By Steven Masiga
Bugisu is recognized as a major tribe in Uganda under the third schedule of the constitution alongside other tribes like Buganda, Busoga, and Acholi, among others. The pre-independence constitution of 1962 also recognizes Bugisu in its section 2, listing Bugisu, Ankole, and Buganda, among others, as major tribes. The Bagisu are also variously referred to as Bamasaba, a people who populate the mountains of Mount Elgon.
The Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development Hon Betty Amongi has assigned the former LCV Mbale and the first Mugisu Ugandan ambassador to Canada, Mr Wilson Weasa Wamimbi, to help in resolving the issues surrounding the most suitable candidate for Umukuka III of Bugisu and report with reasonable urgency on the outcome so that the Ministry of Gender can Gazette His Highness JM Mudoma or his competitor.
The people of Bugisu last heard about a cultural leader who died about 3 years back when the tenure of the deceased cultural leader ended, around June 2020. Fresh elections commenced, and in October, another cultural leader was elected by the name of Jude Mike Mudoma, and the coronation took place immediately, witnessed by clan chairmen and delegates, including local council vice-chairpersons from all corners of Bugisu. However, before his gazetting could take place, another candidate, the Halasi clan chairman Mzee Wagabyalire, also got elected as Umukuka III.
Given the above stalemate, the Ministry of Gender, which is mandated by law to do the gazetting, could not proceed. Legal guidance was sought from the Solicitor General but couldn’t help much. Confronted with the above, the two competitors petitioned the court for redress.
The High Court in Mbale presided over by Justices Byaruhanga and Apiny, respectfully guided them to exhaust all remedies provided for under Art 246(2) and sec. 16(1)(2). The above statutory provisions enjoin all warring contenders for a cultural office, either as Umukuka of Bugisu or the Mwenengo of Basamia, to use clan elders as the first mediators in resolving such conflicts of a cultural nature.
The Mudoma v AG ruling is, therefore, a legal cultural precedent set by the High Court to guide similar petitions, and it should be shown on record of court that attempts were made to exhaust all provisions in the enabling law before courts can entertain any petition from any cultural institution. Hence, before going to court, one must begin with clan mediators. Then there is also a representative body that can be identified to resolve cultural conflicts once clan heads fail.
Premised on the above background, the State Minister for Gender, Hon. Peace Mutuzo, identified the first Bugisu cultural leader, His Highness Wilson Wamimbi, also formerly Uganda’s ambassador to Canada, to manage this process by assembling the 26 clan heads to pronounce themselves between Umg Mudoma and Elder Wagabyalire on who was properly elected as the third Umukuka of Bugisu.
The RCC Mbale is monitoring the situation and has vowed to crush anybody who intends to cause chaos. He says the long arm of the law will deal with any troublemaker. Recall that recently, during the FDC elections, many goons were hired to cause chaos and premised on this, the security in Bugisu is on heightened alert, ready to nip any trouble and neutralize the situation.
The 26 clan chairmen are expected to make a choice between JM Mudoma and Amram Wagabyalire and recommend one for gazetting. JM Mudoma is NRM-leaning, and Amram Wagabyalire is FDC-leaning. Wagabyalire once attempted to contest for LCV chairmanship Sironko on the FDC ticket and was persuaded by his FDC funders to settle for Bukuka leadership, while JM Mudoma was LC III chairman for Buyoba and contested as mayor of Nakawa under NRM. He was previously an employee of the National Environmental Authority (NEMA).
Many cultural pundits see this as an NRM and FDC thing. However, the constitution Art 246 in its wholeness bars cultural leaders from doing politics. Once any of the two is gazetted by next week, we expect them to flatly drop their previous partisan positions and reign over Bugisu cultural institution in a neutral manner as envisaged by the law.