Obusinga Bwa Rwenzuru cultural institution has been a key factor in politics of Kasese district.
In 2001, President Museveni won in Kasese after he promised to recognize Obusinga. But he did not honour the promise and in 2005, when Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye went to campaign in Kasese he promised that unlike Museveni, he would grant the people of Kasese Obusinga and he won.
In September 2009, Museveni announced that he would recognize the institution and in 2010, Charles Wesley Mumbere was installed as King, giving victory to Museveni in the 2011 elections.
Several politicians in the area served the kingdom before joining active politics and politicians who are seen to be pro-Obusinga tend to have an easy ride during the elections.
Nelson Sande, the former Executive Director of Rwenzori Peace Bridge of Reconstruction argues that the candidates will talk about issues that affect the community during the campaigns, and if the cultural institution affects them, it will influence the way the electorate will vote.
Joseph Muranga Kule, the Kingdom Prime Minister, says that the cultural institution wants to soar above politics. He notes that politics is one of the troubles that have bedevilled the institution.
Muranga is a former Member of Parliament and Resident District Commissioner and viewed as an NRM supporter. The cabinet which was appointed by King Mumbere in August is seen as NRM leaning.
However Muranga says that when he was appointed Prime Minister, he removed the NRM garb and became apolitical. Muranga says that no politician will be allowed to use the Kingdom platform for campaigns.
Gadi Mbahayi, the former Prime Minister and a known FDC diehard say the cultural institution has never interfered in politics of Kasese. He, however, says that the electorate in Kasese cannot vote for any politician who has no respect for Obusinga.
The Kasese District Chairperson, Geoffrey Sibendire Bigogo and a member of FDC says that there can’t be campaigns without the issue of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu. He says there are candidates whose campaigns adverts have been rejected by radio stations because they contained messages related to the kingdom.
Bigogo says that although the NRM tries to push the kingdom discussion off the political campaigns ahead of 2021, the issue of who supports the cultural institution will determine who wins the elections.
Kasese Municipality Mayor, Godfrey Kabyanga, the only NRM candidate who won in 2016 says that the absence of a message connected to the cultural institution partly explains why NRM lost to FDC candidates. He says that FDC candidates positioned themselves as the defenders who are going to salvage the kingdom.
But Kabyanga says that ahead of next year’s elections, the NRM has done a lot for the cultural institution.
Stephen Muhesi, a resident of Murambi Parish, Lake Katwe Sub-county says the issue of Obusinga will not affect the way he will vote next year. However, Bwambale Amos, another resident in Murambi Parish, says the release of Omusinga can help the NRM to win back people who voted for FDC in 2016.
This sentiment is shared by Muranga who is confident that if King Mumbere and the royal guards are released and allowed to return home, the voting trend could change in favour of Museveni and NRM candidates in the district.
Mbahayi thinks he was removed from being Prime Minister because NRM supporters didn’t want him and FDC to get the credit, if Mumbere is released.
He says that people were promised that Omusinga would be released soon, but his subjects are desperate because they don’t see signs of releasing the King soon.
Florence Kabugho, the FDC Kasese Woman MP Candidate says voters cannot accept to be brainwashed to support the NRM simply because Omusinga will be released.
Kabugho, who was the head of protocol in Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, says that they have waited for Mumbere to be released in vain. Kabugho also says that it is impossible to separate politics from the cultural institution.
Whereas all opposition politicians will put the cultural institution on their campaign agenda, Kabyanga, say they don’t have a message aligned to Obusinga.
Kitanywa Sowedi, NRM candidate for Busongora North says he will heed to the warning of separating cultural institution from politics.
Kabyanga, says he carries a message of building a cultural institution that will live the test of time.
For Obusinga to fly above Kasese politics, there is a need for consensus on how it can be achieved, which is still lacking.