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Banyakitara in the contemporary society

Stephen Rwagweri Atwooki

September 2010

A paper presented in the 2nd Banyakitara Association Annual conventional conference (October 1-3rd 2010)

Venue: Double Tree Guest suits
Boston Massachusetts USA

Engabu Za Tooro
P.O Box 886, Fort Portal, Uganda
Tel: +256-772-469751


The president and executive of this association, distinguished guests, all members and friends of Banyakitara Association. All your excellences, ladies and Gentlemen.
I am greatly humbled by your invitation extended to me to participate and present at this historical occasion. I apologize for my failure to turn up last year. I can’t say much to introduce myself. I am Stephen Rwagweri, a leader in Engabu Za Tooro, a lover and defender of culture. I bring you greetings from Tooro, Bunyoro and Uganda in general.

The term ‘Kitara’ originate from the legendary Kitara Empire which had its headquarters in the present day Hoima and stretched up to Kagera in Northern Tanzania. The biggest African ancient state south of the Sahara.
This term in modern times has been re-invented and used to bring together four ethnically and linguistically related groups in Western Uganda namely; Batooro, Banyoro, Banyankole and Bakiga. In this presentation, I will focus on Batooro and Banyoro who I am informed constitute the biggest part of this audience.

In line with my topic and the theme of the convention, I will make efforts to analyze the position of Banyoro – Batooro in the development of Uganda highlighting gaps for our intervention as a developmental association. We come together to recognize our common roots and build efforts to defend and promote that common background.

The potential of Tooro and Bunyoro.

1. A rich natural heritage. Tooro is endowed with the richest natural heritage in Uganda. When Churchill said that ‘Uganda is the pearl of Africa he could have added that Tooro is the pearl of Uganda. Best soils and Climate ideal for agriculture and human habitation. Beautiful crater lakes in Ruteete, Ebikenkya in Harugongo, oil deposits around the belt of Lake Albert, useful stones in Kyaka, Cattle in Butuku, Volcanic hills in Rusekere, hot springs in Bunyangabu, etc. Despite this natural heritage, how competitive is a Munyoro/Mutooro in today’s development?

2. A rich cultural heritage. I am a facilitator of cultural development and a researcher and student of culture in development. I can speak with authority that Tooro and Bunyoro are one of the societies of the world with richest cultural resources.

– Bunyoro/Tooro has unique cultural practices like pet names in the whole world
– Bunyoro/Tooro culture has three subcultures that create a very rich cultural complexion. The cultivators, hunters and gatherers culture (Abairu), the cattle keepers’ culture (Abahuma) and royal culture (Ababiito). These three subgroups have each different experience, dialect and materials that create Bunyoro – Tooro cultural mix

The royal cultures is also divided into three sections according to the dynasties. The Abatembuzi, Abacwezi and Ababiito dynasties. Each dynasty gives different relics, sites and history. When you come at Nyakasura Mabeere Ganyinamwiru (stalagmites and stalactites), you learn about Bacwezi and Karambi Royal Tombs you learn about Babiito. We also have clan ancestral sites. You hear of Gweri cradle land for Bagweri, Abasiita ba Mbale, Abafumambogo ba Mweri, etc.

The Banyoro/Batooro have got a rich and diverse music, folklore and oral literature. A Mutooro can entertain non stop from morning to evening without repeating items. Take an example of Orunyege, Amakondere, Enanga, Kwebuga engoma Nyakahuma, Ebizina Byente, Ebiziina byokuswera, Ebikapiso, etc.

The culture of Batooro and Banyoro alone can make a very rich museum and theatre but all this stock of knowledge and indeed wealth is getting lost and its people equally disappearing. All these are resources, nothing God created is useless. A useful person sees value in everything and useless person sees no value in anything.

3. Human resource potential. Abatooro entymologically means people set for a ceremony. This brings out the qualities of elegancy, neatness and beauty as associated with Batooro. The Mutooro believes in ‘Obuntu’ or humanness above all other things. When you asked our ancestors ‘Omutooro Kintuki’ they would simply answer ‘Omutooro muntu’ This is not a simplistic concept of a person but a deep philosophy of a human being.

The Banyamwenge men were metaphorically referred to as ‘enjoki’ or bees hence the ancient saying that ‘Abanyamwenge njoki eziihwa no muuro’ this meant qualities of bravery, assertiveness and ability to defend socio-economic interests of their society. So, how have these innate qualities of elegancy, humanness and bravery helped the contemporary Mutooro/Munyoro to be competitive today?

