100s gathered to pay homage to Omukama Cwa II Kabalega at the Inaugural Kabalega Memorial, held on the 18th of December, 2023 at Kampala Serena Conference Center. The event organized by Kabalega Foundation in partnership with Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom was attended by participants from all walks of life including the people from the Academia, Government, Civil Society, Cultural Institutions, Opinion Leaders, students and members of the general public was hosted at Kampala Serena Hotel – Victoria Hall under the theme: “The Role of Culture in Promotion of Development – the Case of Africa”.
The Keynote Address Speech was delivered by the renown and charismatic Pan-African Activist Prof. PLO. Lumumba who described Omukama Cwa II Kabalega as a great African stalwart, a leader, a personification of courage and bravery whose leadership was characterised by a profound sense of duty towards the preservation of the cultural identity and the right to self-determination for his people, and one whose impact reached far beyond his kingdom and inspired many African societies to stand up and demand for their independence.
He noted that “the history of pre-colonial Africa is marked with evidence of organized kingdoms across the continent and it is this history that was rudely interrupted starting with slavery and ending with colonization”
He pointed to notable early advancements in African society which among other things is demonstrated by the architectural prowess embodied in the pyramids in Egypt and Sudan, the walls of Benin, the majestic structures in Timbuktu, the walls of Mwenemutapa, the majestic ground bound edificas in Lalibela in Ethiopia, societal organization demonstrated by the structures such as to be found among the Yoruba, the Congo, the Zulu, Bunyoro, Buganda, among other kingdoms in Africa, and the profound astronomical knowledge of the Dogon people in Mali confirms, among many other resounding early advancements that Africans were far beyond many other civilizations at the time.
He noted that the disruption of African Societies by foreign invaders initially from the Arab world and subsequently from the Europeans disrupted and destroyed African ways. However, culture dies hard and having grappled with different systems of governance in the post- colonial era, it is gratifying that African Societies are once again beginning to ask the legitimate question regarding the role of culture in leadership and promotion of development in the current era.
Prof. Lumumba decried the alarming rate of loss of African culture at the expense of other foreign importations in present day. He also decried the “Artificial” boundaries created by colonialists within African societies as a tactic of divide and run still existing to date, impeding free interaction of the African people who share alot in common. He noted that this is one of the biggest undoing of efforts to achieve social, economic and political development in Africa.
He emphasized that now is the time to break down these barriers and formations of colonialism if Africa is to realize progress and live to its full potential.
Citing a kiswahili proverb, ‘mwacha mila ni mtumwa’ (he who abandons culture is a slave), Prof. Lumumba noted that the place of culture in human development in Africa cannot be over-emphasized, and called on participants and Africans at large to be proud Africans, to leverage the best practices of each culture in the richness of diversity found in Africa for universal applicability, and as it is that culture is dynamic, to drop that which is not good for the present-day society.
Citing the words of former President of Tanzania; the late H.E. Julius Nyerere’s words, Prof. Lumumba echoed that when it comes to the subject of development, “development should not only be confined to the measurement of the Gross Domestic Product, or Per-Capita income, or the number of sky-scrappers in cities, or space exploration programmes, but rather to harness an environment where spiritual, social, political, and economic contentment, and the ability to recognize humanity in ourselves can thrive”; these principles to be found firmly rooted and available to be harnessed in African cultural systems.
He noted that culture is the fabric that weaves societies together, encompassing traditions, beliefs, values, and practices; a powerful force that shapes the way we perceive the world and interact with each other, and that cultural practices, traditions, and values play a pivotal role in the achievement of sustainable development considering, cases of the role of education and the ability of cultural attitudes towards education to profoundly impact access to and the quality of education in communities, and whose understanding and respecting can help tailor education initiatives that resonate with local communities, ensuring inclusivity and sustainability.
With the sustainability of the culture-centered approach to development anchored in ability of traditions, beliefs, values, and practices to be passed on from one generation to another, these can be indispensable factors in addressing some of the greatest challenges of our time such as environmental concerns with indigenous knowledge and traditional practices holding valuable insights into sustainable ways of living in harmony with nature, and that preserving and promoting these cultural practices can contribute significantly to global efforts to combat challenges such as climate change.
In global perspective, Prof. PLO. Lumumba highlighted the magnificence of cultural diversity that blankets the world with every corner of the globe boasting a unique set of customs, traditions, and ways of life, making a rich mosaic of human experience and a source of strength and resilience which holds immense potential for sustainable development.
He noted that cultural diversity is a wellspring of innovation, creativity, age-old wisdom and holistic problem- solving approaches that offer rich varied perspectives on addressing global challenges.
