Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom has cancelled this year’s Empango-coronation anniversary celebrations citing Omukama Solomon Gafabusa Iguru’s ill health, sources have said.
Always marked on June 11, empango is a ritual the Omukama performs as he is enthroned.
Iguru first performed these rituals on June 11, 1994 when the kingdom was restored by the current government and since then it has become an annual event.
It attracts thousands of subjects from the eight districts of Hoima, Masindi, Kibaale, Kakumiro, Kiryandongo, Buliisa, Kikuube and Kagadi, which constitute the kingdom to attend the function and listen to their king. Various troupes play out-drama, poetry and cultural songs to entertain the Omukama.
Omujato is where various companies promote their brands throughout the night.
Last year, the celebration was cancelled following presidential directives on the prevention of COVID-19 including a ban on public gatherings.
Reliable sources told The Albertine Journal on Friday that empango necessitates the Omukama to sit for long hours and perform rituals, particularly the four days preceding the main event.
The empango ceremony is preceded by the presentation of ebikwato (regalia) to the Omukama.
This function is performed by the men in charge of the regalia (Ab’ebikwato) on the night of June 9. This is locally known as okweeza (cleansing) and the regalia is called amahango. It is also referred to as the regalia cleansing ceremony.
It is done in the night to prove to the Omukama that they are ready for the empango and it involves reshaping of spears and drums called entimbo and other items.
The palace officials, on June 10 head to the Omukama Chwa II Kabalega’s Royal burial grounds at Mparo which is located 3kms away from Hoima City on the Hoima-Masindi road for a cleansing.
The ebikwato team hand-over the regalia to the Omukama at 12.00am and after receiving the regalia, the Omukama goes to the kraal to receive a bull from Omupanyarwa (the man from the ruling Ababiito clan, who enthroned him). This is a token of appreciation for leading the kingdom. Between 3:00am and 4:00am, the bull is slaughtered and the king serves the people. In the morning, Omukama goes to the bathroom (ekyambukya) for a shower, before he is served breakfast.
Thereafter, wearing the regalia, the Omukama and the Omugo (Queen) take their seats in front of the palace residence which is Hoima City to preside over the empango ceremony. Speeches and other ceremonies have to be completed before 3:00pm, when members of the Abasiita Clan, who keep the empango drum, bring it to the Omukama. They hand over the drum to the Biito dynasty rulers, who inherited the empire.
Before 3:00pm, the Omukama and the Omugo change into backcloth attire before he (Omukama) sits on Nyamyaro (a nine-legged throne) to wait for the empango to be brought to him.
The members of the Abasiita clan take the empango drum to a hill in front of the palace, where they perform rituals seeking clearance from the spirits to proceed with the function.
After receiving permission, they go to the entrance of the palace, playing amakondere and other musical instruments to inform the Omukama’s Kabonera and Omupanyarwa if the ceremony has been cleared to go ahead or not.
The king is informed that it is okay to go ahead and the empango drum is ready. The Abasiita are then allowed to enter the palace to handover the drum to the Omukama who by then is seated on the Nyamyaro. The throne is said to have lasted close to two centuries so far.
The Omukama strikes the drum nine times, signaling the beginning of the empango dance (Okuguruka empango), which lasts for two days in the palace. The empango dances involve playing the amakondere and other traditional music instruments.
None of the sources could reveal the exact health condition of the Omukama. But usually, by this time preparations would have kicked off to mark the event. The arrangements include reaching out to corporate companies, organisations, individuals for financial support.
Alex Katusabe, the Kingdom Chief Administrative Secretary confirmed the cancellation of the fete before referring The Albertine Journal to Nyendwoha Mutiti, the Kingdom First Deputy Premier and minister for culture who doubles as the organizing chairperson of this year’s empango for more details.
Mutiti could neither confirm nor deny, arguing that the kingdom will issue a communication regarding the matter soon.
“Wait and get clear information from the official source. The Prime Minister-Andrew Kirungi Byakutaga, will tell you since he is the official spokesperson of the Kingdom,” he added.
Sources have told The Albertine Journal that instead the day will be used for prayers. Sources said the usual pre-empango activities such as clans’ football tournament, empango marathon, a healthy camp and an exhibition, among others, will also take place.