Fort Portal, Uganda — At first glance, he looks like any other 17-year-old.
He bobs his head to rapper Jay-Z, plays video games and reads the “Twilight” vampire books. When he’s not doing homework, he kicks a soccer ball in his backyard.
Yet looks can be deceiving.
People in this corner of western Uganda know the young man as King Oyo, one of the world’s youngest ruling monarchs. The teen king rules over more than 2 million people in the Tooro kingdom, one of four kingdoms in Uganda that conjure images of pre-colonial Africa.
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King Oyo lives for part of the year in a palace perched on a hill in Fort Portal, a place where bicycles stacked with bananas race past ramshackle huts in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain. He also has a palace in the bustling Ugandan capital, Kampala, where he studies at a private school while soldiers stand guard.
Friends at school greet him with hugs and handshakes, but back home, subjects kiss his feet while sprawled before him on the ground, as if they were doing push ups.
“I still find it a little uncomfortable when people bow, especially the older ones,” says the king, whose full name is Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV. “My friends at school (could not) care less that I’m a king. They like me for who I am, not for what I am.”