Crickets and locusts do not fly together

In my culture we have a proverb “ekiharara noruzigye tibiguruka kumwe” which means that a cricket and locust do not fly together. Why? Because crickets fly a short distance and take a break. They also fly at a low altitude. On the other hand, locusts fly a long distance without a break and fly at a high altitude. When the two try to fly together in a long distance race at a high altitude, crickets drop out of the race. Locusts continue to the finishing line and win prizes.

In Uganda, relations between Bahororo and the rest of Ugandans are similar to relations between locusts and crickets. Bahororo (locusts) under the leadership of Museveni started the guerrilla war with a long term plan: to dominate Uganda politics indefinitely. On the other hand, the rest of Ugandans (crickets) especially Baganda and Catholics joined Museveni with a short term plan: to defeat Obote and his Protestant ruling UPC party. They joined Museveni’s guerrilla war and brought Obote down through Acholis in the army in July 1985. The Acholis who had a short term vision: to throw Obote and his Langi tribesmen out of power had no long term plan of holding onto power. Consequently, they were overthrown six months later and Museveni came to power in January 1986.

Donors are satisfied with our record – Museveni

Years ago, I concluded that the NRM government under the leadership of President Museveni has failed to deliver on human security – Ugandans still live in fear, in want and in indignity.

At the United Nations Millennium Summit (New York, September 6-8, 2000) world leaders adopted a Millennium Declaration on peace and security; development and poverty eradication; and human rights, democracy, and good governance. They declared that (1) they would spare no effort to free people from the scourges of war within or between states; (2) they would spare no effort to free fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty and (3) they would spare no effort to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development.

These declarations are similar to what is contained in Uganda’s ten-point program launched by the NRM government when it came to power in 1986. As noted above despite these declarations at the national and international levels, massive international assistance and excellent national policy documents Ugandans still leave in fear, want and indignity and the situation is getting worse. Because of space constraints, this article will focus on development and poverty eradication – freedom from want.

In politics there is no permanent situation

Reading stories about broken promises between NRM and Buganda that were reached during the bush war in Uganda (1981-86) has reminded me what I learned in international relations classes: in politics there is no permanent situation and the enemy of your enemy is your friend. When the common enemy is gone as Obote did in 1985 the situation changed. And Baganda should have known that and adjusted accordingly.

During the Cold War Mobutu Sese Seko was an enemy of Communism which was the enemy of capitalism. Therefore Mobutu and capitalist Belgium, France and USA became friends throughout the Cold War period because they had one common enemy – Communism. With Communism out of the way in 1990 the situation changed. Mobutu who had been protected twice against rebel attacks and was showered with foreign assistance and diplomatic niceties was left to fend for himself when Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda forces attacked in 1996. Mobutu was defeated, fled the country and died in exile. His own trusted troops attempted to assassinate him at Kinshasa and Gbadolite airports when they realized that the situation which had kept them together had changed. He narrowly escaped in a cargo plane, fled the country and died in exile a few months later.

Why Bahororo were unknown until recently

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.

Democracy at gun point in practice

The creation of a banana district

In his interview which was published in Uganda’s Monitor dated February 9, 2004 Hon. Major General (rtd) Kahinda Otafire observed that “We [NRM] stood for national unity, for democracy, for equality and we were for justice for all. You find all the principles we fought for contained in our ten-point program”. Ugandans interpreted democracy to mean empowering them to participate directly or through their representatives in decisions that improve their lives.

The president’s spokesperson characterized President Museveni as a man of the people – a believer in true democracy – who is always in touch with ordinary people including at the lowest level. In practice two major things have happened: first, the ten-point program was dropped – and so were the principles contained in it – when the NRM government began collaboration with the IMF and the World Bank after signing an agreement in May 1987 and second, democracy has been practiced at gun point to force people and institutions to take decisions dictated by NRM leaders. In forcing some of these decisions, NRM leaders were facilitated by the donor community. For example, the idea of decentralization came largely from development partners who thought that people would be able to take decisions that improve the quality of their lives and that services would be brought closer to them.

Anomaly in the creation of Rukungiri Municipality

Rt. Hon. Speaker
Rt. Hon. Prime Minister
Rt. Hon. Leader of the Opposition
H.E. Permanent Representative to the UN in New York
Dear Sirs
This morning I sent you a message protesting the manner in which a resolution was passed by Rukungiri district council without consulting the people that have been affected.
A few minutes ago, I have just read in New Vision (Uganda) of Monday May 17, 2010 that new municipalities had been approved by Parliament. I noticed one anomaly.
While the proposed municipalities were presented to Parliament by the Minister of State for Local Government, in the case of Rukungiri the presentation was made by the MP Major General Jim Muhwezi apparently without following the normal procedure.

I have also noted that the shadow Minister of Local Government “cautioned that municipalities should not be carelessly dished out”.
If the overall goal of municipality is to divide up land and sell it as plots to the highest bidder so that the municipality raises resources, that will be a regrettable approach that will impoverish people.
It would be appreciated if an explanation would be given and what a municipality means in terms of land ownership. Many of the people in Rukungiri that have been incorporated into the municipality depend on land for their livelihood and most of them are functionally illiterate and will not be able find work outside of agriculture.
Best regards.

