KASESE, Uganda — For years, Charles Wesley Mumbere worked as a nurse's aide in Maryland and Pennsylvania, caring for the elderly and sick. No one there suspected that he had inherited a royal title in his African homeland when he was just 13.
On Monday, after years of political upheaval and financial struggle, Mumbere, 56, was crowned king of his people to the sound of drumbeats and thousands of cheering supporters wearing cloth printed with his portraits.
At a public rally later in the day, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni officially recognized the 300,000-strong Rwenzururu Kingdom. Museveni restored the traditional kingdoms his predecessor banned in 1967, though he has been adamant that kings restrict themselves to cultural duties and keep out of politics.
"It is a great moment to know that finally the central government has understood the demands of the Bakonzo people who have been seeking very hard for recognition of their identity," Mumbere said in the whitewashed building that serves as a palace.
The new King of Uganda's Mountains of the Moon has undergone many transformations.
Mumbere's royal roots only became public in Pennsylvania in July, when he granted an interview to The Patriot-News of Harrisburg as he was preparing to return to Uganda.
He inherited the title when his father, Isaya Mukirania Kibanzanga, died while leading a secessionist group in the Rwenzori Mountains, otherwise known as the Mountains of the Moon. The rebels were protesting the oppression of their Bakonzo ethnic group by their then-rulers, the Toro Kingdom.
The Bakonzo demanded to be recognized as a separate entity and named Kibanzanga as their king in 1963.
Shortly after Kibanzanga died, his son led the fighters down from the mountains to hand in their weapons. Mumbere went to the United States in 1984 on a Ugandan government scholarship, attending a business school until Uganda's leadership changed and the stipend was stopped. He gained political asylum in 1987, trained as a nurse's aide and took a job in a suburban Washington nursing home to pay his bills, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reported in a July 2009 story.