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18-year-old now heads traditional Tooro kingdom with uneasy relations with Ugandan government.
Museveni, president since 1986, restored the tribal monarchies in 1993, but insisted they function strictly as “cultural institutions,” to prevent a repeat of the 1966 crisis.
Now, that strictly “cultural” designation is unravelling.
More than 2 billion barrels of oil has been discovered in northwest Uganda on land historically owned by the king of Bunyoro, a tribal region that surrounds Lake Albert.
Bunyoro’s monarch insists his kingdom is entitled to a share of all future revenue, but the central government has scoffed at the claim.
In central Uganda, the Buganda monarchy is vocally demanding their region be granted a semi-autonomous federal status, citing serious and worsening corruption in Museveni’s regime.
The tension between Museveni and the Buganda led to riots in the capital Kampala that killed at least 30 people last September.
With the queen of Buganda seated some ten feet away from him, Museveni to his immediate right, and officials from his own monarchy condemning the government for illegally occupying kingdom land and not paying rent, it’s possible that 18-year-old King Oyo felt a bit uneasy stepping into the political minefield that defines relations between Uganda’s president and its tribal kings.
Those who claimed to know him suggested he might have preferred to be watching football.
“He’s a teenager! He loves Arsenal!” said Princess Dorothy Kagoro, minutes before the ceremony started.
In interviews with local media, Oyo talks enthusiastically about Jay-Z and does not mention politics, but that seems likely to change, partly because many people in Tooro still revere the monarchy and look to the king for leadership.
“He has the power of uniting us. He can call us, which can make us come together,” said John Mugisha, a clarinet player in the police band playing at the ceremony.
Oyo’s official spokesman didn’t rule out the possibility that the kingdom might also agitate for a semi-autonomous federal state.
“We still have to study the various proposals,” the kingdom’s Information Minister Frederick Nyakabwa Atwoki said.
At the ceremony Oyo said nothing.
He sat on his new throne — a gift from the Tooro expatriate community in London — received gifts of spears and drums from nervously approaching clan leaders, and when the moment came, took an uncomfortable but ceremonially crucial walk through a series of thatched huts, a walk taken by every king before him.
“We are now going to learn what he is,” Atwoki said. “He has been a young person, now that he has age we are going to know what kind of man he is.”