Sunday, March 05, 2006

Western Uganda's boy king holds 2-day parties

From News 24 (SA) March 4, 2006:

Kampala - Tens of thousands of Ugandans flocked to the hilltop palace of Africa's youngest tribal ruler on Saturday, for two days of noisy parties marking a decade in power for the 13-year-old boy king.

Dancing, singing and blowing trumpets, they strained for a glimpse of Oyo Nyimba, who sat before a throng of guests on a throne covered in lion skin, under an arch of elephant tusks.

The youthful Omukama (King) Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV became the world's youngest monarch when he succeeded to the Toro throne in 1995, after the death of his father, Patrick.

Since his coronation as a three-year-old, Oyo Nyimba has had to grow into his role as leader of western Uganda's one million-strong Batoro tribe.

When he is not in class at an international school in the capital Kampala, the heir to the country's centuries-old Toro Kingdom plays football and video games and goes to the cinema like any other well-off Ugandan teenager.

Courted by ambassadors

But on weekends and during the holidays, he is courted by ambassadors and presidents making the four-hour drive to his imposing Karuzika - "palace" in the local Lutoro language - above the sleepy Fort Portal town.

The three-story home, looking out over lush green tea plantations and banana groves, was renovated by one wealthy visitor - his "good friend" Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.

Until he is 18, kingdom affairs are handled by regents.

Meanwhile, Oyo Nyimba says art, music, maths and swimming are his favourite classes at school, he doesn't like science, and he wants to study for a tourism degree in London.

He denies having a girlfriend, or a best friend.

Although he no longer needs the toy cars he used to play with to relieve the tedium of lengthy tribal ceremonies, Oyo still finds some of his official duties dull.

In a rare interview with a Ugandan newspaper this week, Oyo said: "I get bored, especially during functions.

"You are just sitting with grown-up people. I don't know what is going on in the kingdom. It is quite confusing to me."

Chief guest this weekend at Oyo's Empango (moon) accession parties is expected to be Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni, who was re-elected last week for another five years in power.

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