Dear Your Majesty, Inhebantu Jovia Mutesi, there are no words to describe the happiness of the Basoga after our Kyabazinga found a wife — and that that this was none but you.
We have no doubts that you are the softness of his eyes, and with you, he is now a stabled man. And to say our “Kyabazinga is now stable” is no lack of manners on my part to assume he was unstable. But in my tradition—the Islamic tradition—whatever a man does before finding a wife is rated and rewarded at a maximum of 50 per cent.
This, therefore, means, the other half rests in the hands of the wife, which is actually the only guarantee for maximum operating capacity: Your Majesty, you are the 100 per cent of the Kyabazinga. Your Majesty, we were delighted that Kyabazinga found none other than you.
While they tend to say “beauty lies in the hands of the beholder,” it is actually truer that there is often general consensus on the charms of some maidens. Some are fairer than others, and indeed, you are the fairest of them all. To paraphrase the words of Ghanian writer, Efua Sutherland, who seemed to have described you before you were born, your voice in speech is like the mummer of a river quietly flowing beneath the shadows of bamboo leaves.
We were all agape at your wedding: Your smile sometimes blossomed like a lily on your lips and sometime rose like sunrise. The villagers said, no one passes you, and never turns to look at you again. And now, you are our queen, the Inhebantu of Busoga.
But as I write this, Ma’am, our kingdom has never seen these levels of deprivation before. One might say, you came at both the most difficult time, but also, at the right time when we are in need for a transformational kingdom. The people that thronged Igenge had to turn up because of the depth of their love for their kingdom.
But to do so, they had to tie their empty stomachs with stones to tame their empty and endlessly grumbling stomachs. Despite our location in the most strategic part of the country — at the intersection between Lake Victoria and the Nile, on the highway from Mombasa Port — we are among the poorest in the country.
Our poverty stinks. It is not just the jiggers that continue to humiliate us, but also the levels of starvation. Maama, abantu balikwerya nkuta. You see, even when that old man, Yoweri Museveni visited Busoga — like a tourist after years of visa denials — he could not believe his eyes at sunken eyes and Kwashiorkor-infested children that stared at him.
Indeed, it is against these pains and hopes that I write to you, Your Majesty. Raised in the slums of Mafubira and Mpumudde, you’ll forgive for my impropriety and hastiness in penning such a message when you are still unboxing your gifts.
But we are all impatient. As our beloved Inhebantu, “a mother of people,” you have an entire region of close to 10 million people — entire country to be precise — hungry, exhausted and anxious, but now waiting to be mothered, and guided.
With the love and trust Basoga and your visitors displayed at Igenge, it is my prayer that your office harnesses it for their transformation. As a renowned wiseacre, allow me to offer some theoretical and concrete suggestions: The Queen of Buganda, Nnaabagereka Sylvia Naginda’s Ekisakaate, is shining example.
We could consider several projects that could become concrete centres of ‘sustainable empowerment.’ (With sustainable, I mean self-funding). With crowdfunding modelled around cooperatives arrangement (not much, a monthly Shs 1,000), we could build a full-time vocational school — targeting specifically the women-workforce— that professionally teaches catering (both traditional and cosmopolitan cuisine), tailoring, weaving, hospitality, and other areas of self-employment.
With your team, look through a potential ‘Inhebantu Project’ in the area of tourism. Our kingdom’s location remains strategically inviting for Busoga natives. (I will one time tell you about the entire Nile shoreline monopolized by non-natives). For a kingdom, the problem will never be capital, but modes of mobilizing it and directing its use.
A letter to the bride ought not to be too long. Allow me to wish you a wonderful marriage. Katusabe Kibbumba akugemese bulungi okulakulanye Busoga yaifwe.
The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.