The Founder

Sabiiti Mbiire Fenekansi is An Educator, a Human Rights Defender, a Writer, Counsellor and Development Worker with a long time interest and experience in Research and Education.

Being able to make a difference in the way Africans get united for human development, strengthening peace and co-existence in Africa is what inspires him him in his work and carry on –this is how he defines success.

Religious life of Sabiiti Fenekansi

Born in 1975 in a Muslim family in highly Muslim populated community in Ankole; but later at the age of 4 their father shifted them to a distant community which was totally Christian by mainly Catholics and Anglicans. Because by that time (1978) politics of the country were very much hinged to religion, the Muslim family faced much rejection and had to convert to Christianity; first into Catholic Church but after a short while to Anglican Church where Sabiiti and his other siblings were introduced to Church and baptized.

While still new converts into Christianity, the parents visited to the ancestral home Karagwe in Nothern Tanzania and came back as traditionists who served as traditional Prophets (Abarangi in Runyankole). This practice lasted for a few years because at that time there were much Anglican barokole crusades in Ankole who convinced the family to abandon the cultural practice of the Barangi. The barangi Regalia was burnt and parents become active barokole in the church.

At the age of 9, the family migrated from Ankole to Tooro and settled in Kitagwenda among a mixed society of Batagwenda, Bakiga and Banyarwanda. The parents continued reading the bible and preaching in the church; Sabiiti got confirmed in the church and was an active participant in the church choir. Also in secondary school Sabiiti became an active student leader in the Scripture Union.

When he grew up and started working with Community Development and Humanitarian programs, he started taking up more roles in the church; first as the Head of Laity for the English congregation at St Stevens Church (Now East Ruwenzori Diocese Cathedral) where he was later appointed as the Diocesan Education Coordinator and later as the Diocesan Planning and Development Coordinator. This presented an opportunity for working deeply into the church and learning more of the church traditions and principles. Here he got married and produced children.

While working with Anglican Church Sabiiti interacted severally with the Pentecostal church leaders especially during the time when he mobilized both Anglican churches and Pentecostal churches for Compassion- a project that serves Christian Children. This interaction with Pentecostals made him to start thinking about the right choice of religion. He understood that religion is ones choice rather than an act of passage from parents. To him it didn’t make sense that if your parents were Anglicans you children had also to be Anglicans even when they grow up.

After a couple of years Sabiiti left working with the Anglican Church and went to Mbarara to start business. While in Mbarara he was introduced to the Pentecostal Church, where he became a member and got baptized by immersion. Here he found a non-denominational congregation which was more Prophetic and Spiritual. This congregation upheld bible principles but also traditional and cultural concepts of religion. 

Here Sabiiti had a chance to study the relationship between religion and culture; Christianity and African tradition. Main questions here were; ‘‘how can Christians glorify God without compromising their cultural traditions and how can Christians serve God within their Cultural settings?’’ He made several researches in religion and African culture, wrote books and the idea of the Foundation for African Indigenous Religious Missions (Fair Missions) was born.

The none denominational prophetic congregation in Mbarara remained his home of faith, even when he left Mbarara to work in Fort Portal he remained in touch with this congregation and he intensified into research and preparation for Fair Missions. It’s here that the dream of ‘‘The House of Prayer for all Nations’’ came into the equation. The House of Prayer for all Nations is a prayer palace that receives all people irrespective of their race, tribe, religious and cultural background. In Fort Portal he found a community that uplifted cultural practices more than the previous places he grew up from; this was in Tooro Kingdom where Kitooro culture was still largely valued by people who were highly Christians, a place for further research and learning to further strengthen his dreams about the Fair Missions and the House of Prayer for all Nations. 

The Cultural Background of Sabiiti Fenekansi

He belongs to the Bantu speaking cultures of Africa.

Bantu peoples is used as a general label for the 300–600 ethnic groups in Africa who speak Bantu languages. They inhabit a geographical area stretching east and southward from Central Africa across the African Great Lakes region down to Southern Africa.

Individual Bantu groups today often include millions of people. Among these are the Luba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with over 13.5 million people; the Zulu of South Africa, with over 10 million people; the Sukuma and many other tribes of Tanzania which are about eight million people, Kikuyu of Kenya, with over six million people. Bantu-speaking people are also found in RwandaAngolaBurundiZimbabwe, with some among other nations in the Southern part of Africa. With the exception of those in Somalia, brought north as slaves in the nineteenth century and many of whom became refugees as a result of the unrest and civil war since 1991, the Bantu comprise a diverse but stable population spread throughout many countries in Africa. In Uganda Bantu speaking tribes constitute more than a half of Uganda’s population.

