Abwooli Rujumba Omurungi W’Abasambu, so much of ink has been falsely spewed and spilled, in such hysterical hateful tones and choruses, by world scholars and noted feminists alike, in attempting to justify the provocative assertion that as regards the treatment of its tenderer half or the societal dais upon which it, by some accidents of history and biology, finds itself standing, the African Humanity as given vent through its known norms, social- political fetters and settled traditions is not only archaic and uncivilized but, too, satanic and barbaric- to say the least.
The fiery eloquence with which they craft, just like the proud and expert hands of an eminent Aztec goldsmith fashioning a royal jewel for Montezuma’s royal appealing and wearing, their kangaroo judgments allow no space for appeal! In fact the energies and sensations they employ in their declaims of condemnation, son of my father, far surpass those of Emperor Shaka’s warrior– Indunas at the enemies of The Great Elephant of Kwa Bulawayo and thus any inch of his vast frontiers!
Rujumba, extremists are terrorists and one who pronounces extremism pronounces terrorism. Therefore, the use and counter use of the two adjectives is just as intertwined as the webs of the other spider in the house of my grandmother. I will thus prefer to use the latter of the two, so let not your fine eyebrows be raised for a moment.
These shameless terrorists in fact go as far as proclaiming and asserting that our ways now, in their most crude, are even worse, in the regard of our mothers, daughters and wives, than those of the Pre- Islamic Arabia Jahilia Period, were women were bartered and battered or newly begotten females slayed at birth- because, apparently, they had no worth.
To substantiate this, they cite Female Genital Mutilation among the Sabiny and Pokot peoples, a customary decree that the crown prince at the passing on of his father, among the Baganda, must first exchange privates with a 12 or so year-old from a certain clan to seal his ascension to the throne of his forefathers and the throwing off the highest cliff of, among the Kiga of Western Uganda, a girl who go pregnant before completion of all marriage rites among others. These imported religions have also no helped matters.
Rujumba, those are the tests, low as they are, that are unfortunately used by these terrorists to judge and weigh the ways of our people long established over generations of consistent and committed practice by our forefathers, recall always to pour them libation whenever you must drink, and foremothers- recall, too, to offer sacrifices of the choicest meats to them whenever you must visit the shrines. These myopic opinions of the ways of our people and our people at large must be countered with all the contempt they deserve.
This is not to say that the above practices should be preserved by any section of our peoples, I actually strongly think they should not, all in the name of preserving our beautifully unique cultures and the philosophies that underlie them.
All I am saying, as we suckled at the same breast, is that a more objective test should be adopted in the judgment of the ways of my people for history, that these terrorists do not read, is littered with practices that exalt the rank of a woman, both as a mother and princess or as a daughter in the classic African setting. Actually, it can be argued that as regards the treatment of women when viewed from an objective lens, African Societies could be rated as the most progressive and respectful in the world!
Princess Katrina Ssangalyambogo of Buganda greets King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru on his 18th Birthday Celebrations at Kabalole . Photo Courtersy of Presidential Press Unit- Uganda.
Among the Baganda and the Banyoro for instance, mothers occupy such highly privileged positions in these respective societies that their words are respected for a communication from the gods and deities. A mother’s word or counsel is of such supreme importance to the child that deviance therefrom is almost unknown. A mother’s curse, according to the Nyoro Anthropologist and Historian John William Nyakatuura in his book Emirwa y’Ihanga lya Kitara, is most dreaded.
Thus the supreme punishment that could be meted out to any one in old Nyoro society was where a mother angrily raised her apparels, in a cursing posture, exposing in the process her nakedness to the errant child. Such a child was considered doomed and ruined with no prospects of living long. To stress how dreaded this deed was, Nyakatuura further posits that not even God Ruhanga could rescind it, unless the child apologized by special rituals whereupon the mother could unwind the curse and take back the child! There is, too, a long line of proverbs stressing this point. This remains up to now the case in Tooro.
Further among the Baganda, a princess commanded the same respect as a prince from both within royal enclosures and without. Thus what a prince could do, a princess would also do. There are actually some incidents where some princesses, thanks to their charisma and virtues, occupied more lofty positions in society than their male counterparts- like the woman Nannono whom we shall turn to in a moment.
No wonder some of these norms have been transported to this Mutebi generation- Omulembe Omutebi– such as reference to princes and princesses alike as Ssebbo. Thus Omumbejja in Buganda is respectfully and deferentially addressed as Ssebo. In ordinary speak and parlance, Ssebo applies to men as does Nnyabo to women.
