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UGANDA BEFORE COLONIALISM; THE PRE-CONTACT PERIOD. final texts

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UGANDA BEFORE COLONIALISM; THE PRE-CONTACT PERIOD. final texts

Post by sol_drethedon on Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:23 pm

Thus in Uganda the crafts guilds, unlike those in Europe, were craft clans. The European counterpart of the guild is a modified form of craft clans. Uzoigwe also points out that the abakama of Bubyoro-Kitara 'had the habit' (sic) of establishing markets wherever their places happened to be located: 'The concentration of markets around Mubende, Bugangaizi, Buyaga and Kyala lends more weight to the view that these areas formed the original heartland of the empire.' This in our view would also be consistent with the universal truth pointed out above, which was characteristic too of the prehistoric Aegean and other societies. Thus clan rule grew out of clan relations of hospitality, a rule that introduced new contradictions in precolonial Uganda.

We now turn to examine the stratified societies of Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole., Busoga and Buganda. They all developed relatively centralised state systems under a king, who claimed succession over a long time from other kings. A state structure therefore existed with varying degree of perfection to protect and safeguard the interests of the ruling class. The roots of this we have already examined. Buganda stood out as a more perfected state system than others by the end of the period. Earlier contact with Europe through Egypt and Zanzibar, helped to further tighten the state structure, as new weapons of suppression were introduced in order to ensure a higher rate of surplus product through tradition and plunder for trade with mercantilist Europe.

Bunyoro originally was a much larger kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara. Its origins are woven in some mythology although outlines of reality are easy to discern. It is said that the kingdom began with the Chwezi who came from the north, a pastoralist people who settled in the area and in the course of time established overrule in the native people, seting up a kingdom in the process out of a system of clans. It was known as Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom. After two or three generations, the Chwezi lost control over their subjected people and moved south. Then came the Babito, a Lwoo people who moved in, took over remnants of the kingdom and established a new dynasty.This dynasty then introduced a new kingdom called Bunyoro. Recent archeological evidence suggests that the story about the Chwezi is true. It is also true that the Babito introduced another kingdom which must have existed from about 1500 until the line came to an end in 1967, with the neocolonial 'republican constitution'. This latter kingdom was the dominant in the entire area and existed on plunder from the neighboring Buganda, Ankole, Rwanda, Karagwe, Acholi, Teso and other areas. It's territory was considerably reduced by the machinations of British colonialism and by internal dissensions and revolts. But it is important to note that Bunyoro-Kitara's poers lay in its superiority in the manufacture of iron weaponry with which the ruling classes terrorised and exacted tribute from the neighboring clans and kingdoms. As Uzoigwe has recorded, 'With the los of these territories, the Kitara empire collapsed.'

Under the form of feudal state in Bunyoro all political power all political power stemmed from the king (mukama). The mukama appointed all the regional chiefs, and even the lower-layer chieftainship needed his direct confirmation. Appointment was followed with a traditional seal of the mukama and the chief 'drinking milk' together.
The higher-level chieftainship had to reside at the capital and to attend council. The political arrangement was in conformity with the level of production realations prevailing in precolonial Bunyoro. The grant of office by the mukama also entitled rights over land, which is what ensured this form of feudal production and appropriation of the surplus product. As Beattie has remarked:

'Nyoro ruling class did not think of these two things as being different; to be granted political authority was to be alloted an area in which to exercise it and of which to attend the profit, and to be given an 'estate' was to be granted political authority over it.

In return for this grant the chiefs had to supply the mukama with grain, beer, cattle and ivory as well as other goods for the consumption of the entourage at the capital. 'These exactions, of course, fell on the peasant population, and in return for them the peasant population, and in return for them the peasants looked to their rulers for security and protection.'

This part of the story. The surplus product which was extracted from the peasantry was by no means only traditional. In the last resort, coercion was used. The fact that the people regarded such extraction as 'gift' is important, since the traditional ideology of the feudal ruling class held it to be under custom. Beattie has admirably set down the type of bonds that made this possible, without understanding its dialectical significance for production and appropriation of the surplus product. This 'gift' from the peasant had to be sufficient to meet the needs of the chief and the mukama as well as the chiefs above the village level. In addition, the chiefs obtained free labor to build and kaap in repair the royal capital and roads.

