By Nabusayi L. Wamboka
On the twilight of February 23, as hundreds of people descended on Rwakitura to mourn the death of Mzee Amosi Kaguta, his eldest son President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni sat under what I have come to describe as a ‘sacred tree’, a part of Museveni’s vast green compound with a shade that he often uses as a meeting place and relaxing spot.
Today, I take a sneak peek down generations of Ankole culture that is unique and quite captivating. I was called to the Presidents’ spot hoping to jot down a quick directive or message to pass on.
On the table lay copies of pictures of a gigantic bull looking more like a buffalo, taken from various angles. It was the picture of Rureemba Rwakireemba Kya Karanga, Mzee Amosi Kaguta’s principal bull (enguundu) of his headquarter herd (enkoroogyi) that was slaughtered on the day Mzee Amosi passed on.
According to Museveni, the bull is usually slaughtered on account of the death of its owner, according to the ancient custom of the Banyankole. Was it one of the descendants of the Kaguta family herds?
According to Museveni, it was one of the descendants of the Kaguta family herds but that is not why it was the principal bull. The head of the herd does not have to come from a lineage usually identifi ed by their skin colour or shape of their horns. It can be from out of the herd, but takes control.
The President, however, said Rureemba Rwakireemba Kya Karanga was born seven years ago in Mzee Kaguta’s herd and rose to the top. The President in his book, says their cows have descriptive names, not only according to the animal, colour and the shape of the horns, but also their characteristics – some are fast-moving while others are slow. The name, not only identifies the cow, but also indicates the name of its mother.
Rureemba was, therefore, a son to Rwakireemba, who was a daughter of Karanga. In his book Sowing the Mustard Seed, President Museveni reveals the deep Banyankole’s love for cattle. “I have a great personal feeling for my cows, especially the ones whose ancestors have been in our family for a very long time. They are like cousins and sisters to me,” he says.
In Ankole, cattle are the most treasured possession providing milk, ghee, beef and hides. Cows are the mode of payment of bride price and some special cows are used in religious as well as cultural rituals. Even as Yoweri, son of Kaguta, gave his father’s sendoff speech in a humorous and light hearted way, it was cows he gave out to his sisters as a reward for watching over their father during his last days in hospital. The number of cows were determined by the commitment one showed at caring for their father.
On the morning of the day of Mzee Kaguta’s burial was the fi rst time I saw the herd mowing close to the home of Mzee Kaguta. This was strange because I had never seen the animals on this farm so close.
After these revelations, I realised why. The herd had lost its head…and so had the Kaguta family. Therefore, it came to pass that the destiny of the prized bull was tied so deeply to a great man, Kaguta, whose legacy bore a revolutionary. Rureemba Rwakireemba kya Karanga was destined to follow his master.