Rwamatego, Kanyonza and stories of a bull, blood and treachery - By Davis Ndyomugabe

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Rwamatego, Kanyonza and stories of a bull, blood and treachery - By Davis Ndyomugabe
Whenever the story or the tale of the Belgian brutality in the Congo is told, it would appear to the world that it is only the people what now comprises the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are concerned. The short reply is that the Belgian leeches brutality extended as far as the land of the upright Bakiga. That the Congolese people suffered is no longer a question. The reality of their suffering is now a home and family acceptance deeply immersed in the African dark memory, that every African person's fears are yet to overcome this fright. The trauma and pain that was inflicted on the Congolese and their immediate neighbours whether as a consequence of their trespass or by reason of their protruding tentacles to jealously snap and overwhelm is a historical reality. 
The murders committed by the Belgians in the Congo River Valley are so detailed that the bleeding hearts, the cut limbs, the maimed bodies, the injured minds, the humiliated families, the embarrassed members and generally the ultimately reduced and subjugated human beings that were not only described as monkeys but as the sub-human Homo Sapiens cry loudly up to the zenith of justice's echelons! 
Humiliation for whatever reasons may come and the ordinary man on the street may close his eye in a Nelsonian blindness as was the case with Napoleon Bonaparte's feeble attempts at the Trafalgar Square! A real man can desire and dream such. But when a whelping king such as the so called king of Belgium was when he was about to deny the existence of his realm and per chance he realised, through Henry Morton Stanley, that Belgium could get a fresh start, the subsequent massacres, murders, maiming, crippling, and injuries on the African people are no longer a shock but forever a memorable reminder that the works of greed and property avarice are a terrible dent on the human psyche! 
Belgium as it is today, was as it was then. Because it knew that without Africa, its chance in the hot embers of political Europe it would easily be swallowed by Prussia (now Germany) or France (formerly Gaol- Julius Ceasar's harvesting Garden!). 
Inevitably, Leopold's hunting eyes scanned, surveyed and settled on the richly endowed African armpit, he saw the Congo River flowing like a pregnant labyrinth with resources so bountiful that the overflowing copper, diamonds, gold, rubber and all manner of timber and minerals, leave alone the ivory and all of the other animal wealth steered the gruesome envy, greed and jealous seeds of capture, seizure and subjugation on the scales never to have been accomplished before. He saw the mighty Queen Victoria as immensely rich and satisfied, the second Republic in France was but belching! As for the disorganised Prussian kingdoms under Bismark, he realised that he could take chances. Africa was a free-for-all playground and it was crystal clear that he could as well be the umpire, player and cheerleader! What other luck would he have prayed for! 
There were these English mercenaries poorly paid. Henry Morton Stanley had no undergarments to talk about! Here was the king of the small but confident Belgian Kingdom ready to bankroll the British masquerader to try his luck under the Sun! As it was both were agreeable! 
The convening of the 1884-6 Scramble for Africa was the best miracle that ever happened in Europe! Countries like France which were reeling from war, or Italy which was recovering from the scourge of nationhood and unification, or Germany which was groaning under a young and ascending chancellor trying to get his boots along, or even the British who were slumbering under the tired irises of  Queen Victoria, now no longer aware of her bearings, or still the rising Independent American States who had shoved off the shackles of colonialism and last but not all a China which had emerged from the opium wars, Africa was the last bonanza to pick up for dessert! 
It could not have surprised anyone present. After all the Ottoman empire was on its last knees! The Busaidi house was busy buying and selling slaves and the thought of harnessing them like crops in a garden never arose! 
So, in consequence of this, Belgium, small as it was, went for the jugular! The rich behemoth, bulging with all known wealth, with the richly organised Bakongo kingdom, Belgium chose! Their rich culture, education, organisation the inferior Belgium with the help of all her European cousins, Leopold's ambitions peered. And in no time, as the Bakiga say, united we stand, divided we fall, the Congo, before the spit could dry, was massacred, murdered, divided, raped, de-humanised, brutalised, agonised, dissected, and chopped down to all sorts of bargain and, as it is today, the evidence of its humiliation and belittlement! 
The last one hundred fourty years have been a tragic survey on the people of the Congo. Tears may have been and will continue to be shed. But the suffering and exploitation of these people will never stop until the real awakening is provoked. There cannot be reawakening unless there is knowledge and understanding of the events and what really transpired! 
