The history of Uganda has been defined by war than peace. Accordingly, Uganda has no culture of resolving disputes by peaceful means. Ugandans will fight over virtually everything, cattle and land included. The skeletons of war are everywhere and are piling up. The people of Rukungiri, my home district, still remember the devastating Kagogo war. Wars between Buganda and Bunyoro are too well known to be repeated here. Religions that had been invited to protect Uganda ended up fighting each other and tearing some parts part. Colonialism could not be established in all parts of Uganda except through the barrel of the gun which left Bunyoro devastated to this day. Kings and chiefs were overthrown, exiled or jailed.
What we are witnessing is that Ugandans have entered a new phase – a phase where they are asking questions and demanding convincing answers and analyzing issues dialectically to make the absent be the present because the greater part of the truth is in that which is absent, hence examining Museveni’s restoration and expansion of colonial policies.
When Museveni came to power in 1986, he preached what Ugandans wanted to hear – improve education and healthcare, balance production for domestic consumption and export, transform the economy from agriculture to industry and export manufactured products instead of raw materials etc). However, in practice, Museveni has behaved like a colonizer, making many people feel – rightly or wrongly – that he is Rwandese colonizing Uganda with connivance especially of Britain that has supported him even before he became president. Before comparing Museveni policies to those of the colonial regime, let us briefly examine what the British colonizers found at the time of colonization, how it was destroyed and replaced by colonial policies, what Obote and UPC did to undo colonial policies and then examine how Museveni has returned Uganda to the colonial period.
The great lakes region of Africa including DRC, Rwanda and Uganda is one of the richest, if not the richest, region in the world. It has natural resources in diversity and abundance and many resilient, intelligent and hard working people. In spite of these attributes, the region has some of the poorest people in the world.
Before slave trade and colonialism, Bantu people in east and central Africa had developed economic and political systems and institutions that ensured human security. Bantu groups such as Ganda, Nyoro, Kongo, Luba, Lunda and Rwanda had established great kingdoms (The World Book Encyclopedia 1983) which ensured human security through law and order, food security and respect for human dignity for all Bantu peoples. All these developments and civilizations were undermined by the arrival of Europeans through slave trade, colonialism and bias against Bantu people. Slave trade took place in all parts of the great lakes region. The introduction of European weapons and hunting human beings caused too much damage in demographic, economic and social terms.
Since I began writing about Bahororo in Uganda’s history, politics and economics, some people who have visited my blog have asked me to shed some light about why Bahororo were not known until very recently.
Bahororo are Batutsi people from Rwanda who founded Mpororo kingdom in northern Rwanda and parts of southwest Uganda. The kingdom was established around mid-1600 and disintegrated in less than one hundred years from internal causes. The people in Mpororo kingdom were called Bahororo (Bantu people who were already there and Batutsi new comers who founded the kingdom).
After Mpororo disintegrated the parts in what later became Uganda were taken over by Bahima under Bahinda ruling clan. As Chretien observes “After the fall of Mpororo, the take over of the Nkore dynasty on the western highlands was accompanied both by installing armies and by reinforcing the power of Hima [Bahima] lineages over the rest of the population, labeled Bairu” (Jean-Pierre Chretien 2006). According to Speke (1863) Bairu means slaves. Therefore by labeling all the people in former Mpororo kingdom Bairu, former rulers of Mpororo (Batutsi from Rwanda) became Bairu and therefore slaves. To avoid being labeled Bairu, inter alia, Batutsi who remained behind adopted the name of Bahima but deep in their hearts remained Bahororo. According to Samwiri Karugire although Mpororo kingdom disintegrated and went out of use and did not figure on any map of Uganda … “her people, dispersed as they were, have tenaciously remained Bahororo in everything but geographical terminology whose absence does not seem to have made any impression upon them” (Karugire 1980). Bahororo maintained their Nilotic identity because their men do not marry outside of their ethnic group.