Bahororo-led NRM government has failed Uganda

When individuals, parties or nations assume leadership responsibilities, they should expect and accept scrutiny provided it is objective and constructive.

The rise to power of Bahororo people from obscurity to national and international prominence has raised questions about who Bahororo are and how they emerged. Until they came to power in 1986, Bahororo were unknown because they registered or introduced themselves as Bahima. So who are Bahororo?

Bahororo are Batutsi people from Rwanda who founded the short-lived Mpororo kingdom (from about 1650 to about 1750 or earlier) which stretched from parts of present day northern Rwanda to parts of present day southwest Uganda.

The supremacy of Bahororo like their Bahima cousins originates from European race theories that placed white people at the top of the racial pyramid and black people at the bottom. John Hanning Speke exported these racial theories to East and Central Africa in the 1860s in an attempt to explain the magnificent civilizations he found in the area. He could not believe that Blacks or Negroes who had no history of their own could be responsible for these developments. He therefore came up with the Hamitic Myth and spread word through lecturing and writing that civilizations and governments in East-central African countries were “in the hands of foreigners [Bahima] who had invaded and taken possession of [these countries], leaving the agricultural aborigines to till the ground, whilst the junior members of the usurping clans [Bahima] herded cattle” (Speke 1863, 2006). Speke’s description corresponds to the mythology about Kakama (the king), Kahima (herder of the king’s cattle) and Kairu (slave or servant who tilled the land and served the other two groups) found in the Great Lakes Region justifying that some were born to rule and others to labor for the comfort of the rulers and their kin and kith.

The Bahima imposed the epithet (term of abuse) of Wiru (Bairu), or slaves on the indigenous people (Bantu) because they had to supply the imperial government of Bahima with food and other necessities (Speke 1863, 2006).

“In the southern Ugandan kingdom of Ankole, for example, the Hima [Bahima] ruled and reckoned their wealth and happiness in cattle, while the Iru (Bairu) farmers fed the cattle of their Hima lords, worked for them, and were generally without political rights of any value. Much the same situation obtained in Rwanda between the Tutsi minority of cattle-rich noblemen and the Hutu majority of peasants (Basil Davidson 2003).

“While Tutsi nobles gossiped among their equals … the humble Hutu [Bahutu slaves] labored at their [Batutsi] gates in producing food and bearing burdens. Yet the Hutu and their kind also had their expectations” (Basil Davidson 2003).

In the mid 17th century a group of Batutsi from the ruling family in Rwanda founded Mpororo kingdom hence change of the name from Batutsi to Bahororo under Kahaya of Bashambo ruling clan. They ruled over Bantu (Bairu) people they found in the area and regarded them as inferior in the same way as Bahima and Batutsi regarded Bairu and Bahutu in Nkore and Rwanda respectively.

When the Mpororo kingdom disintegrated about 1750 or earlier because the king buried the royal drum to punish his sons for disobeying him (H. F. Morris 1962), many Batutsi/Bahororo returned to Rwanda and others scattered in Ankole. Two or three generations later (a generation is thirty years), a branch of Bahororo led by Rwebiraro of Bashambo clan took refuge in Rujumbura (they were chased out by Bahima and Batutsi) bringing with them the lords/serfs stereotypes.

When they arrived in Rujumbura around 1800 Bahororo found communities that were wealthy and healthy. They herded short-horn cattle, goats and sheep, grew a variety of foodstuffs and manufactured a wide range of products. They sold surplus food and manufactured products in local and regional markets and accumulated capital.

Because of fighting experience which they had acquired through cattle raiding, Bahororo quickly subdued the settled Bantu (Bairu) people. Subsequently they introduced a division of labor reducing Bairu people to cultivation of food crops and laboring for the Bashambo ruling clan and other Bahororo people in return for so-called protection. With the help of European weapons and Arab assistance Bahororo expanded their area of control (Paul Ngorogoza, 1998). Societies that were militarily weak were raided for slaves and warfare became rampant (B. A. Ogot 1976). The overall result was impoverishment of Bairu which continued under the British administration that employed Bahororo as civil servants under the indirect rule model.

In Rujumbura the British chose Makobore of Bashambo clan over other chiefs and in Ankole they chose Mbaguta also of Bashambo clan over Igumira of Bahinda clan. Igumira was exiled in Kenya. Similarly, in present day Uganda, it is believed that Museveni, a Muhororo was selected over Obote because Bahororo are thought to have better collaborative methods even though they may not have superior leadership qualities over other Ugandans.

Good leaders should be judged by the extent to which their policies improve the standard of living of all people under their administration. Bahororo record starting in Rujumbura county of Rukungiri district where they have held leadership positions for some 210 years does not bear this out. For example, since independence in 1962, Bahororo have continued to dominate the political stage and to marginalize Bairu even further. Records show that Rujumbura has had ministers in strategic areas of livestock and animal industry, finance, health and presidential advisor in areas related to food, nutrition security and poverty reduction. Rujumbura has also had senior civil servants in key ministries including finance and the private sector. Yet none of these leaders has invested in the area or attracted development projects to benefit general population through for instance job creation. Consequently, Rujumbura remains one of the poorest and marginalized areas in the country.

At the national level Bahororo-led NRM government has been riddled with blatant sectarianism, rampant corruption and serious mismanagement. The adverse effects are everywhere for all to see: acute income inequalities, rising and spreading diseases of poverty, high and rising unemployment levels, poor education quality and high school drop out rates, acute under-nutrition especially of children, increasing insanity due to stress and poor diet, rising levels of alcohol consumption, moral decay through prostitution by adults and school girls, increasing violence against women and children, crime that is frustrating investments and rapid environmental degradation and climate change.

The donor community that has strongly supported the government with massive injections of money and technical assistance since 1987 has finally come to realize that if the country continues along this path, it will soon crash. The donors have accordingly begun to demand corrective measures. However, many Ugandans believe that the government has gone too far to reverse direction and get on the right path.

What is crystal clear – from Rujumbura’s experience since 1800 and Uganda’s since 1986 – is that Bahororo leaders have exhibited very serious leadership deficits contradicting the position held by the western world since 1862.

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