Since he ascended the throne at the age of 16 in 1869 as the 23rd Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom from the Babiito Dynasty following the death of his father, Omukama Cwa II Kabaleega’s reign was characterised by endless wars.
Until he was captured by the British colonial soldiers at the age of 46 on April 9, 1899, Omukama Kabaleega spent 30 years in ceaseless wars.
Some of the conflicts were internal from some rebellious elements in the royal circle notably ‘Abahaga’ that wanted to overstep their royal mandate.
Omukama Kabaleega’s might to sustain these wars for donkey years is worth to know and to a larger extent attributable to military organisation, personal brilliance, ability to persuade other tribes to his side in conflicts and wisdom of food security.
In an interview coordinated by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Communications Manager, Mr Francis Mugerwa, the former Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to the reigning Omukama Dr Solomon Iguru, Mr Yolamu Nsamba, narrates how Omukama Kabaleega’s sustainable food security helped him against the Baganda aggressors who were supported by the British colonial soldiers.
Mr Nsamba says Omukama Kabaleega did not only sustain a fight against the above two groups but also their supporters mobilised from India and Mombasa in present day Kenya hoped to dislodge him with ease that never happened.
He explains that plenty of stored dry food in the kingdom assisted the Omukama to fight lengthy wars since the Abarusuura (soldiers) were always supplied with food making them energetic all the time.
“Banyoro had underground granaries where they stored millet and cow peas. These dry foods assisted them during wartime because they had sufficient food enabling them to fight for a long period of time. They had an advantage of constant food supply and remaining energetic against their enemies,” Mr Nsamba says.
Adding: “Food reserves meant food security. These foods were stored in pits like enkerenge currently found at Bukerenge village in Kitoba sub-county, Hoima district; embiso and even in obwingira (caves).
This was unlike Buganda kingdom – the shelter of his enemies which relied on perishable foods that made them fall an easy prey to famine that weakened them during wartime.
“Baganda concentrated on fresh foods like bananas and sweet potatoes. That is why you hear them say ‘Lumonde asinga emere kuwoma.’ When famine struck in Buganda, the soldiers grew weak and could not sustain any war and battle for long,”’ Mr Nsamba continues.
Bunyoro’s sense of food security during Kabaleega’s reign did not only solve military and political questions but also socio-economic stability, an example that could be imitated by leaders of different categories and levels in Africa for true independence, adds Mr Nsamba.
He concludes that food security also determined the health of all his subjects.
Omukama Kabaleega could wisely enforce cultivation of food crops especially millet, peas in diversity and beans in preparation for disasters like epidemics, drought and floods.
Each family had granaries of millet and other grain from which a percentage was offered to the main kingdom food stores for the kingdom subjects and the public whenever it would be deemed necessary.
Analysts say had there been a similar strategy of food security, nobody or government would labour to beg or offer food support to millions trapped in cities during the coronavirus lockdowns.
It could be good if individuals and those holding power borrowed a leaf in the best interest of the most vulnerable categories of people destined for more food shortages as natural disasters may strike further alongside climate change.
It is a story of more than 100 years ago when there were no food and nutrition experts as well as graduates and doctors crowned through western education.
Omukama Kabaleega had imitated his predecessors which may mean that rulers may have cross generational influence.
This raises that may be a natural sense of planning and decision making works better than imparted knowledge through formal education.