Tooro kingdom, Abagaya clash over ‘Empango’ funds, clan withdraws from organising the celebrations 

Additional reporting by Samuel Muhimba 

Tooro Kingdom clan Abagaya has withdrawn from organising the 28th coronation anniversary celebrations known as Empango, citing lack of transparency by the kingdom leadership.

Celebrated annually, Empango marks the day the reigning Tooro king ascended the throne. This year’s celebrations are scheduled for September 12, 2023.

The King of Tooro, Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru had formally chosen the Abagaya clan to organise this year’s celebrations.

However, in a notice dated July 16, the Abagaya leader Mugabyomu Richard Bakasemeza has announced the clan’s withdrawal from organising the celebrations, citing concerns related to mobilisation of the funds meant for the celebrations.

Genesis of the fracas

After being pronounced the organisers of this year’s Empango, the Abagaya clan constituted an organising committee that included people from the kingdom administration and other clans.

The committee proceeded to draft a budget to cater for at least 15,000 people, and was approved by the kingdom administration.

Next was to distribute letters and invitation cards to various organisations and agencies, seeking their support. The letters would bear the account number for Empango to which all finances would be banked.

However, according to Bakasemeza, the organising committee later received two different bank account numbers; one from the kingdom deputy prime minister Harriet Nyakake and another from Omujwera Musuga Kamurasi (which was called the original account),  excluding any Abagaya committee member as a signatory.

Highlighting the challenges and seeking for clarification, the Abagaya clan chairman, on June 30, wrote to the kingdom prime minister regarding the signatories of the bank accounts. 

In the letter, the clan had also sought to have its chairman included among the signatories.

In his communication, the prime minister agreed to the clan proposal of having three principal signatories including the Abagaya clan chairperson, deputy prime minister Nyakake and Kamurasi.

Prime minister makes U-turn

According to Bakasemeza, days later, the prime minister made a verbal communication receding his earlier decision on grounds that he had received new instructions from King Oyo.

Accordingly, the new instructions, mandated the Queen Mother, Best Kemigisa to be the only principal signatory of the Empango account.

Bakasemeza, says the new instructions were devastating to the clan organising committee since it would make it hard for them to interface with Kemigisa and to hold her accountable because of her status as the queen mother.

To ensure proper accountability of the funds, Abagaya wrote to the kingdom administration, seeking to have the clan chairperson, clan treasurer, the queen mother and the deputy prime minister to be co-signatories of the account to which mobilised funds were to be deposited.

On not getting feedback to their resolutions, the clan leadership convened a meeting and resolved to withdraw from organising the Empango by July 13, 2023 if there was no commitment from the kingdom administration.

King Oyo intervenes

Following the Abagaya’s threat to withdraw from organising the celebrations, the king promised to meet the proposed signatories in Fort Portal and formalise with the bank about the issue of introducing them to the bank.

Bakasemeza says the communication by the King was welcomed, and motivated the organising team to start distributing letters for resource/fund mobilisation.

However, while in the field distributing the letters, the clan organising committee contacted the director marketing Airtel Uganda seeking an appointment to discuss the sponsorship of the Empango, only to be told that the telecom had already secured an appointment with a delegation from the kingdom led by the PPS to the king, Jonathan Baguma for the same cause.

“This confirmed to us that there was a parallel mobilising team for funds for Empango which were not being declared to the organising committee. This clearly reflected lack of transparency,” Bakasemeza says.

To avoid impersonation of their organising team since the other delegation could be identified with its origin from the kingdom, Bakasemeza says the clan decided to withdraw from organising the celebrations.

“Over and above this entire fracas, we learned that the prime minister had travelled back to Kampala without introducing our agreed signatories to the bank as promised. This prompted the Abagaya clan to withdraw from organising the 28th Empango celebrations..” he adds.

The decision to withdraw from organising the celebrations alarmed the king, who through the prime minister, scheduled a meeting in Kampala with the clan delegation to discuss resolutions to the fracas. The meeting was scheduled for Saturday.

However, Bakasemeza says that while the clan delegation was invited to Kampala for the meeting, they were disappointed to learn that it had been cancelled one and half hours prior to the meeting time.

”It is against this background that we realised we were not fully empowered by the kingdom as a clan to organise this Empango, and there was lack of trust, openness, transparency, efficient & effective systems and commitment from the kingdom as this would later cause a lot of mishaps in regard to accountability which compromises our core values as a clan,” he says.

In regards to that, Bakasemeza has reaffirmed the clan’s earlier decision of Wednesday to withdraw from organising the Empango celebrations.

He adds that the decision has been formally communicated to the kingdom through the prime minister. 

However, the Tooro Kingdom Prime Minister Amooti Stephen Kiyingi dismissed the Abagaya clan withdrawal as a misunderstanding. 

He further revealed that the Empango celebrations bank account signatories now include the head of the Abagaya clan Mugabyomu Richard Bakasemeza. 

Kiyingi assured the people of Tooro that the kingdom will hold a successful Empango festival. 

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