Monday, 9 July 2012

Basongora-Bakonzo wrangle: A looming tribal bloodbath?

Cultural impasse. Whereas the Basongora say pupils studying from schools in their area should stop singing the Obusinga anthem and traditional dance, the King of Rwenzururu insists he does not recognise Busongora Kingdom and pupils should continue singing and dancing to the royal anthem. When the High Court in Fort Portal on May 7 ruled in favour of 289 farmers who in 2006 sued government for giving their land to pastoralists, it looked like the old conflict between the parties (Bakonzo and Basongora) would die.
The assumption was wrong as no one knew that the next wrangle would be over separation of royal and administrative powers. Court ruled in favour of the cultivators (mainly Bakonzo) and ordered immediate re-possession and occupation of the land. Then it seemed that justice was served and peace would follow when farmers were all smiles. The land then that led to the conflict is located in Bukangara and Rwehingo in Nyakiyumbu Sub-county, Kasese District. The Basongora are among the minority ethnic groups in Kasese mainly pastoralists in the low lands of Busongora North and Busongora South. Clashes erupt When government gave the land to Basongora pastoralists, who had returned from Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo where they had gone in search of water and pasture, bloody clashes erupted. The Bakonzo cultivators protested government’s move to settle the cattle keepers on the 2,050 acres of land and the deployment of police in the area to block whoever wanted to continue cultivating on the disputed land. The cultivators successfully sued the Attorney General and asked court among others to; order government, its agents and the pastoralists out of their land. Mr Paul Byakatonda, one of the farmers’ leaders, said famine and food scarcity will be no more so long as every farmer repossesses the land they had lost hope in. Share This Story 4Share Following this, the Basongora community quickly held several meetings and rekindled their old demands of their own district and kingdom. They want to secede from Kasese and from Rwenzururu Kingdom, arguing that their interests are not catered for and are politically marginalised. Different cultures The Basongora have gone ahead to crown their own King Rwigi IV Kabumba Rutakirwa Ivan Bwebale amid resistance from different sections in the district. They argue that it is their human right to have a kingdom because they don’t share any cultures with the Bakonzo. “We have totally different cultures with the Bakonzo, so it is our human right to have our own kingdom” said the Busongora king’s spokesperson, Mr Jacob Muzoora, on Wednesday. Two weeks ago, the Basongora called for the rejection of the Rwenzururu Kingdom anthem in schools in their areas where they stay. This was after the Basongora elders complained to their cultural leader that their children were being forced to sing the Rwenzururu Kingdom anthem and to dance Bakonzo traditional dance. Bwebale says it is an abomination to see their children dance the Bakonzo traditional dance and sing their kingdom anthem. “All head teachers in Busongora schools should stand warned that the Basongora have own kingdom meaning that the Rwenzururu culture here is an abuse on us,” Bwebale warned on June 24 at Nyakatonzi Community hall after he announced his cabinet. Bwebale said the Busongora Kingdom has been in existence though not popular as was established in 1886 by Queen Ikamiro Kogyere. Mr Joseph Baluku, an elder in the Rwenzururu Kingdom, said: “I am worried of how two kingdoms will operate in one district. Does it mean that Basongora and Bakonzo will have their own separate schools in order not to honour the anthems of the two institutions?” He added: “I am sensing danger in our district if our leaders don’t decide wisely”. The minority groups say they have been marginalised in the politics and service delivery in Kasese which is led by the majority Bakonzo. Push for Busongora district on the card A petition to the district chairperson by Mr Bisanga says the Basongora, Banyabindi and Bachingwe, the three minority groups have been discriminated against, marginalised and oppressed by the district administration on employment, service delivery, politics and education. The petition calls for the creation of a separate district for entirely the three ethnic groups because the proposed split of Kasese into three administrative units leaves the Basongora, Banyabindi and Bachingwe scattered.