I fully agree with Museveni that to recommend a solution, we must get to the heart of the matter and find out what the problem is. We have failed to recommend appropriate solutions to problems in the Great Lakes regions because we have not yet got to the heart of the matter. There are two major constraints in our work: western biased or distorted reporting in favor of Batutsi and against non-Batutsi people and cover up of ethnic conflicts.
Western reporting since Europeans arrived in the Great Lakes region in the mid-19th century has been biased in favor of Nilotic Batutsi and against Bantu people dubbed Bahutu and Bairu (slaves or servants). Speke and Seligman began this process. Batutsi who are black people were falsely christened white people through the Hamitic Myth and incorrectly credited with all the civilizations they found in the region especially in Buganda including earth works in the central region of Uganda. They even claimed Bachwezi were Batutsi and Bantu had never had kingdoms and kings or chiefs. It is now confirmed that Bachwezi were a Bantu aristocracy (B. A. Ogot 1999). The history that was written covered royal courts, leaving out atrocities committed against Bantu people whom they treated as slaves or servants or sold into slavery as Makobore did. “The coastal traders were also employed in interstate raids for slaves. For example Makobore, the king of Rujumbura, employed them in his raids against Butumbi and Kayonza”(Bethwell A. Ogot 1979).
After independence, attempts were made to correct distortions and level the playing field. Bantu were found to have had civilizations like Mwami kings of Bahutu in Rwanda (a title that Batutsi adopted for their kings), that some Bantu specialized in livestock herding (E. J. Murphy 1974), were also manufacturers especially of iron products and constructed earthen works in central Uganda and were not mere cultivators as aristocratic European researchers in the context of race relations painted them. As populations grew, permanent settlements developed requiring establishment of administrative structures and rule of law. Cooperation among communities minimized conflicts and facilitated trade and when conflicts arose they were often resolved by diplomatic than military means.
All these civilizations were destroyed upon arrival of warring Batutsi. Bantu short horn cattle were destroyed because Batutsi took over from Bantu grazing land for their long horn cattle. Bantu industries were destroyed as well as their marketing and cooperation arrangements. Bantu people who had enjoyed wealth and health were reduced to cultivators of food largely to feed their new Batutsi masters in return for so-called protection. In Rwanda, Bahutu lost all their land. Bantu were reduced to poverty and food insecurity which contributed to their short stature. These arrangements continued under indirect rule of colonial administrations that used Batutsi as paid civil servants in addition to taxes in cash and forced labor on public works.
Political independence changed these arrangements because elections were based on majority rule and Bantu people had more voting power than Batutsi. In Rwanda, Bahutu replaced Batutsi and the government of Habyarimana was praised by the west for its development program and recommended as a model for emulation by other developing countries. African historians and UNESCO published research findings that corrected some past distortions. And things were beginning to take good shape.
Then came geopolitics pitting Anglo-Saxons against French interests and Cold War between capitalism and socialism for control of vast resources in the Great Lakes region. In Uganda Obote was seen as a socialist and replaced by Marxist Museveni but a Tutsi on condition he converts to capitalism under neo-liberal economics. Kanyeihamba and colleagues negotiating on behalf of Museveni convinced the World Bank to drop Obote and switch support to Museveni, a political decision the Bank isn’t supposed to take. Bahutu government of Habyarimana in Rwanda was supported by France. Those fighting France and the institutions they control changed their mind suddenly in late 1980s about Rwanda’s economic performance. Habyarimana came under pressure to introduce ‘shock therapy’ stabilization and structural adjustment program that resulted in cuts in defense budget, economic decline, elimination of subsidies, rising unemployment and poverty. These draconian steps created economic, social and political instability in the 1990s that coincided with the first RPF attacks that began in 1990 and were launched from Uganda. Anglo-Saxons shifted support to Batutsi, arranged Arusha negotiations with rebels to which Habyarimana “was dragged screaming” and forced a Peace Settlement On his way from the Arusha meeting together with his Hutu counterpart president of Burundi the plane was shot down and both Hutu presidents were killed. The black box has never been found to tell us what happened. The death of Habyarimana triggered fighting that resulted in the genocide of Rwanda moderate Hutu and Tutsi but Kagame and possibly the west have refused to accept that many Hutu were also targeted for elimination. There are stories that Kagame with possible tacit support of western powers also refused investigations for those who committed genocide to include RPF soldiers. Ipso facto, investigations have been one sided, covering Bahutu only. In a war situation when anything can happen all participants in the war should be investigated to remove any lingering doubts.
