There was an atmosphere of cool, but measured excitement among the people of Tororo as July 1 approached. This was the date Parliament approved for take off of a new Tororo District, from the original Tororo County (1947), currently composed of the two parliamentary constituencies of Tororo County a
With the new district status, the people of Tororo can now look forward to having a say in the affairs of their land, locality or region, in which they have for decades been underdogs, like the black South Africans were for generations, under apartheid.
As far back as the colonial era, there was a conflict between the two main ethnic groups/tribes of what currently remains of, or constitutes Tororo District (formally Bukedi) in Eastern Uganda. These tribes, are the Iteso of Tororo to the East, and the Jopadhola (or Badama), to the West, of the current residual district.
The conflict emerged from the repressive/oppressive actions of the Jopadhola over the the Iteso of Tororo. This was helped by the Jopadholasâ€™ dominant position as local administration chiefs in the then colonial government, their earlier and better access to formal education and subsequent economic emancipation, and larger numbers. The Jopadhola used this position of unequal advantage to subjugate the relatively smaller, mainly cattle keeping Iteso to servitude (calling them servants and/or slaves to this day), to dispossess them of their grazing land, and tried to annihilate, obliterate, and/or swallow them up, forcing some to abandon their Iteso names for Adhola names (especially the Iteso children who sought education in the well established schools located in areas dominated by the Jopadhola: Nagongera and Kisoko to the West).
The Iteso resistance
From about 1938, the Iteso of Tororo mounted a spirited resistance struggle against this oppression and eminent obliteration, suffering all sorts of insults, intimidation, and imprisonment in the process. My own grandfather, the late Musa Ekiring, was arrested and detained in Kisoko, along with other youthful Iteso activists, on December 13, 1946, for opposing the appointment and/or posting of Jopadhola chiefs in Iteso areas of Tororo and for demanding a separate county (Ebuku) for the Iteso of Tororo. These (Musa Ekiring, George Ekiror â€” father to the late Canon Arthur Philip Omusolo â€” and others), led by Ibulaim Enapat, ate the roasted edible rat (eleli), in front of their â€œcolonial captorsâ€ to make the point that the Iteso in Tororo were culturally a distinct and separate entity from the Jopadhola. When challenged by this valiant group of Iteso, to eat the same rat, the Jopadhola shied away, and thus themselves sealed the fact and testimony that they were a different people from the Iteso. This would for ages be one of the most cherished defining historical moments of victory for the Iteso of Tororo.
The solution to the the conflict, which was brokered by the Government of the day, was the carving out or â€œcreationâ€ of the counties of Tororo for the Iteso to the East, and Budama, for the Jopadhola to the West, in 1947. Before then, this region which was home to the Iteso of Tororo, and other ethnic groups in smaller numbers, was collectively called Budama, an ethnically biased name which implied recognition, elevation, association and/or belonging to only one ethnic group i.e. the Jopadhola(Badama), and ignored, relegated and alienated the other ethnic tribe(s) in the region and in particular the Iteso.
The arbitration and/or resolution recognised that the Iteso and the Jopadhola were two distinct ethnic entities with a distinct language, dialect and culture and demarcated a homeland for each of them known as Tororo County for the Iteso and Budama for the Jopadhola.
Although the two counties were not ethnically homogeneous in their populations, each of them had an overwhelming majority of one, or the other of the two conflicting tribes.
The boundary which immediately separated Tororo and Budama counties was drawn using a delegated referendum, by asking the chiefs in the areas along the divide, to indicate to which county the people in the areas of their jurisdiction wanted to belong. This explains the awkward and zigzag nature of this boundary reflecting the outcome of that referendum.
Tororo County demarcated then (1947), chosen by the chiefs delegated referendum, has within its boundaries the area on which the current Tororo Municipality has developed. Before the Municipality was demarcated and/or acquired constituency status, it was represented as one constituency of Tororo South-East in previous Parliaments while Budama was Tororo-South West, which later was subdivided into the current Budama North and Budama South constituencies. Thus Tororo Municipality has always been and is in Tororo County (Teso-Tororo).
The apparent delay in implementation of the district status for Tororo County is fuelling suspicion of attempts to relocate Tororo Municipality from the parent Tororo County, to Budama, an act that would not only be illegal, but immoral, rewarding oppression with occupation, and fraught with danger and futility.
One of the main reasons the people of Tororo county together with those from the other counties that formerly constituted Tororo district (Samia-Bugwe, now Busia, Bunyole â€“ now Butaleja and Tororo â€“ now Tororo district) decided to part company with the Jopadhola, and each one to seek district status, was to escape the domination, subjugation and marginalization by the Jopadhola.
To give away the land or territory that belongs to Tororo county would not be the liberation or emancipation that the people have sought for decades, but rather mockery of justice, humiliation, double-jeopardy and provocation of a desperate and down-trodden people. It would be like asking for food and you are given a snake. The Iteso-Jopadhola conflict was settled in 1947. Today, we maintain and build, on that settlement.
The Constitution gives power to the people. But for an oppressed and disfranchised people, this only remains a dream. It is not yet Uhuru for the people of Tororo, for as long as they remain oppressed and marginalized. However, the time has come for the fulfillment of their dream, for justice, freedom, emancipation and development. May the truth prevail!
The writer is a Physician in
private practice in Tororo town
Not yet Uhuru for people of Tororo