Earlier today, Miriam Kyomugasho posed some questions about the abolition of Uganda, some of which have been asked by others, whenever we mention that Uganda must be abolished for us, natives to attain freedom. I answered the questions with a long comment and thought maybe I should share the questions and responses here.
Q: Do we revert to ‘Kingdoms’ which were also artificial creations of the colonials save for a few like Bunyoro, Toro & Busoga. What about the rest?
A: Toro had broken away from Bunyoro before the British showed up. Given that the founder of Toro was a beloved prince from Bunyoro, there were cordial relations between the two kingdoms. However, Kabarega was in the process of bringing Toro back to the fold by force when the British meddled and took advantage of the Toro king. So, as you put it, the British did not create Toro. The history of Busoga, reflecting Toro’s independence from Bunyoro also goes that the territory was ruled by five princes from Bunyoro from the 16th century, indeed predating Tooro. Indeed, the royal houses of Busoga today are descended from these five princes. These kingdoms were therefore not colonial creations. Kingdoms were not colonial creations.
Q: Do we revert to regions like Ankole, Kigezi etc which were also creations of the colonial government?
A: I have not argued for Ankole which is a colonial creation, I have argued for Nkore, Buhweju, Sheema, Mpororo, Igara, etc, the native kingdom and nationalities that were conquered by the British. Kigezi was a colonial administrative unit. So these regions “preserve” the territorial integrity of Uganda, the colonial creation. Reverting to them isn’t abolition. Some of the areas they called Kigezi had been under the Mpororo king, in fact, the Rwandan Mwami indeed sent chiefs to rule over part of this area, and the Bakiga were a kingdom-less nationality living across what is now a colonial border separating Uganda and Rwanda. I do not argue for “Kigezi”. I argue for these various nationalities and kingdoms, namely, Mpororo, Rwanda, the Bakiga, etc. Mind you, in history, there had been a kingdom of the Bakiga, Ndorwa, which you can tell from actual places named Ndorwa in both Uganda and Rwanda! Abolishing colonial things will mean abolishing things like Kigezi, Ankole, Bukedi, and other strange administrative units created to enable colonial governance. The people will then “self-determine”. My argument has emphasized abolition than prescribing what then shall happen.
Q: Do we instead go for bigger entities like the Bunyoro -Kitara or Rwanda Kingdom which cut across East Africa?
A: Once those who lost their freedom to self-govern get their rights back, they shall determine what to do. The Baganda have been ahead of most native nationalities in looking at what they want AFTER the abolition. Some voices in Buganda have pushed for federal governance in which they see a relationship with “Uganda”, akin to the 1962 constitutional arrangement. I know there are also elements in the Buganda struggle for independence which want full independence than a federalist arrangement with Uganda. My argument is that the people, the natives should have the right to determine how they want to be governed. Even the anarchists, who would like to do away with any form of authority whatsoever.
Perhaps we also glance at the Rwenzururu question in thinking about options AFTER abolition. The natives there have continuously opposed belonging to Tooro kingdom, which they argue denies them their rights. They have built a kingdom around their struggle for self-determination.
As a native Mukiga, what would I push for, AFTER the abolition of Uganda? Would I push for the creation of a kingdom for the Bakiga, would I support the excavation of the history of Ndorwa kingdom? You remember Queen Nyiraguhumuza did this type of excavation to use Nyabingyi, the religion around Queen Kitami kya Nyawera from the 18th century to resist imperialism at the start of the 20th century. Kitami was queen of Ndorwa. Would I push for a “minority nationality” status across the region, given that Bakiga have migrated way beyond their native territory and it may not serve us well as a people if we push for our own native nation-state given than we will have a bigger population outside our borders than within? These are questions fellow Bakiga natives would answer AFTER the abolition. That is the essence of freedom, isn’t it? The right to choose how one wants to be governed.
Indeed, AFTER abolition, there could be an option of reconstituting the former Uganda. As you have suggested, and I believe some other people have said this before, that the kingdoms and nationalities that used to be part of the greater Bunyoro Kitara empire, and these include Burundi, Rwanda, northern Tanzania, the Karagwe area (where there were kingdoms by the way), a huge part of eastern DRC, could come together into a Kitara supra-nation. That is an option that can only be considered after Uganda, DRC, and other colonial nation-states have been abolished.
Q: Why not rather forget the Berlin states & go for bigger regional federations & a good United África?
A: Regional federations and a good united Africa, do not forget are themselves largely based on the Berlin states. Indeed, the East African federation idea was a British colonial plan. Remember originally Kenya and Uganda were administered as one, and the 1950s dispute between Kabaka Muteesa II and Governor Cohen included among other things Buganda’s rejection of the East African federation plan, fearing that Buganda could end up as a settler colony like Kenya!
Indeed, Museveni’s, Kagame’s and other pro-imperialists preaching federation today approach it from the same market-based argument, really the good old imperialist desire for markets. No wonder, the US through AFRICOM has used the AU to militarily control several parts of the continent. Federation is, therefore, a trap, if there is no freedom, no independence for natives, to begin with. It becomes a tool for further oppression and exploitation. Only a free people can federate. You can’t federate before you are free.
Q: What about ethnic conflicts and resource distribution?
A: Ethnic conflicts and issues of resource distribution are a manifestation of the unresolved question of nationality and colonialism. Abolishing Uganda and all colonial nation-states resolves these questions in fact. Before colonialism, there were and despite colonialism in fact, there are native modes of governance that minimize and resolve conflicts over resource distribution. Eurocentric scholarship calls these ways, “customary” modes of governance. Our people resolved and resolve conflicts and distributed and distribute resources differently from the Eurocentric colonial man eat man approaches.
The options for native-centred political societies can only be possible AFTER abolition. This is why I insist that Abolition is the first step, before freedom. Without abolishing Uganda, these conversations are mere speculation, abstract navel-gazing, the type bourgeois academics love to engage in, without an effect on reality. I am not interested in that exercise. Freedom, after all, is nothing if it does not guarantee material benefits.
I will close with Audre Lorde’s statement: you can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools. Berlin nation-states CAN NOT, WILL NEVER, HAVE NEVER worked for natives. They were meant to oppress and exploit natives and that is what they do. They should be abolished. Without their abolition, there is no freedom for natives. Those who work to benefit imperialism can deceive themselves and others that they are working for freedom in symbolic decolonization initiatives, but you can’t eat symbols. Symbols are just that, they are not real. Any attempt to decolonize without abolition is merely a rebranding of imperialism, not freedom.
In photo: Buganda warriors in the 1920s participating in riots overexploitation and poor working conditions by colonial employers.