Thus at the capital of the deudal hierarchy were the mukama and the Babito ruling class, who despised agriculture but loved cattle. Then came the Bahima pastoralists, who like the Babito spurned agriculture for cattle, but unlike the Babito didnot constitute a ruling aristocracy. At the bottom were the Bahiru, the original inhabitants who were agriculturalists who provided most of the surplus produce and free labor service to the aristocracy. This highly-knit feudal rule operated so long as it held hegemony over technology. When the British colonialists arrived, the huge empire was crumbling under the weight of its contradictions, overwhelmed by internal strife and revolt. Kabarega's last effort to put it on a new sound basis met with failure, particularly with a more powerful technology that Lugard wielded on behalf of the new rulers, the imperialist financial oligarchy.

Ankole was a small kingdom which remained under Chwezi with its line of succession continuing until 1967. As we have seen, it waspart of the great Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom, but towards the end revolted against it. The country was inhabited by two peoples on a a class and caste basis. The agricultural peoples, the Bahiru, who were the original inhabitants before the Chwezi invasion, were subjugated by the pastoralist Hima ruling class. The Bahiru were enslaved and did all the production and domestic work. Asurplus of the production was extracted by the Hima ruling class for tyheir consumption. As indicated, the Bahiru supplied all the surplus labor for the state capital. Although the Hima were pastoralist and their main food was milk, they often resorted to the Hiru surplus product. Class antagonisms were complicated by the fact that not all Hima, although belonging to the ruling caste, belonged to the ruling class. This class of non-producers resided at the capital, asserting their rule through a hierarchichal arrangement. According tho Roscoe, the king alone came from the royal blood. His greatness was reckoned in terms of number of cattle in his kingdom. The chiefs were appointed to 'rule a certain number of cattle'. The king had power over all the cattle in his kingdom. No man considered any cattle his own, 'though to all intents and purposes he had sole right to the herd under him during his lifetime'. The basic accumulation of wealth for the Ankole ruling class was therefore cattle, which the ordinary producing Hima had to supply.

From this point of view and from the standpoint of production Mamdani is wrong in regarding women as wealth, when he states, 'The most advanced form of accumulation were women and cattle, in that order'. In our view, accumulation of a surplus product is from surplus labor, and women cannot be a product of surplus labor. They may be regarded as a mark of the fact that the husband has wealth, namely cattle, since this was the basic store of wealth. Even if the women were to be regarded as slaves, under the slave or any other mode of production a slave as suchh was not accumulated wealth, although he was a commodity. The slave of all the commodities, produced other commodities, and therein lay his value. What he produced apart from what he consumed was the wealth which tthe slave-owner accumulated. Mamdani is at one with the bourgeois ethnographers and sociologists on this point. The only profound originality he adds is the order!

In Ankole, the Bahiru were slaves and serfs, and produced food and did labor services required of them. The state in Ankole was presided over by the mukama on behalf of the Hima ruling class, with ministers and chiefs over the ruled castes and classes of Hiru slaves and serfs as well as Hima cattle producers. The ideology of the ruling class was rooted in the myth that the mukama had natural and supernatural powers. For this reason he bore the appellations and honorifics of the lion, connoting that he was the fiercest of the cattle raiders; the bull which was supposed to cause cattle to multiply; the drum, which supposedly maintained the unity of Ankole; and the moon which reportedly assured good fortune and drove evil away.

It has been argued by Oberg, on the basis of the bourgeios conquest theory of the state, that the Ankole state rose by conquest, and it has been counter-argued by Krader that it was an emergent state, on the grounds that the Bahiru were not touched by sovereign power and that they kept their 'speech'. What Oberg and Krader ignore is that a state power did exist over the Hima community themselves, and that a state need not have one language for the rulers and subjugated, so long as the ruler's language predominates. A state is not concomitant with a nation. What can be said with certainty is that a form of feudal state did exist, possibly in transition, but a state nevertheless.

Toro was also part of the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom. It never managed to break away completely from Bunyoro until the British colonialists moved in to establish a separate kingdom out of the squabbles of claimants to the leadership. Toro, nevertheless, oppressed by distant rule, had cause to revolt against the overrule from Bunyoro. As the Bunyoro-Kitara grip weakened, a number of contesting princes struggled for power within Bunyoro itself. First, Mukama Kyebambe III Nyamukutura took office around the 1750's, after overthrowing his brother Olimi IV. His reign was secure until strife beset the country due to internal contradictions. Karasuma, who sought Buganda's assistance, emerged as opponent to his father in Toro but failed. Then Kaboyo, who escaped his father's grip, also declared war on him. He did not want to overthrow his father but desired a small empire within Toro for himself. Later, the British, in the center of these conflicts, assisted in accentuating its collapse. But as these opposing forces disentangled themselves from Bunyoro-Kitara, they too brought under their domination the Bakonjo-Bamba people. These later were at perpetual war against the incorporation of their areas under Toro until very recently.

