Monday, July 16, 2012
Royal Profile: Princess Elizabeth of Toro
She attended a local elementary school before going on to Gayaza High School in Buganda, a prestigious boarding school for girls. After graduating she was sent to England to the Sherborne School for Girls where she felt the pressure of being the only Black student. This motivated her to study harder and push for success as she felt that her performance, as the only Black student, would reflect on all those like her. She sufficiently proved herself that within one year she was accepted to Girton College in Cambridge, only the third African woman to ever attend the institution. She graduated in 1962 with a law degree and in 1965 became the first East African woman to be admitted to the English Bar. She was successful working lawyer but that same year was called back to Africa by the death of her father. She was present at the enthronement of her brother Rukirabasaiia Patrick David Matthew Koboyo Olimi VII as the twelfth Omukama of Toro at which time she received the title of Batebe or ‘Princess Royal’. In the traditional hierarchy, this made her the highest ranking woman in the kingdom and a close confidant of her brother the king.
Princess Elizabeth had obtained great fame in America, but her royal roots gave her an urge to serve her native country. During her time away President Obote had been overthrown in a military coup led by General Idi Amin and in 1971 he issued a special invitation to Princess Elizabeth to return to Uganda and serve as an ambassador to the world for her country. In those early days hopes for a better future were high and the Princess returned but was soon abroad again after being appointed by Amin to serve as Uganda’s ambassador to the United Nations. Idi Amin wanted to put the best possible face on his regime and his appointment of Princess Elizabeth was part of that plan. In 1974 Amin made Princess Elizabeth his Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, it quickly became more and more obvious to people in and outside of the country that Idi Amin was a bloodthirsty tyrant and possibly out of his mind.
In 1985 President Obote was brought down by another military coup and though conditions in Uganda did not immediately improve, the situation at least became more stable so that progress could be made. By then a respected figure in her own country and around the world, the next year Princess Elizabeth was made ambassador to the United States, serving in that post until 1988. Sadly, in 1989, her husband Prince Nyabongo was killed in a plane crash. After that, she devoted much of her time to charity and stayed away from politics. However, after the end of the dictatorship she had provided invaluable assistance in the restoration of her brother and the other sub-national kingdoms. So many people had been killed, particularly among the tribal elders and chiefs, that few people knew anything about the traditions and protocol of the old monarchies and the Princess helped see that all was done properly and that the ceremonies were set down for future generations.