4. Historical advantage. Banyoro and Batooro historically were organized societies under a monarchial system. In the colonial time the Batooro aristocracy easily joined the premier world. They dinned with the British Royalty, studied in Oxford university, become ambassadors, joined the UN, etc

The disturbing question is How has this historical advantage transformed into strength to empower the contemporary Mutooro? If it has not happened, what went wrong fundamentally?

The Banyoro under Kabalega resisted colonialism through armed struggles like the famous ‘Nyangiire rebellion’

As a result, the colonial masters instituted a policy of punishment through a sophiscated system of exploitation and marginalization which was passed on to neo-colonial governments. While Kabalega’s vision has been vindicated by the modern political thought, it has not equally been rewarded and compensated. The political actors rhetorically hail Kabalega’s resistance as they perpetuate the colonial legacy of marginalization. In my view, organized Banyoro would have advocated for an affirmative policy action to address historical imbalances created by the deliberate colonial policy of punishing Bunyoro.

Historically, right from the ancient times, Tooro was a centre of excellence in social services like education, health and administration. Galihuma in Mwenge was the ancient university of Bunyoro Kitara empire. Children of the royals and chiefs were taken to Galihuma to learn official language of the empire, acceptable behavior and administration. In colonial times, one of the three national prestigious educational centers was Nyakasura School. The other two being Kings College Buddo in Buganda and Mwiri in Busoga.

But this pride has slowly weathered away. Today, the wells to do Batooro drive their children to Ankole in search for good education. In so doing passing a vote of no confidence to their own schools.

5. The discovered oil in Lake Mwitazige (Albert). Lake Albert or Mwitazinge belt is known to have oil deposits. This is the most valuable natural resource in Uganda therefore with highest capacity of attracting the attention and the mighty of the rich and powerful. In the world governed by the principle of survival of the fittest, to be less organized and yet own a resource that attract the attention of the powerful people is very disastrous. It is like a very poor man having a very beautiful woman who attracts the attention of the powerful.

I am a scholar and a defender of indigenous issues at the UN. My knowledge is that, allover the world, discovery and exploitation of a great resource has always disadvantaged the less organized indigenous people, who would otherwise be the first owners of such resource in their ancestral land. They get pushed to the margins of society, get displaced, get enslaved, exiled or face extinction as their ancestral land is gazzeted in public interest or conquered by industrialists, the generals and the political aristocracy and in order to cease economic benefits.

Remember, according to the laws of creating a nation. Uganda is one country for all Ugandans. Everyone is free to relocate according to interest and capacity and everyone is vulnerable to be pushed according to weaknesses he/she may be having.

In a state like Uganda, natural resources belong to the most organized and powerful not those who may claim ancestral linkages to the place where these resources are discovered.

Banyoro/Batooro must get organized and be equal to the challenge. I have designed a programme to sensitize indigenous people around the oil belt on the UN promoted indigenous rights to ancestral land so that they can get empowered to engage government and industrialists on the share of oil gains.

The position of Batooro and Banyoro as socio-cultural entities in contemporary development.

I will use the metaphor of ‘Ekikoro’ to gauge the resilience of Batooro as a cultural identity in contemporary socio-evolution.

a) Capacity to preserve ‘Ekikoro’ stork. A stork is the starting and ending point of a system that grows, expands, spread and develops. The capacity of a group to preserve it’s identify is determined by its capacity to preserve its stork ‘Ekikoro’. In anthropological language, this Kikoro would be the cradle land or ancestral sites. Any social group with a concrete identity must point to some place of origin. When you lose your Kikoro as a family, clan, ethnic group or a race then you lose your identity.

Toro and Bunyoro is the cradle land of a social group who call themselves Banyoro or Batooro. They must maintain these places or atleast part of this place if they are to maintain their identity.

In contemporary social evolution, there are four options for socio-cultural groups;

i. A strong group whereby, its culture becomes the acceptable civilization and assimilates the weaker groups.

ii. A normal group that maintains its identity competing with other groups

iii. A conservative group stubbornly resists change and assimilation and is pushed to the margins of society

iv. A weak group that totally surrenders its identity and gets assimilated into other groups.

The third category is what the United Nations describes as indigenous people and it has legal instruments and programmes to protect their rights to keep their identity and exist in the way they want. They must prove two things – Determination to keep their identity and strong spirit to defend their ancestral territories.

