Monday, 9 July 2012

Uganda’s tribal districts a ticking time bomb

On July 6, a section of Bamba/Babwisi people held a violent demonstration in Bundibugyo town and other parts of the district protesting an earlier visit of Omusinga (King) Charles Wesley Mumbere Iremangoma to the area.  Omusinga Iremangoma had been to Bundibugyo on June 30 to mark Rwenzururu kingdom’s 50th anniversary which was attended by Uganda’s Premier Amama Mbabazi among other government officials. As part of activities to launch the celebration Iremangoma erected a shrine in Kirindi, a village in Bundibugyo district which is his place of birth. 

Apparently, the Bamba/Babwisi who claim Bundibugyo is their district were unhappy with the king’s activities in the area. Therefore tensions were building right from the time Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu (Rwenzururu Kingdom) announced it would hold its 50th anniversary from Bundibugyo. The result was the July 6 riots that left one man dead (which is still concealed from mainstream media), a motorbike torched, and property looted and people living in fear. 

In its characteristic fire fighting style the government of Uganda has directed King Iremangoma to restrict his visits to Bundibugyo. The Friday clashes found ICT minister Ruhakana Rugunda in Bundibugyo holding meetings aimed at calming down the tense Bamba/Babwisi community. Over the weekend Uganda's Inspector General of Police Lt.Gen. Kale Kayihura and his team were in Bundibugyo monitoring the situation which they have reported as having normalized. However, people on the ground say they are still worried.

President Museveni (R) touching king Iremangoma in 2009
The Bamba/Babwisi people claim Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu  OBR is imposing its culture on them. Indeed, since 2007, some elders of Bamba have been outspoken about their opposition to being incorporated in OBR. Be that as it may some local politicians are taking advantage of the people’s anger to create confusion and cause violence.

In my opinion, I think it is high time OBR realised that the institution is largely embraced by Bayira (Bakonzo) people. The earlier we accept this and stop clinging to the past that Bamba and Bakonzo jointly fought for freedom from Toro domination, the better for us and for the peace in the greater Rwenzori region. It is true that Bamba culture is different from one for Bakonzo though there are some similarities like circumcision. The Bamba just like any ethnic group have a right to determine their cultural affairs. But using violence on other communities (tribes) to achieve this, should be condemned by all right-thinking people in society. I will treat with full contempt any one who incites violence to distabilise our community.

 However, the main challenge for OBR as the Bundibugyo incident shows is geographical. We have most Bakonzo living in Bundibugyo, Kasese, and Kabarole districts especially on the slopes of Mt Rwenzori among other places in Uganda. It is on record that Omusinga Charles Iremangoma was born in Bundibugyo.Therefore, the geographical jurisdiction of OBR seems to be a very complicated issue. This is not helped by the trouble in Uganda today where people/leaders see districts as tribal political entities e.g. some think Kasese district is for Bakonzo, Kabarole for Batooro, Bundibugyo for Bamba/Babwisi, etc perhaps because these tribes form the majority of the population. So the people (Bamba/Babwisi) in Bundibugyo who already think the district is theirs feel concerned when OBR is executing its interests in the area. And rightly so, because OBR has subjects in Bundibugyo who love the institution.

Personally I come from Kabarole district and I am proud to be a Mukonzo of Uganda. I studied in Kabarole for all my Primary and high school education except the 2years of Senior 1 and 2 which I did in Kasese. Throughout my education I interacted with Bamba, Batooro, Bakonzo, Babwisi, Batuku, Basongora, Baganda, Banyoro, Banyankole, Bakiga, people from West Nile and Northern Uganda, and I have friends from all these groups. We lived and continue to live peacefully. Why are we dividing ourselves now? How do we move out of this geographic lacuna of a mindset? 

Today, the world is fast becoming borderless. The defining factor of any community is now development e.g. how many of its people are lifted from poverty every day, month or year. Perhaps it is time OBR embarked on massive sensitization of what the institution stands for to enable these people to diffuse the simmering tensions. As a cultural institution we should not be seen to force anybody (including Bakonzo) to pay allegiance to the OBR. Instead OBR's development works should be testimony to attract people towards itself.

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

1 comment:

  1. Some 15 Journalists working on the government owned FM radio station in Bundibugyo have been suspended after they were accused of fanning the tribal clashes between Bamba and Bakonzo in Bundibugyo last month.