THE BANYARWANDA OF KISORO DON’T WANT TO BE CALLED ‘BAFUMBIRA’


Let me bore you with the little that I attempted to master in the world of knowledge: military science. Therein, they talk of the principles of war. One of them is “concentration of effort” on a decisive sector/axis/phase/zone/flank/theatre/front etc. When you see me concentrating my effort on what I consider to be a critical aspect on the future survival of the country, do not consider it to be a mere fixation.

On Rwanda/Banyarwanda/Rwandese, we have been at here before. I think it is before we were condemned to being joined by you. Just a few points to raise: It is not true that “…the population of Rwanda….is 30 million…”. The population of Rwanda is just above 10 million (Rwandese or Banyarwanda of Rwanda). The population of Kinyarwanda speakers (Banyarwanda in general) is up to 30 million.

What is true is that the population of Banyarwanda, that is the people who speak Kinyarwanda are anything from 20 to 25 million and they occupy lands that by far exceed the domain of Rwanda Republic. They occupy those lands as indigenes, and not as migrants.

When the space that was occupied by Banyarwanda was partitioned following the Berlin conference, some found themselves left out of the new country called Rwanda (whose Banyarwanda citizens are called Rwandese), while others were left by the partition in Tanzania, Uganda and DRC. The Banyarwanda of Uganda are to be found in Kisoro district which was transferred from Rwanda to Uganda in 1926 in an agreement between the British and the Belgians. They live there as an ethnic group of Uganda. They are not immigrants as you seem to indicate below. They are not Rwandese, they are Ugandans.

What tended to happen after the partition of the region was that the Banyarwanda population that ended up in another country outside Rwanda was named after the volcanic mountains close to which they lived. The Banyarwanda of Uganda were henceforth called the “Bafumbira” because they lived near Mufumbiro Ranges; those of DRC were called the Banyamulenge (living near Mulenge Ranges of DRC), Banyamasisi (of Masisi ranges) and Banyarutushuru (near Rutshuru, DRC). The aim was to distinguish them from the Banyarwanda who became citizens of Rwanda, that it, the Rwandese.

It is only recently during the process of making the 1995 Uganda constitution that the Banyarwanda of Kisoro district rejected the idea of being named after the anthill in their neighbourhood and reclaimed their ethnic label of Banyarwanda, as opposed to the pejorative “Bafumbira”. The Constitutional Review Commission headed by Professor Sempebwa subsequently noted that, ‘In our view, the existence of the Banyarwanda as an indigenous community in Uganda by 1926 is not in dispute and should be recognised. It is not for other communities to impose a name on this community.’ As you know, the Banyarwanda are now ethnic group No. 20 of Uganda as you would find in the 1995 constitution.

Those Banyarwanda are different from the ones that migrated to Uganda, particularly in Buganda, from the 1920s in search of employment opportunities, but most importantly, fleeing from the oppressive regime of the Belgians/forced labour compared to Uganda’s salaried labour. Labour reports of the late 1930s/early 40s show that in Lugazi and Kakira sugar plantations, the ratio of migrants from Ruanda/Urundi to labourers from west Nile was 8250: 2747 for Lugazi and 10,200:3738 for Kakira (Labour Report 1941). Many flowed into Buganda to address the labour shortage that was occasioned by enlistment of large numbers of Baganda for military service during the great wars. The Buganda economy was to subsequently rely heavily on those immigrants many of whom settled and were naturalised. These are the Banyarwanda of Buganda who in places like Masaka, may be anything up to 40% of the population. You may have heard of Buganda MPs like Claver Mutuluza, Higiro Semajege, Nshimye Buturo etc. Overall in Buganda, they are anything up to 12% of the population. These Banyarwanda were subjected to serious persecution by the government in 1982/3 especially in Masaka and Rakai.

Many of you always mix all those groups with the refugees that flowed into Uganda from 1959, i.e., the Rwandese many of whom found their way back to Rwanda in 1990. Childish/ignorant/Interahamweist talk here at UAH always wants to couch the Banyankore, especially the cattle-keeping caste, the Hima as Rwandese just because Rwanda/Urundi also has a cattle keeping caste called the Tutsi.

Note that, even other ethnic groupings were fragmented by the border. The largest clan of the Acholi, the Palotaka is to be found in Parajok/kit/owiny Kibul etc areas of Eastern Equatoria province of Sudan. There are no complications with the Acholi because we did not get a country called “Acholi” after Berlin. Unfortunately for the Banyarwanda of Uganda etc, there is a sovereign state named after their ethnicity, hence the confusion over their identity whereever they are. As you know, all 19 ethnic communities along the Uganda frontier are bisected…and straddle the border. ‘

Lance Corporal (Rtd) Patrick Otto

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Comments

One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Lance Corporal (Rtd) Patrick Otto,
    Glad to read you here and many thanks for this information. Yes, the confusion is because there is a country called Rwanda. The same would probably occur if there were countries named after the ethnic/tribal communities along Uganda’s international frontiers eg, Samia, Acholi, to name only a few.
    I guess this seems to be a problem noticeable only in Uganda. I don’t hear the Kenyans or Tanzanians complaining about the ethnic communities along their shared frontier.
    The political Federation of East Africa may be the key to establish harmony of all our peoples.

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