By Yoweri K. Museveni
Baleka bye basanidde okukola, nebakola byebatasanidde kukola, namazima tegali mubo (They left undone what they ought to have done and did that they ought not to have done and there is no truth in them).
This is in the Church of Uganda Prayer Book on page 10; but, apparently, it is also in the Book of Mathew Chap: 23:23. It says in the Bible: “…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone”. Verse 24 says: “….. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel…”. All this means that you concentrate on peripheral issues but neglect much more fundamental issues.
Some of these scripture portions have stuck in my head in spite of not being active in the Church for almost the last 50 years. In this piece, I will, again, comment on the pseudo ─ ideology of tribalism and other forms of sectarianism as well as pseudo ─ traditionalism. While addressing the youth from Kasese recently, following the shameful events there, I, again, pointed out the bankruptcy and falseness of sectarianism (tribal or religious) and of gender chauvinism.
Again, I used the example of the Banyankore. What are the real interests of the Banyankore? They, of course, have many interests ─ spiritual, cultural, social, etc. However, the most fundamental is the economic interest. The Banyankore produce milk, beef, bananas, coffee, tea and other crops; and their area has got good tourist sites (Lake Mbuuro, part of Queen Elizabeth, Imaramagambo forest, etc). However, for the majority of cases, the Banyankore do not buy from one another because many of them produce similar products and some of the crops and services are, mainly, for export.
Therefore, the saviour of the Banyankore are, actually, the other Ugandans (mainly in Kampala), the other East Africans and the international partners who buy our coffee, our tea and patronize our tourist sites. You can best verify this when you stand at Lyantonde and see how many milk tankers, lorry-fulls of the long-horn cattle, lorry-fulls of bananas and, increasingly, lorry-fulls of processed tea, processed milk, bottled beer, etc. They are all going to the lucrative markets of Uganda and East Africa, not to forget South Sudan and Congo.
What is true of the Ankole region, is also true of the Rwenzori region. What does the Rwenzori region produce? It produces: Arabica coffee (Kasese); Robusta coffee (Bundibugyo); maize (Kasese); cotton (Kasese); tea (Tooro); maize (Tooro); cocoa (Bundibugyo); milk (Tooro); upland rice (Bundibugyo); vanilla (Bundibugyo); etc. etc. Apart from some subsistence consumption, many of these products are either sold to the rest of Uganda or exported. In addition, the Rwenzori region has got very good tourist sites (Part of the Queen Elizabeth, Semliki, Rwenzori Mountain Park, Kibaale forest park) as well as mineral resources (copper, cement, oil, etc). These feed the industries of the area (e.g. cement) and they are, then, exported or sold to other parts of Uganda or the region.
The Ankole region has also a lot of minerals: iron ore, wolfram, gold, tin, etc. These are vital economic interests of the people of these two regions. Besides, they are, essentially, one people with a common language, the different dialects notwithstanding, which they share with other interlacustrine Bantus of Uganda, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, etc. These dialects are also linked to the languages of the Luo, Sudanic and the Nilo-Hamitic peoples of Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, South Sudan, etc. The clan systems are, mainly, similar. What is true of the Ankole and the Rwenzori regions is also true of all the other parts of Uganda and Africa.
The question then, is: “In whose interests do those who promote sectarianism act?” By promoting sectarianism, those elements directly undermine the interests of the producers (agricultural, industrial or service providers). Even before colonialism, when we were under the sway of the myopic traditional chiefs, the African peoples’ welfare was enriched by the inter-tribal trade right up to Zanzibar, on the East African Coast, the Congo forest to the West and to Gondokoro, North of Juba, the obstruction and extortion by some of the chiefs notwithstanding. Therefore, it is criminal for the opportunists and parasites (those not engaged in production) to continue endangering the core interests of our people with the bankrupt ideology of sectarianism and gender chauvinism. Enough is enough.
President Museveni at the coronation of Mumbere Charles Wesley Mumbere
Coming to the recent criminality in the Rwenzori region, it is a direct result of this pseudo ─ ideology and pseudo ─ traditionalism that has been being pushed by certain elements in those areas in total disregard of the authentic history of that area of which, fortunately, my clan is part. My clan is found in Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Congo. I am, among other things, the maternal uncle (Nyinarimi ─ Kojja in Luganda) of HH the Omusinga Mumbere. Accordingly, I know the history of that area very well from both the point of view of authentic traditionalism (to which I subscribe) and also from the point of view of both oral and written history.
