I know, I have received a dose of enough insults, since I started questioning the wisdom of some people rejecting some recently appointed Ministers on tribal sentiments.
But the truth is, tribalism is not good, and it seems to be endangering the future of our country unless something is done to educate the people. For example, recently, when the president shocked some of us, suggesting the possibility of a tribe made up of “privileged elites” and the Descendants Resistance Army (DRA) to be the only class of Ugandans to access public offices, I don think many people liked it. Equally, the appointment of my sister Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja, as Prime Minister, inviting on her the wrath and ridicule from the “elite tribe”, because for invading their supposedly closed circle. We have also seen it in demand for tribal districts, and now tribal ministerial appointments.
What all this points to is our failure to promote civic education and knowledgeable democracy in the country, as provided for, “Promotion of public awareness of the constitution” in Article 4 of the 1995 Constitution; as well as the growing political culture of greed and selfishness.
The purpose of this article, if to help guide those people from Bunyoro who are trying to reject the recently appointed Minister of State for Bunyoro is that we are not and have never been tribal people.
UGANDA IS A REPUBLIC
First of all, Article 5 of the 1995 Constitution clearly refers to our country as “The Republic of Uganda”. This means that we are a commonwealth. All affairs of our country concern all the citizens: from Latin “res” (for affairs), and “publica” (for public). It also means that all public offices are open to competition, offices are accessible on merit; and no public office should be assumed through ascription rights such as rights of birth, ethnicity, “tribe”, social class, or stratum placement that is primarily hereditary. Uganda is not a monarchy.
Secondly, the argument that a Minister should be a person from Bunyoro because s/he would know the problems at the grassroots better doesn’t hold because Bunyoro already has a constituency of MPs and District Members of Parliament. Therefore, in his wisdom, the president must have found it necessary to have a neutral person, given that, Bunyoro has always had many problems associated with inter-ethnic mistrust, which only an outsider with no conflict of interest would handle better.
THIRDLY, BUNYORO IS A CIVIC CULTURE, NOT AT RIBESGROUP?
Since SOCIETY or COMMUNITY simply means a group of people who are civil, cooperative, friendly, and hospitable, the history of Kitara shows Banyoro are not a tribe, but a civic community, with civic culture. Historically, and by the 16th Century, Kitara had become a civilization (Ogot, 1972). It was beyond a simply tribal ethnic culture. CIVILISATION is the process by which a society or place reaches an advanced stage of social and cultural development and organization. These entire features define Banyoro because:
- Social anthropologists often avoid using the term “tribe”, because in reality it implies a condescending view of the people concerned as primordial, primitive, savage, very simple societies and uncivilised. (Nigel A. Jackson and Stephen D.Tansey’s, “Politics”, 2015). By the 16th Century, the people of Kitara were not primitive, and welcomed everybody.
- To be “ribal” or to practice tribalism” means that group – be it ethnic, nationality, friends, class, elite, ghetto, class – is characterised by behaviours of self- insulating, isolating, and exclusion from other people, by typically being hostile towards rival groups (Andrew Heywood, in “POLITICS”, 2009:459). That description equally never fits Bunyoro.
- While, the Greek ancient civilisation, define “tribespeople” or tribesmen, as a set of people that look at everything from the point of view of their ethnicity, nationality, or group affiliation. They are people who believe in you only if you are part of their community: ethnic group, nationality, race, or class. This means that, it can really be terrible to have a tribesman as a ruler or leader, because s/he would alienate the rest, basing on blood relationship, religion, or even wealth, pitying the poor versus the rich.
Thus, when the Greeks talk about, it’s not just about ethnicity; they also consider religion as a tribe, sectarianism, nepotism and racial discrimination. A great deal of Africans, or even Ugandans, is tribespeople, because they view everyone from the point of view of their tribes or ethnicity. They trust only their tribesmen, ethnicity or nationality (birth relations).
Unlike tribespeole, we need to remember that we are citizens; and are people who like to do things that promote the ethics of the common good. They are republicans at heart and in practice. They practice a civic culture. Civic culture is a culture that blends popular participation of the people (without discrimination based on ethnicity, nationality, religion or racial sentiments) with effective government; supposedly based on stable democratic rule; common citizenship, rooted in support for an underlying political values like the common good, common wealth, or the spirit of republicanism, rather than tribal or ethnic culture.
Banyoro, are Bantu people or practice “ubuntu” culture, they respect the Bantu African community culture of “I am because we are”, ujamaa or brotherhood. To us, no African is a stranger, and every child is our child, and orphans where protected and even, we had no caste system or slaves as such.
THE INSTITUTIONS OF BUNYORO-KITARA
The primary orientation Kitara Empire and the Abakama of Kitara, now Bunyoro Kitara, was not tribal or tribalistic. Banyoro are more than an ethnic culture, therefore we have all along been a civilisation; with social-juridical institutions, that performed certain functions which no contemporary institutions could have provided.
