KAMPALA: Thursday, more than 100 people from the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom went to the Masindi High Court to protest their prime minister, Andrew Byakutaga, for suing the chief prince, locally known as Okwir, and Fred Mugenyi Rucuny, the head of the Babiito clan.
Byakutaga dragged Mugenyi to the high court on February 23, 2022, to suspend him for alleged corruption and mismanagement of the kingdom’s assets. It all started on January 30, 2022, when members of the Babiito clan led by Rucunya authored a letter to Byakutaga stopping him from running the Kingdom’s affairs.
In the same letter, Babiito clan members also suspended Edgar Agaba, the Attorney General of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, and Robert Owagonza, the Minister for Finance and Planning. In the letter, the Babiito clan members faulted Byakutaga for the lack of transparency and accountability for the kingdom’s resources.
They pointed to the fraudulent and dubious cash withdrawals and expenditures of the Kingdom’s finances without approval. They also said that the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom’s assets and property were badly handled by the prime minister. For example, the Bugoma central forest reserve, the Muhangaizima cultural site, and the royal burial sites in the greater Kibaale area, as well as the Katasiiha Fort historical site and the Miduuma burial grounds in Masindi, were all destroyed.
The complainants also accused Byakutaga of his alleged involvement in the fraudulent sale of kingdom land, including the ones hosting Kagadi and Kakumiro district headquarters, Kaduku forest land in Kiryandongo, and Waisembe Omukkihane-Wampanga. They also accused the prime minister of keeping their beloved king hostage by blocking his close relatives from accessing him, including his sisters.
Irked by his suspension, Byakutaga sued the chief prince at Masindi high court, arguing that whereas he respects the office of the Okwiri as the head of the Babiito clan, he has no powers whatsoever to appoint or dismiss any Kingdom official, either as an individual or by virtue of the authority he holds in the office.
Byakutaga further explained that it is only the Omukuma Dr. Solomon Gafubusa Rukirabasaija Agutamba Iguru who can replace kingdom officials as he pleases. However, some of the kingdom’s subjects will not have any of this.
They stormed Masindi High Court premises on Thursday to express their dissatisfaction with the court and the prime minister. They asked Byakutaga to quit his job right away, saying that he was causing chaos in the kingdom.
Armed with placards, the protesters demanded that the court dismiss the suit against the chief prince and order the prime minister to account for the money he has used to run the affairs of the kingdom during his tenure.
Joseph Twegonza, one of the kingdom subjects from Kagadi, said that, culturally, it is taboo for anyone to drag the chief prince, who is the head of the ruling clan, to court on any matter concerning the kingdom.
Yayaha Jassi, another kingdom subject from Masindi, demanded the immediate resignation of Byakutaga, saying that he had failed to run the affairs of the kingdom, which is why he had rushed to court to block his suspension.
Ashraf Mugenyi, 79, one of the cultural leaders who would help the Omukama Iguru in performing cultural rituals, accused Byakutaga of blocking the elders from accessing the king for the past four years. He revealed that they have never performed any other cultural rituals with the Omukama, which he says is a crime culturally.
Rucunya, a protestor, said he was not wrong to ask the prime minister to account for funds spent during his tenure, but was surprised when he was dragged to court instead.
Byakutaga declined to comment on the matter, saying it would be decided by the court. URN only saw one police officer trying to stop the kingdom subjects from making noise from within the court premises.