Prof. PLO. Lumumba emphasized that cultural diversity in Africa should not be perceived as a hindrance to unity, but rather the very foundation upon which a harmonious global future can be built, noting that “by embracing and celebrating our differences, we create an environment where the collective strengths of various cultures contribute to a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to achieving sustainable development. In a world striving for sustainable development, the fusion of cultural practices and the principles of sustainability is not a luxury but a necessity. As we navigate these uncharted waters, we must ensure that our course is guided by the twin compasses of cultural integration and sensitivity.”
He highlighted that there are many notable aspects about Omukama Cwa II Kabalega, with one of the most important being his emphasis on inclusive governance, which in a time when external pressures sought to fragment and divide society, he embraced a leadership style that respected the diversity of people within his kingdom, fostering a sense of unity and solidarity among his people and other neighbouring leaders to rally behind him and fight the common enemy; a testament to the transformative power of cultural leadership to preserve and protect African interests.
Prof. Lumumba called on Africans to learn from the example of Omukama Kabalega and other many great African Patriarchs to revive a new spirit to freedom and to resist and exorcise the spirit of mental slavery that still dominates the African Society in several ways; with education at the center of such areas that need to urgently be reformed to speak to the African Context away from the Eurocentric context that was crafted and handed down as a colonial mental domination tool.
Prof. Lumumba called on all to reflect on the leadership crisis in many parts of Africa, and to this begged the question of where the place for African Culture in African Governance can be found. He emphasised that there is need to leverage the influence and good will cultural institutions enjoy within the public, and seek to empower them to play a more active role in the governance of society as a catalyst for development.
Prof. Lumumba was after his speech joined by a team of distinguished panellists to discuss the subject of the role of culture in promotion of development – the case of Africa. Among the panellists were;
Prof. Julius Kiiza, a professor of political science at Makerere University,
Dr. Paul Kyalimpa, a development and leadership expert and also the Deputy Director General at Uganda Investment Authority,
Mrs. Barbara Babwetera Ntambi, the Executive Director – Cross cultural Foundation of Uganda,
Ms. Agnes Kabajuni,, the Regional Manager, Minority Rights Group International – Africa,
Hajjat Hajara Nalubega – the Principal Culture Office in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, and
Owek. Isaac Kalembe – Author of “The Life and Legacy of Omukama Cwa II Kabalega (1853 – 1923)”
Prof. Julius Kiiza while taking part in the panel discussion highlighted the advancements of African society anchored in culture citing medical innovations in pre-colonial Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom where caesarian section was done to save both mother and child, unlike any other part of the world where at that time, this was done only to save the child at the expense of the mother; a procedure that featured a very intricate integration of religion, culture, iron and metallurgy (manifested in the metal tools used), and medicinal principles of sanitization, and anesthesia to bring about a successful operation; this as recorded in the works of British medical student Robert W. Felkin, who had embarked on a mission led by the Church Missionary Society to Central Africa and witnessed a c-section in the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara, finding that this was a routine procedure with a very high success rate. (Dunn, Peter., 1999), (Robert Felkin MD, 1853-1926)
Prof. Julius further emphasised the importance of perceiving culture in the right context of its multidimensionality as a rich social institutional framework of norms, values, attitudes that shape human behavior and cohesion in society, away from the narrow under-emphasized definition wrongly perceived in the Modernisation theory whose assumption is that societies that do not conform to western values and beliefs are backward, and for those that hold onto culture, this often seen as backwardness. He added that with the few social vices associated with culture done away with, culture can be one of the strongest tools to leverage for social, economic and political transformation of the African society towards development.
Mrs. Barbara Babwetera – the Executive Director of Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda highlighted the need for dedicated research into African traditional medicine as a solution to the number of challenges that relate to access of healthcare in Africa, an area that the west has greatly taken interest in to research on African traditional medicine in the post-COVID19 era, African societies having greatly relied on this to alleviate the pandemic, and in due course registering minimal fatalities compared to other parts of the world. She also emphasized the need for dedicated space for cultural studies in the African education systems in order to ensure a structured approach to learning, unlearning, sustaining, and harnessing the richness of culture that Africa has plentiful of towards achievement of development.
Ms. Agnes Kabajunu – the African Regional Manager, Minority Rights Group International underscored the fabric of culture being anchored in the family structure, and that for any strategies geared towards social economic transformation to achieve success, initiatives need to be structured around the family system as the unit of society through which values, norms, traditions and skills are gained, sustained and passed down onto younger generations; a basis upon which any micro interventions to development can spur and support sustained development at Macro levels, hence providing solutions to common societal problems such as hunger, poverty, social cohesion, among others through leveraging age-old knowledge and traditions.