On the side of authentic traditionalism, I do not approve of Africans who try to be black Europeans in behaviour or aspirations. We must maintain the positive elements of our culture (exogamous marriages, for instance), our very rich languages, promote Swahili as a lingua franca, maintain our very rich foods instead of blindly going for Asian and European foods, our dress code, etc.
Above all, we must maintain our independence and strengthen Africa through integration to guarantee the future of the African people, never to be colonized again. This is the authentic traditionalism that, partly, influenced me to support the restoration of the cultural leaders and institutions in the modified way they were restored. In order to maintain our Africanness, we must be strong and not weak and we cannot be strong by promoting disunity but unity.
Regarding the written and oral history of the people of the Rwenzori region, I would like to give two examples.
One example, is what all Ugandans know ─ Ntare school, where some of us studied. That school was named after the Ankole King, Ntare V, Rugingiiza, who died in 1895 and was buried at Kaigoshoora, Kashaari. He had come to the throne after a five years’ succession war which must have ended about 1875. Assuming that he came to the throne when he was 25, that means he would have been born around 1850. His mother, Kibooga, had been captured as a young girl by the Banyankore when they raided the Basongora in the battle of Makara. If she was about 8 years and the girls were being married off at 14 years, that battle would have been there about seven years before Ntare was born. That battle would, therefore, have taken place about 1843.
Makara, where the battle took place, is now about 47 kms on Mbao-Kamango road inside Congo. It is, therefore, amazing to hear some elements in the Rwenzori region speaking as if the Basongora do not belong to that region; as if they are intruders. It is a case of pseudo ─ traditionalism, of pseudo ─ history. The Basongora have been persecuted by the neighbouring tribes: the Banyankore and the Banyoro. Elements among the Bakonjo should not add themselves to the list of the persecutors of those much wronged people. The State of Uganda took much of their ancestral land and put it under the Queen Elizabeth National Park as it did with the Mountain in Rwenzori National Park, a land that belonged to the Bakonjo and the other part of the Queen Elizabeth Park that belonged to the Banyankore. That is part of the history of that area.
The other part of the history of that area is what was recorded by Stanley in 1889 when he passed through that area. This is all covered in his Book: “In the Darkest Africa” Vol. II. Stanley re-crossed the Ituri forest back to Banaliya, North of Kisangani, after he had arrived on Mwitanzigye in the year 1887 to bring his rear party that remained there. He re-crossed the forest, arriving at what I believe to be Mbogolo on the Bunia Plateau on around the 17th of March, 1889. That time, the Chief of that area was apparently, somebody called Kabaale (a small stone in Runyakitara) whom Stanley miswrote and mispronounced as: “Kavalli”. Hence, he wrote on Pg. 114 as follows:
“The second day after reaching Kavalli’s, thirty rifles were dispatched to the lake shore with my replies to Emin Pasha’s and Mr. Jephson. He goes on: “On the evening of the 21st , notice was brought to me that the Balegga were collecting to attack us, and early the following morning sixty rifles, with 1,500 Bavira and Wahuma were sent to meet them. The forces met on the crest of Mountains overlooking the lake, and the Baleggga, after a sharp resistance, were driven to their countrymen among the subjects of Melindwa, who was the ally of Kabba Rega” He goes on: “The 23rd was spent by all the people of plain country as thanksgiving Day, and the Bavira women met at the camp to relieve their joy at their deliverance from their inveterate enemy, with dancing and singing, which lasted from 9.00am until 3.00pm”.
Here you have, in the black and white of H M Stanley’s own pen, the unforgivable mistake by the African chiefs promoting conflicts among our people and, therefore, making it easy for the colonialists to conquer us. Here you had the Bahuma of Congo and the Babira of the same area celebrating their “deliverance” by Stanley’s guns from their “inveterate” enemies, the Balegga (the Lendu) and Kabarega, the one we celebrate as a freedom fighter but who was, actually, a mistake maker by committing aggression against the sister tribes of our people using the indisciplined Baru-Suura.
