By Wanambwa M. Rogers
Being born in a country like Uganda is rather exciting. We are the source of the Nile river, home to over 1000 bird species, more than half of the world’s gorillas, home to over five mountains among which you find Mt. Rwenzori, Mt. Elgon and others, over twenty fresh water lakes, tens of rivers, beautiful forests, hundreds of animals that live in serene parks, the most fertile women on earth, a 5.8 rate to prove that, the youngest population on earth, and over 50 indigenous tribes, not counting all the people who are always coming into our country. For example, in 2017, we welcomed over a million refugees into our country. As I said, it’s exciting to live here in Uganda.
So with all these different tribes comes a conundrum; one that has progressed entirely on its own I believe or maybe not. But still, we are faced with a quagmire of intermarriages. I am a product of one myself, a Mugisu father and Rwandan mother. Where does the quagmire arise from? Well, it’s in how to identify oneself or how others identify with you especially.
See if you’re born of parents from the same tribe or from closely related tribes, you may not really understand what I’m trying to say but I’ll try to paint a picture for you. First of all, there’s the thing about the languages, different dialects and enunciations of words. It is particularly distressing, acutely so if you had or have parents like mine who don’t even speak their mother tongue with you. My late father(may his soul rest in peace) for example, never spoke even a single word in Lugisu with us. It was always English and although our mom has tried over the years to talk to us in Kinyarwanda, we haven’t been able to master the language due to infrequency that we even get to hear people speaking it. At least we hear Kinyarwanda, unlike my father’s Lugisu that we don’t hear anything.
Now if you were born in a place like Entebbe like I was, you most likely studied with people from all the tribes in Uganda and whites too in some instances if not Asians. This means that even at school, you most probably spent most of the day speaking English or Luganda which is the language spoken by most people in Central Uganda and nowadays most parts of Uganda too(I was having a debate with some people sometime back as to why we just don’t have it be our national language and be done with that). I for instance am fluent in these two languages only(English and Luganda). Intriguing right, well this is the plight of many young people today in Uganda.
Being this way wouldn’t have been a problem but here comes it, when you visit your relatives on either side, they expect you to know their language which of course you don’t know. And the isolation starts, slowly but surely as you’re cut out from conversations and ultimately most of their other activities.
It doesn’t stop there, with isolation comes racial and tribal insults that are meant to spite one for being a half breed(a term that basically means one that is of different genealogical backgrounds, in this case tribes). It must be noted that many people have parents from even up to over 4 different tribes. My maternal cousins for example, have grandparents from three different tribes, Basoga, Itesot, Bagwere and Basamya on their father’s side and a Rwandan mother, consequently having over five different villages to call ancestral homes.
Now each of those tribes is partially their heritage and aren’t they entitled to all of them? Of course they are, however, this is not what their relatives may think as each of these tribes may deny them saying they belong to another. The reasons for this are among these:
When it comes to inheritance, parents generally leave their wealth to their children and this means that my cousins for example could have inheritance in all the five villages that they have ancestral heritage in. However, because of envy, the relatives in these places may cut out my cousins as has been done before, saying that since they’ve inheritance in other places, they should leave what is there to them. If all do this, this leaves them in air, with no inheritance.
The other issue, as has happened to me and my siblings too is a more entrenched racial stigmatization among tribes where by because of the hatred amongst different tribes, one finds themselves a pawn in this barbaric war, mostly of words but sometimes that spills into violence.
As if one doesn’t have enough on their plate already, you find that even those from other tribes also insult for associating with either of those that you come from.
To me, I would suggest that we all move away from this petty and backward tribal and racial stigmatization and war and focus on better progressive things. After all, we are a country of many languages, shouldn’t that be used as an advantage to us as Ugandans? Because, in the end we are all recognized as Ugandans and out there as Africans and that’s it.