At age 3, many children would be playing games or having fun with their colleagues outside but not for King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV, who at that tender age was already learning how to rule a kingdom.
King Oyo now 26 is reigning over more than two million people in the Toro Kingdom, one of four kingdoms in Uganda, East Africa.
Holding the record as the “World’s Youngest Monarch” in the Guinness World Records Book, King Oyo ascended the throne on August 26, 1995, succeeding his father as the Omukama (King) of Toro.
At only three years, he became the 12th ruler of the over 180-year-old kingdom in Uganda after his father’s death.
Born on 16 April 1992, to King Patrick David Mathew Kaboyo Olimi III and Queen Best Kemigisa Kaboyo, his father’s death in 1995 meant he had to take his place as the king even as a toddler.
On 12 September 1995, a week after his father’s burial, the ceremonies to hand over the reins of power to Oyo began at 2 a.m. and lasted for two hours.
These included a mock battle at the palace entrance fought between enemy forces of a “rebel” prince and the royal army and a test of Oyo’s divine right to the throne.
Oyo was also made to sound the Nyalebe, a sacred Chwezi drum as his forefathers had done and were blessed with the blood of a slaughtered bull and a white hen.
At 4 a.m, Oyo was crowned king amidst jubilation and he entered the palace as the new ruler of the Kingdom of Toro.
He was served his first meal as King which consisted of millet dough, sat in the lap of a virgin girl and swore allegiance to the crown while lying on his side, on the ground.
For the most part of the coronation rituals, Oyo reportedly did not let go of his toy car and at a point in time, he even cried for his mother’s attention.
Cameras also showed him begging his mother for soda and dashing from his throne to cry unto her lap.
The cultural rituals were crowned with a religious ceremony presided over by the Anglican Bishop, Eustance Kamanyire.
The next day, King Oyo attended a meeting with Cabinet members who were old enough to be his grandparents.
Since King Oyo was just three, he needed support to rule so was given three regents who groomed and oversaw his growth into the role of a King.
Helping him make major decisions, his regents were his mother, Queen Best; his aunt, Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya; and the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, who served him until he turned 18 when he took the reins as monarch entirely without the need of a regent.
King Oyo would never forget the contribution of Libya’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who was an important patron of the kingdom, supporting it with donations at a point worth $200,000.
The young king currently oversees a Cabinet that includes a prime minister, board of regents and councilmen. Serving as the figurehead for members of the Batooro tribe (the group that makes up most of the Toro kingdom), one of the main duties of the king is to raise money and lobby for donations for cultural, educational, and other socio-economic projects that will boost the welfare of his subjects.
With support from his advisors and regents, Oyo travels the world to seek foreign assistance for the development of Toro, including a recent 2015 visit to the UAE, where he met with officials to learn about best practices and discuss collaboration and investment opportunities.
Located in western Uganda, the Toro Kingdom, like the rest of the other three kingdoms in Uganda (Buganda, Bunyoro-Kitara, Busoga), was forcefully disbanded in the 1960s by Milton Obote’s regime and completely outlawed by the constitution seven years later.
But they were reinstated when a democratically elected government took power in 1993 on the condition that the leaders of these kingdoms focus more on cultural issues and less on national politics.
Most people in the Toro kingdom, just as in Uganda, live in poverty, with unemployment being a major challenge, and these are what King Oyo hopes to reverse, though it may be difficult for a young chap who would still love to hang out with his friends in his spare time.
“I like to have fun but not too much fun because when you have too much fun you start to worry about your image,” King Oyo told Arabian Business from his plush suite at the Burj Al Arab in 2015.
“So I tend to just go to the movies, have lunch or dinner with my friends over the weekend and do a lot of outdoor activities.”
Living in a palace perched on a hill in Fort Portal district despite having another palace in Uganda’s capital of Kampala with a security detail of military guards, Oyo said that growing up he was more interested in playing with other children than running a kingdom.
“When I was eight years old that’s when I realised the responsibility I had, who I was and what I had to do.
“Everything fell into place; everything clicked. How I was going to do it, I wasn’t sure, but I definitely knew who I was and what I had to do.”
In school, where he had military guards hovering all over, Oyo said he realized that he was different from his colleagues as he had huge responsibilities.
“Outside of school is probably when I had to be a bit more serious, but when I was at school it was basically an environment that allowed me to be myself because the students around me treated me like any other student, which allowed me to be like them and to also see another side to me as a person as a king, an individual and a student. It made me very down to earth, which I am very grateful for.”
Oyo attended preschool in London, England before heading to Kampala International School, Uganda.
In 2010, he began studying at the University of Winchester in Winchester, Hampshire, England and graduated in October 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
His kingdom is blessed with green pastures, wildlife and national parks, making it a tourism hub in Uganda, despite its socio-economic challenges.
King Oyo, who once said that his mother is his greatest source of support, is hoping to bring the needed change his subjects are hoping for, with a particular focus on health and education.
“I’d like to empower my people, to see them thriving, to see them out of poverty, to give them that platform or survival kit so they don’t have to struggle to send their kids to school or to get money for transport or to take them to the hospital, while there aren’t that many hospitals as well,” he said.
“His age brings a lot of financial support from leaders who want to mentor him and see him succeed,” Ruhweza Remigious, a 34-year-old carpenter who lives around the palace in Fort Portal was quoted by news site CNN in 2010.
“Most Africans are led by older people who don’t do anything.”
“He is young and eager, and we hope he will give us a better life and modernize our infrastructures,” Remigious said.