Slavery was abolished so too must the epithet of Bairu

Slavery is a condition in which the life, liberty and fortune of an individual is held within the absolute power of another individual. Slavery is derived from slav because Slavs in Europe were frequently enslaved during the Dark Ages (500-1000 AD). Aristotle embarrassingly justified that some people are slaves by nature. In many situations slaves worked long hours from sunrise to sunset and suffered harsh punishment which included lashings, short rations and threats to sell members of the slave’s family. Slavery broke the spirit of many slaves but many others vowed to resist and end it. Slavery generated fear and hate. Because slavery and slave trade were evil, they were abolished during the 19th century and declared illegal.

How did Bantu become Bairu (slaves)?

John Hanning Speke wrote in his book titled The Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863 and reprinted in 2006) that Bahima imposed the epithet (term of abuse) of Bairu or slaves on Bantu people they found in the areas bordering on Lake Victoria. Bahima imposed the epithet of Bairu because Bantu people had to supply food and clothing to Bahima masters. Subsequent extensive intermarriages between Bahima and Baganda, Bahima and Banyoro and Bahima and Batoro produced new communities of mixed farmers ending the master/slave relationship in Buganda, Bunyoro and Tooro.

Bahima were painted a picture opposite of who they actually are

In geography we were taught to match what we read with what was on the ground. Besides reading widely, we studied maps, interpreted areal photographs and conducted field visits. I carried with me the geography methodology of matching reading with observation into the history subject. The history I read about Bahima (read Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge as well because they are cousins and behave the same) did not match what I knew about them. I grew up, studied and worked with them.

Because of racial theories aristocratic Europeans had concluded that black people (Negroes) were intellectually inferior to have a civilization or history of their own. Without history Africa was a ‘Dark Continent’. The first Europeans to visit what later became Uganda were from aristocratic families. They were shocked to find sophisticated civilizations. Instead of admitting that they were wrong about black people and give them credit for the civilizations they found, they decided to ‘invent’ Europeans who would be credited with that remarkable history. They looked around and found Bahima who looked like Europeans physically. They concluded that Bahima were of the white race and responsible for these civilizations.

Ethnic relations in the Great Lakes region are antagonistic

Let me begin with two statements.

First, when my article on “How Rujumbura’s Bairu got impoverished” appeared in (Uganda) Observer, some Uganda readers were convinced that I was sectarian and hated Bahororo (another name for Batutsi who sought refuge in Rujumbura when the short-lived Mpororo kingdom disintegrated and Rwanda and Nkore troops moved in). Since 1986, Uganda government has been led by Bahororo many of them from Rujumbura or with roots in Rujumbura. With Uganda currently experiencing un-preceded poverty, hunger, unemployment, marginalization and functional illiteracy, many Ugandans have revisited the above article and drawn parallels with how the whole country of Uganda has been impoverished.

Second until the 1960s, the history of the Great Lakes Region was dominated by followers of J. H. Speke, C. G. Seligman – British explorer and academic, respectively – and African scholars mostly from aristocratic families who shared the two British biased opinions led by Alexis Kagame, a Catholic priest and historian associated with Rwanda royal court. The writings of these people were extremely biased in favor of Batutsi (Bahima, Bahororo and Banyamulenge are clans of Batutsi) who were described as white or black Caucasian, intelligent, well built, civilized, wealthy through invasion and plunder of Negroes and born to rule. On the other hand they portrayed Bantu-speaking people (dubbed Bairu and Bahutu {slaves or servants} by Bahima) as reported by J. H. Speke (1863, 2006) as black Negroes, without a civilization, poorly built or ugly and short, unintelligent and born to serve the rulers. They used these racist and psychological instruments to rob Bantu-speaking people of their true identity, civilizations and wealth and reduced them to servants or serfs as in Rwanda.

Why ethnicity is rising again

There is a recognition that the colonial philosophy of divide and rule through indirect methods intensified ethnic, religious and geographical divisions. Colonial authorities favored some groups over others either in compensation for their role in suppressing resistance as in Uganda or because of racial resemblance as in Rwanda and Burundi. Consequently Baganda in Uganda, Batutsi in Burundi and Rwanda and Bahima and Bahororo in south west Uganda benefited disproportionately. They got educated, good jobs and gained tremendous political, economic and social power over the majority – the commoners.

The struggle for independence based on democracy and majority rule reversed colonial arrangements in many countries. In Uganda and Rwanda, for example, commoners – by virtue of their numerical superiority – captured power and corrected colonial injustices. Allocation of development resources, jobs in the cabinet, civil service and public enterprises were reorganized to bring about ethnic and geographical balance.

In Zambia, former President Kaunda used to argue that he had appointed so and so from one province over so and so from another province because he wanted to achieve regional balance. In Cote d’Ivoire the late President Houphouet-Boigny played a carefully ethnic balancing act that kept the country together.