Etymology: The word Bantu, and its variations, means “people” or “humans”. The root in Proto-Bantu is reconstructed as *-ntu. Versions of the word Bantu (that is, the root plus the class 2 noun class prefix *ba-) occur in all Bantu languages: for example, as watu in Swahili; bantu in Kikongobatu in Lingalabato in Kilubabantu in Dualaabanto in Gusiiandũ in Kamba and Kikuyuabantu in KirundiZuluXhosaRunyakitara, and Gandawandru in Shingazidjaabantru in Mpondobãtfu in Phuthibantfu in Swatibanu in Lalavanhu in Shona and Tsongabatho in SesothoTswana and Northern Sothoantu in Meruandu in Embuvandu in some Luhya dialects; vhathu in Venda; and mbaityo in Tiv.

Today in Uganda there are 17 tribes belonging to the Bantu groups.The Bantu are a group of people who speak related languages and have similar social characteristics.

Bantu are said to have settled in Uganda between A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1300. Some reasons are given to explain why the Bantu moved from their original homeland to come to settle in Uganda. One reason is that they might have been overpopulated and therefore some groups decided to move away in search of vacant lands on which to practice agriculture. Another reason given is that they might have moved away just in search of fertile lands or due to internal conflicts within their communities or external attacks by their neighbors. Other reasons suggested include diseases and natural disasters which might have made them uncomfortable in their homeland and so they decided to move away. One other reason is that they may have been encouraged to move away in quest of adventure and this was because they had invented iron tools which enabled them to confront wild animals and other obstacles during their movements.

Having moved away from their original homeland, the Bantu who settled in present Uganda include; the Baganda, the Banyoro, the Batooro, the Banyankole, the Bakiga, the Bafumbira, the Basoga, the Bagwere, the Banyole, the Bagishu and the Basamia-Bagwe. Though there are striking similarities in language and customs among the different Bantu groups, each group has its own peculiarities in customs and other social arrangements.

Uganda is a country of many cultural contrasts. For example if you go west to Mbarara District, you will meet the Bahima, a race of Ankole. This is an egalitarian group of tall beautiful people who live on their cattle, milk and ghee. They move from place to place in search of grass for their herds. The men are agile, temperamental when confronted and wear the elaborate shuka, a long woven cloth of rich colours around the shoulder and a handy stick in hand to shoo cows or fight the enemy. Their fat wives, who walk in the same graceful manner like the cows, live on milk and equally wear colorful clothes. The women are usually of ample girth with beautiful chocolate coloured gums and extremely white teeth.

The Bahima have strengthened their lives around cows and milk. Many of their long-horned, graceful cows are given names to which they respond when called. There is a rich folklore of songs and dance among the Bahima, including some elaborate poems and recitals which give praise to the best cows or narrate some long journeys. All the Bantu groups on Africa continent similarly have their unique set of cultures and customs.

Sabiiti’s roots can be traced from the Basiita clan of Karagwe.

Sabiiti is son of Mbiire and a grandson of Kabooko of the Basiita clan from the Banyambo tribe of Karangwe in Northern Tanzania. Though Sabiiti was born from the Abiiru sect of Ankole Kingdom and grew up from Tooro Kingdom, his grandparents long lived in Karagwe Kingdom.

The Karagwe kingdom was part of the many Great Lakes Kingdoms, in East Africa. Like many other Great Lakes kingdoms, the Karagwe people, known as Abanyambo, claim inheritance from the ancient Kitara empire, ruled by a dynasty known as the Bachwezi.

The first indigenous leader of Karagwe kingdom before the coming of Ruhinda’s generation was Nono Marinja (Nono ya Marinja). This indigenous leader was from one of Nyambo clans “Abasiita“. His clan was therefore the luring clan before Hamtik’s arrival in the interlacustrine region.

There are many sub-groups in Karagwe, but the main tribe is Nyambo, who call themselves Abanyambo. They can also be referred to as Wanyambo and they speak Kinyambo.

Abanyambo are a Tanzanian branch of Banyankole-Banyoro-Batoro of Uganda. Banyambo tribe of the Basiita clan traces its roots in Bunyoro. As a tradition, many of the princes in Karangwe have to seek blessings from Bunyoro grandfathers before enthronement in Tanzania. And in return many times, Bunyoro leads the enthronement rituals in Bweranyange, the seat of Karagwe kingdom.

Kings from Karagwe and Bunyoro kingdoms emphasised unity and close working relations between the two institutions to harness their culture and resist all forms of neo-colonialism.

Kinyambo language is similar to Runyoro and when people from both sides introduce themselves by name and clan you see a lot of oneness. Clan mates from both sides hug and laugh with joy whenever they meet.

Amazing ancestry of “Abiiru” of Ankole revealed.

The “Abiiru” in Ankole are actually descended from “Hebrew”; and an analysis of their current fortunes explain why only the strong Abiiru Christians are successful on this world. It is their destiny; if the Abiiru (Hebrews) honor God, He rewards them.

