal was through with his games and made time to greet the freedom legend.
As the King clocks 25 years at the helm, key issues have highlighted his reign as King of Tooro.
Currently, the Kingdom is in negotiations with the government for the return of the Kingdom assets that were reverted to the government after the abolition of monarchies in 1967.
Tooro is demanding for more than 150 assets including land and buildings from the government. The assets are located in Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo and Kyegegwa districts. The Kingdom also has assets in Kasese and Bundibugyo, which were formerly under Tooro before starting their cultural institutions.
Some of the assets include large chunks of land that are currently being occupied by squatters especially in the counties of Mwenge and Kyaka in Kyenjojo and Kyegegwa district respectively and in Bunyangabu County in the newly created Bunyangabu district.
Since 2013, King Oyo has publicly been at the forefront of demanding for the return of the assets. In 2014, King Oyo supported Tooro youths who walked 300 kilometres from Fort Portal to Kampala protesting the delay by the government to return of the Kingdom’s property.
King Oyo argues that the delay by the government to return the property has affected the kingdom financially. He says that if they are returned, the kingdom can rent them out and get income to sustain its activities and improve its financial base.
He also says the Kingdom has no funds required to implement some of the kingdom activities and instead turns to the government and friends for support.
In 2019, King Oyo and President Museveni signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the consequent return of the assets. Both principals also appointed teams to spearhead the negotiations.
The Bishop of Ruwenzori Diocese, Reuben Kisembo says that he is happy the King has clocked 25 years despite the challenges he has gone through. He says that the subjects should rally behind the King in his quest for the return of the assets.
“The King should be commended for taking a lead in demanding for what belongs to Tooro. We should all support him in his mission,” Bishop Kisembo says.
Kisembo however says that King should ensure that the Kingdom properties will not be mismanaged when returned.
In what looked like a break away from tradition, Oyo also fasted for six days to protest what he called division of his kingdom. Oyo was disappointed that the creation of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu in Kasese and Obudhingya Bwa Bamba in Bundibugyo have divided and weakened the power and supremacy of Tooro Kingdom.
In 2015, King Oyo faced a threat to his throne when a section of members of the Tooro Royal Family led by Prince David Kijanangoma accused the King of disregarding Tooro culture and elders, selling kingdom property, breakdown of the institutions of the kingdom and virtual abdication of the throne. Kijanagoma also threatened to dislodge Oyo from the throne.
However, Kijanagoma was unsuccessful in his move to dethrone King Oyo. Last year, he said that he had made peace with his cousin, the monarch.
The Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister Bernard Tungwako says that the Kingdom administration with support from King Oyo has started addressing some of the things that had gone wrong.
He says that the silver jubilee celebrations should be a day of unity for the people of Tooro. He has also called on the people of Tooro to support the King and embrace income-generating activities to fight poverty in the Kingdom.
“The King’s subjects should have the responsibility to have unity in the Kingdom. We are setting out to make right all that had gone wrong and have already laid strategies and means to achieve it,” Tungwako said.
Oyo is also a goodwill ambassador to end HIV/AIDS among the youths in Africa. He will be the voice, face and ambassador of a youth-led campaign aimed at ending Aids in Africa by 2030.
George Mugume, a resident of Fort Portal says that since the conflict with Kijanagoma, there have been some reforms. He cites the frequent visits of Oyo to the Kingdom and continued interaction with his subjects in different parts of the Kingdom.
Mugume also says that King Oyo should not accept to be ill-advised by a group of self-seekers who are making decisions for him. He wants the King to be left to be in charge of his kingdom.
Michael Wandera, a resident says that despite the challenges the King has faced throughout his reign, the subjects should appreciate what the King has done for the Kingdom.
He says that the King should not be left alone to develop the Kingdom but should be supported by his subjects.
Margaret Asiimwe, a former member of the Orukurato says that the King should prioritize the renovation of key historical sites which are in a sorry state. Such sites include palaces and burial grounds.
The silver jubilee celebrations will be held at the King’s Palace at Karuzika in Fort Portal City.
However, unlike other coronation celebrations where thousands of the King’s subjects throng the palace to attend the celebrations, this time around only 200 guests will attend the celebrations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.