Understanding Bahororo might help solve Uganda’s political problem

I am a strong believer in understanding the root cause of a problem before attempting a solution. I am also a strong believer in using peaceful means including diplomacy to solve disputes.

These two beliefs have forced me to take risks and write and speak about Bahororo who are the rulers of Uganda since 1986. Articles on Bahororo – their origin, connection with Batutsi of Rwanda and their rise to power in Uganda are posted on www.kashambuzi.com.

Questions have continued to be raised about Bahororo ancestry, their connection with Nilotic people, Batutsi, Bahima and Banyamulenge.

For easy reference let me summarize what I have written about Bahororo mindful that in trying to simplify a complex story, I may skip some useful information. If unsatisfied with the story below, do not hesitate to contact me if necessary privately at [email protected]

Bahororo are Batutsi from Rwanda who founded a short-lived Mpororo kingdom (hence the name Bahororo that is people of Mpororo kingdom) in present-day northern Rwanda and southwest Uganda mostly in present-day Ntungamo and parts of present-day Kabale district.

The kingdom was established around 1650 in areas already settled by Bantu people. It disintegrated around 1750 or earlier because of internal disputes.

Bahinda ruling class of Bahima took over by military means parts of former Mpororo kingdom and absorbed them into Nkore kingdom. Other areas were administered mostly by agriculturalists and were later incorporated into expanded Ankole kingdom at the time of colonization.

Batutsi ruling class of Rwanda occupied former Mpororo areas in northern Rwanda. Those former Mpororo parts in Kabale became part of that mountainous area.

In Nkore Bahororo like Bantu became commoners (Bairu or slaves) under Bahinda dynasty. Bahororo who resented this inferior identification returned to Rwanda where prospects were better.

In 1800 a branch of Bahororo fled to Rujumbura with their standing army and with support of Arab slave traders they managed to defeat Bantu settlers and expand the territory.

Bahororo in Ankole and Rujumbura became Bahima, in Kabale they became Bakiga and in Rwanda they became Batutsi. Wherever Bahororo settled in Uganda and other parts, they adopted local names and local languages.

However, they remained Bahororo in everything else. To retain their Bahororoness, they decided that their men would never marry outside Bahororo group. They also harbored the idea of recreating Mpororo kingdom someday and expand it into a larger empire.

Rujumbura in Rukungiri district presents a very tricky Bahororo situation which has confused many commentators including Ugandans and even Rujumbura people. Here is the puzzle.

For colonial administrative and indirect rule convenience which required tribal units, British authorities divided Kigezi district into three artificial tribal groups namely Bakiga, Banyarwanda and Bahororo.

In Rujumbura, all indigenous Bantu people from many clans and Bahororo refugees became Bahororo administratively under Bahororo chiefs.

However, what I will call “at a political level” for lack of a better term, Bahororo were divided into Bairu and Bahima the reason being that since Bairu did not have capacity to govern they should be governed by Bahima who are “born leaders”. Thus the division was to separate Bahima from Bairu so that indirect rule uses Bahima only. This political relationship of ruler and ruled has remained virtually unchanged irrespective of education and work experience of the two groups. You need to look at key figures from Rukungiri district to confirm what is being said.

Thus, in Rukungiri Bairu are registered as Bahororo and indigenous Bahororo as Bahima although Bahima never settled in Rujumbura.

Thus Bahororo and Bairu came to be used more with reference to Bantu. To draw a distinction between them and Bakiga, Bairu call themselves Bahororo within the colonial Kigezi administration context. Bairu would not fit into that context. Some people who are unaware of this distinction continue to refer to all people of Rujumbura as Bahororo including recent Bakiga settlers. We therefore must draw a distinction between Batutsi Bahororo and Bantu/Bairu. That is why some Bairu are beginning to refer to themselves as Banyarujumbura or Banyarukungiri.

Indigenous Bahororo’s hidden interest for separateness as a distinct group surfaced during the negotiations for independence. Bahororo in Ankole long known as Bahima came out and demanded a separate (Mpororo) district. They did not succeed because Bahima would not allow it. The idea stayed alive and would be sustained by events that had taken place since the 1920s.

During economic and political hard times in Rwanda and Burundi, some Batutsi including some Bahororo who had returned to Rwanda when Mpororo kingdom disintegrated migrated to Uganda in search of work and security. As cattle people, they settled in areas where grazing is the main activity in Ankole, Buganda and Eastern and northern Uganda.

The political disturbances in Rwanda and Burundi before and after independence in 1962 drove many Batutsi and Batutsi/Bahororo into Uganda and settled in many parts of Uganda particularly in Buganda, Ankole and Toro and to a certain extent other parts of Uganda. Although they took on local names and adopted local languages in their places of refuge, they remained Batutsi or Bahororo in the sense that men do not marry outside their circles to this day in 2011.

Museveni whose political and imperial ideas began to form while he was in high school, witness his early interest in East African integration and federation, began to locate his Bahororo and Batutsi relatives in all parts of Uganda, causing some people to conclude why he has a sizeable number of history advisers.

When he started FRONASA group, a large number of members were Bahororo and Batutsi refugees. During the guerrilla war it is reported that some 25 percent of guerrilla fighters were Batutsi mercenaries and close allies to Museveni as records of commanders, intelligence and counter-intelligence officers show.

Meanwhile, Museveni researchers were identifying all Bahororo and Batutsi in Uganda and elsewhere to run the government when the guerrilla war was over. All Bahororo with Banyankole, Baganda, Bakiga, Batoro, Bateso names and languages etc have filled key positions in civil administration, business sector and security forces (military, intelligence, police and prisons).