Hebrew is a member of an ancient people living in what is now Israel and Palestine and, according to biblical tradition, descended from the patriarch Jacob, son of Isac, grandson of Abraham. After the Exodus (c. 1300 BC) they established the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and their scriptures and traditions form the basis of the Jewish religion. Abram was called “the Hebrew” in Genesis 14:13, the first time that the word is used in the Bible.

Following the advent of colonization and balkanization with Ankole, the indigenous people were referred to as Abiiru! That was the surprising turn of events; the presumably harmless Bahima who came to Ankole from Mpororo Kingdom had brought up reference to these indigenous people as Abiiru. So where did the term come from?

What the royals of Ankole did not realize was that these presumably harmless Bahima have a long heritage themselves. These Hamites of ankole also trace their ancestry to the Luo, and all of these together from Cush son of Ham, son of Noah from present day northeastern Sudan, where they had an extensive kingdom. And their affinity for power dates back to those days when Cush ruled over Egypt. This detail of migrations and empires is well recorded in African history and in the bible (Genesis; 10 all).

Now, it transpires that during the time when the Hebrew were slaves in Egypt, the reigning monarch was Cushitic (read “Luo” History); According to Egyptian archeological findings (reference to Microsoft Encarta encyclopedia 1999), the Hebrew people were a group of tribes of Semitic stock that, according to Egyptian tradition, migrated from Mesopotamia to Palestine during the 2nd millennium BC. Some scholars, however, trace their origin to the Wilderness (that is, the Sinai) rather than to Mesopotamia.

These two views may both be true because according to the bible (Genesis 11; 31 – 32) Abraham the founding father of the Hebrews came from Mesopotamia.

And then for the second view, the biblical story of the exodus is quite well known to everyone; the Hebrews moved to Egypt, where they were enslaved. When released from bondage in Egypt under the lawgiver Moses, they journeyed through the Wilderness and thereafter, under Joshua, conquered and settled in Palestine. It is during this exodus time that there were offshoots of the main group that either did not leave with Moses, or deserted the main group somewhere in the Sinai desert. This group went south eventually settling in the hinterland of what is referred to in the bible as Ethiopia but we know as Africa.

So it is quite established that the term Hebrew is applied in the Bible to Abraham (see Genesis 14:13). What most people don’t know is that the term “Abiru” / “habiru” is actually the same as “Hebrew”. The Encyclopedia states – and this is most amazing part – that;-

The Hebrews are the people called Habiru or Hapiru in the tablets found at Tall al ‘Amârinah, Egypt; written about 1400BC, these were found in 1887. This assumption coincides with biblical tradition; the Amarna correspondence, however, makes no reference to the origin or ethnic character of the Habiru. In Genesis 40:15, Joseph explains to the Egyptians that he had been kidnapped from “the land of the Hebrews”; in Exodus 2:6, the daughter of Pharaoh recognizes Moses as “one of the Hebrews’ children.” The implication of these sources is that in early times the Israelites were known to foreigners as Hebrews. In later times the Israelites applied the name to themselves, as in Jonah 1:9.

So you now know how the Bahima knew that these Abiru are supposed to be their slaves – because that is what they were in Egypt. The Bahima knew that these Habiru were their slaves in Egypt, and believed they still had to be overlords over them. Wrong. Because subsequent to the Egyptian episode of their lives, God had broken that bondage of slavery, provided that the Hebrews / Habiru stick to a certain formula – observe the Ten Commandments, and the most important ones being the 1st two commandments. Once these are fulfilled, then no one could be allowed to lord it over the Hebrews / Abiru.

Effectively and to cut a long story short, the Abiiru of Ankole, who are descended from the Hebrews, could only be successful if they – like the Jewish brothers – recognize their relationship with God the almighty as per the commandments delivered to Moses. I.e. if they recognize the sovereignty of God the almighty who delivered them out of bondage, and if they bow to no other gods; if they do this, God blesses them. If they don’t, then tribulations and damnation as promised in the commandments.

Fast forward; when Moses delivered the Hebrews he told them to serve no other God. So, the Abiiru shall not be put under any other God. (Exodus 20: 1 – 17, and Deut 5: 1- 21).

So if only most of these facts had come out earlier, then the fortunes of Uganda would be very different from what it is today. But it is never too late for anything; as you can see, the facts about the ancestry of Abiiru are just beginning to fizzle out of the archives of history, explaining why the Abiru people have given birth to some of the most industrious people in the world. It is really a blessing to be one of the Abiru / Habiru / Hebrew; the people can really work.

Sabiiti’s clan, the Basiita clan in Uganda, is found in Ankore, Tooro, Bunyoro, Kigezi (especially Rukungiri), in Tanzania (Karagwe, Buhaya, Bujinja, etc.) and in Rwanda.  In Bukonjo, the Basiita are called Baswaaga. In Buganda, they are called Ab’ ente, with the same totem ─ the striped cow.  In Sironko, there is a whole parish, known as Busiita.  The Basiita clan, of course, also is found in the DRC, the Bunia area.

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