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His Majesty The King Climbs Glacier to Warn of Climate Change the African Way

King Oyo

Tooro is a constitutional monarchy and one of the five traditional kingdoms located within the borders of Uganda.

The current Omukama (King) of Tooro is His Majesty Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV. The people native to the kingdom are called Batooro, and their language is Rutooro.

His Majesty The (King) Omukama of Tooro, Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV, returned from successfully summiting the 5,109-metre Margherita,  Africa’s third highest peak on the Ruwenzori ranges.

The Ruwenzori, also spelled Rwenzori and Rwenjura, are a range of mountains in eastern equatorial Africa, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The highest peak of the Ruwenzori reaches 5,109 meters, and the range’s upper regions are permanently snow-capped and glaciated. 

He became one of the first monarchs in modern times to do so since  Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi , an Italian mountaineer and explorer at the turn of the 20th century.

His Majesty Dr. Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV, King of Tooro Kingdom in Uganda, was born on 16th April 1992. When his father, Patrick David Matthew Rwamuhokya Kaboyo Olimi III passed away on 26th August 1995, the 3-year-old Prince ascended the throne on 12th September 1995, entering the Guinness Book of World Records as the Youngest Reigning Mon­arch in the World.

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Aged 26 years, King Oyo has significant influence and respect among young people. He leads initiatives to enable young people to realize their potential and contribute positively to developing their communities and countries.

This is part of the Uganda Tourism Boards initiative for promoting sustainable adventure tourism under the Campaign – Conserving Mountain Ecosystems – to highlight the beauty and splendor of the Rwenzori Mountain range as one of the remaining equatorial glaciers in the world.

Upon his return from the Rwenzoris, His Royal Highness, also the world’s youngest monarch, was received by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA )Finance Director Jimmy Mugisa on behalf of Executive Director Sam Mwandha.

 Tooros Queen’s mother, Best Kemigisa Akiiki received the King alongside other officials from the Kingdom, United Nations Development Programme – UNDP, and Lilly Ajarovas Chief Executive Officer Uganda Tourism Board-UTB.

According to a statement posted by Uganda Tourism Board, the King’s expedition is intended to raise awareness about the impact of climate change and highlight the need for the much-needed quick #ClimateAction.

 The Royal expedition is part of the campaign activities to draw attention to the impact of climate change, the significant role of environmental conservation, and the promotion of the Rwenzori Mountains as a unique adventure tourism attraction. One of the most visible consequences of climate change in Uganda is the rapid loss of glaciers, which have reduced from 6.5 square kilometers in 1906 to less than one square kilometer in 2003. These Rwenzori glaciers will disappear before the end of this century.

The ascent was made possible with support from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities, (United Nations Development Program) UNDP, and Tooro Kingdom.

The local communities living at the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains continue to face destructive floods due to the outbursts of River Nyamwamba, whose source is traced in these mountains. Nonetheless, the mountains remain an important part of the Batooro, Bakonzo, and Bamba Culture.

In recent years the river Nyamwamba and Mubuku have burst their banks, causing destruction of homes, hospitals, bridges, and even loss of lives and livelihoods, leading to displacement.

“There is an urgent need to preserve the crown of snow on the Rwenzori Mountains. Therefore, we must be prepared to tackle the effects of climate change on our beautiful country today.”  Said – Owekitinisa Joan Kantu Else, Minister of Tourism – Tooro Kingdom.

His Majesty King Oyo is a Messenger of Peace. In 2014, King Oyo was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Peace by the University of Vietnam for his work for peace.

Speaking of the feat, Hon Daudi Migereko, Chairman Board of Directors, Uganda Tourism Board, commented, “The Rwenzori Royal Expedition 2022 will not only create awareness on the restoration and protection of areas affected by climate change but also drum up support for culture and heritage tourism promotion in our beautiful country”.

The Rwenzori Ecosystem is also a great contributor to tourism development. It is home to 54 Albertine rift endemic species; 18 mammal species, 09 reptile species, 06 amphibians, and 21 bird species. Over 217 Bird species, including the Rwenzori Turaco, the Bamboo Warbler, Golden Winged Sunbird, and Scarlet tufted Malachite sunbird, have been recorded, rendering the ecosystem an important bird watching site in Uganda.

In 1994, the Rwenzori Mountains were named a UNESCO World Heritage site and later a Ramsar Site in 2008 due to the unique beauty and vegetation zones marked by grassland, montane forest, Bamboo, heather, and afro-alpine moorland zones which support diverse species of bird and other wildlife.  

Headquartered in Nyakalenjija village along the Mubuku valley, the fabled  “Mountains of the Moon ” was gazetted as a National park in 1991 and became known as Mountain Rwenzori National Park. 

The Congolese part of the Rwenzori is also part of the Virunga National Park, which forms part of the greater Virunga Mastif.

Also known as “ Mountains of The Moon (Montes Lunae), this bloc mountain has captivated the imagination of several explorers since it was first claimed as the source of the Nile by  Alexandrian astronomer Claudius Ptolemy in 300 AD.

It was not until 1906 that the Italian Duke made the first scientific expedition to the peak of Abruzzi,  a team from the  Alpine brigade, photographer Vittorio Sella and several native porters from Buganda and  Bakonjo tribes.

The Duke was received at the Royal courts of Tooro by Omukama Kasagama Kyebambe III, a forefather to the current king Oyo . Photographer Sella captured photos of the expedition, including the courts.

The most glaring photos were of the snow-capped peaks, including the eponymous Margherita Peak. In stark contrast, 100 years later, the reality of the receding snow line attributed to climate change hits home.

A typical climb to the summit is a 7-day trek from tropical, giant lobelia and groundsel zone, marsh and bog, plants and flowers of the heather zone, bamboo forest, lakes, rivers, waterfalls to the glaciers of Mount Baker, Mount Speke, Alexandria, Elena, Savoia, Mount Stanley, Elena Peaks, and the snow-capped Margherita.

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Tony Ofungi - eTN Uganda

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