Dr. Paul Kyalimpa, while making his contributing to the panel discussion underscored the centrality of cultural institutions and the embodiment of legitimacy and influence of cultural leaders to serve as an easy rallying point in efforts to achieve common societal goals, and in the same manner, to be found as ideal points of public mobilisation, and through which public resources geared towards development can be deployed while working within the confines of values and principles that provide for fairness and collective responsibility espoused in the African universal spirit of “UBUNTU” which is anchored and supported by the norms, values and traditions of the African society.
Hajjat. Hajara Nalubega – the Principal Culture Office in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development thanked Kabalega Foundation and partners for providing such an important platform for stakeholders at various levels to discuss the role of culture in development and noted that the Ministry is doing a lot of work towards ensuring favourable policy and regulatory frameworks that enable the efficient functioning of cultural institutions in Uganda.
She also noted that the 1995 Constitution of Uganda also already provides adequate space for practice, promotion, and preservation of culture, recognising the diversity of cultures within Uganda and empowering all. She highlighted Government’s commitment to work together with other players in the space of culture such as cultural institutions, civil society organisations, local governments, among others to ensure that culture is promoted and sustained. She further used this opportunity to thank international development partners that support the work of promoting culture in Uganda.
Owek. Isaac Kalembe – Author of “The Life and Legacy of Omukama Cwa II Kabalega (1853 – 1923)” and outgoing speaker of Orukurato (Parliament) of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom speaking to the role of documentation of African culture and history emphasized the importance of having record of information that future generations can reference to learn from the past, and inform their future. He noted that quite a lot of information has been lost in passing generations, but not all is lost, and that now is the time for African societies to pick up keen interest in documentation of information pertaining to their lives and societies.
The Inaugural Kabalega Memorial Lecture is one of the key events organized in the year-long series to celebrate and honor the legacy of Omukama Cwa II Kabalega in commemorateion of 100 years’ since his demise (1923 – 2023), prior to which the Inaugural Kabalega Independence Run was organised on the 07th of October, 2023 in Hoima City; the capital of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, and earlier the launch of commemoration activity series held on the 06th of April, 2023 at Buyanja Secondary School, Kikangaara Hill in Kibaale district; the place upon which Omukama Cwa II was enthroned King of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom at the age of only 16 and went on to take the Kingdom on an unprecedented social, cultural, and economic transformation course.
Other day’s speakers included the Prime Minister of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom – Owek. Andrew Kirungi Byakutaga, the Chief Prince of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, Owek. Fred Mugenyi Ruchunya, and the Founder of Kabalega Foundation – Dr. James Isagara Kisoro.
The programme also featured the unveiling of the Kabalega Cultural Centre, an 100 years’ Omukama Kabalega legacy project to be established in Hoima City, and the premiering of Omukama Cwa II Kabalega Documentary in development by Nyati Motion Pictures.
While delivering his speech, the Prime Minister of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom – Owek. Andrew Byakutaga noted that this was a historic occasion considering that Omukama Kabalega holds a special place in the history of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom as a unifier, a peacemaker, a pan-Africanist, and a social, cultural, and military leader.
He noted that the discussion of the theme of culture in development is timely and pertinent since culture defines who we are, and by understanding who we are, we identify our individual and collective unique strength as communities which is a key ingredient in development, and that the attack by colonialists on Africa is one of the saddest occurrences in history as this not only disrupted Africa’s social, economic, and political landscape, but also left a trail of bloodshed and destruction in Africa, and some of the negative impacts still persist to date as sites, innovations, and social cohesion were affected.
The Prime Minister re-echoed Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom’s demand for the unconditional return of the kingdom assets confiscated by the British from the Kingdom, and reparations for the losses incurred by the Kingdom during their invasion.
The Prime Minister thanked Kabalega Foundation, and especially Prince Dr. James Isagara Kisoro for picking up the mantle of organizing and coordinating events to celebrate 100 Years of Omkama Cwa II Kabalega in Collaboration with Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, and called on the participants to look forward to, and participate in other upcoming events which will go on up to 05th of April, 2024 n the new upcoming year.
Addressing the audience, Prince Dr. James Isagara Kisoro, the Founder of Kabalega Foundation thanked all partners that have made input into the success of the inaugural edition of Kabalega Memorial Lecture, and promised that this as the first of many to come will be subsequently held on an annual event, tacking different subjects pertaining to the Social, Political, Economic, and Cultural development of the African society.
He thanked Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom for partnering with the Foundation to work towards immortalizing Omukama Cwa II Kabalega and re-iterated the Foundation’s commitment to working towards social, culturally, and economically empowered communities as it’s vision is.