The Basoga people were organized in small principalities, of no more than five square miles each. They were an agricultural people whose territory lay across the river Nile to the east of Buganda. The original inhabitants appear to have moved in with the Kintu clans. These settled in the area nowknown as Bukoli. Some immigrants also came in from Bunyoro and joined them, settling in present day Bugabula and Bulamogi. It is known today that at least six Babito sub-dynasties were established in Busoga between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries -- Bukoli, Bugwere, Bulamogi, Bukono, Bugabula and Bugweri. By the nineteenth century there were sixteen principalities with separate chiefs ruling over them. Though weakened through this decentralization, Busoga had a state structure of a feudal type. The peasants through traditional ideology and at times coercion gave their surplus product to the ruling families in the form of goats, sheep, and at times cattle as well as beer and vegetables. The population was organized in the form of clans at the village level.

Buganda is the last in this line of stratified societies. Although it became more powerful in the later part of the nineteenth century, due to partly external intervention and internal strife which weakened its neighbors, Buganda originally belonged to the Bunyoro Kitara group of societies. There are however distinct versions of how Uganda society came to be what it is today. One version is that Kimera the brother of Rukidi of Bunyoro founded the second ruling dynasty of Buganda after the collapse of the Chwezi dynasty. Another version is that the first ruler of Buganda was called Kintu and he came from the area around Mount Elgon in the east. Hence the calims in some parts of Buganda that the Baganda are baana ba Kintu. (children of Kintu). It is probable that both versions have elements of truth and that the original baana ba Kintu were later brought under the Babito rule of Kimera. This is testified to by the fact that at least fourteen of present day the twenty-two clans of Buganda claim descent from Kintu and sixfrom Kimera.

Buganda was a small principlaity as compared to Bunyoro-Kitara and paid tribute to the latter. Due to the compactnessof its area, the ruling elements were able to establish effective control and therefore consolidated the feudal state systems unlike Bunyoro, which was unwieldy. This enabled the Kabaka to consolidate his feudal power away from the gentile clan system which was the original basis of the society. Juxtaposing the appointed chiefs -- bakungu and batongole -- to the clan heads, he established an effective clan system over the clan heads, he established an effective feudal state system over the entire kingdom. This process of centralizing state power, although not without conflict with the bakungu, was assisted by the intrusion of imperialism in the later part of the nineteenth century. The establishment of trade with the Arabs enabled the kabaka to amass a large armory of weapons, thus making it possible to establish a regular army. The appointment of military representatives -- bajaasi --was assisted by this new event. Thus with the arrival of British colonial rule, a contradiction between the clans and the new state system had emerged. The British struck allowance with the emergent chiefs and state system, thus helping run down the archaic exogamous totemic clan system. The bakungu pattern now replaced the bataka clan pattern, thus establishing a hierarchical, pyramidal system of authority. At the apex was the kabaka ('the emissary'), from whom all authority flowed, binding the country through tradition and the new state power. In the middle were state officials and ruling elements, running the country side. The chiefs were civil servants, in sazas, gombololas and mirukas. They were appointed by the kabaka. At the base were the people, the direct producers who partly maintained the middle and the apex. With the decline of the clans, the people at times attached themselves to the bakungu for protection. The batongole were the kabaka's own personal agents or stewards, and the mujaasi and gabunga were his general and admiral. The rrangement spread over the whole countryside of Buganda, tying it to the center.

Thus two classes existed in Buganda, the ruling class of the kabaka and his feudal aristocracy, and the bakopi (peasantry), who produced and whose surplus product went to maintain the kabaka and his bakungu and bajaasi state officials and the feudal aristocracy. Although chiefs were appointed by the kabaka from the commoners, it had already become a custom to appoint only sons of chiefs, and appointments were becoming hereditary. The chiefs' enclosures had not only 'free peasants' working for them but also slaves, who were obtained by raids in the neighboring territories of Bunyoro and Busoga. Thus the class differentiation in Buganda was relatively more visible than in the other kingdoms. Through a strong customary and traditional ideology, which held the aristocracy to be baana be ngoma (sons and daughters of the royal drum) and the kabaka personally as the ssabasajja (man over men, Kiganda society was legitimized and consolidated. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Buganda had also aquired the capacity to collect tribute from the principalities of Koki, Busoga, Ankole and even from Bukoba in present day Tanzania.

In the next article, we shall look at Uganda's Earliest Contact with Europe.

COMPILED BY MAKUMBI KAYIIRA SOLOMON
CONSULTANT.
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sol_drethedon

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