Stanley started his march to the Coast on 10th April. Stanley writes as follows:
“Notice was also given that the march towards Zanzibar would commence next morning, which announcement was received with frantic applause. Mpinga, Msiri, Mwitè, Malai, Wabiassi, Mazamboni, and Balegga have furnished 350 carriers. They are assembled this evening, dancing, singing and feasting”. He records: “April 10th ─ march from Kavalli’s to Mpinga’s, four hours”.
On page 225, this stranger, Stanley, describes our part of the world with more knowledge than some of our present leaders. “For to west of the twin peaks, Ruwenzori range either dropped suddenly into a plain or sheered away SSW. What I saw was either an angle of a mass or the western extremity. We would aim for the base of twin peaks, and pursue our course southerly to lands unknown, along the base line. The guides ─ for we had many now ─ pointed with their spears vaguely, and cried out “Ukonju”, and (giving a little dab into the air with their points) “Usongora”; meaning that “Ukonju” was what we saw, and beyond it lay “Usongora”, invisible. This is how the Stanley expedition saw the western side of the Ruwenzori from the Bunia hills.
On page 226, Stanley writes as follows: “little later Kaibuga entered into our camp. This chief was of the Wahuma settled among the Balegga, whose grounds over looked the plain of Kavalli and the South end of the Nyanza, and whose territory extended to the debuchure of the Semliki”. The “Nyanza” is Lake Albert. The Wahuma are the Bahuma of Bunia, Congo; and the Balegga are the Lendu. Stanley continues: “He urged active hostilities, as Uhobo belonged to Kabba Rega. Naturally we smiled at this ……”. In other-words, Kaibuga was now seizing the presence of Stanley to ally with him against Kabarega who had been raiding them.
On page 232, Stanley writes as follows: “For the first time we discovered that the Awamba, whose territory we were now in, understood the art of drying bananas over wooden gratings, for the purpose of making flour”. Stanley continues: “We had often wondered, during our life in the forest region, that natives did not appear to have discovered what invaluable, nourishing, and easily digestible food they possessed in the plantain and banana.
All banana lands ─ Cuba, Brazil, West Indies ─ seem to me to have been specially remiss on this point. If only the virtues of the flour were publicly known, it is not to be doubted but it would be largely consumed in Europe”. Our friend Stanley had left the land of the Balegga (Lendus), Bahuma, Babira and Banyambooga in the Bunia ─ Mbooga areas and entered the land of the “Awamba”, the Baamba of the Congo-Uganda area of today, who were advanced in processing bananas for flour, juice, wine, etc. In another portion of his writings, he writes of how they were vexed by the disturbance of tinshengyeera, the very small flies that are always attracted by juice, beer, ripe bananas (eminekye) and ebikanja (the residue of beer).
On page 233, Stanley writes as follows: “One company took a road, a road leading slightly east of south, and suddenly came across a few Baundwe whom we knew for real forest aborigines. This was in itself a discovery, for we had supposed we were still in Utuku, as the east of Semliki is called, and which is under Kabba Rega’s rule. The language of the Baundwe was new, but they understood a little Kinyoro, and by this means we learned that the Ruwenzori was known to them as Bungombowa, and that the Watwa (pigymies) and the Wara-sura were their worst enemies, and that the former were scattered through the woods to the W.S.W.”
Again, here we notice three points. First the diversity of our people in these very areas where the opportunists have recently caused a lot of damage, both in Congo and Uganda, generating conflicts among these symbiotic communities. Stanley encountered the Awamba (Baamba), the Utuku (the Batuku), the Baundwe (the Bahunde), the Wahuma (the Bahuma), the Wakonju (the Bakonjo), the Wanyoro (the Banyoro sent by Kabarega to disturb the other tribes), the Batooro, the Wasongora (the Basongora), the Wanyankori (the Banyankore), etc, etc.
Secondly, the enmity among these contiguous tribes caused by the poor leadership of the chiefs, always causing unnecessary wars among the people.
Then, thirdly, the great advancement in agriculture and other artisan skills, long before we got in contact with foreigners. About the point of great progress in agriculture, let me, again, quote Stanley, on page 237 of his book. He writes as follows: “The abundance of food in this region was one of the most remarkable features in it.
