Slavery is a condition in which the life, liberty and fortune of an individual is held within the absolute power of another individual. Slavery is derived from slav because Slavs in Europe were frequently enslaved during the Dark Ages (500-1000 AD). Aristotle embarrassingly justified that some people are slaves by nature. In many situations slaves worked long hours from sunrise to sunset and suffered harsh punishment which included lashings, short rations and threats to sell members of the slave’s family. Slavery broke the spirit of many slaves but many others vowed to resist and end it. Slavery generated fear and hate. Because slavery and slave trade were evil, they were abolished during the 19th century and declared illegal.
How did Bantu become Bairu (slaves)?
John Hanning Speke wrote in his book titled The Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863 and reprinted in 2006) that Bahima imposed the epithet (term of abuse) of Bairu or slaves on Bantu people they found in the areas bordering on Lake Victoria. Bahima imposed the epithet of Bairu because Bantu people had to supply food and clothing to Bahima masters. Subsequent extensive intermarriages between Bahima and Baganda, Bahima and Banyoro and Bahima and Batoro produced new communities of mixed farmers ending the master/slave relationship in Buganda, Bunyoro and Tooro.
Under President Yoweri Museveni, the philosophy of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is that to rule you must impoverish, divide and corrupt the people. The NRM is implementing that philosophy through a combination of impoverishment, division and corrupt practices and tactics. The donor community has unintentionally – one would guess – assisted NRM in achieving its philosophy through structural adjustment, decentralization and massive donations. There are stories that the NRM is determined to rule Uganda uninterrupted by Museveni family for at least fifty years.
The NRM government adopted the adverse and extreme version of structural adjustment program – shock therapy – which has, inter alia, three major elements: retrenching public servants, reducing or eliminating subsidies and applying the full force of labor flexibility.
Retrenchment was applied selectively targeting non-NRM supporters and/or used to settle scores. Non-supporters of NRM were removed from public service en masse as the staff had to be reduced roughly in half and NRM made sure the retrenched servants did not get jobs anywhere else. For example, interest rates were set so high supposedly to control inflation that starting a small business was virtually impossible. Either you joined the NRM or you wallowed in poverty with your family and relatives that depend on you!
According to the World Book Encyclopedia, dictatorship is a form of government in which an individual or a committee or other group holds absolute power. Dictators usually have come to power under conditions of turmoil and confusion. Often the dictator seizes power by political trickery or military violence.
Once in control, dictators and their followers retain their positions through force or threat of force. They abolish or closely control the legislature, and quickly suppress freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. They set up an elaborate secret-police system to detect opponents of the government. Persons who object to the dictatorship are persecuted by the government.
On the other hand, democracy is a form of government in which the citizens take part in political decisions that affect them directly or indirectly through their elected representatives. Representatives’ job is to transparently represent the people with whom they made a contract in making decisions about laws and other matters that affect constituents including defending and protecting their rights, freedoms and property.
Uganda as a military dictatorship
I have been a critic of Uganda’s economic policy since 1987 not to discredit the NRM government but to draw its attention to the empty half of the glass – particularly the social and environmental sectors that have been neglected. In designing and implementing stabilization and structural adjustment programs (SAPs), the government made four fundamental mistakes which should be avoided in the development plan.
First, the government opted for the extreme version – shock therapy – of structural adjustment calling for a comprehensive and simultaneous implementation of many elements like liberalization, privatization, retrenchment, export diversification and inflation control etc. Officials who recommended a gradual and sequenced approach to cushion the social and environmental impact of adjustment were dismissed or marginalized. The shock therapists believed very strongly in the pure theory of the invisible hand of market forces, private sector growth and trickle down mechanism. Accordingly the state had virtually no role in the economy. In the development plan, the government should avoid extreme version of state intervention.
People all over the world are proud of their ancestry and culture. Those who do not know their ancestry and culture are busy reconstructing them and making necessary changes including names.
On the other hand Bahima and their Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge cousins are busy hiding their Luo ancestry and their nomadic and militaristic culture. They are doing so because they do not want to lose the advantages they have enjoyed since aristocratic Europeans from Belgium, Britain and Germany falsely described them as intelligent and superior white people born to rule others.
They are afraid that if they accept their Luo ancestry then they cannot continue to claim that they are white people because Luo are black people. If they accept that they are Luo people then they cannot continue to claim that they are intelligent and responsible for civilizations that Europeans found in Uganda. They are afraid that if they accept that they are Luo then they cannot continue to claim that they are born leaders.
They are afraid that if they accept that they are Luo from southern Sudan then they will accept their nomadic and warlike culture and low level of civilization. They are afraid that if they accept their Luo ancestry then they will lose western support.
