She died quietly but kicked up a measurable political storm in death.
On Tuesday, June 11, 2019, the queen mother of Rwenzururu Christine Biira Mukirania passed on at Kilembe Mines hospital. The queen mother commonly referred to as Nyamukama lost a long perilous battle to diabetes. She was laid to rest in Kirindi village, Kasulenge subcounty, in the western Bundibugyo district.
The demise of Nyamukama however, has left an already troubled kingdom’s royal family more divided. The king and his younger brother do not see eye-to-eye, more so, after they sharply disagreed on where to bury their mother.
King Mumbere preferred to bury his mother at her estate in Nyamirangara, Kasese district, near the seat of the kingdom. But his minister younger brother Christopher Kibanzanga, who doubles as the Chief Prince, insisted their mother should be laid to rest at their ancestral home in Bundibugyo. Eventually, the Chief Prince won the duel.
On Kibanzanga’s orders, Nyamukama’s body was clandestinely moved from Fort Portal hospital to Bundibugyo district where she was eventually laid to rest on Sunday. Kingdom loyalists were treated to a string of rants from the Chief Prince through his official Facebook page. The king, however, kept his peace. But was conspicuously absent at the burial of his late mother.
Interviewed for this story, the former kingdom premier Constantine Bwambale told The Observer that the king’s absence at the burial was dictated by cultural restrictions. “…as we well know, kings in our culture do not bury …” said Bwambale before hanging up.
The kingdom spokesperson, Tumusiime Yonah Maate, said the queen mother’s death had further split the royal family. But he was hopeful that King Mumbere and the Chief Prince shall find time to iron out their differences.
The former Leader of Opposition in Parliament and Kasese District Woman member of parliament Winnie Kiiza said the split between the king and his younger brother Kibanzanga brings disharmony within the kingdom. She said she was confident the elders will calm tensions and get the two to work together again.
She also criticized Kibanzanga for using social media to address kingdom matters. “…it was uncalled for, for a man of his caliber and integrity to resort to social media. Cultural issues should be handled carefully…”
Kiiza commended Nyamukama for her playing a central role in restoring peace in the region in the aftermath of the November 2016 army raid on the palace that killed approximately 100 people and injured many scores.
“…Nyamukama has been an epitome of stability and unity in the kingdom…” Kiiza said.
She prayed that another person fills Nyamukama’s big shoes. Godfrey Kabyanga, the former kingdom spokesperson and current mayor of Kasese municipality, said the family fights won’t shake up the kingdom.
“… once in a while brothers disagree and the best thing we can do is encourage them to reach a common ground. There’s no effect created on the kingdom because it is very strong …” Kabyanga said.
By press time, Rwenzururu kingdom loyalists in Kasese were still waiting for the arrival of King Mumbere from Kampala where he has been under incarceration since November 2016. He was expected to arrive on Monday at 2pm but didn’t make it, probably dissuaded by the heavy army deployment in the district. Kibanzanga was unavailable for comment. He neither picked nor returned our calls.