Being born in a country like Uganda is rather exciting. We are the Pearl of Africa, home to over 1000 bird species, more than half of the world’s gorillas, home to over five mountains among which you find Mt. Rwenzori, Mt. Elgon and others, over twenty freshwater lakes, tens of rivers, beautiful forests, hundreds of animals that live in serene parks, the most fertile women on earth ( a 5.8 rate), the youngest population on earth, and over 50 indigenous tribes, not counting all the people who are always coming into our country. For example, in 2017, we welcomed over a million refugees into our country. As I said, it’s exciting to live here in Uganda.
So with all these different tribes comes a conundrum; one that has progressed entirely on its own. There is the issue of intermarriages. I am a product of one myself, a Rwandese father and Mutoro (a tribe in Uganda) mother. Where does the quagmire arise from? Well, it’s in how to identify oneself or how others identify you.
See, if you’re born of parents from the same tribe or from closely related tribes, you may not really understand what I’m trying to say but I’ll try to paint a picture for you. First of all, there’s the issue of languages, different dialects, and pronunciation of words. It is particularly distressing, acutely so if you had or have parents like mine who don’t even speak their mother tongue with you. My father for example, never spoke even a single word in Rwandese with us. It was always English and although our mom has tried over the years to talk to us in Rutoro, we haven’t been able to master the language due to low frequency with which we hear people speak. At least we hear “Rutoro”, unlike my father’s language.
Now if you were born in Entebbe like me, you most likely studied with people from all the tribes in Uganda and other races like whites and in some instances, Asians. This means that even at school, you most probably spent most of the day speaking English or Luganda, which is the language spoken by most people in Central Uganda and, nowadays, most parts of Uganda too. (I was having a debate with some people sometime back as to why we just don’t have it be our national language). I for instance; I am fluent in these two languages only (English and Luganda). Intriguing though, this is the case with many young people today in Uganda.
The languag issue isn't generally a big deal, until when you visit your relatives on either side wherethey expect you to know their language. And the isolation starts, slowly but surely as you’re cut out from conversations and ultimately most of their other activities.
It doesn’t stop there, with isolation comes racial and tribal insults that are meant to spite one for being a half breed (a term that basically means one that is of different genealogical backgrounds, in this case, tribes). It must be noted that many people have parents from even up to over four different tribes. My maternal cousins, for example, have grandparents from three different tribes, Basoga, Itesot, Bagwere and Basamya on their father’s side and Rwandese, consequently having over five different villages to call ancestral homes.
Now, since each of those tribes is partially their heritage, aren’t they entitled to all of them? Of course, they are, however, this is not what their relatives may think as each of these tribes may deny them saying they belong to another. The are several reason for this occurence.
When it comes to inheritance, parents generally leave their wealth to their children and this means that my cousins, for example, could have an inheritance in all the five villages that they have an ancestral heritage in. However, because of envy, the relatives in these places may cut out my cousins as has been done before, saying that since they have an inheritance in other places, they should leave what is there to them. This leaves them with no inheritance.
The other issue, as has happened to me and my siblings too, is a more entrenched racial stigmatization among tribes. Because of the hatred amongst different tribes, one finds themselves a pawn in this barbaric war, mostly of words but sometimes that spills into violence.
As if one doesn’t have enough on their plate already, you find that even those from other tribes also insult you for associating with the people from the tribe where you come from.
To me, I would suggest that we all move away from this petty and backward tribal and racial stigmatization and war and focus on better, progressive things. After all, we are a country of many languages, shouldn’t that be used as an advantage to us as Ugandans? In the end we are all recognized as Ugandans and out there as Africans and that’s what matters.