Not every old man in a cap and walking stick is a cultural leader

By Steven Masiga

Becoming a cultural leader of a community is merely far beyond carrying a heavy cultural stick or putting on all sorts of attires and cultural paraphernalia such, as capes, and all sorts of dresses, and rings. A true cultural leader must be gazetted by the Government after all the due processes have been fully followed.

A few years back, the then Ministry of Gender under Hon Karoro Okurut as Gender minister fronted the idea of degazetting cultural leaders with defective titles, but that idea may have died in its infancy. This is because it was construed differently by various cultural institutions then. Many cultural institutions viewed the proposal as that meant to constitutionally abolish kingdoms with Buganda Kingdom being the most furious.

 Cultural traditional institutions or communities determine how their leaders should be called and actually, the titles are not even determined by Government. Among the Bamasaba, the cultural leader is called Umukuka also addressed as His Highness, and among the Baganda the Kabaka is addressed as His Majesty or Royal Highness the Kabaka, while among the Basoga, His Royal Highness the Kyabazinga of Busoga is the title given to the leader of the institution.

The genesis for the review of titles began some time back when even clan heads were calling themselves their Royal Highnesses and yet such titles such as their Majesty are a preserve of kings.

Under the prevailing Ugandan laws, once a person or area is gazetted to have a cultural leader the corresponding title or how such a person is addressed by the community is accordingly gazetted too to eliminate any sort of confusion.

Legally, it is only a gazetted cultural leader or kingdom kings who can be addressed as Their royal  Highness, Highness, or Their Majesty. It is wrong to use the title of His Highness if one is not gazetted, if I am allowed to borrow a colloquial example. Among the bamasaba, one who is not circumcised can’t be called a father, even by his own children, until he his circumcised.

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In the same breath, it would be a total illegality to call oneself His highness when you are not gazetted. It can be equated to calling oneself professor or PHD doctor when you don’t have the requisite qualifications to push to such descriptions. The current cultural leader of Bamasaaba, HRH Jude Mike Mudoma had flatly rejected the use of  the title  of His Highness (HH)until he was gazetted 

 In Uganda gazetting a cultural leader is both a apolitical and legal matter bestowed upon the relevant ministers of Gender in line with sec.6 of the Cultural Leaders Act 2011. The current Umukuka Jude Mike Mudoma only began accepting the title of His Highness last year,after he was gazetted by the Government and in one of his, first meeting with President Museveni he addressed him as His Highness the Umukuka of bamasaba.

 Many clan heads  in Uganda were using sublime titles quite even more extremely calling themselves Honorables, and yet the title Honourable is for elected officials and not appointees, while others were  calling themselves their excellencies etc 

The legitimacy of a cultural leader begins with gazettement by Government. All attendant benefits to the person and cultural institution begin from a point of gazettement, therefore those agitating to lead their communities as cultural leaders should pick a cue from the DailyExpress cultural guide, short of this procedure one may be referred to as fake, pseudo charlatan among other descriptions.

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In the event of disputes cropping up on who was particularly elected properly, there is a procedure provided by parliament on how such disputes can be extinguished in line with  Article 246(2) and sections 16(1)(2) of the Cultural Leaders Act 2011. Courts of law are reluctant to even entertain a matter bordering on a cultural leadership wrangle. If it is not shown that statutory procedures put in place by parliament to guide on how to extinguish the dispute were fully exhausted, such a matter may be thrown out of court with reasonable exigence since it may construed as an abuse of court processes and time.

Steven Masiga is the official spokesperson of the Bamasaaba Cultural Institution. Tel: 0782231577

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