Ten battalions would have needed no commissary to provide their provisions. We had but to pluck and eat. Our scouts reported that on every hand lay plantations abounding in the heaviest clusters of fruit. The native granaries were full with red millet, the huts were stored with Indian corn; in the neighbouring garden plots were yams, sweet potatoes, colocassia, tobacco.” The villages Stanley and his 1,500 followers went through were: Ugarama (Bugarama), Utaama (Butaama), Bukoko, Mtarega, Mutsora, etc. etc.
On page 238, Stanley writes as follows: “Two women ─ light complexioned and very pleasing ─ who were found in the woods near the village, were able to speak the Kinyoro language. It was from them we learned that we were in Ugarama (Bugarama), in the country of the Awamba (the Baamba); that Utuku (Butuku) was a name given to the open country up to the Mississi river (River Muziizi) and the lake (Lake Albert); that the next district we should reach southerly was Bukoko, where the principal chief, Sibaliki, of the Awamba (Baamba), lived; and beyond Bukoko was Butama (Butaama).
That from Ugarama (Bugarama) to the North extremity of Bukonju or Ukonju, was one day’s march: that two days would take us to Toro, but we should have to cross the mountain: that the king of North Ukonju was called Ruhandika: that the Wakonju formerly owned vast herds of cattle, but the Wara-sura (the Barasuura of Kabalega) had swept the herds away.” Hence, that is how our people lived before colonialism, neighbouring to each other, very productive, but being disturbed by some of the chiefs like Kabareega and his indisciplined Barusuura.
On page 255, Stanley writes as follows: “On the 14th of June, escorted by a large following of Wakonju (Bakonjo), we marched four and half hours, and entered Muhamba, in Usongora. Soon after leaving Mtsora we had descended into the grassy plains ……..”. “About half way, we passed a respectable tributary of the Semliki, called the Rwimi, which separates Ukonju (Bukonjo) from Usongora (Busongora).” Was Stanley here talking of the Rwimi or of Lume? The Rwimi flows into Lake George, not into the Semliki.
He continues: “The next day, an hour’s march from Muhamba, we left the plain and commenced the ascent of the mountains, as the range declining towards the South forms a lengthened hilly promontory, dividing Usongora (Busongora) into western and eastern divisions, lying on either side of it, and both being in past times covered by the lake”. On page 256, Stanley writes as follows: “On the 16th of June, after a long march of four and three quarter hours, we arrived at the Zeriba (kraal) of Rusesse. We descended from Karimi about 700 feet to the plain of eastern Usongora, and an hour later we came to Ruwerahi river, 40 feet wide, and a foot deep; an ice cold stream, clear as crystal and fresh from the snows”. This must be River Lubiriha. When I last saw the water of that river, it was not as crystal clear as Stanley describes it.
I think it was grey in colour on account of not managing the agriculture in the hills properly, which causes soil erosion into the river. What was the real name of Rusesse whom Stanley describes as “a Msongora herdsman, in the employ of Rukara, the General of the Wara-sura (the Barusuura) of Kabareega”? We should trace and write the names of these people and these places correctly. That is how Stanley saw and recorded the life of our people in Bunia (Congo) and the Rwenzori region in 1889 when he passed through that area. All our people were there: the Balegga (Lendu), “the Bavira” (Babira), the Wahuma (the Bahuma), the “Watuku” (the Batuku), the Batooro, the Wanyoro who would be invading others and behaving in indisciplined ways like confiscating cattle etc., the Wasongora (the Basongora), the Watwa (the Batwa), the “Bwaundwe” (the Bahunde), etc. etc.
What God has put together, man should not put asunder. We always salute Kabarega for resisting colonialism. I even salute his efforts to unite the tribes. I, however, disapprove of the indiscipline of the Barusuura, his army. All authentic traditionalists should realistically assess the positive points and the negative points of those ancestors of ours. It is those weaknesses that the colonialists used to divide us and conquer us. Witness the tribes that rallied to this stranger Stanley in such a short time against Kabarega on account of the indiscipline of the Barusuura. This is not to talk of the poor military organization of Kabarega because he was armed with guns just like Stanley was. However, his strategy and tactics were, obviously, deficient.
