Correcting historical distortions is not sectarianism

Those who have benefited from historical distortions such as the Hamitic Myth in the Great Lakes region are trying to use all instruments to maintain the status quo. Batutsi and Bahima – and their Bahororo and Banyamulenge cousins – who have dominated Bahutu and Bairu for over six centuries with the support of Europeans originally from aristocratic families since colonial days have come back to power through the barrel of the gun with external assistance. Their numerical inferiority and unpopularity do not allow them to get and sustain political power by real democratic means – winning elections at gun point and/or banning popular parties under the pretext of being sectarian is not democracy as we understand it in the sense of free and fair electoral processes from registration, to campaigning, casting ballots, counting votes and announcing results in a transparent and inclusive manner.

To hang onto power, they are therefore resorting to military might and expensive intelligence networks, giving quality education to their children at home and abroad at public expense, dividing tactics that have created so many non-economically viable, almost tribal-based districts, controlling strategic ministries, impoverishing the majority ethnic groups by denying them quality education, healthcare, food and nutrition security, character assassination and intimidation and aligning themselves with foreign powers that in turn are using them to advance their interests in the Great Lakes region in ways that are contributing to instability, economic distortions such as focusing on illegal natural resource exploitation and massive abuse of human rights.

Psychological weapons were (and are still being) used effectively. With reference to Rwanda and south west Uganda (former Ankole district and Rujumbura county of Rukungiri district) the psychological inferiority impact has been severe. According to Paul Rusesabagina (2006) from Rwanda “The doctrine of Tutsi superiority was taught in schools, preached in churches, and reinforced in thousand invisible ways in daily Rwandan life. The Tutsi were told over and over that they were aristocratic and physically attractive, while the Hutu were told they were ugly and stupid and worthy only of working in the fields [some still describe Bahutu and Bairu as moles scratching the land to eke out a living]. An early colonial film described the farming class as ‘souls sad and passive, ignoring all thought for the morrow’ who viewed their Tutsi masters as ‘semigods’. This was the message that our fathers and mothers heard every day. … People of both groups learned to think of the Tutsi as the winners and the Hutu as the losers in every great contest in Rwandan history”.

Tutsi application of the term genocidaire to any Hutu whether he/she participated in the 1994 genocide tragedy or was born after 1994 is having a similar impact reducing Hutu to a silent majority who cannot even reclaim their land or property lest they are accused of genocide and thrown into jail possibly for life. They are voting according to the dictates of their rulers, have been pushed into subsistence existence on reduced land area and there are reports of plots to marginalize Hutu even further.

According to Stephen Kinzer (2008), “A friend of mine returned from a late-night party at a safari lodge and told me she had overheard a handful of drunken Tutsi guests cursing the Hutu and vowing to do whatever possible to keep them down forever”. When Tutsi talk about ‘never again’, one should not think about genocide but rather never to give Hutu another opportunity to enjoy their inalienable human rights including the right to form a government.

In Uganda as in Rwanda and Burundi another psychological weapon used effectively (and still in use) was the test of holding pots full of milk throughout the night in which Kairu (a Muhutu or Mwiru) came last by spilling all his milk and was condemned by his father that he and all his descendants would serve his two younger brothers Kakama (king) and Kahima (herder of the king’s cattle) and their descendants in perpetuity.

In Rujumbura county, my ancestors’ home, this story was told repeatedly (and is still being told in subtle ways) that it got ingrained on people’s minds. For over 210 years since Bahororo sought refuge in Rujumbura in 1800 and subsequently subjugated indigenous people with Arab and Swahili slave traders and European colonialists using European weapons, Bairu (slaves or servants of Bahororo) have come to accept that Bahororo are superior in every thing – in politics, education, beauty etc even when the contrary is the case and obvious in very many areas. For example, on balance Bairu are more intelligent if one goes by the degrees and the fields of study they are earned, they are slimmer, have thinner lips and are lighter in skin color. There are many short Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi people – so it is not a monopoly of Bahutu and Bairu people.

Those who are not sure take a closer look before passing judgement. You will see that Batutsi, Bahororo and Bahima are on average darker, fatter and have thicker lips than Bairu of Uganda and Bahutu of Rwanda and Burundi. If you read some books you will also learn that Batutsi and their cousins are black and not white people who entered the Great Lakes region from southern Sudan and not Ethiopia as John Speke had advised. Being black, darker and having thicker lips is not a bad thing to be sorry about, it is the truth!

In spite of this evidence, reporters and commentators especially many Europeans continue to feed false stories in the media about ethnic differences. These reports are contributing to instability in the region. Some powers that be appear to be determined to keep Batutsi and Bahima in power at the expense of Bahutu and Bairu. That is why the latter are beginning to put up resistance from different angles no matter how long it takes to be liberated.

Those who do not want to witness another tragedy in the Great Lakes area are requested to be objective and take corrective measures. For example the deteriorating conditions in Uganda like rising unemployment, the diseases of poverty such as tuberculosis, hunger and malnutrition and associated insanity, crime, demonstrations and violence etc are a clear manifestation that a time bomb is ticking. Pretending otherwise is being unwise.

The NRM government needs to use well qualified and experienced citizens who have been marginalized because they do not belong or are not married to daughters of the ‘superior’ Batutsi, Bahima and Bahororo ethnic groups.

These are the distortions we are trying to correct to achieve lasting peace and security and prosperity for all. Accordingly we should not be branded sectarians or divisionists. Instead our efforts should be embraced and supported.