I have written this article fully aware of the risks and dangers involved and that I will be criticized heavily by Bairu people currently holding jobs in NRM government who do not want trouble. I will also be threatened and/or abused by Bahima and Bahororo rulers in Uganda who do not want their plans to destroy Bairu (slaves of Bahima and Bahororo) exposed. Ugandans who do not live in southwest Uganda especially in Ntungamo and Rukungiri districts and foreigners associated with Uganda may not understand the historical antagonistic relationship between Nilotic Bahima and Bahororo on the one hand and Bantu-Bairu people on the other hand which is getting worse in subtle ways. Bairu people have been divided and impoverished and denied justice for too long. The little justice they had gained is being taken away since Bahororo-led NRM government came to power in 1986. Bairu, like any other group, demand justice.
Post-independence division of Bairu into syndicate and science in Ankole and banyama (meat eaters) and baboga (vegetarians) in Rukungiri and between Protestant and Catholic Bairu has caused tremendous damage to the welfare of all Bairu. Those of us who got caught up in these senseless fights need to pause and assess the damage that has been caused to a people that once boasted of food abundance and magnificent civilizations in the form of industrial sophistication, mixed farming and governance structures before Nilotic Luo-speaking Bahima pastoralists arrived in Ankole and Bahororo in Rujumbura. Pre-colonial and colonial exploitative relations washed away all these achievements as Bairu were reduced to ‘slaves’ (Bairu means slaves) producing for the interests of pre-colonial and colonial masters.
After WWII justice was served – a little – when missionary schools were opened to Bairu children. Our parents told us repeatedly that education held the key to prosperity through good jobs and income and we should take it seriously. We studied diligently against all odds and did much better than Bahororo classmates in Rujumbura schools. The Kairu story (and the associated inferiority complex) that Bairu were genetically unintelligent and had no leadership qualities was turned on its head. Bairu students quickly produced better performance results especially in science and math subjects, dominated the leadership of student associations and played soccer better; ran faster in county and district competitions and sang more beautifully in church choir. With better nutrition, Bairu children grew taller than their parents (Bairu had no access to beef and goat meet reserved for Bahororo in Rujumbura).
With this record of accomplishments, Bairu began to gain confidence and to challenge Bahororo politically. Bahororo who had dominated political and economic fields since 1800 got worried. They are a minority group and the concept of majority rule as independence approached worked against them. Bahororo in Rujumbura the focus of this article designed a three-pronged strategy to retain power.
First, Bahororo made sure that any educated Mwiru (singular for Bairu) man should marry a Muhororo (singular for Bahororo who are Batutsi from Rwanda) woman on condition that Bairu husbands desert their Bairu people and join Bahororo in-laws politically, economically and socially which Kesaasi confirmed in her article in Observer (Uganda) a year or so ago. The idea is to deny Bairu quality leadership, making them powerless and voiceless in virtually all areas of human endeavor.
Without Bairu understanding Bahororo trick (no offence intended) they rushed to marry Bahororo women which was taboo before independence. Bairu have been considerably penetrated as Kamuhangire confirmed in his article in Observer (Uganda) two years ago but they are not finished.
Second, Bahororo who wielded a lot of power through controlling church and civil administrations decided to divide Bairu. As political preparations for independence got underway, minority Bahororo in Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) approached unpopular Bairu in their communities and invited them to join Bahororo with promises of a large share of the fruits of independence if they helped Bahororo to defeat the popular Bairu candidates in UPC. Promises included a possibility that one day a Mwiru (singular for Bairu) would be allowed to contest a parliamentary seat in Rujumbura constituency. Until then candidates would come from Bahororo group. It is now 2010 and Bairu are still waiting for an opportunity which was promised in 1960 or thereabout. Those Bairu who attempted to run for parliament including early this year were humiliated and forced to withdraw the announcement.
The application of Banyama (meat eaters) and Baboga (vegetarians) concept in Rujumbura politics was designed to divide Bairu into two camps. Again without pausing to think about long-term implications of the division, Baboga group joined Bahororo minority group. Baboga-Bairu were then unleashed to attack their fellow Banyama-Bairu group and threaten them to the extent that they either drop the idea of contesting parliamentary elections or leave the constituency altogether. When Bahororo realized that Banyama were determined to fight on, they approached church leadership which had great influence on UPC supporters to help select the candidate to run for parliament. Since church leadership was in Bahororo pocket, the decision was taken in favor of a Muhororo candidate. The Democratic Party (DP) was overwhelmingly Bairu and could have won the election. But intimidation and rigging took care of that and the Muhororo candidate got elected to parliament. Bahororo have clung onto the seat till today in 2010. A Mwiru candidate (medical doctor) who defied Bahororo threat and contested lost NRM primaries recently because as he claimed he was cheated by a Muhororo opponent who is a military man with the rank of a major General. Shortly before the NRM primary elections in Rujumbura, there was a modest political demonstration which was met with military force out of proportion using live ammunition. Many supporters of the Mwiru candidate got the message and stayed away from the polling stations.
