The People of Kitara

Bantu people are the predominant inhabitants of Kitara region, they constitute over 50 percent of Uganda’s total Population. The Bantu are a group of people who speak related languages and have similar social characteristics. They were the earliest group to come to Uganda and they Comprise; the Banyoro, the Banyankole, the Bakiga, the Bafumbira, the Batooro, the Bakonjo, the Bamba, the Batwa, and the Batagwenda. The earliest inhabitants of Uganda were the Stone -Age People. These people were gradually absorbed or replaced in the first millennium A.D. by the incoming agriculturists and pastoralists.

Banyakitara and Runyakitara Language

Runyakitara is a standardized language based on four closely related dialects of western Uganda: Runyoro, Rutooro, Ruchiga or Rukiga Runyankole.

While Uganda includes speakers of widely diverse Sudanic, Nilotic and Bantu languages, none of the languages is spoken by more than 20% of the population. This status was challenged in the recent past by the emergence of Runyakitara, a language based on a combination of the western Uganda lacustrine languages of Runyankore, Runyoro, Rutoro and Rukiga.

“People from Bunyoro, Tooro, Ankole and Kigezi can easily understand each other”. However, most people across the region can speak good Rukiga, good Runyakole, good Rutooro and good Runyoro but when it comes to writing it, it becomes difficult, words are difficult to be differentiated and many words ends up being confused.

The term ‘Kitara’ originate from the legendary Kitara Empire which had its headquarters in the present day Hoima and stretched up to Kagera in Northern Tanzania. The biggest African ancient state south of the Sahara.

This term in modern times has been re-invented and used to bring together four ethnically and linguistically related groups in Western Uganda namely; Batooro, Banyoro, Banyankole and Bakiga.

The potential of Banyakitara;

1. A rich natural heritage. The current area in Western Uganda where Banyakitara live is reffered to as Kitara area. Kitara is endowed with the richest natural heritage in Uganda. When Churchill said that ‘Uganda is the pearl of Africa he could have added that Kitara is the pearl of Uganda because he said this while standing between the lakes and mountains, forests and savanna plains, hills and valleys of the Kitara region. Best soils and Climate ideal for agriculture and human habitation. Beautiful crater lakes in Fort portal and Kabale, oil deposits around the belt of Lake Albert, useful stones in Kyaka, Cattle in Butuku, Busongora and Ankole, Volcanic hills in Rusekere, hot springs in Bunyangabu and Semuliki, etc.

2. A rich cultural heritage. Kitara region (Tooro, Ankole, Kigezi and Bunyoro) is one of the societies of the world with richest cultural resources.

  • Part of Kitara culture (Bunyoro/Tooro) has unique cultural practices like pet names in the whole world
  • Kitara culture has three subcultures that create a very rich cultural complexion. The cultivators, hunters and gatherers culture (Abairu), the cattle keepers’ culture (Abahuma) and royal cultures (Ababiito of Bunyoro and Tooro and Abahinda of Ankole). These three subgroups have each different experience, dialect and materials that create the Kitara cultural mix

The royal cultures are also divided into four sections according to the dynasties. The Abatembuzi, Abacwezi, Abahinda and Ababiito dynasties. Each dynasty gives different relics, sites and history. When you come forexample at Nyakasura Mabeere Ganyinamwiru (stalagmites and stalactites), you learn about Bacwezi and Karambi Royal Tombs you learn about Babiito. We also have clan ancestral sites all over the region. You hear of Gweri cradle land for Bagweri, Abasiita ba Mbale, Abafumambogo ba Mweri, etc.

The Banyakitara have got a rich and diverse music, folklore and oral literature. A Mutooro can entertain nonstop from morning to evening without repeating items. Take an example of Orunyege, Amakondere, Enanga, Kwebuga engoma Nyakahuma, Ebizina by’ente, Ebiziina byokuswera, Ebikapiso, etc. Go to Ankole and Kigezi, you will find the same.

The culture of Batooro and Banyoro alone can make a very rich museum and theatre but all this stock of knowledge and indeed wealth is getting lost and its people equally disappearing. All these are resources, nothing God created is useless. A useful person sees value in everything and useless person sees no value in anything.

3. Human resource potential. Abatooro forexample, entymologically means people set for a ceremony. This brings out the qualities of elegancy, neatness and beauty as associated with Batooro. The true Banyakitara believe in ‘Obuntu’ or humanness above all other things. When you asked our ancestors in Tooro ‘Omutooro Kintuki’ (Who is a Mutooro?) they would simply answer ‘Omutooro muntu’ (A Mutooro is a person). This is not a simplistic concept of a person but a deep philosophy of a human being.

The Banyamwenge men were metaphorically referred to as ‘enjoki’ or bees hence the ancient saying that ‘Abanyamwenge njoki eziihwa no muuro’ this meant qualities of bravery, assertiveness and ability to defend socio-economic interests of their society. So, how have these innate qualities of elegancy, humanness and bravery helped the contemporary Munyakitara to be competitive today?

4. Historical advantage. Banyakitara historically were organized societies under monarchial systems. In the colonial time the Banyakitara aristocracy easily joined the premier world. They dined with the British Royalty, studied in Oxford university, become ambassadors, joined the UN, etc

The disturbing question today is How has this historical advantage transformed into strength to empower the contemporary Munyakitara? If it has not happened, what went wrong fundamentally?