In his book ‘Kigezi and its people’ the father of modern Kigezi, the late Paul Ngologoza wrote instructing the Bakiga kins as follows;

“I would, in writing this, like to remind the settlers that even if they become rich and change their mothe- tongue; they should remember the proverb ‘even hot water eventually cools. They must never forget the good customs and characteristics of the Bakiga, not forget their own language and they must feel in their bones hat they are Bakiga remembering where they used to live.” (Ngologoza, 1998:98)

As a result, the Bakiga as they migrate do three things;
• Keep Kigezi ancestral land intact and in their control
• Keep strong socio-economic linkages with their Kigezi ancestral place. Whenever there is concentration of Bakiga settlers there must be a bus connecting Kigezi daily. Kigezi radio must have subsidiary mini station in the areas where the Bakiga migrate and settle.

Let us analyze the position of Banyoro and Batoro in maintaining their Kikoro. I want to first note two things here;

i. I am not intending to raise nationalistic sentiments but making objective statement of facts as a scholar of social evolution.

ii. It is innate other than external factors that kill or make a social group thrive
The Batooro are generally urbanites. While the Bakiga look for land to cultivate, the Batooro look for urban centers to engage in petty trade and clerical work.
For anybody looking for rural idle land, you can’t go to Ankole, Kigezi or Bukonjo because there, the indigenous communities have utilized the land and are instead migrating in search for land else where. You go to Tooro and Bunyoro because there, indigenous people have failed to utilize the land and are fleeing it to take refugee in urban centers. Every upcoming town in Uganda must have a place called ‘Kitooro’. We find Kitooro in Kasese, Entebbe, Central Kampala, etc and most of these Bitooro’s are concentrations of unskilled people.

In 1995, the time around which Tooro started experiencing immigrations in big numbers, the population of indigenous Batooro in Tooro region was 95 percent but today it is estimated at 55 percent and reducing at the rate of 1 percent per year.
The traditional institutions are supposed to be custodians of land and cultural values and traditions of the people. They are characterized by conservatism for the purpose of keeping land as a symbol of original identity into perpetuity but when you listen to rumors of disposing off land titles in Tooro, you get a feeling that the current generation has only one mission of terminating and winding up business.
Another factor that make a group influential in a particular area is political power. But in modern democracy which is based on the politics of numbers, the Batooro are increasingly getting voted out of political leadership in their own ancestral land.

The Batooro can be described as reserved and indifferent. As such tend to be difficult to mobilize for a collective cause. They don’t easily build a front to confront their challenges using the power of solidarity. This nurtures a society that is fragile.

Therefore, what went wrong fundamentally?
The innate and internal weaknesses of Omutooro which she/he must overcome;
1. Reservedness, indifference and individualism
2. Migrating to towns without living linkage to the “Ekikoro”
3. “Ntamuhira” attitude and intrigue
4. Complacency

Despite challenges, some people in Tooro have put up courageous efforts that need to be supported. Prof. Edward Rugumayo and others have established Mountains of the Moon University. They are also talking of Tooro Botanical Gardens. Some religious leaders like Rev. Muranga, Late Fr. Albert Byaruhanga, David Mporampora and others have put up recognizable efforts in community development sector, progressive intelligentsia like Alex Ruhunda and others have maintained hope in the region. Good political leadership in Fort Portal Municipality has tried to bring back Fort Portal on the map.

What the Banyoro/Batooro in America can do

You should create and maintain a connection and developmental linkages between America where you live and work and Tooro and Bunyoro where you are ancestralilly rooted.

These linkages would include;
i. Programming linkages. Start a project that connects resources between America and Tooro. A charity mobilizing resources in America and implementing social development programmes in Tooro.

ii. Business linkages. A project that market the cultural products of Tooro in America. Products like handicrafts, ornaments, folklore, music, etc. Culture is becoming a lucrative product in the world.
People after getting tired of the echoes of industrialization, they want to amuse themselves with the forms of life of pre-industrial societies.

iii. Information linkages. The world’s development is now driven by the level of the effectiveness of ICT’s. The difference in development between me in Tooro and you in America is the effectiveness of information transaction. A transaction you make in a second, I will take 6 months to make the same in Tooro therefore, I will never catch up with you. You should help us improve our accessibility to information.

iv. Institutional linkages. For example, Engabu Za Tooro based in Tooro can have close relationship with Banyakitara Association based in America.

v. Social and Spiritual linkages. Keep connected to your families, clans and the social spiritual ceremonies back home in Tooro and Bunyoro.

I thank you so much

May 2, 2019

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