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UGANDA: Banyarwanda now biggest tribe in the country

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Rwandan dancers. Over the past century, Rwandans have crossed the border and settled in central Uganda.

Are Banyarwanda Uganda’s biggest tribe? Look around, they could well be

THE EAST AFRICAN – Banyarwanda could be Uganda’s biggest tribe and we better learn to live with it.
There is enough circumstantial evidence for this which I have been encountering in recent years. As a man grows older and older, he tends to attend more burials every month than before.It is at burials where people with flat noses like mine get introduced to sharp nosed relatives and as the relationship is explained, you find that you share a grandparent only one or two generations ago. I recently even met some Banyarwanda nieces and nephews!

Uganda’s constitution lists Banyarwanda as one of the country’s ethnic communities, which at the time of promulgation set people arguing whether Banyarwanda are the country’s sixth or seventh largest tribe. I think that is unnecessary.

Banyarwanda are omnipresent and could be Uganda’s largest tribe as Kinyarwanda blood probably runs in most Ugandans’ veins and whoever thinks it is an issue just needs to commission a scientific study, as matters of tribes cannot just be settled by verbal arguments.

A study done at Independence in 1962 found that a fifth (20 per cent) of people in Buddu county (now called Greater Masaka area) of Buganda kingdom were ethnic Banyarwanda. It can be assumed that today, it is a fifth of Buddu people who don’t have Rwandan blood.

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For some reason, people who have been coming from Rwanda to Uganda over the past century or so, found it easier to integrate in central Uganda than in their more neighbouring western Uganda.

It is at burials that many of us get to realise how much of rural central Uganda is settled by Banyarwanda. Trying to find out who has no Rwanda blood in Buganda is a purposeless waste of time; even the firstborn son of the Kabaka is born of a Munyarwanda woman, a prominent one at that.

The Big men quarrel
In October of 1978, Idi Amin attacked Tanzania and annexed the northern province of Kagera, even appointing a district commissioner for “Uganda’s new district of Kagera”. It was a wrong target, as the response led to his overthrow six months later.

Maybe if Amin had instead attacked and annexed Rwanda then, he could have been more successful and the inhabitants of the two countries would simply have gone ahead to live together. Amin would most certainly have taken one or two Banyarwanda brides and life would continue till another change came.

Currently, the top leaders of Uganda and Rwanda are having what those in the know say is their worst conflict ever, “worse than Kisangani” when our two armies fought in June 2000, leaving a scary number of Ugandan soldiers wiped out in one battle.

But whatever the big men are quarrelling about, we ordinary Ugandans and Rwandans don’t even want to know. We are grateful that it has not affected the business and social interaction of people and only pray for the big men to resolve their things sooner than later.

For several months now, whispers of bad blood between Kampala and Kigali have been growing loud, louder and then quiet, as life on the outside has remained normal all along.

Talk of the conflict has been revived with the recent arrest of Ugandan police officers by the Ugandan military and arraigning them before the court martial on charges that include abducting Rwandan nationals and returning them to the country they fled from, a sin called refoulement in international law.

Now top opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye has gone on record to say that recent changes of command in the Uganda Police Force had a lot to do with the Kampala-Kigali stand-off.

Besigye himself was in 2001 accused of being too cosy with Rwanda which had been categorised as a hostile foreign power, a status we didn’t even accord to Khartoum which sponsored warlord Joseph Kony for two decades, and whose Kampala embassy we raided and captured a couple of rusty guns.

So Dr Besigye, who usually keeps a step ahead of state intelligence when doing his things, must be knowing what he is talking about.

When he says our two countries have been intricately linked for decades, I guess we just have to accept it.

Dr Besigye compared Uganda and Rwanda to those old-fashioned posters you used to find in shops showing two men, one happily satisfied saying: “I sold on cash” and the other miserably emaciated saying: “I sold on credit.”

Besigye said the emaciated man represents Uganda while the happy guy is Rwanda, which was a different case in the not too distant past.

For Uganda was ahead of Rwanda almost in all indicators of development until the Banyarwanda who had played a dominant role in Uganda’s five-year bush war that brought the NRM to power went back and took power in Kigali after a four-year war, to start re-directing the affairs of their original country.

This observation is very important to fathom what has been happening to the human relations between Ugandans and Rwandans.

Before the re-building of Rwanda started in the 1990s and for a while after, Ugandans looked down upon Banyarwanda including, among other things, calling them dirty. They accused them of spitting everywhere and so on.

Today, Rwandans are obsessed with cleanliness while an average Ugandan is happy to live in filth.

Today, Ugandans have openly given up on/in to corruption while Rwandans fight it.

But of course Ugandans feel freer as we make merry in our stinking, disorderly capital of Kampala where nobody seems to be in charge. To date, there is no control of boda boda, the dominant means of transport in Kampala that kills seven people daily in the country.

In short, Rwanda has turned out to be the child who was despised in the family but worked diligently to become more successful than the favoured kids who turned into drunks.

However, the children, both the disciplined and the drunkos, continue to love one another and remain “tight” even as the parents bicker.

But to their credit, the parents are not stopping the children from interacting. They are probably aware that the children will outlive them, and it is not wise to poison their relations, and it is better to allow them to remain united as they take on strong future competition from other families.

Because in this case, the favoured children have the natural resources while the unfavoured ones are disciplined and are acquiring skills, a combination the two categories will need to take on the world.

Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: April 05, 2018 at 02:07PM

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