UPC vice president Joseph Bbosa
The very observant Stanley, on page 327, writes as follows as he passed through “Ankori” (Ankole): “The herds were numerous, and all as fat as prize cattle. In the valley between Denny (must be Buhweeju) and Iwanda (Ibaanda) ranges, we had passed over 4,000 cattle of the long-horned species. The basin of the Rwizi, which we were in now, and which was the heart of Ankori, possessed scores of herds”.
The story of prosperity in Ankole was similar to that of the Rwenzori region and of the Ituri region. The only problem was, again, governance, with those chiefs causing conflicts among our people for no good reason. At the beginning of this article, I told the reader of how Mutambuuka, King of Ankole, had raided the Basongora in about 1843 where, Kibooga, the mother of Ntare V, had been captured. Ntare V, by the time Stanley passed through Ankole, was the King.
Why those wars? It is this ideological bankruptcy of some of the traditional leaders that I sought to bring out in this article that acted counter to the interests of our people. Tribal arrogance, looting people’s property and unnecessary conflicts. This is why the NRM and FRONASA before it firmly stood against sectarianism of tribe and religion as well as against gender chauvinism. It is, partly, because of that ideological stand that the NRM has succeeded to do what we have done. Anybody who wants to make a positive contribution should reinforce this effort rather than detract from it.
Finally, I noted the criticism of the Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) spokesman that appeared in the “New Vision” paper of July 10th 2014 ─ on page 5, under the heading: “UPC speaks out on deadly raids”. The paper writes as follows: “Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) yesterday faulted President Yoweri Museveni’s move to restore cultural institutions, saying the policy is dividing the country.” The UPC Vice President, Bbossa, said as follows: “When the UPC came to power in 1962, there were the Batooro, the Banyoro, the Banyankore, the Baganda, etc. The UPC Government said no more of these kingdoms. We are one people, one Government, one destiny.” He goes on to criticize me, saying I restored these kingdoms for unprincipled reasons.
While I am a traditionalist, that is nnwhy I promote African foods, that is why I participated in writing the Runyankore-Rukiga Katondoozi, I am not a monarchist, at all. I know that societies, even those which had kings before, can prosper and boom without those kings. Examples abound. Look at China, India, France, Germany, Russia, etc. These very powerful countries had kings, abolished them and are now very prosperous. Within Uganda here, the Ankole-Kigezi area had traditional leaders but has chosen not to restore them and the areas are quite prosperous. On the other hand, however, there are countries in the world that have kings that are also prosperous. Admittedly, they are not many but they are there.
There is, for instance, England (UK) and Japan. They have kings, are democratic and very prosperous. Malaysia has got many kings like we have here and it is a prosperous country. The crucial issue is behaving in a rational manner. With democracy, it is the people who have the power of governance, not the traditional leaders. Secondly, unity of purpose of the different tribes and respect for each other are more beneficial than group chauvinism.
It is a failure to know these factors that can cause problems. Especially in Africa where the Africanness itself is under attack, the modified cultural institutions could play a positive role to preserve our dialects and culture without being used by opportunists to meddle with people’s power of elections and governance. While I am not a monarchist and nor are many in the NRM, we are democrats. The UPC abolished the monarchies in 1966-67, undemocratically. I was there and saw it. Yet, some people were still believing in the monarchies. We, therefore, made the restoration of cultural institutions, optional for the areas that want them. If Vice President of UPC Bbossa does not want cultural institutions, he should convince the community he comes from so that they agree with him. With NRM, we are neutral in the matter of the cultural institutions.
The only requirements, we expect from the cultural institutions, are to respect article 246 of the Constitution and the objective principles of the State which include promoting patriotism instead of sectarianism. If the kingdoms had been abolished democratically in 1967, we would have been wrong to restore them. They were, however, abolished undemocratically, the Constitution of 1962 was not followed; therefore, it was only democratic to open the option to those who wished to restore them. The NRM did its democratic duty. It can only be the kingdoms that can let themselves down by violating the Constitution.
I thank all of you.
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Gen. (rtd)
Fill in your Name and Email Address to receive a Free Newsletter
NRM neutral on cultural institutions, says Museveni