Bamasaba vote new Umukukha, leave Wagabyalire stranded

Inzu Ya Masaba has elected Jude Mudoma as the new cultural leader to replace the late Umukukha II Bob Mushikori.

Inzu Ya Masaba has elected Jude Mudoma as the new cultural leader to replace the late Umukukha II Bob Mushikori.

Inzu Ya Masaba has elected Jude Mudoma as the new cultural leader to replace the late Umukukha II Bob Mushikori.

Out of the 26 clan heads that make up Inzu Ya Masaba, 15 clan heads voted for Mr Jude Mudoma, three clan heads absconded, another clan head had passed on while one clan Lutsekhe asked to leave the meeting because he was not feeling well but added “My vote will go for June Mudoma].

The meeting for the 26 clan leaders was oragnised following a July 14 directive from the minister of state for Gender and cultural affairs Ms Peace Mutuzo.

It must be noted that under Inzu Ya Masaba constitution Article 8, 3, the Umukukha III of Inzu Ya Masaba is supposed to come from the Inda Ya Mwambu [Sironko and Bulambuli] administration, where Umuguga Mudoma comes from.

Umukukha Mudoma becomes Umukukha III elected by the Bamasaba 26 clan heads after the delegates failed to resolve the dispute that surrounded the throne for over two years that saw Mr Amram Wagabyalire and the elect Mr Jude Mudoma both relaying unjustifiable claims to the Bugisu/Bamasaba cultural throne.

While a section of leaders supported the gazettement of Mr Mike Mudoma [Muyobo Clan] as the new Umukukha, others sided with John Wagabyalire Amram [Halasi clan] both of whom belong to Mwambu Clan.

Mr Mudoma who was all joy and jubilating said “I have forgiven everyone and I pray that we forgive each other. I am calling for unity among the Bamasaba and I ask my bother Mr Wagabyalire and his camp to bury the hatchet, let us work together to develop Masaba land,” said Mr Mudoma.

But Mr Wagabyalire left stranded in the 26 July meeting held at Lukhobo hall in Mbale just remarked, “I don’t believe in this election, our constitution does not give clan leaders any powers to elect, it is fake because the legitimate voters [Delegates] are not the ones who voted. Look even our brothers in Kenya have not been allowed to participate in this election, it is a sham,”

Mr Wagabyalire’s reasoning for non-involvement of Babukusu [Kenya] is against the advice given by the solicitor general in a letter dated 7 August 2019 which said that foreigners can only sit in the cultural meetings within Uganda but are not allowed to vote and that decisions of cultural institutions involving foreigners are outside the law as showed by Article 246 of the Uganda constitution and section 3 of the institution of cultural leaders Act.


Although the minister of state for gender has on several occasions guided the parties to utilize Section 16 of the Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act, 2011 to settle their disputes, this had yielded no results.

The foregoing section provides in Section 16(1) that any conflict or dispute within the traditional or cultural institution or within the community shall be handled by a council of elders or clan leaders or a representative body chosen and approved by the community, in accordance with the traditions, customs and norms of dispute or conflict resolution pertaining to that community.  This is what gives the clan heads powers to preside over.

About Bukukha /Buguga

Inzu Ya Masaba was created in 2010 with the aim of preserving and fostering the culture of the Bamasaba, the cultural institution which comprise s members from 26 clans across Bugisu sub region.

The Bamasaba cultural institution aka Inzu Ya Masaba has been bogged down by leadership wrangles that worsened with the death of Bob Mushikori in 2021.

After Mushikori’s death, two parallel search committees for a new Umukukha were instituted by parallel factions, resulting in the election of two rival cultural heads for the same institution; Mr Jude Mudoma and Mr. John Wagabyalire.

In the renewed efforts by the government to settle the impasse between the two factions, the minister of state for gender and cultural affairs Ms Peace Mutuuzo on July 14 wrote the former Umukukha [Emeritus Umukukha Wilson Wamimbi I] asking him to convene a meeting of 26 clan leaders to resolve the issue “within 30 days from the date of reception of the letter”

Division and intrigue intensified among Bugisu political leaders over the pending gazettement of the new Umukukha.

This voting by elders comes after the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, in his April 6 letter declined to gazette any of the parallel elected cultural leaders.

Mr Tumwebaze instead asked the leaders to utilise Section 16 of the Institution of Traditional or Cultural Leaders Act, 2011 to settle their disputes before reporting to his office.

The fights

Inzu Ya Masaba has had warring factions for long ever since the reign of Late Umukukha/Umuguga, Bob Mushikori II [Mubuya] with fights ranging from poor representation, financial scandals and failure to popularise the institution across Bugisu sub-region.

Not so long ago, Joseph Kanyanya from Bududa relayed unjustifiable claims to the Bugisu/Bamasaba cultural throne.

As reported in 2008, Kanyanya claimed that President Yoweri Museveni had recognised Bikuuka/Biguga bya Bamasaba (clans of Bamasaba) kingdom. This was, however, refuted as letters purportedly written by the Presidential principal private secretary were said to be forged.

This kind of unpopular politicking yielded no positive results for him and since then he formed Babukusu kingdom in Bududa and declared himself Umukhongo Bukusu.

In another twist of events, an 80-year-old Shaban Wambedde Wataba of Nabugoya village in Namanyonyi sub-county, Mbale district says he is the rightful cultural leader (Umugasha) of the Bamasaba/Bagisu. He says he belongs to the royal family of the Bamasaba, where leadership is not elective, but inherited.

Although there is an approved constitution that governs the institution where Umukukha/Umuguga is to serve for a non-renewable term of five years, there were attempts during Late Umukukha [Umuguga] II Mushikori’s reign to change the constitution to allow the reigning Umukukha/Umuguga more years.

The new Umuguga Mudoma should make this a plausible position which is accommodative and focused on cultural restoration must be well-documented and records kept in a safe place for future reference, lest the Bugisu/Bamasaba cultural throne be plunged into political and social disorder again.

The Bamasaba/ Bagisu occupy six districts Sironko, Bulambuli, Mbale, Bududa, Namisindwa, and Manafwa and Western Kenya where they are referred to as the Babukusu are estimated to be seven million people.

About the Bamasaba/Bagisu Monarchy

Historically, the Bagisu, fondly referred to as Bamasaba did not have a monarchy. The Bamasaba/Bugisu cultural heritage is centered on clanship and these clans play a big role in the local communities here to date.

According to many Bagisu/Bamasaba scholars, monarchism [Inzu Ya Masaba] is a recent development among the Bamasaba, an ethnic tribe living on the slopes of Mt Elgon.

But even then, it is imperative to note that the spirit of the 1995 constitution was to “RETURN” not to “CREATE” kings for whoever wanted to assert himself. This implies that the children of Masaba who had historical institutions equivalent to a monarchy do not deserve to have these leaders in whatever name.

Traditionally, the Bagisu had chiefs all over with no supreme leader above them. It is therefore a creation and is a new institution among the Bagisu and this probably explains why the institution is not respected.

Among the Bamasaba/ Bagisu, it was Imbalu/Ipalu and Arabica Coffee uniting them, the new cultural leader should therefore strive to make this cultural institution more acceptable and more relevant to forge unity among the Bagisu/Bamasaba.

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