The Banyoro for example under Kabalega resisted colonialism through armed struggles like the famous ‘Nyangiire rebellion’

Historically, right from the ancient times, Kitara region was a centre of excellence in social services like education, health and administration. Galihuma in Mwenge was the ancient university of Bunyoro Kitara empire. Children of the royals and chiefs were taken to Galihuma to learn official language of the empire, acceptable behavior and administration. In colonial times, one of the three national prestigious educational centers was Nyakasura School. The other two being Kings College Buddo in Buganda and Mwiri in Busoga.

5. The discovered oil in Lake Mwitazige (Albert). Lake Albert or Mwitazinge belt is known to have oil deposits. This is the most valuable natural resource in Uganda therefore with highest capacity of attracting the attention and the mighty of the rich and powerful. In the world governed by the principle of survival of the fittest, to be less organized and yet own a resource that attract the attention of the powerful people is very disastrous. It is like a very poor man having a very beautiful woman who attracts the attention of the powerful.

The position of Banyakitara as socio-cultural entities in contemporary development.

We will use the metaphor of ‘Ekikoro’ to gauge the resilience of Banyakitara as a cultural identity in contemporary socio-evolution.

a) Capacity to preserve ‘Ekikoro’ stork. A stork is the starting and ending point of a system that grows, expands, spread and develops. The capacity of a group to preserve it’s identify is determined by its capacity to preserve its stork ‘Ekikoro’. In anthropological language, this Kikoro would be the cradle land or ancestral sites. Any social group with a concrete identity must point to some place of origin. When you lose your Kikoro as a family, clan, ethnic group or a race then you lose your identity.

Kitara is the cradle land of a social group who call themselves Banyakitara. They must maintain these places or at least part of this place if they are to maintain their identity.

In contemporary social evolution, there are four options for socio-cultural groups;

  • A strong group whereby, its culture becomes the acceptable civilization and assimilates the weaker groups.
  •  A normal group that maintains its identity competing with other groups
  • A conservative group stubbornly resists change and assimilation and is pushed to the margins of society
  • A weak group that totally surrenders its identity and gets assimilated into other groups.

The third category is what the United Nations describes as indigenous people and it has legal instruments and programmes to protect their rights to keep their identity and exist in the way they want. They must prove two things – Determination to keep their identity and strong spirit to defend their ancestral territories.

In his book ‘Kigezi and its people’ the father of modern Kigezi, the late Paul Ngologoza wrote instructing the Bakiga kins as follows; “I would, in writing this, like to remind the settlers that even if they become rich and change their mother tongue; they should remember the proverb ‘even hot water eventually cools (Gatagata munonga tigebwa wa beene mbeho). They must never forget the good customs and characteristics of the Bakiga, not forget their own language and they must feel in their bones that they are Bakiga remembering where they used to live.” (Ngologoza, 1998:98)

As a result, the Bakiga as they migrate do three things;

  • Keep Kigezi ancestral land intact and in their control
  • Keep strong socio-economic linkages with their Kigezi ancestral place.
  • Whenever there is concentration of Bakiga settlers in Uganda there must be a bus connecting Kigezi daily.
  • Kigezi radio must have subsidiary mini station in the areas where the Bakiga migrate and settle.

Banyakitara in their different settlements have few differences that must be addressed and harmonized for the regional development of Kitara. It is innate other than external factors that kill or make a social group thrive; The Batooro for example are generally urbanites. While the Bakiga look for land to cultivate, the Batooro look for urban centers to engage in petty trade and clerical work. For anybody looking for rural idle land, you can’t go to Ankole, Kigezi or Bukonjo because there, the indigenous communities have utilized the land and are instead migrating in search for land elsewhere. You go to Tooro and Bunyoro because there, indigenous people have not utilised the land and are fleeing it to take refuge in urban centers. Every upcoming town in Uganda must have a place called ‘Kitooro’. We find Kitooro in Kasese, Entebbe, Central Kampala, etc and most of these Bitooro’s are concentrations of unskilled people. As Kitara region we must address these concerns with a high cultural concept

Banyakitara have mixed up everywhere in the region. For example, in 1995, the time around which Tooro started experiencing immigrations in big numbers from other Kitara areas, the population of indigenous Batooro in Tooro region was 95 percent but today it is estimated at 55 percent and reducing at the rate of 1 percent per year.

What the Banyakitara in Diaspora can do

Should create and maintain connection and developmental linkages between West where they live and work and Kitara where they are ancestrally rooted.

These linkages would include;

  • Programming linkages. Start a project that connects resources between West and Kitara. A program mobilizing resources in West and implementing social development programmes in Kitara.
  • Business linkages. A project that market the cultural products of Kitara in the West. Products like handicrafts, ornaments, folklore, music, etc. Culture is becoming a lucrative product in the world. People after getting tired of the echoes of industrialization, they want to amuse themselves with the forms of life of pre-industrial societies.
  • Information linkages. The world’s development is now driven by the level of the effectiveness of ICT’s. The difference in development between us in Kitara and those in the West is the effectiveness of information transaction. A transaction you make in a second in the West, will take 6 months to make the same in Kitara, therefore, in Kitara we will never catch up with those in West. We should help us improve our accessibility to information.
  • Institutional linkages. For example, Engabu Za Tooro or the Kitara Cultural performers based in Kitara can have close relationship with Banyakitara Associations based in Europe.
  • Social and Spiritual linkages. Banyakitara living in the West keep connected to your families, clans and the social spiritual ceremonies back home in Kitara.