President Museveni was recently presented with an idea. Indians living and working in Uganda wanted to constitute themselves into a Ugandan tribe.
A rather positive Museveni reportedly suggested that since most Ugandans also referred to Pakistanis as ‘Bayindi’, our Pakistanis could be part of this new tribe.
The matter might be slightly more complicated than the similarity in physical body shapes and skin complexions, but the power of Mr Museveni’s vision usually overcomes such small difficulties.
Under Museveni, and some say with his encouragement, Kingdom (which forms roughly a quarter of Uganda) has seen the Banyala and Baruuli asserting their cultural identities, separate from other Baganda.
There was grumbling in the Mengo establishment, and the riots related to the matter claimed scores of lives, but these were nothing in the face of Museveni’s vision and military power. The grumbling was silenced. The riots were crushed.
But if the Banyala and Baruuli moves were construed by some as a weakening of Buganda, the rise of the Indians can only strengthen Uganda.
The Baruuli and Banyala were being subtracted from Buganda; the Indians would be added to Uganda.
However, if the idea is pursued, one of the new tribe’s teething problems would be territory.
Ugandans generally associate their many tribal and sub-tribal groups with specific areas in the country as their primary home.
Few as they are, the Banyala, for instance, are concentrated in parts of Bugerere County. The Baruuli are based in Buruuli County. Where would the Bayindi be located?
Although it is sparsely populated, an area like Karamoja is ruled out for security reasons.
Only recently disarmed, and sometimes harassed by Kenya’s Pokot and Turkana, that area is still too sensitive for chopping off a chunk of land and giving it to the Bayindi.
In northern Uganda, the customary land ownership system is so strong that demarcating a district for the Bayindi could become an extremely deadly joke.
Bunyoro is of course out. Not so much because of the Kabalega spirit of defiance that lingers on, but because Bunyoro is now for oil rigs, oil refineries and the oil tribe. Even the Banyoro may soon be deemed to be in Bunyoro but not part of Bunyoro.
Busoga has something of a population explosion. In another 30 years or so, the Bayindi in Busoga would look like a serious mistake.
Buganda would probably welcome the Bayindi as compensation for the partial loss of Banyala and Baruuli, but under NRM rule, Buganda has been plagued by endless land controversies stoked by the cynicism of the new-rich.
Introducing the Bayindi could further complicate the situation.
This more or less leaves Ankole as a viable home for Bayindi; perhaps not as a fully fledged tribe, but as a sub-tribe.
Fortunately, Ankole has had a lot of experience with ethnic sub-tribes, and Indians have had experience with their caste system. Not only does Museveni, the would-be inventor of the new sub-tribe, hail from Ankole, but he has been central in reconciling and uniting the indigenous Bahima and Bairu.
Before Museveni came along, you would bump into a Muiru who refused to accept Bahima as true Banyankole, and you would bump into Bahima who thoroughly despised Bairu.
Museveni would certainly add to his success with the two groups by guiding the new group. And the Bahima herders and Bairu cultivators would be beautifully complemented by the trade-cum-industrial Bayindi.
Only the Chinese would be green with envy. But then – if they play their cards well – the Chinese can have the whole country.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.