Posted: Tue, January 19, 2016 | By:
By Eunice Rukundo
On thinking of the Bakonzo what will spring to many people’s mind is probably the fact that they are the other tribe in Uganda, apart from the Bagisu, with the circumcision tradition. For Jude, a Muganda, a Mukonzo is best identified by their height, with most being short and having round faces. Sam, remembers all the Bakonzo he has known at work or in school for being serious and people who mean business all the time.
But the cassava staple eating Bakonzo from Kasese, western Uganda have different attributes to their identity and cultures that many people find exceptional.
Who are the Bakonzo?
The Bakonzo are a Bantu-speaking people who live on the mountain slopes of the magnificent Rwenzori (Mountains of the Moon), where they have been for many generations. According to an official description of Bakonzo from the Bakonzo Life History Research Society, the Bakonzo culture is adapted to the steep slopes and climate of Rwenzori, which they share with the Baamba. The Baamba, mostly found in neighboring Bundibugyo district, are the closest in lineage and culture to the Bakonzo.
While many tribes in Uganda have kingdoms and royal kingships as custodians and defenders of culture, the Bakonzo are still waiting for their Rwenzururu kingdom to be ascertained (granted by the government of Uganda). Many people have come up to claim the kingship of Bakonzo which is still shielded in controversies. Whether it has been there traditionally like other kingdoms, when it started, and who is the right heir of the revived kingdom. But there is no doubt that the Bakonzo want their kingdom to protect and preserve their culture and identity after years in cultural discomfort, as indicated in the report of the recent commission of inquiry into the Rwenzururu kingdom.
The Bakonjo cultivate cassava for food and coffee as a cash crop. They also graze goats as their equivalent of the cattle in Ankole.
The Bakonzo and Baamba maintained forms of government based on councils of elders. But with the advent of colonialism, the Bakonzo and Bamba were placed under their neighbors, the Batooro, who had a centralized kingdom. According to a book TRIBE: The Hidden history of the Mountains of the Moon by Tom Stacey, the Bakonzo started a resistance movement, the Rwenzururu, which, while political to win back their independence, has come to be the strong cultural allying point for the Bakonzo.
But despite the cultural headship uncertainty, the Bakonzo have some of the most elaborate cultural practices as I found out when I interviewed some Bakonzo and reviewed some literature on the Bakonzo.
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