Completing the list of supporters in Rujumbura as I grew up

While proving that I am not against Tutsi people, I mentioned as illustrations names of Tutsi who helped me as I grew up in Rujumbura County of Rukungiri district in southwest Uganda. Someone who is familiar with the people who helped me felt that I had left out another group that equally provided strong support and urged that I correct the record before the end of this year.

When I was growing up, community cohesion was very strong. A child belonged to the entire village. When you made a mistake you were warned by a neighbor not to repeat it, or else the matter would be reported to the parents. When you were hungry, a neighbor gave you food and vice versa. Children that were going to school and walked long distances received assistance along the way. From grade five to grade eight I walked a distance of some 20 miles to and from school, bare foot except those few days when I stayed with relatives nearer the school or father allowed me to use his bicycle.

Up to the end of my first degree studies in Nairobi, Kenya, I benefitted from many Rujumbura community members from all walks of life. I have already referred to Tutsi who helped along the way. Now let me turn to others who supported me as well. The list is not exhaustive and I will leave out support I received from members of my immediate extended family.

1. The late Kezekiya and Mangyeri Biryabarema took me on and treated me as if I were their eldest child. They provided me free accommodation and food and gave me a job on their coffee farm to earn some money. I dedicated my third book in their memory.

2. Fred and Ketra Beyongyera offered me a temporary teaching job before I went to Ntare School for Advanced Level studies, accommodated and fed me free of charge in their home at Nyarushanze near Kisizi Hospital where Fred Beyongera was head master.

3. The late Joseph Machuumu from Kashozi, a Catholic teacher and later magistrate was very helpful in many ways. He occasionally gave me some pocket money when the going got tough.

4. The late Rwakitonera, a Catholic priest at Nyakubale Parish was fond of me. He always referred to me as the son of the reverend (Omwana womukade). He offered a lot of advice on several occasions. I will never forget the comments he made about me during the funeral service of my late grandmother in Nyarurambi, our ancestral home. They were very wise words of advice and I got what he was saying which many listeners didn’t because he didn’t want to be so direct.

5. Mr. Kateera, a Muslim who repaired bicycles in Rukungiri town before he moved to Kebisoni. He loved football and sports and I was good at both. He encouraged me never to give up. I don’t know if he still remembers, but on several occasions he repaired my father’s bicycle free of charge on those few occasions when my father allowed me to use it to school.

6. Mr. Banyenzaki, a teacher and originally from Mugamba before he settled in Nyakagyeme or Bugangari. He provided transport when we went to political rallies and stood by me when I ran into political difficulties with vegetarians and provided financial help while I was undergraduate student.

7. The late Reverend/Canon Banyenzaki, an old friend and colleague of my father. They studied together at Kabale and worked together for the Church of Uganda. He treated me as one of his sons. He gave me crucial information at a critical period in my life. I want his children and grandchildren, relatives and friends to know that this information was a life saver and I will forever be grateful.

8. Mr. Solomon Bagujuna a brilliant historian of Uganda politics. He is the one who introduced me to early politicians and politics of Uganda including Ignatius Musazi and UNC. He knew the politics of Ankole and Kigezi so well that wherever he packed his taxi in Mbarara or Rukungiri towns he was surrounded by people who wished to learn more from him. That is how I got acquainted with Solomon. Solomon is many things to me. He taught me Uganda politics and we worked together in Rukungiri politics. He supported me the best way he could, including providing free transport between Rukungiri and Mbarara towns and giving me pocket money so many times. Solomon I want you to know that your support, teaching and guidance contributed a lot in my life.

9. The late Kigorogoro was a teacher and a politician in Rujumbura politics. He liked my brand and was always ready to lend a helping hand when needed.

There are two Rujumbura people who supported me tremendously but I have mentioned them only in passing. Let me say a few more words about them.

10. Mr. Burashe was a driver when I was at Kinyasano Primary and Secondary School. He was and I believe still is a jovial person fond of students. He was always laughing and joking and put us at ease. He was particularly fond of me. He gave me free lifts whenever he found me on the road. These gestures may sound insignificant but for us who walked twenty miles a day to and from school barefoot in our tender years, this was a huge contribution even if we were given a ride for a mile or so. When I met his son at the UNAA Conference in New York I told him how his father assisted me and how grateful I am.

11. The late Moses Kifefe, a business man in Rukungiri town, was a solid and principled politician, a leader who took us on as if we were his children. He helped me in various ways including giving me pocked money and even loans to repay when I started work. But most of all he saved my life when Rukungiri politics within UPC (meat eaters versus vegetarians) became very dangerous. I was a firebrand activist and vegetarians (Baboga) couldn’t stand me. A group of young town unemployed hooligans was assembled to harass me and possibly worse. It was Kifefe who advised me never to tell people my travel plans within and out of town. A few days before I was due to leave for colleague he would ask me the exact date and he would arrange to transport coffee to Mbarara or Masaka on that day and would smuggle me out of town hidden among coffee bags under a canvass until we were out of the danger zone and I would sit with the driver. He never told me why he was doing that and one day when I found him alone and asked he simply laughed and went on checking his accounts book. Our parents were fond of the Kifefe family. I dedicated my tenth book to the memory of Mr. and Mrs. Moses Kifefe.

This completes the list of people, Tutsi and others as illustrations that helped me in Rujumbura as I grew up. We need to restore this spirit of community cohesion and support or strengthen it regardless of our backgrounds. After independence Batutsi and Bairu elders began building bridges to co-exist in peace, security and happiness, a move that I strongly supported including sending a message of reconciliation with those I conflicted politically. Matthew Rukikaire and I had made initial contacts to work for the development of Rukungiri district but some intervening events made it difficult.

It is the young generation of Tutsi that want to drag us back to medieval European or pre-colonial Rwanda days of lords, knights and serfs that has created a problem that I have been addressing in the media as a drive towards creation of Tutsi Empire which is real and I addressed it at the October 2012 London conference on federalism and in an interview on Ngoma Radio yesterday. I am trying to find a solution to avoid the Great Lakes region from degenerating into ethnic wars involving Bantu and Nilotic Batutsi. Uganda and the Great Lakes region belongs to all and none will be allowed to impose his will on others with impunity.

God created us all in his image and none is above the other. Those who try to change what God created should be opposed no matter how long it lasts. The French and English fought over land ownership for one hundred years. The racial theories that started in Europe tried to change what God created in Africa by designating some people superior and born to rule others. As we have seen, it isn’t working in Uganda.

To those supporters of mine who have moved on May the Good Lord rest your souls in eternal peace and those still with us may you have a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year.

Eric Kashambuzi

New York, USA.