Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Kingdom of Toro


King Oyo And Queen Mother- Vanessa Vick for The New York Times

As promised to siddity, I am posting some stories and profiles of African monarchies. This particular post is a precursor to my very next blog post. After you have read the two one will understand why they come together and in the given order.

Monarchies were re-established in Uganda by the current Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, in the mid 90s after they had been banned after independence by the self made President Obote who hijacked the system that was a hybrid of monachies and a Republic. By raiding the main Kingdom's Palace, the Buganda Kingdom, he sent almost all Monarchs and royals into exile where some died and those who survived stayed there for over 20 years.



Subjects of King Oyo, who was crowned at 3½ in 1995, celebrated the anniversary of his coronation last month at the palace in Fort Portal.

Knowing the importance of Monarchs to their people, the current president Museveni had no choice but to reinstate them. Ironically, the heir to the throne of his own tribe, the Banyankole, has never been reinstated and sits idly with the title of Prince.



On King Oyo's ninth anniversary, elders brought gifts to honor the 12-year-old who rules the Toro Kingdom

The Kingdom in question today is the Toro Kingdom. Below is an article from the New York times on the 9th coronation Anniversary of the youngest King ever.


For His Royal Playfulness, Goats, Sheep, but Nary a ToyBy MARC LACEY

Published: October 7, 2004



Royalty was restored in 1995 to four thrones, one in Fort Portal.

KAMPALA, Uganda - There are some distinct advantages, Oyo Nyimba Kabambaiguru Rukidi IV acknowledges, to being a king.

"You have many people who like you a lot," said King Oyo, as he is known to his one-million-plus subjects in western Uganda's Toro Kingdom. "Like" is actually an understatement. At ceremonies in his main palace in Fort Portal, worshippers get down on their hands and knees in front of him, kiss at his feet and bring him valuable offerings like live goats and sheep.

Then there is the overseas travel that comes with wearing a crown. Uganda is a poor country, so destitute in fact that the average citizen makes not enough in an entire year to afford a plane ticket to see the world. But kings ride business class. King Oyo has been throughout Africa and has made trips to Europe and America as well, meeting a variety of V.I.P.'s in the process.

All the same, as King Oyo sat on a leopard skin that had been draped over an armchair in his other palace, in Kampala, the other day, he said that being king has some drawbacks for someone of his generation.

"My life is very different from most 12-year-olds," said King Oyo, fidgeting with a rubber band tied around his royal wrist and looking both kinglike and kidlike at once.

Sure, King Oyo plays video games, goes off to school every day - where his classmates and teachers just call him Oyo - and runs around the palace yard with his three dogs when he is not doing homework.

But King Oyo also has bodyguards and rules over an elaborate administrative structure that includes a prime minister, a board of regents and a variety of parish councils. He cannot just walk out his front gate and mingle with the other children in his upscale neighborhood. Sometimes, he says, he feels a bit trapped.

"Sometimes I wonder, 'Why am I a king?' " he said. That question is easy to answer, at least as far as the rules of the kingdom go.


Crowned at age 3-1/2yrs

His father, King David Patrick Olimi Kaboyo II, died when Oyo was 3½. In the Toro Kingdom, women cannot rule so Oyo's mother was out, as was his older sister. Although rather young, Oyo was crowned nonetheless on Sept. 11, 1995, earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as a toddler king.

Africa has a smattering of kings, in Ghana, South Africa and, most notably, Swaziland, where his majesty has drawn criticism for his free-spending ways and for his practice of plucking a virgin girl out of the masses during an annual festival to become one of his many queens.

King Oyo is dull in comparison. He does not even have a girlfriend. His mother controls the household spending. There has not been any particularly dramatic palace intrigue under his nine-year reign.

Uganda's kingdoms go back hundreds of years but former President Milton Obote outlawed them in 1967 as part of his effort to consolidate rule. It was not until 1995 that the government of President Yoweri Museveni reinstated the country's four kingdoms - Buganda, Ankole, Bunyoro and Toro - although more as cultural institutions than the ruling monarchies they once were.

King Oyo's father was living in exile when the kingdoms were reinstated. He returned to much rejoicing among the Toro. His rule was short, however. Soon, young Oyo was wearing the Toro crown, which has a giant white feather sticking out the top, and the gold-laced vestments.

He had no choice, really. It was his duty to become the 12th king of Toro. That is what the queen mother, Best Kemigisa, regularly reminds him. "Bringing up a king is a serious responsibility," she said of her role in the kingdom.

Despite her best efforts, sometimes King Oyo's lack of enthusiasm for the role is rather hard not to see. Some observers said his face seemed glum last month at the anniversary of his coronation, which along with his birthday is celebrated with much pomp among the Toro.

Weeks before the big day there is a cleaning of everything in the palace. When the anniversary arrives, his subjects gather and King Oyo is presented with the royal ax, the royal bow and arrows and the royal sword. The royal troupe plays drums and royal flutes.

There is a milking of the royal cows, which is performed, as one might expect, by royal milkmen. At one point, King Oyo must stride around the grounds, although palace functionaries scurry ahead of him to ensure that his feet touch straw mats and not the earth.

The royal publicist is on hand, reminding the uninitiated that it is an "abomination" to turn one's back to the king. Most are too busy gawking at King Oyo to consider such a thing.

There was a recent attempt to further curtail the limited powers of Uganda's kings, but the country's many monarchists would have none of that.

Mr. Museveni, the president who some critics say acts like a king, proposed that Parliament be allowed to remove kings who violate the Constitution. An uproar ensued and the government has since backed away from the proposal.

King Oyo's mother - who sits by his side, adjusts his crown and helps him navigate the difficult world of being a king - voiced her kingdom's disapproval with the government plan. "These members of Parliament are below the king," she said bluntly. "They are subjects of the king. How could they remove him?"

As she spoke, King Oyo, who had earlier excused himself, was outside the palace kicking around a soccer ball, acting more kid than king.