What the people of Uganda need to know

Correcting distortions: The history of Uganda was and continues to be distorted. And there are people who are comfortable with the status quo. London-based Michael Mutagubya is leading a protest on radio munansi that I am distorting the history of Buganda and Baganda should dismiss what I am doing in civic education.

The second champion of dissent is another London-based Aloysius Sempala who is leading a protest on face book that Baganda are not a multi-nation but one nation (same ancestral origin and same indigenous language). He even observed that he has never heard of the clans of Kimera. For him all Baganda are clans of Kintu.

He too is urging Baganda to ignore the confusion I am creating. However, research findings do not support Sempala assertion. Let us refer to only two sources by Ugandans (I have been accused of using materials written by white people).

Christine Obbo who has done extensive research in Buganda says that “… since it has been easy for foreigners to become Ganda, the Ganda make a further distinction between ordinary citizens and the pure Ganda, whose clans supposedly helped the first king of Buganda, Kintu to consolidate the Ganda state at Kiwawu. However, the people belonging to the clans that supposedly came with Kimera, the third king of Buganda according to oral tradition, claim that the legend of Kintu is just-so story and that the Ganda kingdom began with Kimera, and that it is their clans that are pure Ganda”(William A. Shack and Elliot P. Skinner 1979).

Benson Okello adds that “The Baganda were one of the Bantu clans which had been living within their present homeland since 1000 AD. Some clans joined them later. These clans claimed to have come with Kintu. Kintu was the founder of the Buganda kingdom. He came from the eastern direction, probably from the Mt. Elgon area. However, some clans claim that they came to Buganda with Kato Kimera who, according to Bunyoro-Kitara tradition, was a brother to Isingoma Rukidi Mpuga. Although some historians (especially Baganda historians) disagree that Kimera came from Bunyoro-Kitara, Kimera might have come to Buganda from the north as a result of the Luo invasion”(Okello 2002).

Clearly it is difficult drawing on these authors to avoid the conclusion that Buganda has more than one nation – clans of Kintu and Kimera and foreigners that have easily entered Buganda and become citizens.

As an aside, there are Ugandans who are advising me not to disturb Baganda because they need their political support in post-NRM regime. Let me be clear: what I am doing is civic education and should not be mixed up with politics or sectarianism.

In this presentation I will be selective because there is much ground to cover and many readers don’t like long articles. I have even been advised to make my sentences and paragraphs short for easy reading.

Uganda ethnic groups: Who are we ethnically? Some authors give four ethnic groups namely Bantu people; Nilotic people made up of River Lake Nilotes that originated in Bar-el- Gazal of South Sudan and Plains Nilotes also called Paranilotic; Sudanic people and Nilo-Hamitic people.

Two observations: First, there is no group called Nilo-Hamitic for the simple reason that there are no people called Hamite that would have intermarried with Nilotes to produce Nilo-Hamitic (For details read Zamani edited by Bethwell A. Ogot and John A. Kieran 1967; The African Experience by Roland Oliver, 1991 and African History by Philip Curtin et al., 1978 on the Hamitic Myth).

The second observation is that contrary to popular belief, Bachwezi were not ancestors of Luo but a Bantu aristocracy. According to Ogot “Bachwezi were not Bahima or Luo: they were a Bantu aristocracy who emerged in western Uganda in the fourteenth and fifteen centuries”(Building on the Indigenous by Bethwell A. Ogot 1999).

Settlement of different ethnic groups in Uganda

Several authors have simplified the settlement of Ugandans within Uganda along the Bantu in the south and Nilotics in the north and East divide. For example in Uganda: From the pages of Drum edited by Adam Seftel and published in 1994 it is stated “Bantu-speaking peoples live in the southern half of the country… The Sudanic-speaking people such as Lugbara, Madi and Kakwa live in West Nile and the Luo-speaking peoples live in northern and eastern Uganda”. That is the broad picture presented which is far from the truth.

Baganda in Uganda: Because of conflicts within Buganda and deployment of Baganda as civil servants and religious leaders, Baganda are found in virtually all parts of Uganda especially in western and eastern regions.

Tutsi in Uganda: As we know by now Tutsi are descendants of Nilotic Luo-speaking pastoralists that migrated from Bar-el-Ghazal area in southern Sudan. Bahima, Bahororo and Banyamulenge are all Tutsi cousins (we shall use the generic term of Tutsi to refer to all these groups). They adopt local languages and local names wherever they settle but men don’t marry outside Tutsi ethnic group. They have therefore retained their Nilotic Luo-identity (this might explain why Amii Otunnu and Sejusa both Nilotic Luo descendants might have decided to work together to lead Ugandans in the Diaspora and form the next government).

