ZOMBO. Ascending to the throne of his predecessor and grandfather in 2010, Ubimo Phillip Olarker Rauni III had a huge task ahead to pump in new energy and interest his subjects to show more love and loyalty to the kingdom.
It was a dawn of a new day as thousands of his subjects from both Uganda and the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) thronged the Lei cultural site in Nebbi district to witness the long awaited inauguration of the youthful king on October 30th 2010.
A lot was and is still expected from His Royal majesty Olarker III, the grandson of the late Ubimu Oyoma Jobi II who passed on in 2000.
Ubimo Olarker III was made king immediately after the passing on of his grandfather despite being for his Master’s degree studies in Economics by then in the United Kingdom.
In order to fill the immediate void, his uncle Mr Jalugwaru Kerupenja, was made caretaker pending the return of Ubimo Olarker in 2006.
His eventual coronation as the 33rd king of the Alur people would take another four years until 2010.
During his short care-taker reign, Kerupenja was deputized by the first ‘Jadipu’ (Prime Minister) Prince Angala followed by Mr Edwin Wathum who retired in 2014.
Since then, Mr Vincent Ochaya Orach was appointed Prime Minister in what many have described as a thorough restructuring intended to pump in fresh youthful blood in the kingdom activities.
In 2017, the Prime Minister Ochaya led a team from the Kingdom secretariat to the humble king’s palace in Atyak, Zombo District.
The visit sought to recreate a spirit of belonging among the kingdom officials and attract support to the king’s struggle to safeguard the values and norms of the Alur people as well as their socio-economic empowerment.
Mr Ocaya’s team met the custodian of the old king’s residence, Mr Jalugwaro Kerupenja who thoroughly explained the values of the virtually neglected cultural regalia and the value of each item that lay in the compound with the risks of losing them.
The Alur cultural regalia left to waste:
The old king’s stone house with rusty ancient iron sheets and a bushy compound then gave an irritating face to the once adorable palace.
The dilapidated residence housed a number of highly valuable cultural regalia like the drums, spear, rain stone, bows and arrows, wooden eating utensils, chair, trumpets, hides and skins and pots among other traditional items used by the former kings.
According to Kerupenja, the highly valuable traditional items which would be a source of tourist attraction were left to waste on account of financial constraints that made it difficult to run the kingdom affairs.
He said most of the volunteers at the former king’s residence had not been catered for in terms of their welfare, a reason for their loss of morale and energy.
Besides the lack of care for the traditional valuables, the former kings’ tombs grew tall elephant grass all around them having lost their shape further confirming the level of decay the kingdom had undergone.
Mr. Ochaya Orach, in a more recent visit to the king’s palace said there are plans to renovate the historical building that houses the traditional items owing to its significance to the Alur people.
However, to date, not much has been done to this cause due to the lack of funds to carry on the activities.
In 2018, President Yoweri Museveni donated an official car to the king and also contributed Sh50 million to the king’s SACCO, a move that significantly helped kickstart some activities.
The President also pledged to construct housing units for the 32 chiefs under the Alur Kingdom administration and procure a mini-bus to help ease the transportation and work of the chiefs.
Before the 9th coronation anniversary in 2019, the Office of the Prime Minister commissioned and handed over a house valued at over shs300 million that the government constructed for the king.
The new house was to temporarily help accommodate the king as the government plans to construct a palace which foundation stone the President laid in 2018.
A five year kingdom strategic plan
Alur kingdom is currently implementing a new five-year strategic plan (2020-2025) to help the kingdom deliver on its cultural mandate.
The four strategic areas captured under the five year plan include; sound customary land management system to enhance agricultural productivity and natural resource protection, Social protection for women, girls, youth and children through positive mind set and sexual reproductive health.
Others are; promotion of cultural heritage tourism, cultural cooperation and exchange, building relationships among the chiefs (Roco wat ikind Rwodhi) and strengthening public private partnership.
The kingdom also plans to scale up protection of cultural sites with the help of the Cross Cultural Functions of Uganda (CCFU).
Ker Alur is implementing this plan within a broad framework of adage ‘Kura Matira’ (behavioural change).
Kura Matira as used in Alur refers to a tribal philosophy that is grounded on the principle of community and being humane, caring and of good conduct.
The revival of Kura Matira arises from the recognition of a general loss of these good values and ethics, especially in the younger generation.
The Kingdom is working in conjunction with the Nnabagereka Development Foundation (NDF), an initiative by the Queen of Buganda kingdom to help restore the lost cultural values.
The aids support organization (TASO) with funding from Global Fund is working with the kingdom to end child marriage through making a return to what the Alur call the ‘fireplace’ where the youth seek counsel from their elders.
The Ministry of Gender Labor and Social Development is also building the capacity of the kingdom to deal with and address the negative cultural practices that impact on HIV/AIDS response in Alur kingdom.
Rolling out the National Parenting Guidelines-in partnership with the Ministry of Labor Gender and Social development, all chiefs and their spouses received the guidelines to strengthen family bondage.
The kingdom also through partnerships has been able to reach out to various schools to form heritage clubs with the help of the Cross cultural Foundation of Uganda [CCFU]. Some of the beneficiary schools include; St. Daniel Comboni, Angal, Parombo, Acana, Akworo, Panyimur and Pakwach secondary schools.
In his ambassadorial role as the UN-Women champion, Ubimo is spearheading a nation-wide campaign to protect women and girls through fostering positive masculinity.
In 2015, the king made a pronouncement prohibiting anti-social behaviours in the districts of Nebbi, Pakwach and Zombo condemning indecent dressing, excessive consumption of alcohol and spending many days celebrating traditional marriages.
The king directed that the celebration of traditional marriage functions should be reduced to a day as opposed to four. This he said is to reduce unnecessary expenditures and prevent early pregnancies by teenagers who tend to flock such ceremonies.
Mr Kennedy Onen, a youth says the kingdom is now more visible than before. He attributes this to the return of the king to the Atyak palace and intervention made by the government to boost cultural institutions.
He however claims the king is still unpopular among some youth because he has not made deliberate attempts to attract the youth apart from the Ubimo cup tournament in which the youth actively participate.
“There are still people including the elderly who have not had a glimpse of the king and this makes it difficult for them to have an attachment to the kingdom,” Onen says.
Ms. Agnes Nega, a women activist says the tremendous steps taken by the kingdom shouldn't go unnoticed claiming the current king is building from scratch.
Nega says the king’s decade coronation anniversary is worth celebrating taking into account where the kingdom was and where it has reached.