Sadly, Western media, politicians, diplomats, lobbyists and hired consulting firms have by and large painted Batutsi under the leadership of Museveni and Kagame as good people but victims of Bahutu genocidaires. Bahutu have been labeled bad guys or beasts thirsty and hungry for Batutsi blood and flesh that should be denied a place in the civilized world. Because of this bias the Burundi genocide of 1972 committed by Batutsi against Bahutu was swept under the rug because to do otherwise would have forced westerners to condemn Batutsi as bad guys as well. Museveni and Kagame have been described as visionary leaders, bold and innovative statesmen in search of peace, stability, development and eradication of ethnic conflicts. As reward, Uganda and Rwanda have been elected to UN Security Council as countries whose leaders are committed to promoting peace and security in the Great Lakes region. This is the opposite of what is actually happening on the ground under these two leaders.
Museveni and Kagame have used this western cover and unlimited support to drag the region towards pre-colonial feudal days of kings and serfs that will culminate in formation of Tutsi Empire. Kagame and Museveni have introduced draconian laws against divisionism and sectarianism with the sole purpose of muzzling Bantu dissent as they strengthen Batutsi militarily, politically and economically to dominate the region and continue to support Anglo-Saxon geopolitical interests in the region. Outlawing sectarianism and divisionism has given the false impression that ethnic conflict is a thing of the past. Skewed distribution of growth benefits is therefore not seen in ethnic terms with Batutsi gaining tremendously while non-Batutsi sink into deep poverty.
When I wrote that the ethnic differences between Nilotic Batutsi and Bantu people were still alive and well and possibly getting worse and social integration in the form of intermarriage wasn’t happening I was challenged to give concrete evidence or stop misleading the public. So, let us get to the heart of the matter on the issue of intermarriage and why it is not happening among Batutsi men and how various ethnic groups view one another.
Kevin Shillington wrote “Some immigrant pastoralist groups intermarried with settled cultivators and between them produced new mixed-farming populations [for example in Bunyoro, Toro, Buganda and Northwest Tanzania]. But Hima and Tutsi of southwestern highland zones [southwest Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Eastern DRC] did not mix so freely. They avoided intermarriage and by keeping themselves distinct they managed, in time, to establish a position of domination over the majority peasant cultivators of the region”(Shillington 1989).
Neil J. Kressel has written that in Rwanda “The Tutsis considered agricultural work beneath their dignity and they evolved an ideology of themselves as a race of leaders, endowed with extraordinary intellectual abilities. They perceived the Hutu as hard workers [but] incapable of leadership. The system rested on … ‘a premise of inequality’. It permeated life in pre-colonial Rwanda, to the extent that unmarried Tutsi boys would be ‘given’ Hutu girls, temporarily for sexual purposes. Intermarriage occurred but usually with successful Hutu men marrying Tutsi women [same as in Southwest Uganda, Burundi and Eastern DRC]. Tutsi men would take Hutu women as concubines, rather than marrying them [and they would produce children that men would disown putting the burden to raise them on poor Hutu women]” (Kressel 2002).
Kamuhangire adds that “That is, members of the agricultural group who distinguished themselves either militarily or in material wealth always aspired to identify with wealthy pastoral group. They would in time marry from the pastoralist group and would eventually get absorbed into that ethnic group. On the other hand, [even] a poor pastoralist rarely got absorbed among the agriculturalists … Thus, it is seen that whereas the agriculturalists aspired to be identified with the cattle ideology and was willing to change his ethnic identity, the opposite was true of the pastoralist” (Bethwell A. Ogot 1979).
