- Published on Friday, 29 June 2012 13:07
- Written by Nkwasibwe Geofrey
- Category: news
- Hits: 577
A woman whose photograph was earlier this year published in New Vision and Bukedde newspapers, depicting her as the mother of Buganda’s year-old prince, Richard Ssemakookiro, has become a multi-millionaire.
The Observer has learnt that Patience Barbara Kirabo is “hundreds of millions” of shillings richer, following an out-of-court settlement after she threatened to sue the Vision Group for defamation.
For Kirabo, this is a great ending to a story that started with what she saw as a grave mistake.
In January, Buganda’s katikkiro (prime minister), John Baptist Walusimbi, announced that Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II had fathered a child last July. He said the prince’s mother, whom he did not name, was from the Nsenene (grasshopper) clan.
Shortly after the announcement, sources in Mengo, the seat of Buganda kingdom, said the woman was Rose Nansikombi, sparking off speculation in the media over who she really was.
The Kabaka is married in Church and although polygamy is seen as a cultural norm in his kingdom, the announcement of the prince caused a big debate especially on the internet.
Some activists condemned the king for what they saw as infidelity, but many Baganda, including a bishop, chose to celebrate the arrival of a potential future king rather than moralise about a private matter.
For both groups, however, the big question was: “who is the mother of the prince?” The Observer has learnt that in late January, men claiming to have Nansikombi’s photos started approached various media houses in the city promising to release them in exchange for a few million shillings, but nothing became of that.
Then, on January 29, 2012, the New Vision and its sister Luganda title, Bukedde, published a photograph of a young woman, whom they named Rose Nansikombi, the mother of the then six-month-old Ssemakookiro. From the picture, she held many a reader’s gaze. However, the woman in the photo was Patience Barbara Kirabo.
The following day, Kirabo’s lawyers, Ochieng, Harimwomugasho and Company Advocates presented her to journalists at a press conference, where she denied having given birth to the prince, or having had what might have been seen as an inappropriate relationship with the king. Kirabo, a resident of Wasswa zone in Makindye division, said she did not know how her photograph, which had been taken on January 1, 2011 at a family function, had left her album.
She claimed that her fiancé and father of her three-year-old daughter, had, following the publication of the photograph, changed his mind about marrying her in March as previously scheduled. In his subsequent apology, the Vision Group chief executive officer, Robert Kabushenga, said he had authorised the publication of the controversial photograph after confirming that the editorial team had exercised sufficient diligence.
But Kirabo’s lawyers demanded a monetary compensation and a refund of readers’ money for the day’s sales. The Observer has now learnt that the Vision Group recently paid Kirabo “some hundreds of millions” of shillings in an out-of-court settlement with her lawyers. A source told us the figure was “in the range of Shs 300m”.
When contacted this week, Kabushenga refused to comment on the matter and referred The Observer to Kirabo’s lawyers because “they are the ones that complained on her behalf”. The lawyers, Francis Harimwomugasho and Luyimbazi Nalukoola, confirmed that the matter had been settled, but declined to reveal how much Vision Group had paid their client.
“One of the conditions in the settlement agreement was to keep quiet, but let me defy part of it by confirming to you that this matter is now settled and as a result, some people have become rich,” Harimwomugasho told us.
His partner, Luyimbazi, said they had since dropped the demand for the two publications to refund readers’ money.
However, a criminal lawyer who asked not to be named told The Observer that he was surprised that Vision Group had agreed to an out-of-court settlement, saying Kirabo’s lawyers would most likely never have been able to prove defamation in court.
“If anyone was defamed, it was the Kabaka. It wasn’t the woman because, traditionally, all women in Buganda belong to the Kabaka,” the lawyer said.
He added: “Kirabo was unknown and would not have easily produced four right thinking members of society to prove that she was defamed.
In fact, the story [and publication of her photograph as Ssemakookiro’s alleged mother] made her famous [because], in Buganda, referring to one as the Kabaka’s woman is prestigious, not defamatory. She did not deserve any compensation.”
The lawyer reasoned that perhaps the Vision Group management feared being held responsible for the damage certain testimonies might have caused to the Kabaka and his kingdom during hearing of the case had the matter gone to court.
Source: The Observer