An honest-to-goodness king: King Rukirabasaija Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I of Bunyoro-Kitara in western Uganda.
His kingdom is one-sixth the size of San Bernardino County.
Iguru was at the fall luncheon of the local chapter of the Phi Beta Delta honor society for international scholars in Cal State San Bernardino's Obershaw Dining Room. About 100 people attended.
Both Iguru and his aide, Yolamu Nsamba Ndoleriire, the principal private secretary of the kingdom, dressed in kanzu, the white- or cream-colored robe worn by men in east Africa.
The king ended up not speaking - he had apparently left the reading glasses necessary for his speech back at his hotel room. Ndoleriire spoke instead.
The secretary began by comparing his homeland to the hills surrounding the campus.
"It's not like what you see in California - it's actually green," Ndoleriire said. "It's our green hills that inspired Ernest Hemingway, the American author, to write `The Green Hills of Africa."'
Hemingway's 1935 non-fiction book chronicled a month on safari in East Africa. Even today, tourists come to the region for the wildlife, including mountain gorillas.
"The things that are extinct in many parts of the world - these things are still there," Ndoleriire said.
But not all Ugandans equally share in the benefits of their country's natural resources. Land ownership was carved up and reapportioned by the British during the colonial era, based on political relationships, the secretary said.
"The people, the genuine owners of the land, were deprived," Ndoleriire said.
Today, the country's resources are handled by the state, leaving residents with no power and little income.
"People have no say at all about their resources," including newly discovered oil, the secretary said.
"His majesty is not asking for sovereignty," Ndoleriire said. "No, that is not the issue. He is saying that people should have a voice for their resources."
The king is acting in the advocacy role the Ugandan government allows to the heads of the five kingdoms in its borders.
"So, he travels around the world, he travels around the States, he travels around Uganda, talking about these issues," Ndoleriire said.
There has been some push-back by the Ugandan government, according to Ndoleriire.
"The foreign secretary says `don't shout about these issues.... We can sort them out." Five years later, nothing has been sorted," Ndoleriire said.
The secretary acknowledged how far Bunyoro-Kitara is from San Bernardino, but the 9,000 miles separating them are less important than they once were.
"Whether we like it or not, we live in one global village," he said. "We are locked up in one common destiny."
beau.yarbrough@InlandNewspapers.com, 909-483-9376, @InlandEd