Fight over Bachwezi ancestry and earthen works in central Uganda

Winds of trouble are gathering speed and are about to blow like a tornado across central Uganda over who Bachwezi are and who constructed the earthen works including those at Ntusi and Bigo in central Uganda. This quarrel would not have arisen if Europeans had not created the confusion. Through European race theories, blacks (Negroes) were described as people without civilizations. And as uncivilized, blacks had no history and darkness in which they lived was not a subject of history. So when Europeans visited what later became Uganda and found magnificent civilizations, they manufactured an explanation. They decided that these civilizations including earthen works in central Uganda must have been the work of Europeans. They looked at the physical features of Africans and found that Bahima had similar facial resemblance like them especially long and thin noses. They quickly concluded that Bahima were white people who created civilizations including earthen works. Europeans went further and explained that Bahima turned black because of strong tropical sum but were still lighter skinned than Negroes. From that time on Bahima and later their Batutsi cousins in Rwanda and Burundi and Batutsi/Bahororo in short lived Mpororo kingdom assumed that they were more intelligent and born leaders. Negroes were judged mentally inferior, physically unattractive and born to scratch the soil to earn a living and work for born leaders in return for protection. As uncivilized people blacks were reduced to crop cultivation. And Bahima were strictly cattle keepers, a symbol of civilization. Through indirect rule, colonialism enhanced the power of control of Bahima and Bahororo over Bantu people in southwest Uganda, a position they lost at the time of independence. They fought a guerrilla war to restore their dominance which has been extended to the entire country. Then came research findings that turned everything upside down or inside out whichever expression you prefer.

European research established that the earthen works were constructed by Bachwezi people. So Bahima and Bahororo claimed they are descendants of Bachwezi. More research concluded that Bahima are black and not white people (J. D. Fage 1995). Further research demonstrated that Batutsi and their cousins including Bahima and Bahororo are darker with thicker lips than Bantu (Jean Hiernaux 1975): if you are not sure make closer observations. Then came the issue of original home before entering Uganda and beyond. Earlier it had been stated that these ‘white’ people from Europe entered the great lakes region including Uganda from Ethiopia. However, linguistic and cultural studies have found no trace from Ethiopia (De Villiers and Hirtle (1997). Instead research has shown that Bahima, Batutsi and Bahororo and Banyamulenge ancestors who were Nilotic and Luo speakers came from Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan (Ingham 1965, Pelton 2003 and Ogot 1999 and many other sources). Research in earthen structures found evidence of mixed agriculture which Bantu practiced (growing crops and herding cattle of the short horn type originally). In the older sites there is more evidence of crop cultivation (millet, sorghum, grinding stones, harvesting knives and grain storage facilities) and fewer animal bones. As time passed, Bachwezi aristocrats transitioned from mixed farming to cattle herding. That is why there are more bones than crop residues in newer sites like at Bigo.

Finally Ogot (1999) has solved the problem of who Bachwezi are. Here is what he has written “… according to the historical reconstruction we are outlining here the Bachwezi were not Bahima or Luo: they were a Bantu aristocracy who emerged in western Uganda in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries”. Bahima and their bright anthropologists, archeologists and historians have read the books where this information has been extracted. But in their hearts they have refused to accept these findings. They still believe they are white people, superior and born to rule and can do what they like. Stories circulating that central Uganda belongs to Bahima because of earthen works and therefore have the right to reclaim the area are not supported by the evidence at our disposal.

Land ownership has become the single most contentious issue in Uganda. The powerful should avoid dispossessing the weak. The weak may be defeated today but who knows what tomorrow may bring. History is full of sad stories. We should always think about the situation we are going to hand over to our children. Therefore those in power should use it wisely for the benefit of all. I believe very strongly that Uganda belongs to all of us. Everyone must have a chance to develop their talents and use them for the common good. When we assume power for the sole purpose of enriching those in power we plant seeds of destruction in the future. By and large, ordinary people do not demand much. As a minimum they want basic things like food, clothes, housing, education, a hospital and a doctor when they fall sick and transport from A to B and back. I further believe very strongly that disputes should be resolved by negotiations. We should avoid developing a culture of guns to solve every problem. We appeal to those in power to lead the way. War is ugly and there are losses on both sides. Therefore the dispute in Ntusi sub-county of Ssembabule district in central Uganda over land ownership should be settled fairly and transparently by peaceful means.

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