Why Nilotic Bahororo and their cousins don’t marry Bantu women

In the article on “Who are Bahororo?” it was mentioned that men do not marry Bantu women. Some readers have asked me to elaborate in order to understand why they don’t. Although Bahororo (Batutsi from Rwanda), Bahima and Batutsi cousins speak Bantu language, they are ethnically different from Bantu people, hence the use of Nilotic Bahororo and their cousins in the heading. At one time it was erroneously believed that Bahororo and their cousins were white people, but scientific studies have demonstrated conclusively and definitively that they are black people and darker with thicker lips than Bantu people – no disrespect is intended (J. D. Fage A History of Africa 1995 & Jean Hiernaux The People of Africa 1975). Although Bahororo and their cousins do not marry Bantu (Bairu and Bahutu) women they use them frequently for sexual pleasure and even produce children together. More references will be provided for those who would like to read more on the subject. Many quotations will also be used to avoid misinterpretation of authors’ messages.

According to John Hanning Speke (The Discovery of the Source of the Nile 1863, 2006) Bairu people (slaves) theoretically refers to all Bantu people south of the Nile. However, because of extensive intermarriage between Nilotic and Bantu people in Bunyoro, Buganda and Toro, entirely new communities were created and the ethnic distinction disappeared. This article will therefore refer to Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi of southwest Uganda (Ankole and Rujumbura) and Rwanda and Burundi where Nilotic men do not marry Bahutu and Bairu women. It is important to add at this juncture that when wealthy and/or educated Bairu and Bahutu men marry Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi women, they marry them mostly from relatively poor families. Thus, Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi women from wealthy or royal families do not marry Bairu or Bahutu men reminiscent of medieval Europe where the nobility married among itself (John Merriman A History of Modern Europe 1996).

Although Bahororo and their cousins argue that they do not marry Bairu and Bahutu women because they are not pretty, historians and anthropologists and other commentators have given a different reason. One of them states that “… the Hima and Tutsi of the southwestern highland zone [southwest Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda] did not mix so freely. They avoided intermarriage and by keeping themselves distinct they managed, in time, to establish a position of domination over the majority peasants [Bairu and Bahutu] cultivators of the region” (Kevin Shillington History of Africa1989).

Another historian has written that “It was the political domination [of agriculturalists or Bairu and Bahutu] by the pastoralists [Bahororo and their cousins] that brought the two groups [pastoralists and agriculturalists] to live together” (Bethwell A. Ogot Economic and Social History of East Africa 1979). Thus they have avoided marrying Bairu and Bahutu women to keep their secrets about dominating Bahutu and Bairu people and other people in the great lakes region. Conversely, one can argue that Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi women marry wealthy and/or educated Bairu and Bahutu men largely for political reasons – to get access to Bairu and Bahutu secrets about liberating themselves from Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi domination.

Here is more information. According to Kinyarwanda law or culture “The punishment for rape depended on the social status of the person involved. Thus if a Hutu raped a Tutsi woman, he was put to death; if a Hutu woman was raped by a Tutsi, the matter would be settled by compensation” (James L. Gibbs Peoples of Africa 1965).

Regarding marriage and ownership of children, “The legality of a marriage depended on the handing over of a bride price by the groom’s father to the bride’s father. The mere performance of the marriage rites did not constitute a legal union. The transfer of bride wealth caused the husband … to acquire an exclusive right on his wife’s reproductive power so as to make him stand out as the legal father (pater) of all children born to the woman, either begotten by himself or by another man” ( James L. Gibbs Peoples of Africa 1965).

Another Kinyarwanda or more specifically Tutsi culture is that a woman is expected to remain virgin until she marries. Therefore “unmarried Tutsi boys would be ‘given’ Hutu girls, temporarily, for sexual purposes”. As noted above “Intermarriage occurred, but usually with successful Hutu men marrying Tutsi women. Tutsi men would take Hutu women as concubines, rather than marrying them” (Neil J. Kressel Mass Hate 2002).

In Ankole although intermarriage was prohibited, “Bairu concubines were especially common among Bahima chiefs and gave rise to a class of half-castes known as Abambari. From the point of view of legal status, the Abambari were classed as Bairu, but personal consideration often modified the strict rigor of the rule” (Ramkrishna Murkherjee Uganda: An Historical Accident? Class, Nation, State Formation 1985).

The analysis above has demonstrated clearly that contrary to popular belief, Bairu and Bahutu women are not ugly otherwise Bahororo, Batutsi and Bahima men including the chiefs (with unlimited access to Bahima, Bahororo and Batutsi women) would not have had sex with them frequently. It means they enjoyed their company and possibly still do! In other words, they do so because in their eyes Bairu and Bahutu women are pretty and that is why Bahororo, Batutsi and Bahima men had sex with them frequently. Those in doubt including Kesaasi take another close look (free of bias) and you will not fail to admire the beauty of Bairu and Bahutu women. Bahororo, Bahima and Batutsi men do not marry Bairu and Bahutu women not because they are ugly but if they married them their secrets about dominating other people in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi or elsewhere would be exposed.

As we progress into the 21st century, let us hope that the premise of domination that has prevented Bahima, Bahororo and Batutsi from marrying outside their Nilotic ethnic group will become a thing of the past – and pretty soon. The world will be watching.