Former U.S. Nurse’s Aide Crowned King in Uganda

By Sadie Bass

Oct 20, 2009 3:31pm

ABC's Dana Hughes reports from Nairobi: For more than 20 years Ugandan citizen Charles Wesley Mumbere lived and worked in the United States as a nurse’s aide, caring for the elderly and sick. But the people he encountered didn’t know they were actually in the presence of king. Mumbere is the rightful ruler of the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu, a kingdom with made up of more than 300,000 Ugandans.  Yesterday in an elaborate ceremony Mumbere was crowned Omusinga of the Rwenzururu; King of the Rwenzururu Kingdom. Thousands of his subjects cheered throughout the ceremony, expressing joy for both their new king and an official acknowledgement of their centuries-old tribe. “The Uganda government is officially recognizing of Rwenzururu as one of the cultural institutions in Uganda," said Mumbere and shook hands with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. "Our coming here and the ceremonies we have performed are signifying the recognition of the Republic of Uganda for the Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu,” President Museveni replied as he thanked Mumbere and the crowd. The coronation was a 40 year journey, peppered with stories of tribalism, rebels, dictators and political exile.  Mumbere inherited the title after his father, the leader of a separatist movement in Uganda’s western mountain region, died in 1966. Shortly afterwards Uganda’s president at the time, Milton Obote, banned certain tribal kingdoms deemed to be too political. Rather than continue fighting, Mumbere and the other rebels accepted the decision and turned in their weapons. In 1984 Mumbere fled to the United States on a Ugandan scholarship, when the scholarship was withdrawn three years later he received political asylum in the United States. He lived in both the Washington DC area and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but never forgot his roots or the struggle of his people. While living in Harrisburg, Mumbere heard that the Ugandan government was reinstating tribal kingdoms. Mumbere immediately began to lobby for the Rwenzururu Kingdom to be recognized, and from Pennsylvania began a series of negotiations with the Ugandan government culminating in his return to the country two years ago and his coronation yesterday. As king, Mumbere will have power over cultural decisions for the kingdom, but political and legal decisions will remain with Uganda’s central government. For all the years King Mumbere spent in the United States almost no-one knew who he was. The executive director of one of the nursing homes Mumbere worked told reporters along with being a “very loyal, a very hard worker, a very nice person,” the future king was also “very private.” In an interview granted to The Patriot-News last year before Mumbere left for Uganda, he thanked the United States for giving him an opportunity to succeed, calling America "one of the best countries on earth.” He said even though he will be a King, he plans on coming back to the U.S. for visits. “I just feel as if I'm at home, because this country has all races in the world."

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