Regarding Batutsi refugees and the problems they have created, David Waller has written that “This massive influx of Banyarwanda people to the neighboring countries, as refugees and as economic migrants [for example as happened in Buganda since the 1960s and 1920s respectively], has caused problems for the host nations. They [Banyarwanda] are unpopular because they are seen as having gained land, political power, and economic success at the expense of the host community [as in Uganda since 1986] … they are accused of failing to assimilate themselves into their country of refuge”(Waller 1993).
The antagonistic relation between Batutsi and Bantu is expressed in the following quotation from Eastern DRC. “Babembe consider Tutsi to be good-for-nothings, incapables, lacking in physical strength, uncircumcised, an inferior people who drink milk all day and bemoan not their dead but their cattle. For their part, Tutsi regard Babembe as trouble makers, barbaric, haughty, good only for heavy [agricultural] labor in exchange for a calf close to death” (Johan Pottier2002).
In Ankole there was a caste system whereby the cattle-owning caste [Bahima] ruled the agricultural Bairu caste. To maintain this domination inter-marriage between the two castes was effectively prohibited and only men of pastoral descent would own cattle (A. Shorter 1974 & L. Mir 1974). In payment for services rendered by Bairu to Bahima, the former received barren cows or bull calves (R. Mukherjee 1985) or meat from a dead cow to prevent them from accumulating wealth and keep them dominated.
To sum up, the ethnic relationship outlined above between Nilotic Batutsi and Bantu people in the Great Lakes region has probably got worse because of the widening gaps between Batutsi and non-Batutsi in wealth and standard of living in favor of Batutsi in the Great Lakes region. The illustrations above are available in western libraries but western policy makers and many other commentators have chosen to sweep them under the rug and focus on Musevei and Kagame visionary and exceptional leadership. They report rapid economic growth without mentioning how the benefits are distributed among Batutsi and non-Batutsi populations. They talk about declining ethnicity without mentioning that discussing it is prohibited under the law with heavy penalties for those who break the law.
The Great Lakes region needs a level playing field between Batutsi and non-Batutsi people; between governing and opposition parties. For example, Uganda opposition parties and organizations under UDU have developed an excellent National Recovery Plan (NRP) as alternative to the failed NRM policies (NRM’s National Development Plan hasn’t even been implemented, meaning that NRM is running a country without a plan leaving Uganda under the influence of unregulated market forces and laissez faire arrangements). Has Museveni abdicated his responsibilities?
The opposition has capable and experienced Ugandans but Museveni has shut them out of Uganda’s development process in order to implement his notion of winner take all hiring NRM cadres most of whom obtained their diplomas from night classes conducted for thousands of students (some of them possibly never attended or completed courses or passed exams or met all the requirements to graduate like in education) at Makerere university just to give them paper qualification without much substance (the program was closed after complaints).
At the risk of upsetting hardworking Ugandans with a military background which is regrettable, Uganda’s experience is that military leaders are not trained for civilian administration. They are used to issuing orders that must be executed whether they are appropriate or not. That is why military regimes in Rwanda and Uganda have created more problems than they have solved at gun point. Many Ugandans and the number is increasing feel that Amin was on balance better than Museveni, at least he didn’t take land from peasants like Museveni is doing and giving it to Batutsi and foreigners.
We don’t know what will happen when Mbabazi’s plan of giving peasants land to rich and large scale farmers has taken place and the decision by Museveni and Kagame to abolish national borders between the two states is carried out. All these changes are designed to benefit Batutsi: make no mistake about that and silence by Ugandans, Rwandans and western powers may signify consent – not by me.
What is emerging is that people want a political system that can facilitate everyone to raise their families in peace and security. Those who want to maintain the exploitative status quo distort our stories and invoke genocide to undermine further discussion towards finding a lasting solution. Time has come to find another instrument when responding to opposition criticisms.
We appeal to western powers and citizens to realize that non-Batutsi people in the Great Lakes region are created in the image of God like Batutsi and they should be treated as real human beings than ‘bad guys’ that should have no place in the 21st century civilization.