In western Uganda migration from then southern Sudan brought Nilotic Luo-speaking pastoralists who settled in Ankole as Bahima (a Tutsi clan as reported by Gerard Prunier 1995) and ruled Bantu people they found in the region and called them Bairu – slaves or servants. Another branch of Tutsi settled in Rwanda and Burundi where they dominated Bantu they called Bahutu – slaves or servants.

In mid-17th century, a group of Tutsi left Rwanda and founded Mpororo kingdom in present day northern Rwanda and southwest Uganda in present day Ntungamo district and northern parts of Kabale district. The Bantu who lived in the area were defeated and converted into Bahororo/Bairu. The Tutsi rulers became Tutsi/Bahororo, a distinction that must be kept in mind when discussing who has benefited under Tutsi/Bahororo regime led by Museveni who is a Tutsi/Muhororo.

Around mid-18th century, Mpororo kingdom disintegrated from internal conflicts. In Ankole Bahinda rulers took over parts of former Mpororo kingdom and the rest was given to them by the British that doubled the size of Nkore which became Ankole.

After disintegration, some Bahororo stayed in former Mpororo as commoners, others returned to Rwanda, yet others under Rwebiraro migrated to Rujumbura around 1800 as refugees and settled at Nyakinengo. They came with a standing army and defeated the Bantu clans who were subjugated and called collectively Bairu – slaves or servants.

At the time of colonization Makobore a Tutsi/Muhororo and chief of Rujumbura decided that all the people of Rujumbura (Tutsi/Bahororo and Bairu be called Bahororo for colonial administrative convenience). So in Rujumbura we have Tutsi/Bahororo led by Jim Muhwezi now in power and Bairu/Bahororo who are trapped in poverty under the NRM regime and increasingly being dispossessed of their land, a form of genocide in time of peace as such a decision will result in reduction of Bairu numbers through ill-health and forced birth control because of economic hardship.

Another group of Tutsi/Bahororo stayed in northern parts of Kabale and became Bakiga.

Beginning in the 1920s, many Rwandese and Burundians both Hutu and Tutsi migrated to Uganda in search of work. Some mostly Tutsi settled in Ankole as cattle herders and others spread to all parts of Uganda where livestock herding is found including in Buganda, eastern and northern Uganda and many of them settled permanently adopted local names and languages. Hutu workers concentrated on crop cultivation and settled mostly in Buganda.

Then came the 1959 social revolution in Rwanda that drove many Tutsi and their cattle into Uganda. Immediately upon arrival one third of them settled with their kin and kith and became Ugandans especially in Ankole and Kigezi. As independence was approaching in Uganda the British authorities did not want to be saddled with a refugee problem. They discouraged refugee camps and instead encouraged Tutsi and their cattle to filter into all parts of Uganda.

The Kabaka government driven by humanitarian concerns allowed Tutsi and their cattle to settle in Buganda and return home when the political situation normalized. Instead they have settled permanently, adopted Luganda language and names. They are therefore counted as Baganda free to enjoy all that Buganda provides on equal footing with indigenous Baganda and other foreigners that settled in Buganda – a source of conflict with indigenous or pure Baganda that is driving a desire for secession.

Thus, a combination of power conflicts and economic hardship in Rwanda and to a lesser extent in Burundi forced many people to migrate and settle in Uganda. It is important to note that Uganda became a hostile territory to Hutu refugees or workers since NRM came to power in 1986 and most of Rwandese and Burundians coming to Uganda are Tutsi.

Since the 1920s Uganda has received many Banyarwanda. By around the time of independence they formed about 40 percent in Buganda alone. For more information read Rwanda Conflict by Dixon Kamukama, 1997 and Administrators in East Africa by B. L. Jacobs, 1965).

Who are Banyamulenge? They are Tutsi pastoral people who fled Rwanda in mid 19th century as a result of instability during the reign of King Kigeri Rwabugiri (1853-97). They settle in DRC near a hill called Mulenge – hence the name Banyamulenge – the people of Mulenge Hills (Ben RawLence 2012). It is believed that some of them have found their way in Uganda and are participating in many aspects of Uganda politics, economics and society.

Thus when we talk of Batutsi (Tutsi) we include Bahima or Hima of Ankole, Batutsi/Bahororo and Batutsi/Banyamulenge. The leaders of Uganda under Museveni have come mostly from this group.

