Elder Ikebesi robustly refuted my claim of Iteso having a blood-link with Banyakole-Bahima in his article entitled “Revisit Iteso-Ankole History” which appeared in the New Vision of Monday February 11, 2019.
By Simon P Opolot - Okwalinga
Among the Iteso, it is against the rules of decorum for a young man to argue with an elder. So, I will keep my discourse with elder Ikebesi Omoding as civil as possible.
Elder Ikebesi robustly refuted my claim of Iteso having a blood-link with Banyakole-Bahima in his article entitled "Revisit Iteso-Ankole History" which appeared in the New Vision of Monday February 11, 2019.
This was in direct response to my earlier article on the ‘‘Dynamic Story Paradigm of the Iteso and their Ankole Brothers,'' published in the New Vision of January 29, 2019 on page 16.
History, he said, has so far not tied the Iteso and Bantu migrational phenomena, from which the earlier Chwezi (probably Cushites), out of which the Banyankole - Bahima emerge. This statement from elder Ikebesi, is erroneous to the extent of the fact that the Bahima are not Bantu, but are rather Hamites.
Further, elder Ikebesi alludes, that such a study might have been well done in the 1970s at Makerere University during a Canadian History Professor, James Bestina Webster's tenure in which another prominent History academic, the late Dr. Samwiri Karugire pioneered the study of the History of Nkore.
The connection he continued, that Opolot-Okwalinga alludes to between the Iteso and Banyankole-Bahima did not emerge then! Elder Omoding also questioned my selection of Ateso and Runyankole words which might have a linguistic connection, adding that the Iteso have words with shared phonetic links with other ethnicities that have different or, even explicit sexual naming.
The truth is, history is not static. Neither is it cast in stone.
As Caleb A. Folorunso concluded in his essay titled: "Views of Ancient Egypt from a West African Perspective.'' There are always ‘‘avenues of investigation, which may still warrant further analysis".
Mildad Hanna (1989:28) echoes this sentiment in his book: The Seven Pillars of the Egyptian Identity, "I am now enthusiastically propagating the concept of these seven pillars of the Egyptian Identity.
However, I do not see them as immutable.'' Other feelings of belonging may arise. Probably in the near or distant future, the emergence of the dominance of Black African values may cause thinkers to view African history in a different perspective.
Every age reflects the existing cultural conditions and civilizations. So I view the idea of the Seven Pillars as being in harmony with the present black African historical stage in a sense that, it calls for both national and regional consolidation, let alone integration. It enhances Egyptian's national pride and hence provides for a more of a humanistic environment leading to the exploration of wider horizons in the next century.
If you substitute the Seven Pillars, with Guardian Ideology and national consolidation with "promoting harmony, peace and security; and Egypt with Uganda; you should be able to see not only a historical significance of my humble investigations and analysis of the Iteso-Bahima story paradigm and their blood relations, but an equally a more strategic impetus to build and foster national cohesion.
Another academic giant (Obenga 1981:80) lamented the fundamental problem of finding "appropriate techniques for comparing Ancient Egypt with contemporary black African languages, in order, so far as possible to reconstruct on the basis of morphological, lexicological and phonetic analogies and affinities, their common ancestors.
This is indeed a daunting task which to my knowledge, has only been attempted in recent times by Mzee John Galletly Wilson of the Treasures of Africa Museum, Kenya, who has not only compared the Ateker (Hamitic) languages with Ancient Egypt, but also with Hebrew and Gaellic (Scottish) languages.
It is, therefore, easy to see why Dr. Karugire to whom elder Omoding quotes, might have overlooked or avoided such a study in the 1970s.
However, according to historian John Sutton, as far back as 1863, British Explorer John Hanning Speke "surmised that the ruling and aristocratic minority in the interlucustrine region had sometime previously been invaded from Ethiopia, probably, he thought, they were a branch of the Oromo, sections of whom he had encountered a few years earlier, while accompanying Richard Burton from the Gulf of Aden to the city of Harar.
I know that Sutton did not agree with Speke. He argued that persuasive historical evidence to support this (Speke's) line is difficult to find and the linguistic situation argues strongly against it.
Further, that the Hima and Tutsi minorities share the Bantu language of the Iru and Hutu cultivators, and no one has detected traces of a Cushitic substratum in the region related to Oromo or any other Ethiopian tongue.
Nonetheless, this is exactly what I have done. I have detected traces of linguistic affinity between the Banyankole-Bahima and the Iteso whom elder Ikebesi Omoding incidentally admits are related to the Ethiopian Oromo and the Serer peoples.
In addition to my earlier article of January 29, 2019, you will without doubt, note that the Iteso people call a Muhima brother as Emu-La-Lot which literally means; A twin-That-Left.
This, in itself by inference, reckons with the Biblical story of Abraham and his brother Lot, as recorded in the Book of Genesis Chapter 13. They two brothers moved out of Egypt Southwards, to a point where they had to agree to divide their flocks and one had to leave the other. Please take note of the word - Lot, as expressed in the Ateso Portmanteau of the word Emu-La-Lot.
Never mind the story that, Lot amicably left Abraham for purposes of peace building between the two brothers in as far as grassing their cattle is concerned.
Not only are there linguistic affinities among the Bahima - Iteso Ethnicities, there are also similarities in cultural practices.
Not so long ago, a Munyankole - Muhima man was known to plant his pear at the entrance of his brother's hut as a sign that he was inside with the brother's wife and, therefore, the brother should momentarily keep away. Whereas, among the Iteso, it was permissible for a younger brother to "protect" his elder brother's wife from outsiders whenever the elder brother was away.
Finally, I would also like to comment on the assertion made by elder Ikebesi Omoding that the word Iteso is derived from the word Ates (meaning grave). That the name Ates as having been given to them by their other relatives the Karimojong.
The Karimojong have, however, clarified that the word for a grave in their language is Alyel and not Ates, as elder Ikebesi indecorously assumed. So there is no way that the Karimojong would have referred to the Iteso as Ates (grave).
This clarification, therefore, supports my assertion that the name Iteso when broken down is derived from the word Iteiso, which means "we have seen the promised land of milk and honey.
The rest is just history of the Colonialists with their imbued mission creep!
The writer is a graduate scholar of Strategic Studies and the Chief of Guardian Ideology.