BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU
ARUA: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2021
On Tuesday, the Nubian community in Arua staged a glowing cultural rendition to crown and install, a businessman, Jafar Oyobo as their king (Mulki).
The Amani cultural trope led with the entertainment as women dressed in bright patterned wear thronged the compound of Continental Guest House in Arua City accompanied by men in Islamic tunics.
Abdallah Khalfan, the Secretary General and chief administrator of the Arua Nubian Council disclosed that Oyobo is actually their third Mulki but his coronation was the first one done publicly.
He said the first Mulki was Yunus Khemis who died in 2017 and his successor was Nasur Murjan who passed away three weeks ago.
Unlike other cultures, the Nubian Mulki is not hereditary but a ceremonial position occupied on a five-year term basis.
Also sworn in was the vice Mulki, Rashid Mansur, Council Speaker, Akida Amin and the Prime Minister, Abdul Juma Labidi.
“As Nubians we are scattered. We are fearful to express ourselves and yet we are listed as number 54th tribe in Uganda’s constitution,” Oyobo said after his crowning.
“We have the best dress code, food and discipline. A Nubian child will never point a finger at an adult,” he continued.
His assertions, indicative of century long cultural renaissance, contrast sharply with the reputation of the Nubian for-bearers described in colonial language as fierce, motley and the best material for soldiery in Africa.
The Nubians are a constitutionally recognized ethnic community in Uganda whose ancestry is traced to the former soldiers of Emin Pasha, a German-Ottoman Islamic convert and governor of the Equatoria region of Sudan who were driven to Uganda by the fierce Mahdist revolution in the 1880s.
They are a detribalized community with distinct culture and codes of public disposition that leans heavily on Islamic practices and speak pidgin Arabic as main language.
“I expect unity-we have been having some wrangles with some people claiming to be chiefs without official recognition,” Oyobo remarked.
Oyobo said one of his top priorities is to seek partnership with the ministry of health to promote public health among the Nubian community.
“I think this will be very important especially now because we need to protect ourselves against Covid-19,” he said.
He also promised to promote trade in Nubian arts and crafts including decorated bags, food cover (Kuta), and sitting mats (Birisi).
To be crowned a Mulki, Speaker Amin said an elaborate assenting procedure has been laid out.
“One of your parents must come from an original Nubian tribe- Dinka, Moru, Mondu, Kuku, Bari, Iafo, Zande, Asesin, Tagalao among others,” he said.
But the original Nubians also included people from West Nile such as Fadhel Mullah Murjan Babua of Terego and Fadel Mullah Ali Adhu of Yumbe who were former slaves eventually recruited by Pasha to become influential field commanders.
Prime Minister Labidi said with intermarriages, contemporary Nubians have expanded to include other tribes such as Madi, Kakwa, Aringa, Lugbara, Baganda and Banyoro.
He said this is also how the Nubian community has expanded to include the legendary Khalfan family of Omanian origin that has two representatives in the new cabinet- Abdallah, the Secretary General and Dr Mbarack Khalfan who heads the medical department.
When the Mulki dies or his term of office ends, the council of elders and sheiks invites nomination of names of potential successors.
They make their choice basing on the public standing of the person, education level (at least O’ level), employment status, sound mindedness and being responsible determined by one being married and having a home with children.
Labidi explains that the choice of the council of elders and sheikhs is forwarded to the Nubian parliament for blessing and then finally to the council of chiefs for approval.
Oyobo was a unanimous choice, having met all the criteria as proprietor of a fleet of transport vehicles branded as “proud Nubian,” he is also a driver for Bank of Uganda Arua branch, an A’ level leaver, practicing Moslem, married to two wives and has children.