Speaking about the planned Kabalega Cultural Centre project, Dr. James Kisoro thanked the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, and the UNDP for their input in refining this idea as a project that will not only embody the legacy of Omukama Kabalega, the history of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, but also have resounding impact within the community in as far as social, economic and cultural empowerment is concerned. He called on all members present, and partners from far and wide to support this project when call upon and approached towards immortalizing the legacy of Omukama Cwa II Kabalega.
The lecture delivered both live at Kampala Serena Conference Centre – Victoria Hall, and online (via Zoom and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyw-Q_-b2t4)) was attended by both national and international participants, including delegations from various native cultural institutions such as Buganda, Tooro, Busoga, Acholi, among others.
The inaugural Kabalega Memorial Lecture was made possible by the generous support from Vision Group, Civil Aviation Authority of Uganda, MSL Logistics, Prudential Uganda, NBS TV, Adman Source, and partners such as International University of East Africa, among others.
ABOUT OMUKAMA CWA II KABALEGA
Omukama Chwa II Kabalega (June 18, 1853 – April 6, 1923), was the ruler or Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom in Uganda from 1870 to 1899, and a celebrated national hero. He is most notably remembered for his great developmental rule that transformed Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom and restored its former glory, but also his resistance to colonialism, a few among African monarchs that put up fierce sustained resistance, a stance that later inspired other African leaders to fight for their independence.
Having ascended to the throne at the age of 16 Years, and ruled Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom for 29 years, Omukama Kabalega led the kingdom through a historic transformative phase, reconsolidating the Kingdom’s former lost territories, boosting food production, trade, and innovations, boosting the kingdom’s security through establishment of a standing professionalized army, and introducing unprecedented social reforms in building a meritocratic system of governance and centralised administration that ensured a unified progressive society.
Upon invasion by the British colonial forces, Omukama Cwa II Kabalega chose to defend his people, putting up formidable resistance that lasted 9 Years, an act that inspired other African leaders to resist and fight for their independence.
Upon capture in 1899 and subsequent exile in Seychelles Islands, he survived for 24 years; all the while engaging in diplomatic correspondence challenging his detention, leading to his release.
Upon release, Omukama Cwa II Kabalega died on the 06th of April, 1923 at Mpumwiire (Mpumudde Hill), present day Jinja on his way back to Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom.
With several national and international establishment attributions to his name, in 2009, the government of Uganda declared him a national hero. In 2010, the most honourable order of Omukama Kabalega was inaugurated by Bunyoro-Kirara Kingdom in his honor. In 2023, the government of Uganda renamed Hoima International Airport under construction in Hoima to Kabalega International Airport. The second highest medal awarded by the Uganda Military (Uganda People’s Defence Forces – UPDF); Kabalega Star Medal is in recognition of his bravery to defend his people, among many other honors. His legacy continues to inspire many unto a life of noble purpose and dedicated service, and has influenced society in several ways towards development and modernization.
Kabalega Foundation was established to preserve and promote the legacy of Omukama Cwa II Kabalega through service and promotion of his life-long ideals.
The year-long series of events, activities, and special projects scheduled to run from April 06th, 2023 – April 05th, 2024 is organized under the broader theme of; “Celebrating a hero’s life, leveraging 100 years legacy to inspire social, cultural, and economic transformation”.
Compiled by: Kabalega Foundation Communication Office.
Dunn, Peter. (1999). Robert Felkin MD (1853-1926) and Caesarean delivery in Central Africa (1879). Archives of disease in childhood. Fetal and neonatal edition. 80. F250-1. 10.1136/fn.80.3.F250).
Overview of surgical and anesthesia practice in sub-Saharan Africa during the 19th century: the example of the people of Bunyoro, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8627144/pdf/PAMJ-40-120.pdf, Retrieved: 20/12/2023.
The Reign of Omukama Chwa II Kabalega 1870-1899, https://bunyorokitarakingdom.org/2018/07/20/the-reign-of-omukama-chwa-ii-kabalega-1870-1899/, Retrieved: 19/12/2023
PLO Lumumba Keynote Address – The Role of Culture in Promotion of Development -the Case of Africa. https://kabalegafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/Prof.-PLO-Lumumba-Keynote-Address-The-Role-of-Culture-in-Promotion-of-Development-the-Case-of-Africa-18.12.2023.pdf. Retrieved: 20/12/2023
Kabalega Foundation is a Not-for-Profit Non-governmental Organisation incorporated in Uganda as a Company limited by guarantee (Reg. No. 80020002140688), and registered as a Charity Organisation NGO Reg. No. INDR152224158NB