To hide his plan, Museveni introduced the concepts of individual merit and anti-sectarianism to frustrate complaints against tribalism favoring his people.

Individual merit and anti-sectarianism instruments have enabled Museveni to fill virtually all important positions with Bahororo who pose as noted above as Baganda, Bakiga, Basoga, Bateso, Balango, Banyankole, Batoro etc. That is why it is important that when time comes Ugandans should demand family trees of leaders because this is the right thing to do in the interest of national security.

By the 1990s when Museveni felt he was in control, the words Mpororo and Bahororo surfaced in newspapers, on radio and TVs debates. The word Mpororo appeared on Uganda maps. In Rujumbura, the 1993 Odoki Commission report recorded all people there as Bahororo.

Gradually, people who had been known as Bahima or Batutsi came forward and declared themselves Bahororo. That is why Ugandans are now struggling to know who are Bahima, Batutsi and Bahororo. And some have asked me to help them solve the puzzle.

Let me begin in a roundabout way starting with their ancestry and level of civilization. There is sufficient evidence that the people we have known in Uganda as long horn cattle owners did not enter Uganda from Ethiopia but from Southern Sudan. Their ancestors were not Hamitic but Nilotic Luo-speaking people. There is no group as Hamitic or Nilo-Hamitic. These cattle people are not even descendants of Bachwezi for Bachwezi were a Bantu aristocracy. In terms of skin color, they are by and large darker than Bantu. Because of their nomadic nature and conflict over grass and water, they could not have developed and introduced civilizations including earthen works in central Uganda. Overall, they have destroyed much of what they found in areas where they have settled.

In some parts of Uganda they mixed thoroughly with indigenous people and formed new communities.

However, by the time new waves entered south west Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, they had decided against intermarriage with indigenous Bantu. Instead they decided to fight, trick, dispossess, impoverish and marginalize Bantu people and turn them into slaves for perpetual domination. Staying pure would preserve their Nilotic identity and keep secrets to themselves. But they would disguise their Nilotic identity by adopting local names and languages, even adopting local institutions like the Bahutu title of Mwami or king for their king in Rwanda.

Besides adopting local names and languages, they have also taken on new names. Thus in Ankole they are Bahima, in Burundi and Rwanda Batutsi, in northern Rwanda and southwest Uganda Batutsi from Rwanda became Bahororo and Batutsi from Rwanda became Banyamulenge in eastern DRC.

They are scattered in many parts of the great lakes region. Museveni is therefore tapping into this pool of Batutsi and Batutsi/Bahororo/Banyamulenge in his efforts to create Tutsi Empire via East African federation.

To sum up, Bahororo are Batutsi from Rwanda. Banyamulenge are also Batutsi from Rwanda. Because of their common ancestry, Bahima, Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge are Nilotic cousins and are still Nilotic in identity because men do not marry outside their Nilotic ethnic group.

Because of their tradition as fighters over grazing land and watering points, Museveni and his people specialized in fighting. When they entered the great lakes region they were able to defeat settled Bantu people who did not need standing armies because there was nothing to fight about. There was enough land, enough food and enough of everything else they needed to meet their basic requirements.

In Rwanda, Bahutu were dispossessed by Batutsi who introduced a feudal system of masters and servants or slaves. This is the tradition that Batutsi later Bahororo introduced into parts that later became southwest Uganda especially in present-day Ntungamo and Rukungiri districts especially Rujumbura county. Bahororo have dominated Bantu/Bairu through dispossession, impoverishment and marginalization since around 1800 as was done to Bahutu in Rwanda.

In Ankole and Rukungiri Bantu people are still called Bairu (servants or slaves). Occasionally you hear stories of Bahororo boasting that one Muhororo (singular for Bahororo) is worth 1000 Bairu or something like that or that Bairu will be ruled indefinitely. These utterances are hurting especially to people who have worked so hard to shake off this stigma but are still kept down at gun point.

The Bahororo 50 year master plan adopted in 1992 is an attempt to extend Bairu enslavement to all parts of Uganda. That is why Museveni refuses to provide school lunches, to help ease rising food and fuel prices and to create jobs for our unemployed youth, blaming all this on external forces beyond NRM’s control.

The same model will apply when Museveni becomes the first president of East African political federation which he is pushing so hard.

Museveni has been arming himself for a fight because he knows some day Ugandans will discover what is going on. That is why talk of possible genocide is in the air and NRM determination not to allow it. That is why we are advising those who want to unseat Museveni by military means to think again. We don’t want our people to run into a lion’s den.

If opposition attacks first, Museveni will brand the attackers as terrorists to destabilize the country and overthrow an “elected” government. He will likely get support of African Union and the international community that is in no mood for war. Museveni will then take advantage of this invasion to clean up the country of undesirable elements and lay the foundation for Bahororo to rule indefinitely.

Let us not give him this chance. Let us defeat him and his NRM system by using a combination of soft and silent diplomatic means which have begun to work and internal civil disobedience to make Uganda ungovernable until NRM is forced out peacefully. This is where NRM is vulnerable. The political, economic, social and diplomatic situation is not in its favor. 

Museveni has seen what happened to his late friend when he used force against unarmed people demanding their liberty, justice and dignity peacefully.

The struggle against Museveni and his regime requires political maturity, vision, coordination and bold leadership for peaceful regime change.