In geography we were taught to match what we read with what was on the ground. Besides reading widely, we studied maps, interpreted areal photographs and conducted field visits. I carried with me the geography methodology of matching reading with observation into the history subject. The history I read about Bahima (read Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge as well because they are cousins and behave the same) did not match what I knew about them. I grew up, studied and worked with them.
Because of racial theories aristocratic Europeans had concluded that black people (Negroes) were intellectually inferior to have a civilization or history of their own. Without history Africa was a ‘Dark Continent’. The first Europeans to visit what later became Uganda were from aristocratic families. They were shocked to find sophisticated civilizations. Instead of admitting that they were wrong about black people and give them credit for the civilizations they found, they decided to ‘invent’ Europeans who would be credited with that remarkable history. They looked around and found Bahima who looked like Europeans physically. They concluded that Bahima were of the white race and responsible for these civilizations.
The second half of the 20th century was marked by decolonization in Africa. New flags and anthems replaced colonial ones albeit after bloody wars in some cases, new names replaced colonial ones: Gold Coast became Ghana, Upper Volta became Burkina Faso, Northern and Southern Rhodesia became Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively, etc. Presidents and prime ministers replaced governors. The principal idea behind all these changes was to reclaim African pre-colonial glory.
The first half of the 21st century should be devoted to the decolonization of epithets (terms of abuse) or distortions introduced before or during colonial days. These epithets were deliberately coined and have been repeatedly applied since then to the present day in 2010 to keep down Bantu people (as opposed to Bantu-speaking Nilotic people). You still hear some Bahima and Bahororo boasting that any one of them is worth 1000 Bairu, others are telling us with confidence that their women are more beautiful than Bairu women. Ms Kesaasi confirmed this in April 2010! To repeat, these epithets are intentionally used to devalue Bantu people irrespective of their education, work experience and even wealth.
In a critical or dialectical discourse you look for aspects that are not written about or discussed because that is where the hidden truth lies. Rujumbura has a history of decision making process including in land matters that adversely affects communities without consulting them.
Land dispossession of indigenous Bairu of Rujumbura goes as far back as the 19th century. In 1800 Bahororo who are Batutsi from Rwanda sought refuge in Rujumbura after they were chased out of south west Ankole by Bahima under Bahinda clan rulers. Bahororo arrived in Rujumbura with a militaristic and feudal system mentality. A combination of military experience and Arab slave hunters’ support equipped with advanced European weapons enabled Bahororo to quickly subdue indigenous people and expand their territory. As in Rwanda, they appropriated all grazing land for their long horn cattle at the expense of indigenous short horn cattle which perished for lack of pasture depriving Bairu of nutritious food and means of wealth accumulation.
Bahima’s history has been shrouded in mystery for a long time. The mystery stems from John Hanning Speke who wrote in 1863 that Wahuma (Bahima) were white people, more civilized than black people or Negroes and entered Uganda from Ethiopia occupied by a ruling white race. Other Europeans added that Bahima were more intelligent with superior qualities and born to rule. Colonial explorers, missionaries and administrators like Samuel Baker, John Roscoe and Harry Johnston in Uganda shared these views (G. Prunier 1995).
Because of racial prejudices against blacks or Negroes Europeans concluded that the civilizations they found in Uganda were developed by white people. They gave credit to Bahima simply because they resemble whites physically such as sharp, narrow, pointed and long noses. Bahima have hidden their true history of precarious nomadic life and absence of material wealth to take advantage of these attributes so that they continue to dominate other Ugandans. Before attempting to demystify the myth let us understand this:
Contrary to popular belief that Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power to end the long suffering of Ugandans, the truth of the matter is that the long suffering has been used as a tool to keep NRM government in power indefinitely. This may sound cruel and unkind or even incredible but sadly it is true.
Museveni, his government and NRM members of parliament soon realized that it is easier to govern poor and vulnerable people because they are helpless and voiceless and can easily be manipulated through persuasion or intimidation or both. Museveni and his group also realized that Uganda elites and donors cannot be easily manipulated or intimidated because they have a voice. Therefore according to Museveni and his team the two groups needed to be accommodated and integrated fully into government actions so that they share credibility for success or responsibility for failure. To stay in power indefinitely two things have happened.
First, in 1986 Museveni created a government of national unity including representatives from all regions, all parties and all faiths. He created a political space for all categories of Ugandans including women, youth, disabled and the private sector etc. The big shots that could not be included in the cabinet, Museveni appointed them as his advisers or gave them other lucrative jobs.