For example, Kitara has been sometimes described as a market society, because markets as social juridical institutions brought different ethnic groups together, in a polity were the village was the focus of social organisation despite the imperial superstructure; the markets served as the only means of bringing several different ethnic communities together, In general, and equally importantly, Kitara society was astrictly heirachical one dominated by the three classes of: “Babiito”, “Bahuma” and “Abairu”, it had no caste system, and was not tribal or tribalistic.
- Much as Bunyoro had a hierarchical order, with the Babiito, the royal clan at the top as the ruling clan, whose members spurned agriculture, and the loved cattle so much, these never at any one time grabbed the cattle of the pastoralists called “absahuma”.
- The Pastoralist class, next in order to “ababiito”, who they tended to see as a “abairu”, were never discriminated. Yet, in Ankole, they constituted a ruling class, and the difference between them and “ababiito” was that they were noted for their arrogance, for treating the agriculturalist with contempt.
- In Bunyoro polity, class distinction or differences were demarcated by occupational specialisation not by rights of birth, and the market offered an important meeting place. It is also true that different classes sometimes meet at the court, but only the lucky few-especially among the “bairu”- who had made a name for themselves and got appointed as courtiers.
- Markets in Bunyoro served as a culture-bearing unit. Therefore Kitara Empire was extensive, heterogamous, and far-flung. The Lou speaking Chope, the Bagungu, Batyabwa, Bakibiro, Bakobya (Kaiso/Tonya), Baruli, had less in common in traditions/ ethnic culture with the Banyankole, Basoga and Baganda.
- Even among the bantu themselves, , ethnic cultural differences exists between Metropolitan Bunyoro and the Greater Bunyoro, which we call Kitara, For example, Abamasindi had little in common with Abasongora, and even less so with the Abaamba and Abakonzo of the Mountain of the Moon.
- Markets therefore brought these culture units together and were important vehicles of culture transportation. Externally, markets widened Bunyoro people’s horizons and may have led to mutual culture borrowing, Kitara markets were visited by Alur, Acholi, Langi, Iteso, Kuman, Basoga, Baganda, Banyakore, Kongolese and People from the Haya States in Tanzania.
- A study of the Market institutions indicate a concentration of Kitara markets around Mubende, Bangangaizi, Buyaga, Kyaka, Katwe, Kooki, Kibiro and some as far as Teso.
- Thus, Abakitara were afforded the opportunity to meet their neighbours face to face and to study their national characteristics firsthand. Other than Bunyoro’s markets institutions, and the very welcome Bakama institution, no institutions in pre-colonial Uganda could have brought so many various peoples together.
- Moreover, we had the “omukaago”, friendship ritual system, employed in exchange transactions which led to some enduring relationship contemptuous of any ethnic and national barriers.
- The Kings’s economic role was an important centripetal or integrating force in the Nyoro state. Not only the chiefs, but any Nyoro and non-Nyoro could visit the King, and would not come empty handed: women, cattle, beer, and grain were continually passing into his hands. Reciprocally, as well as presenting cattle or women persons to whom he was obliged or who were in need, the King gave feasts at frequent intervals to all his peoples irrespective of ethnic background or belonging.
- That is why his praise-names stress his open-handedness and heart. Thus he is called “Agutamba” (as he who relieves suffering), “Kabumba” (as he who units”, “Mwebingwa” (as he to whom people can run for help); the first name is part of his official title. The Mukama’s (as the milker) role is to hunt and give to his people, without discrimination. His role as the greatest giver and receiver in the country played a major part in binding his people to him in mutual interdependence, which was not necessarily based on ethnic or tribal ties.
- For example, Kabalega received an annual tribute “0f one thousand of salt blocks” from the people of Kibiro weighing about twenty – two pounds each, which he distributed to the “abahuma”, for feeding their cattle, and his own households; while the cattle products he received were given to other non-pastoralist communities.
- The markets then had their place in the gift exchange complex. They were an essential feature of political organisation and a means of political control and promoting ethnic cooperation.
Hence, the case of Bunyoro is, therefore, a living and leading testimony to the assertion that it is the British who invented the concept of “tribes” in Uganda. And, it is perhaps more correct to say that European imperialism and colonialism, deliberately or otherwise, sharpened ethnic and national differences in Uganda with boundaries drawn to suit imperial aims “through the divide and rule” policy. But now that we are even part of the Republic of Uganda, it would look illogical and trying to go back to prehistoric days by if we rejected a public office in Bunyoro on ethnic grounds. Say no to tribalism.
I know, many Banyoro who may not appreciate my point of view, will as usual try to be hostile to me and this article, but unfortunately we cannot wish away the reality, if we are to progress. This is my view, everybody can bring out his or her view: Uganda is a democracy.