Saturday July 12 2014

Basongora and Bakonzo: Problem is resources and absence of leadership

By Asuman Bisiika

In 1969, our family returned from Ankole where we had sought refuge from the Rwenzururu rebellion. We settled in Muhokya, the first urban centre in Kasese.

King Olimi Kaboyo (father to King Oyo Iguru) was born in Muhokya; that is why he was nicknamed Rwamuhokya.

I remember Mr Ivan Bwebale. Even in 1970, he was a man of means: he had a car and a house near the main road of Muhokya. He is now the King of Busongora.

We went to school with his children. Apollo Bwebale is now a Resident District Commissioner somewhere.

He was in Primary Two with my brother Moses. Mable Bwebale was in the same class with my sisters Jalia and Sarah.

She is now married to my uncle Wilson Musabe, whose father Ibrahim Kyabihire was a Mukonzo landowner and hereditary traditional chief in the Kilembe area.

There was Mr Korutaro, another prominent Musongora. My hazy recollection is that he reared chicken in a block house (better than ours). His son named Independence was in the same class with my brother Adam.

There was Mzee Barozi Apuuli, the landowner (and hereditary chief for Kahendero and Hamukungu. I am not sure whether he was a Musongora, but Baroozi was later made Gombolola Chief for Muhokya Sub-county.

When I lived in the same neighbourhood with Mzee Baroozi in Kasese Town, he used to treat me as his son.

Muhokya was a cosmopolitan peri-urban settlement. The Jaluos had night clubs (the best night club though, because it had a jukebox, was owned by a Mutooro named Godfrey). There were many Baganda with garages and taxis; the Bakiga and Acholi were miners in Kilembe.

We went to school with Mutesasira’s children Ssenabulya and Nalubowa. Ssenabulya had what we called arrow-shaped head that attracted taunts from his peers used to tease him. They could say: Ssenabulya omutwe gwo musongovu (Ssenabulya of the arrow shaped head). And he could reply: ewamwe ndyayo? (I don’t eat from your homes).

Kivumbi had a pet monkey and his son Jibril was my playmate. Mukibi had a taxi (Peugeot 404) and ditto for Mr Bwanika (Peugeot 404).

My old man was the Vice President of Nyakatonzi Co-operative Union and our family were neighbours with another Mukonzo: the Stephen family. Mzee Stephen, married to a Mutooro woman from the Royal Clan, was the Parish Chief of Muhokya Parish (Omuruka gw’Omwanguhya).

I think it was hip for elitist Bakonzo to marry Batooro women. One of our mothers, the one who lived in Kasese Town, was a Mutooro.

Stephen’s daughter Businge was in the same class with my sister Mariam. His son Rwatoro and I were in the same class: Primary One.

Businge is now an employee of Lake Katwe-Kabatooro Town Council where my brother Moses is the Town Clerk and Mayor Paul Kagoro (a Musongora) my former classmate.

Mzee Ngada, a Musongora, went to Kitalikibi Primary School with Uriah Baluku (Kasese District Education Officer). And RDC Wilson Asaba (a Musongora) is said to have grown in a Mukonzo family.

So, where did this tribal thing between Bakonzo and Basongora come from? It is about resources, chauvinism (on both sides) and the absence of local and national leadership and guidance.

The Basongora were displaced by the creation of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Some went to Ankole (the late Gen James Kazini family) and others went to Kabarole (Professor Ndolerire and Mr Kagoro, the father in law of Sam Bitangaro).

And oh yes, the Bakonzo were displaced in 1936 when the demarcation for the present day Mount Rwenzori National Park were made.

The only way out is for the government to create an environment where the communities can dialogue.

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East Africa Flagpost.