Ugandans at heart should know that abalalo is not a tribe but an occupation. This means a Muganda could be a mulalo if he chose to be nomadic and entirely pastoralist. However whether by accident or what, it so happens that most balalo originate from the Bahima ethnic group. It could be said that these balalo were part of the original group of hamites who migrated to Uganda long ago but instead of adopting the predominant culture of the indigenous people i.e. settled agriculture, these groups or families stuck to their original mode of nomadic pastoralism.

Suffice it to say that because of this nomadic nature of their life, these people lagged behind in educating their children and are generally less accomplished than their peers in the surrounding tribes. So when someone calls another a mulalo, he is not simply referring to their occupation of cattle keeping, but to the totality of how people have been perceiving these people. The reference has implicit description of their backwardness, dirt, uncouthness, etc. That is why some people object to being called balalo. It is not because they deny their occupation, but rather their disagreement with the accompanying unpronounced descriptions that follow that.

I used to fear calling someone a Munyarwanda, because to me, it was an abuse. During those turbulent years, the only Banyarwanda I knew were those who worked in sewers and opened our blocked toilets and did odd jobs on our shamba! This was the connection that this term had in my mind. Yet this is completely untrue – Banyarwanda are not just sewerage cleaners but a respectable group of people with a sovereign country.

You should be reminded that the so-called balalo have been part of the Ugandan landscape for eons. They are part and parcel of Uganda and are Ugandan. The mere fact that they have been ignorant not to lay a stake in the ground and hold on to territory is something we should pity them for but not hate them.

Uganda’s population has been growing in leaps and bounds. Uganda has not matched this with equal rates of growth in the manufacturing and service sectors. Because of this, the land has been increasingly feeling the pressure and we are fast approaching the stage where it will not manage to support the huge Ugandan population. THIS IS THE REAL ISSUE!!! Forget the symptoms like the hatred towards balalo and their herds.

When there were abundant unused lands and wild marshes no one cared much about a mulalo and his gun. It is now when land is fast becoming a scarce resource that people are becoming more and more selfish about it. It is now when people in Teso and Lango can chase away balalo from their marshes because they need them for their own herds. In Mbale people are now sharing 1 acre of land between 5 sons with families! In almost all areas of Uganda except the north where there has been insecurity, people cannot easily access this essential commodity called Land. And yet the bulk of the people are still agrarian and must survive on the land. It is because of this that clashes have started between the people and government over reserved areas like forests and parks.

Clashes between the balalo and the settle people are inevitable because when things get tough, the first groups to be victimized are the weak disorganized ones. The balalo in their lone meanderings form such a weak disorganized group that any community can easily target for persecution.

The solution to the problems of the Balalo is not to increase their persecution but to solve the root causes of this problem and that is industrialization and provision of jobs in urban centers. As long as we continue in our subsistence farming culture and high population growth rates, all the machinery in government will not protect the forests, parks and wetlands in the country. There is trouble between the settled communities and the nomadic ones now because the latter are weak. When these have been dealt with, the trouble will spread among the settled communities themselves. Evidence of this is already in Kibaale between the Banyoro and Bakiga. It has been seething under the surface with occasional eruptions between the Bagisu and the Sabiny in Kapchorwa.

As for Bahima, Lady Wannyana, mother to Kabaka Kimera of Buganda, was a Muhima, daughter of Omutaka Mugarura of Nseenene clan, at Kisozi Gomba, then in Bunyoro. My own great great grandmother was a Muhima from Lwera near Lukaya on the banks of River Katonga.
But my problem with some of the Bahima like Brog.Pecos Kuteesa and even Gen. David Tinyefuuza is that they regard balaalo as a way of derogating Bahima.

God Bless Uganda



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