Uganda

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The political entity now known as Uganda, as it is defined by its current geographic boundaries, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS, 2010), covers a total of 241,551 square kilometres.

History has it that the current geographic boundaries of Uganda, came into being between 1890 and 1926, as it is documented, among others, by James Tumusiime in his book “Peoples and Cultures of Uganda.”

The English who colonised the territory, are the ones who established Uganda as a political entity. It is they who named the territory Uganda. English colonialists formed Uganda in line with the colonialist principal of effective occupation; effectively, therefore, Uganda resulted from negotiations at the Berlin Conference of 1884-85.

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At the Berlin Conference, English colonialists, armed with treaties, which they had hoodwinked leaders of ‘the first nations of ‘African-Ugandans’ to enter into, claimed and got territorial control over Uganda.

Prior to the English colonialists grabbing the territory and naming it Uganda, the territory was occupied by people of its first nations. History shows that the first people who occupied the territory were Khosian people, also referred to as Stone-Age people.  

‘Koshian-Ugandans’ are believed to have been the indigenous people of the territory. Philip Briggs and Andrew Roberts, for example, in their book: “Uganda”, make the assertion that Khosian people widely populated the territory.

The oldest sites in the territory that are believed to have been occupied by ‘Khosian-Ugandans’, hundreds of thousands of years ago are Nsongezi on Kigezi River and Sango Bay on Lake Victoria. Rock paintings characteristic of Khosian people, to date, can be found in caves or shelters in the Eastern part of the territory.

Prior to the arrival, in the territory, of English colonialists, other people of African descent, also, occupied the territory. During the first millennium A.D, it is believed and documented that ‘African-Ugandans’, migrated into the territory from other parts of the African continent.

As ‘African-Ugandans’ migrated into the territory, they undoubtedly absorbed or pushed out and replaced ‘Khosian-Ugandans’. A near complete ethnocide of ‘Khosian-Ugandans’ occurred; to the extent that, presently, there are hardly any descendants of ‘Khosian-Ugandans’ living in the bulk of the territory.

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Few descendants of ‘Khosian-Ugandans’, such as the Batwa, remain in the territory and in few numbers. ‘Khosian-Ugandans’, such as the Batwa, are, in fact, among the nations that are considered vulnerable and marginalised peoples of the world.

‘African-Ugandans’ are the ancestors of the people recognised as citizens, by birth, by the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda; and which recognises 65 different cultural groupings. This makes the territory, currently with over 40 million people, the most ethnically diverse in the world.

The interaction of the cultures of the global-west, primarily so of the English who colonised the territory, and those of ‘African-Ugandans’, produced ‘global-westernised-Ugandans’ of two kinds: ‘global-westernised-Africanists’ and a kind of ‘global-westernised-recaptives’.

A good representation of the two kinds of ‘global-westernised-Ugandans, the Africanists and the recaptives, is the renowned scholar and writer, Okot p’Bitek, as a person; and one of the characters, Ocol, in Okot p’Bitek’s famous literary work: “Song of Lawino” 

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Okot p’Bitek epitomises the ‘global-westernised-Africanist’. They have received high level formal global-western education; are intellectuals, who while accepting and practising aspects of global-western culture, use the central logic of global-western culture to mock it.

As with Okot p’Bitek, ‘global-westernised-Africanists’ defend ‘African-Ugandan’ culture; they take every opportunity that they get to rebut and to debunk the popular global-image of Africa as the so-called “dark continent.”

On the opposite extreme to the ‘global-westernised-Africanist’ is that who Okot p’Bitek’s character in his “Song of Lawino,” Ocol, embodies. They have acquired some formal global-western education; which, in their view, makes them the civilised and superior ones, among their people; in the case of Ocol, it is the Acholi.

Ocol’s mentality is similar to that of rescued and freed slaves, “recaptives”, as they are described by Basil Davidson in his book: “The Black Man’s Burden.” As embodied by Ocol, ‘global-westernised-recaptives’ tend to hold a passionate belief in the superiority of global-western cultures and in the inferiority of ‘African-Ugandan’ culture.

Global-westernised-recaptives, in fact, strongly believe that it is their duty to ‘educate’ their people, the descendants of ‘African-Ugandans’, to abandon what, in their warped view, are the backward ways of their ancestors’ culture.

The interaction of global-western culture, of those who colonised the territory, with ‘African-Ugandan’ cultures, also produced ‘traditionalist-Ugandans’. The traditionalists are descendants of ‘African-Ugandans’ and who resist global-westernisation.

Okot p’Bitek, in “Song of Lawino”, effectively demonstrates the traditionalists’ resistance through Lawino, the main protagonist. Traditionalists, like Lawino, have had no formal global-western education; are not intellectuals in the global-western sense; but are very intelligent.

‘Traditionalist-Ugandans’ passionately believe in the central logic of the culture of their ancestors and they find it rational to practice the traditions of their ancestors. As does Lawino, traditionalists question global-westernisation, in general, and cultural imperialism, in particular.

They, particularly, critique the attitude and practices that elevate global-western culture as superior to ‘African-Ugandan’ culture. And so, they strive to point out the irrationality in the traditions of global-western culture.  

By Ms. Norah Owaraga

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