Tooro Kingdom: Where Gaddafi still rules
Posted Friday, October 26 2012 at 01:00
- Unbroken ties: Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was always warmhearted towards this Ugandan kingdom. That explains why, when civil unrest broke out in Libya last year, Queen Mother Best Kemigisha pleaded with other African leaders to save Gaddaffi from the rebels. An official now says the honour given to Gaddafi in recognition of his contribution to the Tooro Kingdom will never be revoked
The images beamed to the world from the Libyan town of Sirte on October 20 last year were as horrific as they were grossly nauseating.
Former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddaffi, who had survived a rebellion for almost a year, had finally been cornered by the armed wing of his opposition, the National Transitional Council, huddled in a culvert, terrified and waiting for the worst.
The worst did indeed happen, as the bloodied face of the ruler, which was beamed to the world, attested.
The man who had ruled Libya for nearly 41 years had been captured alive, but many say he was dead or critically injured within minutes.
Victory whoops followed his death throughout Libya and much of the world, which underpins the reality that the iron man may never be branded a hero or fondly remembered in many parts of the world.
But in the western Ugandan Kingdom of Tooro, Col Gaddaffi remains a treasured and respected statesman, an African leader who, even in death, is considered “a defender of the Kingdom”.
And it is easy to see why; the kingdom is ruled by a young monarch — King Oyo Nyimba Iguru Kabamba Rukidi IV — who grew up under Gaddafi’s patronage.
Inside the imposing Tooro palace atop Kabarole Hill, American journalist Andrew Green, who has been granted access, says a portrait of Gaddafi still dominates the reception.
Hung opposite the throne, it is an image of the Libyan leader in a triumphant pose, his fist raised to proclaim his power.
The image dwarfs the room’s other adornments: photographs of unsmiling former Toro kings, overstuffed furniture, and animal skins.
“The royal family is going to miss him quite a lot,” Phillip Winyi, the Kingdom’s foreign relations minister, told the Foreign Policy Magazine in June. The Gaddafis “were like another family” to them.
However, although Gaddafi is still revered in the Kingdom, some people in January removed his portrait from the palace and a plaque on one of the premises. The plaque, fixed on the Karuzika palace wall in Fort Portal in 2001, was inscribed with the words: “This foundation stone was laid by the Great Leader of the Revolutionary Socialist Libyan Arab People’s Jamahiriya, H E Col Muammar-Al-Gaddafi, on 14th JULY 2001.”
The relationship between the kingdom and the former Libyan leader started in 2000, when President Museveni introduced King Oyo during celebrations to mark Uganda’s Independence at Kololo on October 9 that year.
It is said Gaddafi was awestruck by the then nine-year-old king festooned in his regalia. He admired how the Batooro respected and treasured such a young leader.
Namara Arthur Araali, the Kingdom’s Minister of Information, says Gaddafi immediately invited King Oyo to Libya in early 2001.
In July of the same year, Gaddafi made his maiden visit to the kingdom, attracting so much pomp and security that, Oyo’s subjects recall, it was like “heaven coming to meet the earth”.
At time of the visit, the biggest project in the kingdom was the renovation of Karuzika (the palace), and Gaddafi, in his trademark exhibition of magnanimity, offered to fund the works.
The palace had been destroyed by Idi Amin’s soldiers, who had used it as their barracks in the 1970s.
The relationship between Gaddafi and the young King and his family blossomed. The Libyan ruler even offered to pay for the King’s sister’s education, and to build a hospital and a school for Oyo’s subjects.