But there is still confusion as to who has benefited

You will hear people especially Baganda telling you or writing like Amii Otunnu has done that Banyankole and increasingly Bakiga have taken all the good jobs, have killed other Ugandans especially Baganda and northerners and easterners and must pay when the time comes.

First of all in trying to understand who is ruling Uganda we must draw an ethnic distinction, sad but necessary.

Ankole: In Ankole tell me how many Bairu the large majority in that area are in power and in important business in Uganda? Those called Banyankole who have benefited tremendously are Tutsi (Tutsi from Rwanda and Burundi, Bahima and Bahororo led by Museveni).

Kabale: Many of Ugandans from Kabale who register themselves as Bakiga are actually Tutsi that remained behind as Bahororo and those that entered Uganda after the social revolution of 1959 (that was triggered by Tutsi when they assaulted a newly appointed Hutu sub-chief) and since then.

Rujumbura: In Rujumbura the prominent personalities in Uganda politics, army and civil service are Tutsi/Bahororo. Jim muhwezi, Aronda Nyakairimama, Tumukunde, two women presidential advisers, Allan Kagina of Customs Department and Keith Muhakanizi Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance.

Tell me how many Bairu/Bahororo hold prominent positions and yet we have the largest number of educated and experienced people.

Thus in former Ankole and Kigezi districts where Bantu/Bairu people are the majority and have the best trained have not benefited from the NRM regime. So when Museveni government collapses and you descend on Ankole and Kigezi to settle scores you are going to kill innocent people who have suffered under Museveni regime. Tutsi will have run out of the country with their money. So keep that in mind.

Who has benefited in NRM government from Northern and Eastern region?

What I want to say here briefly is that there are many Baganda and Batutsi living in these regions. They have adopted local names and languages. We therefore need to do our homework to make sure that these regions are not disproportionately represented by Baganda and Batutsi.

Baganda in Museveni government: Since NRM came to power, the prominent and prestigious jobs have gone to Baganda possibly dominated by Tutsi (I have not yet analyzed the ethnic composition). Three vice presidents have been Baganda (Kisseka, Bukenya and Ssekandi and before then Speaker of Parliament), three prime ministers have been Baganda (Kisseka, Kintu Musoke, Nsibambi). Ssemogerere second Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Abu Mayanja third Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister. Mukiibi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ponsiano Milima Minister of Finance. Mayanja Nkangii Minister of Finance and Chairman: National Land Commission. Overall the ministry of finance has been dominated by Baganda including Milima, Mayanja Nkangi, Ssendaula and now Mayanja. Moses Kigongo has been Vice Chairman of NRM.

Buganda and Luwero War: The location of Buganda has made Baganda suffer needlessly. I have spoken about this matter perhaps more than anyone else. Baganda are being dispossessed of their land. But this is happening everywhere. Poverty and unemployment are happening everywhere. On statistics alone one would think Baganda are doing relatively well economically considering that over 80 percent of Uganda Gross National Income (GNI) is generated in Greater Kampala where the vast majority of Baganda live or work.

Does Baganda suffering call for secession?

Secession of Buganda from Uganda has two major hurdles. First, do Baganda have the numbers and/or the will to carry it out? The 1959 census showed that Baganda and non-Baganda were in a tie of 50:50 that is Baganda were half of the population in Buganda. Since then Buganda has experienced unprecedented immigration and occupation and settlement. If you add on the human loss during the guerrilla war and the many Baganda that have fled into exile and taken on dual citizenship you begin to wonder whether Baganda who are calling for secession from exile have the numbers to wage a war of secession. Christine Obbo observed in 1979 “There was fear [among pure Baganda] that the assimilated Ganda might one day dominate the political structures”. That was 1979 and it is possible the number of non-Baganda has grown faster than that of pure Baganda. If conducted professionally the 2014 population census will give us the exact information.

The second hurdle Buganda faces is the rising consciousness for self –determination by several nations or sub-nations. Advocating secession may open a can of worms that could result in the disintegration of Buganda. Therefore those who are advocating secession need to consider the costs that might exceed the benefits. Instead of secession, Baganda may wish to look at the advantages of a federal or confederal arrangement that give regions and communities power to manage their own affairs except in matters of defense, security, foreign affairs and national currency. What lesson can Baganda learn from Scotland?

This brief presentation is designed to open debate so that Ugandans are fully aware of what challenges we are up against and design policies, strategies and programs that would iron out these distortions. All Ugandans must participate in these debates so that no one is left behind.

Eric Kashambuzi