Wednesday, January 25, 2012


He spotted me on the street the day after I arrived in Kasese. He used to bring a newspaper for me every day when I was here in 2010 and was delighted when I assured him that I would resume buying papers from him.

His name is Byaruhanga. He is only 25 years old, but looks much older. He is married with three young children. Every day, he walks the streets of Kasese with a pile of newspapers in his arms. He toils all day selling Uganda’s newspapers, the New Vision, the Daily Monitor and the Red Pepper while his wife looks after the family. Each paper costs 1,500 shillings and Byaruhanga receives 200 shillings on average for every paper he sells. His sale varies from day to day, but his estimate is between 30 and 40 papers. That nets him 6,000 to 8,000 shillings daily. In terms of the Canadian dollar, this is approximately $2 to $4.

Life is very hard for Byarunhanga. With sky-rocketing prices, it is not easy for him to provide a healthy life style or to even provide for basic necessities to a family of five. Yet, with a gentle smile and a courteous greeting, he shows up every morning.


In an earlier post, I wrote about how kings and kingdoms and princes and palaces continue to exist and thrive in Uganda. Here is a fascinating addition.

“Mom of Kabaka’s Baby Son Unveiled”, is the headline on the front page of today’s New Vision, one of Uganda’s national newspapers. Under the headline is the picture of the beautiful woman along with an inset photo of her six-month old son, the prince.

Kabaka is the ruler of the kingdom of Buganda, the largest and the most influential kingdom in Uganda. The lack of information about the prince turned the whole affair into a mystery. It began last week when the birth of the prince, Richard Ssemakookiro, was announced and the pictures of the happy Kabaka holding his son were carried in national newspapers. Since then, every day there has been a different twist and turn to the story.

However, the mystery was not so much about the prince as it was about his mother. More specifically, it was about the clan the mother belonged to. According to the Buganda tradition, a prince does not belong to the king’s clan but to that of his mother. To give each clan in the kingdom a chance to produce a king, the successor to the throne cannot be from the same tribe as that of the king. They must be from different clans. The name of the prince’s mother was known, but, for whatever reason, the identify of her clan was a secret until today. It is now known that the prince’s mother, Rose Nansikumbi, is of the Nseenene (grasshopper)clan.

The Kabaka is married to another woman with whom they have a daughter. Some religious leaders frown about the Kabaka having a child outside wedlock while others have welcomed the news.

Another story about the kings and kingdoms was in yesterday’s Daily Monitor. This was the story about a kingdom where a dispute between two princes over who should succeed to the throne keeps simmering. Since the death of the king in September
2008, the kingdom of Busoga has been locked in an impasse between two rival camps. Both sides maintain that they are the legitimate heir to the throne and the dispute has also gone through the legal route. Now one side has asked Uganda’s president to intervene and settle the matter.

Many Canadians do not have much use for this kind of stuff, but, in highly traditional Uganda, kings are revered. They are the community’s cultural representatives. From my limited knowledge, this means that they monitor programs and policies of governments that take place or impact on their territories to ensure that these are in tune with their cultural heritage and tradition.

I am hoping to learn more about this fascinating institution soon. Next door to KADUPEDI’s office is the administrative wing of the kingdom of Rwenzoruru. Kasese is part of this kingdom. Talking to one of the officials of the kingdom this morning, he is going to try to arrange for me to visit the Rwenzoruru kingdom’s palace located up in the mountains. More on this in a future post.

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