Understanding Kabaka Mutebi’s unknown character

Understanding Kabaka Mutebi’s unknown character
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The King of Buganda, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi is at Buwekula County headquarters in Mubende district, where the he spent the night as coronation festivities continue marking 24 years since he was enthroned.

Ahmad Lwasa, the Buganda Lukiiko deputy speaker and chairman of the days organizing committee says the entire Kingdom is excited – countless subjects of the Kabaka having thronged the venue since yesterday.

Ahead of the main event, several activities including sports, health and legal aid camps have been successfully held.

Mutebi the gentle king

As any other public figure, Kabaka Ronald Mutebi attracts curiosity from both his subjects and the general public. His love for fitness is a well-known fact, considering the pictures of him jogging, early in the morning, with his security detail, that surface every now and then on social media.

Probably the most memorable event was on February 18 when he made an unannounced appearance at St Stephen Church polling station in Kireka, while on his jogging routine. As in all other polling stations in Wakiso, voters were disgruntled due to the delayed delivery of the voting materials.

However, when the crowd saw the Kabaka, they began cheering. He waved at them, spoke a few words, and departed.

Besides the public appearances, what is the Kabaka like as a man? Only a long-term friend can decipher the character of a man. One such man exists, although he prefers to speak anonymously due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The smiling king

The source, who has been close to the king since their days living in London, says Mutebi is a friendly man who finds it easy to smile.

“He smiles a lot and rarely gets angry. Different kings were known for their peculiar characters. Muteesa I was called Mukaabya because in the beginning of his reign he was quite ruthless. Mwanga II was also brutal, and Muteesa II had a terrible temper. However, the 36th Kabaka is gentle,” he says.

The “smiling king” is something many can attest to, judging from kingdom functions the Kabaka has graced. But what does it feel like to share a joke with him?

“Once in a while he loves to tell a joke. He will call me just to talk about a joking subject, as (Moses) Golola would call it. Of course, even if it is very funny I cannot start laughing until he laughs at the joke first,” he adds.

He says even though they have known each other for a long time, he cannot dare to start narrating a joke to the Kabaka.

“Omanyi saagala kumanyira Kabaka (You know, I do not want to be familiar with the Kabaka). He has to start telling the joke, and even if I have narrated the joke I cannot laugh at it before him. What if he thinks I am laughing at him, or disrespecting him?”

He adds, though, that the Kabaka is a man who takes life simply and hates complicating it.

Slow to anger

Those who know him say Mutebi takes time to get angry, and even when he does, he might not show it openly.

“Only something very serious can elicit an outburst of anger from him,” the source says, continuing, “You can annoy him for 15 times and he lets it pass, but on the 16th time, he will lose his cool.”

That is when he will communicate to his displeasure to an aide, telling him, “Oyo muzibuzibu. Temumukomyawo.” (That is a difficult man. Do not bring him back)

“I have never seen him abuse people and I have never heard of him doing so. If he makes that statement to his aides, all you will see is the Abambowa (palace guards) telling you not to return to the palace. If you reform your ways, he might let you return, if you do not, well, he has many other people to deal with.”

A liberal father

The Kabaka is married to the Nnabagereka, Sylvia Nagginda, whom he wedded on August 27, 1999, at St Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe. It was a long awaited wedding. The BBC on September 2, 1999, published an article referring to the function as Uganda’s ‘wedding of the century’.

At 43, Kabaka Mutebi kept his subjects guessing for a long time, before announcing his engagement in May 1999. He was the oldest bachelor king in Buganda’s history – and his predecessors over the past 500 years have traditionally married in their teens, and had several wives and concubines.

The Kabaka has five children, who include, Prince (Kiweewa) Crispin Jjunju Suuna, Princess Joan Nassolo. Princess Victoria Nkinzi. Princess Katrina Sarah Kirabo Ssangalyambogo and Prince Richard Ssemakookiro.

“He loves children, and while other parents will feel uncomfortable attending functions with their children, he takes his along. He does not dictate his wishes on them; in fact, he gives them the freedom to do and study whatever they want,” the source says.

His older children have had their higher education in prestigious universities out of the country.

“One thing he values is unity,” the friend says, continuing, “Although his children have different mothers, he makes sure there is unity between them.”

Mutebi the cautious man

Kabaka Mutebi is known by those close to him as someone who does not rush into decisions.

“If he is told about the bad conduct of one of his officials, he inquiries from many people about that particular official before forming an opinion. In most cases, he will consult the Katikkiro about the character of the said official. You cannot just report someone to him and expect him to fire the person the next day. That is not how he works,” the source says.

Of late the Kabaka is known to have taken distaste to long functions. These days, the Mengo government decreed that any official function that is to be graced by the Kabaka should last for only two hours.

“Long functions bore him, nowadays,” his friend says.

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