Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Monday, 6 February 2017

Of the partition of Africa, Islamic Halal butcheries, Banyankole diary preservation, Baganda hospitality and Museveni’s indigenization of sense of security in Uganda; denouncing wrongs but setting records right

Politics in Africa is a lesson book for many aspects that many appreciate quietly or dispute noisily. When politics provides opportunities that favour the pluralistic diversity then that enshrines popular hope.

Africa was divided up into economic plots by those who met between 1884-1885 at the Berlin Conference to provide a working understand and an opportunity to regulate European colonization and trade in Africa. This meeting was one sided and no delegate from Africa was represented. Perhaps better representation of Africans would have had pluralistic outcomes.  

Presently, the borderlines seem to be intact save for some minor changes in West, East and Southern Africa where countries gained independence in later years or where conflicts still exist. When all is said and done, African countries we know today are as a result of that conference and no one is refuting that. So, many African heads may talk of the historical injustices but this one conference outcome is agreeable to all of them.

President Y.K. Museveni. Source twitter account of president of the republic of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

In Uganda, Halal butcheries, may not go by that name nor do many appreciate the magnitude of the networks of Islamic-led animal slaughtering practices there. This practice was made official by the British Colonialists and gazetted by President Idi Amin Dada.  This has enabled Uganda meat products to have popular acclaim because it is the Moslems who slaughter animals to be eaten by the public (Halaalization Of Foods). Halaalization is a pluralistic gesture. This inclusive gesture toward the islamic faithfuls has four advantages: it takes in mind their taboos around the killing of animals; therefore allows them not to question procedure; it is a motivation for them to engage in and influence this market; and it is a lucrative industry almost solely run by Muslims and it enables them become employers. When it comes to Halal certification, Uganda is high up on the list of eligible countries by default. Halal certification, like vegetarian food choices increasingly provide a variety of choices from which to sample foods from other cultures. This is good, especially for the tourism industry in Uganda.

Uganda Ethnicities

Ugandan Cities and Towns

President Idi Amin

President Idi Amin. NB. All pictures courtesy of Google

I am a muganda man. And I want to add my voice to some misconceptions about the Baganda and our beloved president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. First off, the reference to racism thrown back and forth among many circles in Uganda against the Baganda is an affront to their age old notion of Concurrence and accommodation which are the mainstay of the spirit and faith of Nnono among the Baganda. The household is a preparation for pluralism among the Baganda.

In Uganda, talk of racism in Buganda is to be taken with a bit of salt. I always ask my friends from other tribes/ethnicities what constituted racism according to them. Are we talking of disputes over use of, say, the road or commonly used property? Most times, it boils down to use of resources. I also ask them if in their families they have had a child or two labelled as the black-sheep. If families have black-sheep, why should people be surprised at similar misunderstandings at community levels? When it comes to racist tendencies in Uganda, one should analyse if it is not an issue which can go away after mediation.  I do admit,  there are those who can be provocative and "political-racist", but they can be as scattered as black sheep in different families.

I come from a very large family and during holidays. I looked forward to going to our ancestral home where we were helping hands at our modern large ranch with over 3,000 heads of cattle in Ntuusi. We could engage in different chores from: tagging cattle; cleaning the sheds; repairing the fences; watering the trees; to weeding and pruning.

Ntuusi like many parts of Buganda, has a mixture of ethnicities co-existing as has been for millennia. This area has people from Rwanda, Burundi, Ankole and Buganda who have lived here for so long.  Ruzindana is one example of people who migrated from other parts of Africa to come and settle in Uganda in the late 1940's. He was my childhood friend as well as his sisters and brothers: Kabeba, Karenzi, Birimumaiso, Kamuntu, Ndayiragije and Kyomuhangi. When we got together we shared so much in form of: stories, labour force, helped each other with school homework, shared bed, breakfast and bathrooms. I got to know that Kabeba meant a rat (mice) in Kinyarwanda. I was nicknamed Kamese which means rat in Luganda, by my father. I am told it was because when I was younger I could not pronounce the name Mukasa and instead I would instead say Kamese. 

Ruzindana became a medical doctor and now works with the Rwanda Ministry of Health. Kyomuhangi a sister to Kabeba is a professor at a university in the United Kingdom. We are still in touch but we lost our ranch to a more well armed and powerful hand who treated us with all the contempt and discourteousness a sane mind could behold. 

There have been abuses against Banyarwanda ethnicities in Uganda, but there have also been numerous instances of courteous regard toward them. There have been abuses against Baganda too. I am sure, we all have stories to tell. The problem is that there seems to be no structure within which to report abuses as well as reward coexistence. 

Uganda is both a melting pot and tossed salad example of how ethnicities, ideologies and cultures in Africa can work together. Working and living together can be supported by the state if it can provide pluralistic opportunities for growth and development.

Baganda Women

Baganda Males

Baganda Craft work (multi-legged stool)

Baganda Cultural Entertainment Group

Banyarwanda Homestead


Banyarwanda Cultural Entertainment Group

In Uganda, if one wants very good ghee, yoghurt and other forms of creams one needs not look farther than the products from the well practiced art by the Banyankole in diary preservation. They have polished this art to the extent that there is use for all other dairy products and minimum waste occurs.  They have taught this art to other ethnicities in Uganda and this has helped increase on the options of dairy product use in Uganda.

Banyankole women

A young Munyankole youth milking a cow

Ankole Long Horned Cows

Ankole is known for milk

Special gourds used to make ghee and yoghurt by the Banyankole

President Yoweri Museveni, has shown to many Ugandans the value of consistency and a sense of security by providing opportunities for the larger population to clearly feel that government works with them. Like President Amin before him, he has empowered many to partake of the appropriateness of indigenous practices, skills and artisanry through use of African languages and words. I counted 6 (six) commonly used words he likes to use: “Kulembeka” meaning to make preparations to tap into resources; he popularized government programmes by using words that were agreeable to grassroots (his popular term is borrowed from Swahili and it is “Wananchi”); “Bonna baggagawale”  meaning eradication of poverty. He is oft quoted correcting people to not to be comfortable with alleviating poverty but rather eradicating it because according to his own words there is nothing good about being half poor; “Tannulu” is used when he is calling upon people to endure the long wait that one has to go through before achieving a goal; “entandikwa” means the disciplined, steadily progressive, preparation before and during the start-up phase of any activity; “lubengo” this is a large flat tray on which winnowing of cereal grains such as sorghum and millet is done. He usually refers to himself as the lubengo of Uganda. In Amin’s time 2  (two) words were popular and these are “black-market” and “Kibanda.” These became so ubiquitous that their meaning was apparent to so many Ugandans. These words were reflecting the economic characteristic of Uganda then. It was very hard to import goods through direct means. The United States Dollar (USD) was strictly monitored by the government and whoever applied for it was assessed for any threat to Amin’s regime. The USD was a very rare commodity but not when one was connected to the Kibanda boys who were adept at getting it. These Kibanda boys became popular because they never asked questions and did not scrutinize anyone for threat assessment. 

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, doing community work

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni meeting the people

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni with medical doctors at an Army-run Hospital

The power of inclusiveness, the ability to localize upliftment practices, the creation of jobs and a culture of co-existing are some of the cues of sense of security. If exploited well by Ugandan leaders will be an opportunity to empower communities to become forces of effective development. Ugandans are capable enablers in their own progressive move toward a quality life and wellness.