By Charles Rwangombwa
I read with profound interest Kelly Rwamapeera's open missive to Frank Gashumba albeit I was disappointed to find that Rwamapeera's piece, while espousing bits and pieces about Rwanda's history, it was thin on substance (regarding whether Ugandan Banyarwanda should rebrand to Abavandimwe) hence his write up was offside and irrelevant to the debate. Here is why.
Rwamapeera postulates from a point of ignorance that; "Many Banyarwanda have succeeded in not being identified as Banyarwanda without molesting the whole tribe that has endured challenges for hundreds of years in the region." For starters, absolutely no one is "molesting the whole tribe." The tribe and nationality of Banyarwanda in Rwanda should continue in existence totally unmolested by the name change proposal from Banyarwanda to Abavandimwe, because it doesn't consern them at all. The idea of rebranding from Banyarwanda to Abavandimwe, is only for those among Ugandan Banyarwanda who embrace the idea of name rebrand to Abavandimwe, therefore Rwamapeera's accusation of "molestation of a whole tribe" is not only inappropriate choice of words but is also misconceived, to say the least. Interestingly, it is sheer hypocrisy for people like Rwamapeera to be up in arms about the name change proposal, yet prominent leaders and personalities in the Banyarwanda community (for instance, Donat Kananura (the leader of Umubano) and DCJ Richard Buteera official citizenship documents indicate they claim to belong to Bafumbira and Banyankore respectively. Why would prominent Banyarwanda like Richard Buteera and Donat Kananura claim to belong to other tribes clearly for purposes of safeguarding their citizenship, if the idea of name rebrand isn't necessary? Isn't it sheer playing the ostrich, that defenders of Banyarwanda heritage, actually don't even name their children Banyarwanda names in preference for Banyankore and Bakiga names such as; Mugisha, Tugume, Tumwine etc!?
A case in point is that of the Bafumbira. Everyone knows that the Bafumbira are Banyarwanda, and it is only until recently that they chose to be referred to as a distinctive tribe independent of the Banyarwanda, for the same reasons that Ugandan Banyarwanda now feel they should rebrand to a name that does not relate them to a country called Rwanda when they are citizens of Uganda. Perhaps Rwamapeera should enlighten us just how the rebrand of Bafumbira from Banyarwanda "molested" the whole Banyarwanda tribe. Besides, supposing the name rebrand isn't important, how come Bafumbira passport applicants easily get their passports and National ID's approved when Banyarwanda are tossed up and down for months and finally told to naturalize? How come Bafumbira are never told to go for naturalisation?
I also wish to dispel Rwamapeera's lame duck attempt at legal reasoning, where he spelt doom for the registration of Abavandimwe as an organisation. Rwamapeera states that, "The Bavandimwe organisation shall not be registered because the 2016 NGO Act bars registration of any organisation where the objectives of the organisation as specified in its constitution are in contravention of the laws of Uganda" he goes on to propagate a totally unresearched view that is clearly based on hearsay as follows; Endevouring to remove Banyarwanda to replace them with Bavandimwe where theres no tribe called Bavandimwe but Banyarwanda..." Just, who told Rwamapeera that the proposal for Ugandan Banyarwanda to rebrand from Banyarwanda to Abavandimwe would delete Banyarwanda from the constitution and replace them with Abavandimwe? When Bafumbira got listed in the constitution as one of the tribes in Uganda, did that remove Banyarwanda from the constitution? How about Bahororo? Don't they speak Runyankore and practice Nkore culture? Did the listing of Bahororo in the 1995 constitution remove Banyankore from the constitution? Don't Banyoro and Batooro have the same culture and same language aside from just a slight accent difference? Don't they both feature in the constitution? Before committing pen to paper, I would have expected Rwamapeera to do some research to avoid merely spreading speculation and hearsay.
As for the view that Abavandimwe organisation won't be registered, I don't see why that should be any of Rwamapeera's cause for worry, seeing as no one is asking for his help to register the Bavandimwe organisation, but for his information, the Abavandimwe organisation (as he calls it) is a fully registered organisation and it has not violated the Ugandan constitution or any other law of the land, rather it is merely calling for debate of a mere proposal, though it seems clearly apparent that the likes of Rwamapeera are clueless that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are constitutional rights.
Rwamapeera further erroneously claimed that by advocating for name rebrand, it has the effect of "degrading the nationality of the Banyarwanda constitutionally recognised" oh dear! That statement clearly demonstrates that Rwamapeera confuses tribe with Nationality where Banyarwanda are concerned.
Rwamapeera further justifies his opposition to name rebrand entirely "...because it doesn't make sense in the face of the fact that our fore fathers never tried it.." Well, it's common that leaders who have no solutions to people's problems, only cite history, instead of prescribing up to date solutions to current problems. Rwamapeera's fore fathers never used wifi, so should Rwamapeera not use wifi? They never flew in a plane either nor did they use any of the modern amenities. Every generation faces unique challenges and it's up to the leaders that emerge to come up with solutions to surmount the challenges rather than reciting that tired line of fore fathers. For instance, if the fore fathers of African Americans were slaves, should the present day African Americans be slaves too!? Nowhere in Uganda's constitution are Banyarwanda listed as a nationality, rather as one of Uganda's indigenous tribes. As for alleging that a name rebrand proposal is "degrading", perhaps he should look up the meaning of the verb "to degrade" before using it in such a context where it is clearly off base.
Finally, since he's so enthusiastic about maintaining Banyarwanda identity at all costs, perhaps Rwamapeera should care to tell us what the name Rwamapeera means and its significance to Banyarwanda cultural heritage.
Banyarwanda came to this country as economic refugees, some were annexed to Uganda as part of border demarcation that took away Rwanda territory and annexed it to Uganda, while others moved to Uganda because in pre colonial times there were no borders and no boundaries, and kingdoms expanded and at times contracted, leaving some of their populations. Be that is it, it is up to us to generate constructive ideas to safeguard our citizenship rights and those of our grand children.
In conclusion however, if we have never seen you in any of our struggles, it means you have no interest for advocating for the equal rights of our people. You should therefore not make suggestions to those of us who do. If you have not been a victim of denial of a job, denial of a national ID or a passport due to tribal discrimination because you are a munyarwanda, you clearly don't understand the pain and suffering of our people who continue to suffer quietly. Its better for you to shut up in your comfort zone than make a mockery of the suffering of our people.
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