The languages of the two blood brothers have been found to bear some key words with similarities both in form and meaning
By Simon P. Opolot-Okwalinga
As we return from the weekend marking 33rd Anniversary of the NRM Liberation Day, I would like to draw your attention to the connectivity among two Ugandan tribes.
For long among the present generations, nothing has been known let alone perceived, to connect the two geographically distant tribes of the Bahima in the West and the Iteso in the East of Uganda. For most, the two are just cattle keepers who chose to keep long horn cows as for the Bahima and short horn as for the Iteso.
Yet, back in history, there was, however, an attempt at some point in the early years of British colonial rule to study the two ethnic groups by Rev. A.L Kitching in his book On The Backwaters of the Nile: Studies of Some Child Races of Central Africa, published in 1912. This book albeit tried to generalise the two as Hamites with no much language interlink. Interestingly, however, while growing up in Teso, I was often told by my late grandfather Mr. Emeru, the great grandson of Musingwire, that the Iteso have other relatives across the Nile in Ankole. He kept reminding me about a man from our clan and his cousin named Asiita. A name I subsequently came to understand relates to the Basiita clan in Ankole.
Indeed, the Heavens above and the Spiritual realms in our midst, have now confirmed and revealed a glaring placement of the two ethnic groups to be blood relatives, and so are the Karimojong, Lango(i), Turkana, Masai, Toposa, Ethiopian Oromo, Nyangatom, among others.
First, the name Iteso is derived from the word Iteiso, which literally means, we have seen. The name was given to them by their King Almighty ELOHIM on the top of Mt. Loima in the present day Turkana-Kenya. This was in reference to them having seen the Promised Land that these pastoralists occupy to this day. On the other hand, the name Bahima, from the Ateso perspective and point of view, is derived from the word ‘‘Ha’kima’’ or “Aima” or ‘‘Baima’’ which refers to the art of worship and hence, making them part of the true branch of worshippers of the Almighty ELOHIM the God of the Biblical Israel.
It is not, therefore, surprising that, the nomenclature among the Ankole - Bahima persona, is all full of names of praise and worship of ELOHIM. The Iteso on their part, fell prey to the falsehoods of the British Christian missionaries, who cunningly lured them from the advent of colonialism to this day, to worship a spirit of disease (illness) referred to as “edeke” instead of ELOHIM. And yet, when the missionaries first came to Teso, they found the Iteso people worshipping a deity known as ELOIM their Divine father, which was consequently recognised in a foundation stone laid on October 23, 1912 at the pioneer Christian Church of St. Philip Cathedral in Ngora District.
Secondly, the languages of the two blood brothers have been found to bear some key words with similarities both in form and meaning. For example; the Bahima word Eshabwe in Ateso is referred to as Esawe. The name Asiimwe is the direct Ateso word for Aisimar or Aisima, which equally means to appreciate or appreciation. Similarly, the name Ninsiima in Ankole, would be Nai’simaa or Asiimo in Ateso, meaning s/he who appreciates.
Further still, the name Mbarara is believed to have been derived from the Bahima name for the cattle grass Emburara, whereas among the Iteso, the much adored
grass of a similar nature is “Emuria” which is often evoked with a call “Emuria Koliai” meaning, let that grass grow and expand.
A Cow in Ateso is called Aiteng – as the Bahima call it Ente, this is indeed of a similar pronunciation and meaning in both dialects. Likewise, the name for he who gives in Ankole is Abigaba or Agaba, whereas in Ateso the anciently used word for the giver is aigab or aigaba and the name itself is Ogaba. Also Okushaka which means in Lunyankole working for food, would in Ateso be directly connected to Aisaka, which refers to harvest food.
Ultimately, in Guardian Ideology we unequivocally believe in the principle of a keen and continuous study of African languages and their intertwines, as an important way to promote harmony, peace and security among its peoples. The Iteso - Ankole -Bahima story paradigm, is just, but one of such, that aims at bridging the gap between the two ethnicities, in order to encourage the spirit of togetherness of voice, purpose and mission for the present and future strategic engagements.
Writer is a Graduate Scholar of Strategic Studies and the Chief of Guardian Ideology