Again in battle- times, Nyoro history proudly chronicles the supreme emotional and physical heroism of women like Kanyange Nyamutahingurwa Omunyonzakati just as Europe does of Joan of Arc or Islamic Civilization of Hamid Begum in the court of Nizam- ul- Mulk among other notable Muslim heroines.
Joan of Arc was the brave woman of Europe who, garbed in male battle- attire, so valiantly fought in the siege of Orleans, 1428 C. E. She discomfited the English in the celebrated battle of Pietz and almost singly sat Charles VII on the throne. So brave was Joan that in the year 1431, her heroism caused her premature end.
She was burnt alive for it was put about that her prowess was so supernatural that it could only be the caused by sorcery! But she was afterwards invested with a halo of glory and her great deeds are now cited in history books as examples of supreme heroism. In 1920, she was canonized, that is, acclaimed officially as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church!
The Islamic poet Mirza Hadi cited by Allama Syed Sulaiman Nadwi in the little delicious book Heroic Deeds of Muslim Women, © Africa Muslims Agency, at p. 45- 46 in the battle against ‘Adil Khan recounts Hamid Begum’s heroism in the defense of her master Nizam- ul- Mulk, thus: ‘she stood like an adamantine rock in the battlefield…she put on a veil over her pretty form, and fastened ornamented sword and dagger around her waist. And when the two forces arrayed in opposition, she herself stood manfully like an impenetrable mountain during the fight and discomfited the assailants…taking possession of their elephants and guns returning gloriously.’
Thus too, Abwooli -was Kanyange Nyamutahingurwa Omunyonzakati mother of your illustrious great- great- grandfather conquering Emperor Chwa II Kabaleega of Bunyoro. When the white man touched upon these lands, raping, scorching villages and massacring as he did, Kabaleega constructed perhaps the most celebrated guerilla war- horse in the defense of his Empire’s sovereignty.
He heroically resisted the dreaded Gun Maxim for well over decade. A decade here should be understood in the context of the speed with which the wind spread the white man’s gunpowder, the technological supremacy of his firepower and the sheer inhumanity of his battle stratagems!
However we shall explore the lengths and breadths of his heroic virtues one fine morning, not today. What is crucial here is the support that women, including Kanyange, rendered to the sustenance of the most honorable cause. It is recorded by K. W, of whom Kabaleega is a direct ancestor, that the struggle would probably not have lasted that long if it were not for this support.
Princess Komuntale of Tooro
They acted spies thus relaying information from the enemy ranks, provided psychological support to their fighting husbands most notable being the Musongorakati wife of General Rwabudongo. For her part, Kanyange Nyamutahingurwa was one of the last persons to be captured by Colonel Colville’s menacing and rampaging forces.
Abwooli, if I attempted to exhaust this rather limitless list of deeds pointing to the conclusion that a woman was, contrary to the unresearched and boringly monotonous counter- opinions, held in highest esteem and regard, with respect and love, as she still is, by the society in which our forefather’s lived and in which we currently live, the effort would if not prove unsuccessful, outlast eight full moons and four dry seasons, for it winds and winds like the Musizi River!
Two incidents that I have not seen related anywhere except in between the old brown- covers of a few dusty and lonely books and the memories of men shall be used to cap up my argument that Classical Nyoro and Ganda societies- call it Afrikan, respected a woman and held her in the highest esteem than what regularly meets the eye.
Nannono of Buganda
During the reign of Ssekabaka Nakibinge, Buganda witnessed events that were to eventually propel a woman –Nannono, to occupy the throne Nnamulondo of Buganda. Because of his noted bravery and courage, Omukama Olimi I Rwitamahanga Omwitabya^ro Owa Kalimbi- scourge of nations, of Bunyoro succeeded his father Winyi I Rubembeka Ntara who also succeeded his father Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru. When Buganda invaded the Nyoro counties of Bweera and Bulemeezi, Olimi I personally led his army to face off with Ganda and Nakibinge.
These events in turn led the two armies to run into one another at Murago- as the Banyoro remember it or Mulago- as was known within the Ganda ranks. The epic battle is well recalled in the military histories of the two peoples for idealy two reasons. First, the astonishing bravery and valor that the two belligerents ,commanded by two Kings, exuded. Secondly, the circumstances that led to the death of the Nyoro Commander Nsembuka ya Kwezi.
Clearly outwitted and discomfited by Nyoro spear- men, as the historian Mrs. Fisher in her book Twilight tales of Black Baganda: The Traditional History of Bunyoro- Kitara, narrates as- rather authoritatively, does K. W, the brave Ganda King appealed to the spirit Kibuuka that answered his call and, fighting from the clouds- ebicu, struck dead the equally brave Nyoro General Nsembuka ya Kwezi.
