PROF AFUNADUULA: The fate of pluralism in Uganda


Uganda is a pluralistic society along many dimensions: religious cultural ethical moral, ethnic, social, economic, political, and in terms of indigenous groups and clans. The differences between the people are more profound than any similarity between them. That’s why any attempt to make them similar, especially in terms of governance has embarrassingly failed.

It makes more sense to preserve the nationalities and indigenous groups that the ‘white man’ found and left here than to try and destroy them in the hope that one nation and people can be built out of them.

A plural society is what Uganda should remain. But the challenge of keeping Uganda plural is getting more and more real as some political elite try to make one ethnic group dominant, which was not the case during colonial rule and most of the post-colonial period.

This strategy is bound to backfire and leave the peoples of the different ethnicities, nationalities, indigenous groups, and even clans, in more conflicting relationships than ever before.

There was a time when our people were more knowledgeable about their creeds and backgrounds; when there was a lot of mixing and interactions between them in schools, in society. But not these days. There is a lot of suspicions and fear between different groups, especially because of land grabbing.

The heartbeat of the African encouraged interaction and respect of our cultures. Pluralism does not mean many political parties as many Ugandans have been made to believe. It reflects those different dimensions I mentioned, and underlies survival through nurturing differences rather than similarities.

Pluralism values independent thinking and actions, especially local ones, on development in the periphery rather than from a central point. It values local sovereignty and democracy. It is respect for our different existences in coexistence. That is why we should all be committed to the language of pluralism, which is language of dialogue and encounter.

The ugly smoke billowing from Tororo…

They are all immigrants to Budama in Tororo District, but they are engrossed in bitter fight over who should own Tororo District. I mean the Itesot and the Japadhola. But who are the true owners of the area? One thing is for certain: the Japadhola arrived before the Itesot, and even absorbed the early Itesot arrivals in their clans, the way Buganda absorbed immigrants in their 52 clans for decades.

But now the Itesot want their own piece of land excised from Tororo District. It is possible. Long ago in Busoga, some brothers; Nkono, Zibondo and Nagwere, arrived in the Chiefdom of Busiki, from Gogonya in present-day Bugwere, and they were settled by the Kisiki—the ruler of Busiki.

Nagwere chose to go back to Gogonya. Nkono and Zibondo stayed and reproduced profusely and even invited more of their people to come over. Soon they felt they needed their own chiefdoms. They asked the Kisiki, Nantamu, to give them their own territories. He agreed. The House of Nkono got its own. Today, it is the Chiefdom of Bukono. The House of Zibondo got its own. Today it is the Chiefdom of Bulamogi. So to defuse the conflict between the Itesot and Japadhola, the Itesot could get their own territory. But will the Itesot abandon the Japadhola clans? I don’t know the view of my friend, Tanga Odoi.


Prof Oweyegha Afunaduula is a retired Makerere University lecturer, an environmentalist and a social commentator.



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