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Cultural ties defy borders as tribes pay homage to foreign kingdoms

By Stephen Makabila | November 10th 2013

By Stephen Makabila

Whenever the two Ugandan cultural kings visit Kenya, they are treated with great adoration and elaborate celebrations befitting their status.

That the political leadership in the areas of their jurisdiction on the Kenyan side of the border religiously attend cultural fetes they preside over, equally demonstrates the respect they command among people who seem to understand the place of culture in society.

A major advocate of the cultural paradigm in development, renowned Kenyan international scholar, Prof Ali Mazrui, once observed that cultural forces drive national behaviours, international politics and affairs, international relationships and hegemonies.

In his book, Cultural Engineering in East Africa, Prof Mazrui outlined four challenges facing Africans being: First, How to indigenise what was foreign. Second, How to nationalise what was indigenous. Third, How to nationalise what was sectional and fourth, How to emphasise what was African.

Former Justice minister and New Ford-Kenya party leader Eugene Wamalwa notes: “We respect Omukuka Wilson Wamimbi for offering Bamasaba people cultural guidance on many issues and we continue to accord him the support he deserves.

Bomas event

For example when the Iteso King His Highness Papa Emormor (Augustine Lemokol Osubang), was in Kenya for the grand opening of the Teso Cultural Village at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi in October 2011, that doubled as the first Teso cultural festival in the country, it was truly a royal occasion.

A convoy of expensive vehicles snaked their way from the city to the venue amid thunderous applause, song and dance for the visiting King.

He was welcomed to the event by the then Labour assistant minister and Amagoro MP Sospeter Odeke Ojaamong (now Busia County Governor). Retired Attorney-general Amos Wako (currently Busia Senator) was also in the welcoming committee as a friend of the Teso community.

This Boxing Day the King will visit Kakapel in Teso North in Kenya for a cultural fete after presiding over a heritage fete in Uganda.

“He has made it a yearly ritual to visit Kakapel on December 26. All our elected political and government officials led by the local District Commissioner will be present,” says Elizabeth Laini Asegu, Emormor’s Kenyan minister for Culture, Research and Documentation.

Whenever he visits the country, Emormor has been vocal, making his mind known on a wide range of issues. In his speech at Bomas two years ago, he said the Teso’s guiding principles are humility, obedience, honesty and responsibility, but noted the Teso culture was, however, under threat from the foreign influence. The King told those in attendance at the Bomas: “Our culture is our identity and we must preserve it at all costs.”

And in December 2010 during another visit to Kenya, Emormor complained about Kenya’s education systems, which he noted discriminated against children who fail to excel in national examinations, saying such methods should be discarded.

The King cited KCPE and KCSE examinations in Kenya, and pointed out that those candidates who fail to join Form One or university should be helped to exploit their potential.

And early this year, Emormor also lauded Kenyans for conducting peaceful elections on March 4 and maintaining calm.

Wamimbi attended the Bukusu Cultural Festival at Sang’alo on December 30, 2011.

“All our political leaders, among them Moses Wetang’ula, Wamalwa, Musikari Kombo, Wakoli  Bifwoli, and Dr Chris Wamalwa attended the Sang’alo do,” says Florence Nabwala, who is Wamimbi’s Gender minister from the Kenyan side.

Wamimbi also attended Kitale ASK show last year, at the invitation of local Bukusu leaders and plans are also underway to have him grace this year’s Bukusu cultural festival next month. But unlike Emormor who enjoys peace of mind back home, Wamimbi faces a challenge posed by a splinter group that want to share power with him.

On September 2, local leaders in Bududa District ignored a Ugandan High Court order and installed Wash Joseph Kanyanya as a parallel cultural leader in Bugisu sub-region going by the title Umukhungu Bukusu to share space with Wamimbi.

Those close to Wamimbi however view Kanyanya as an imposter who does not even qualify to be a clan head in Bugisu.

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