The battle was so ferocious that Nakibinge was slain by Olimi I Rwitamahanga and the brave Ganda forces defeated. —Kihumuro- Apuuli: A thousand years of Bunyoro- Kitara Kingdom, Fountain Publishers Kampala 1994 p.40—-John William Nyakatuura: The Anatomy of An African Kingdom, 1994 p.89- 90.
The official Ganda website reports of the incident thus: ‘Nakibinge called Kibuuka Kyobe Omumbaale from the Ssese Island to come and rescue the Kingdom of Buganda during the wars with Bunyoro Kingdom. They fought and won the war but were both killed during the battle. Kibuuka was killed first when they (the Banyoro) discovered his tactics of fighting and then Nakibinge was killed towards the end of the war. http://www.buganda.or.ug/index.php/ssekabaka-nakibinge
Though some Ganda so claim as above viz that Nakibinge’s army won despite dangerously acknowledging, as above, that he was slain as was Kibuuka just like Nsembuka ya Kwezi in the Nyoro ranks, this cannot have been the case for two reasons: First, Nakibinge’s death which they do not deny, and; Secondly, the fact that after the battle Bunyoro retained the two counties which had led the two Kingdoms to War in the first place.
But be that as it may, the crowning effect of this battle, as hinted upon earlier, was Nannono’s keeping guard, by way of occupation, of the throne Nnamulondo for one full year- a fitting tribute to the esteemed positions women held in that society! Could a women really have been honoured more than this in such a feudalistic society?
Omukama Mashamba Ga Winyi Omubiitokati
When Omukama Chwa I Rumomamahanga ascended the throne Nyamyaro succeeding his father Nyarwa Omuzaarakyaaro, his one desire was to expand his Empire by reclaiming the size superintended over by the Bachwezi. He thus consequently took war to Omugabe Ntare Kiitabanyoro of Nkore (the circumstances under which he attained this title can be explained at behest) and defeated him at the battle of Rulembo and thus subsequently established his capital at Kakunyu in Nkore. He thereafter visited the same war to Rwanda with identical motives and intents. He however rested in Rwanda.
When this news reached Bunyoro, the charismatic Princess Mashamba Omubiitokati, Batebe or Omukama Chwa’s Princess Royal was put on the Nyoro throne and reined for four solid years! Once more, we shall ask ourselves: Could a women really have been honoured more than this in such a feudalistic society?
Given that briefly related indisputable historical incidents and facts, Abwooli, it naturally follows that these terrorists have no more arrows left in their quivers, and who can blame them?
Nyoro, Ganda, Tooro, Kiga societies or the classical African society not only respected and loved, but also honoured a women as a whole more -perhaps, than any other society in the world.
Those circumstances that tended to degrade and dehumanize the woman were singular and isolated and should not be used, as these terrorists do, as a standard meter to measure and cast scorn and vile upon our unique and immeasurably rich norms, ways and traditions.
Thus, as we suckled at the same breast, if you asked me that, as does my Facebook friend David Mukasa, why can’t princesses like Katrina Ssangalyambogo of Buganda or Princess Nkwanzi of Bunyoro ascend the thrones of their fathers, I will argue it is a matter of their father’s choice- and choice cannot be forced.
Thus in the case that their brothers Rukidi and Ssemakookiro succeded their the thrones of their fathers, it would be more out of the wise judgments of their fathers than any hard and fast societal norm. This thesis finds authority in the above- related anecdote of the two illustrious women -Nannono and Mashamba Omubiitokati.
Be it also known that these events happened way before the white man touched, with his enlightening civilization and religions, upon these sacred parts of the earth!
Hangiriza Rukirabasaija! Hangiriza Ikingura! Hangiriza Nkyanungi! Hangiriza Ekituule ekinobere abeemi; ntale y’Bunyoro! Muliisa Nfuuzi! Muliira haiguru amagufa nigakunkumuka! Mbogo emu, bahiigi Magana! Hangiriza Kabumba! Hangiriza Agutamba!
Nda^sigara Omunyoro waawe Kyomuhendo Rwa Rwetuma; Rwetuma Rwa Kabyanga; Kabyanga Rwa Kabyanga; Kabyanga Rwa Bahemuka; Bahemuka Rwa Kagoro; Kagoro Rwa Kakyomya- Omusambu. Rwa Kugonza Omubiitokati; Kugonza Rwa Bulemu; Bulemu Rwa Mwirumubi; Mwirumubi Rwa Chwa II Kabaleega!