Third, Bahororo realized that the so-called democratic pre-independence political victory was temporary. They decided that in the end military force and Bairu impoverishment would solve the problem permanently. That is why Bahororo joined police and the army in large numbers. In 1986 Bahororo-led NRM captured national power and Museveni a Muhororo with roots in Rujumbura became president. In other places I have studied, people from the home (past or present) of the president benefit quite a lot from the regime. Although Rujumbura has had powerful Bahororo ministers in health, finance, animal husbandry and senior civil servants in government and parastatal bodies, very little development has taken place in Rujumbura area. These rich and powerful Bahororo have invested outside Rujumbura to deny Bairu (who elect Bahororo) employment opportunities. The senior presidential adviser on poverty eradication comes from Rujumbura but nothing of substance has come to the area from her office. She has distributed goats, heifers and pigs, etc throughout Uganda but not to Rujumbura or areas the author is familiar with.
Bahororo leadership has taken advantage of structural adjustment to crush Bairu. Many of Bairu schools were either closed down or downgraded. Their clinics are generally short of drugs and peasants are enticed if not forced to produce for cash and not for the stomach. A 1994 report revealed that peasants in Rujumbura were selling food with hardly any left for domestic consumption. A nation or society that lacks adequate education, healthcare and food security is bound to suffer permanent damage politically, economically and socially.
Unemployment, poverty and frustration have led to excessive alcohol consumption. In the past it was men who frequented bars. Now spouses have joined them. Domestic violence, crime, sex work and hunger are on the rise in Bairu communities. Unemployment has forced Bairu men to sell land and then leave in search of jobs in faraway places leaving their families behind. They have not showed up after many years of absence causing extreme difficulties to their families that have contributed to a breakdown of social and cultural values.
Rising crime which has included stealing of crops and animals has discouraged investment because the costs are exceeding revenue. For security purposes crops and small animals and poultry are accommodated in residential houses with all the health hazards.
Bairu are now losing their last assets of land and water that have sustained them. Coincidentally, many Bairu live in hilly areas that provide water catchment for downstream towns. The water catchment of Itemba hills was drained dry by gravity to provide water to Kebisoni urban center and communities in between. Bairu residents in the neighborhood of Itemba hills have run short of water as the water table has dropped. The hills of Kyatoko where Bairu also live have been drained to provide gravity water to Rukungiri town. Plans are now underway to drain Omukarere, a rural area between Itemba and Kyatoko catchment areas to provide water by gravity to urban residents in Kagashe. This is like robbing Paul to pay Peter. And all these developments are taking place without consulting residents in catchment areas. Dictatorship in Rujumbura has reached unprecedented levels. The people who are paying the price are Bairu. So this cannot be an accident. Powerful Bairu leaders are bribed with some jobs in NRM party and district council to silence them while their people have their heads smashed against the wall.
Recently, the district council and the area Member of Parliament, Major General Jim Muhwezi a Muhororo decided to carve a large swath of rural area where the majority of Bairu live into a municipality without consulting them. Without following normal procedure parliament went ahead and approved the municipality. The local government which has responsibility for municipality matters was shut out. The Speaker of Parliament has not responded to many requests seeking to know what caused Rukungiri municipality case to be treated differently. When an area becomes part of the municipality, the municipal council owns the land and former owners become tenants and pay rent to use the land or sell at throwaway prices to avoid losing the land altogether for failure to pay municipal rents.
These developments which to an outsider may seem a proper response to economic and democratic imperatives are in fact designed to crush a nation of Bairu that is an obstacle to Bahororo plans especially the restoration of Mpororo kingdom which never existed in Rujumbura where Bahororo took refuge in 1800 when they were chased out of former Mpororo kingdom by Bahima.
Rujumbura residents, the rest of Ugandans and the world should know that Bairu in Rujumbura and other parts of southwest Uganda are suffering because they oppose the restoration of Mpororo kingdom. Some of us are paying dearly for speaking out on this matter and the associated Tutsi Empire.
Without education, jobs, healthcare, food security, water and now land Bahororo think they will break the back of Bairu and force them to accept Mpororo kingdom and the larger Tutsi Empire. To avoid going on their knees and beg Bahororo for survival, Bairu whether Protestants, Catholics or Muslims, whether employed in Museveni government or not need to recast their priorities taking into consideration what has already happened. Take the example of Bushenyi which had very strong and able leaders – Catholics, Protestants and Muslims. See what has happened. The Protestant ministers disappeared a long time ago and now the Catholic ones are on the way out. A new group of young and inexperienced Bairu will come in and be used and then replaced by yet another new cohort when the time is ripe and destruction of Bairu will continue. Did Bairu learn a lesson in the recent NRM primaries in Bushenyi and Rukungiri that saw well educated and experienced politicians trounced? How many Bahima and Bahororo have been thrown out of cabinet or parliament since NRM came to power 25 years ago. Count how many Bairu have been shown the exit and compare.
It is difficult to convince anybody with good knowledge of the history of southwest Uganda that what is happening to Bairu is the result of economic and democratic forces. It is a deliberate plan by Bahororo to decimate Bairu. Bairu have all the advantages. They are numerically superior in southwest Uganda, they are capable leaders and have proven to be more intelligent that Bahima and Bahororo. Bairu therefore need to learn to turn these potential advantages into instruments of power that prevent them from being smashed by their rivals. For a start, Bairu need to keep their eyes open 24 hours a day and seven days a week (24×7) to make sure the birth control hammer does not fall on them disproportionately.
If Bairu do not wake up soon and take charge of their destiny, they should not complain later that they did not know what was happening around them. Now they know the circumstances and who is determined to crush them. Bairu need to rise in unison and put up a common resistance. Otherwise history will judge them harshly.