The understanding may be personal. It may also be congregated. Just as the parents in their mournful bodywhipping annoyance, they tumultuously rekindle their agonising past to the flickering lights of today, torching on the burning embers of today, sort of highlighting tomorrow's path! And that is what brings me here, placing me on the pathos, the agonies, and painful memories of yesterday as if yesterday shall ever be forgotten! 
I am aware of the harrowing brutal heinous and inhuman mistreatment and murder of the African people in the Congo and parts of Uganda by the blood thirsty and greedy Belgian King Leopold. I am awake to the mentally traumatising events as recounted to me in the 1970s and early 80s. I vividly recall while on the various evening fireside nights (ekikoome) at our grandfather's homestead, the late Rwamatego wa Rwambanda, as he spinned and weaved for us heroic stories about the Bakiga and the way they suffered.
 One of the most salient ones was about the murderous and treacherous Belgians. He scared my young mind with the stories of the Belgians and their unforgiving brutal attitude towards African peoples. He would tell us that their men were leeches bent to suck out the last blood of the African women. 
These Belgian colonisers were very ruthless people who were so feared that if one was wronged or erred, he would wish that the wrongdoer be killed by the Belgians! Hence, orikeitwa ababiligi!
It should be clear in any Mukiga's mind that before we were brutally and harshly incorporated into the Ugandan colony we belonged to the Belgians' control. Omugurusi Rwamatego must have been born in the 1860s consequently his detailed knowledge about the heinous Belgians. 
They were such a terrible lot that they would dispossess the breastfeeding mothers of their infant children, throw the children off, and instead breastfeed on the children's behalf themselves! And while breastfeeding they would at times, in fact most times, be rough, harshly biting the women's teats, who were left bruised, gripped in pain and sore. The babies were summarily stopped from the breastfeeding (okucuuka). The women were traumatised and so were the children who sprouted like fruits without seeds! 
Not only did they forcefully breastfeed on these women they also sexually assaulted and raped them in the presence of their husbands, children, in laws and relatives and village mates. It so terribly dehumanised the victims and the entire families that a single threat of "orikeitwa aba biligi" was enough to compel one to reform and rectify one's error.
I recall the nice stories I was told while young. One was from Omugurusi Rwamatego, who was a very brilliant man in Kaacenaga. He was from my subclan of the Barunga of the Basigyi clan, these immortal people who refused to dig lest the golden ring may be dirtied!. 
He was a diviner whose rich generosity helped the weaker persons in his community. I recall of him having an encyclopedic memory - full of our cultural data and worthy information that now, in hindsight, I grieve the loss of his death. By the time he died in 1982 his age, by conservative estimation, was been between 105-112 years old. And the reason was not hard to find. His physical appearance was of short stature. Ever since I first saw him when I was born, I never heard or saw him suffering from any sickness or illness. He constantly smoked his tobacco pipe, regularly drunk omuramba, enkangaza, enturiire and obukyurikire but the freshly brewed non-alcoholic obushera obutooko was anathema to his mouth!
I recall that most of the time my mother and grandmother would give me food or obushera to take to him and he would compel me to eat or drink with him. Because I regularly took him food we became sort of buddies and he named me Rugaba which Kaaka later explained to me to mean "omwana aratumwa arania ekizindi kihango"- that a child who is flexible and obedient will always get more benefits than the disobedient one!
As a diviner, Rwamatego helped infertile women to get children. As a soothsayer he would predict this and that with his intonations using three pieces of stones or dry seeds of whatever tree which he used to spit on and he would suddenly throw the same on the ground while not looking at his client's face and then he would personally talk to himself funny words not to be understood. His eyes would change completely and his demeanor had that element of one in a trance or possessed and when he returned from his eerie flights of mystery he would, with the sweetest but most comforting of voices if he had good news. If it was bad news, his darkest countenance would speak for itself! The client would not even ask him to explain!
 Rwamatego hardly charged these people for the services delivered. But those who were grateful would, on their own volition, bring goats, brewed beverages or whatever fresh foods or presents they had. It would be several months later that praises about his wonderful deeds would start seeping in our village about his feat in helping X or Y or Z to get a child or get healed or discover who stole their property.
When I became knowledgeable as I grew up, I began to hear that Rwamatego was originally married to Kyoyanga, who was whispered never to have produced. Later I was equally told by himself that he was the father of the Reverend Canon Kezron Mutanga whose illustrious children include Bahigeine, Gideon Akankwasa, Joab Mutanga, Jotham, Pamina, and the girls such as Jolly! 
Rwamatego's last wife is still alive in her mid nineties and she lives in Kitwe, Kabuyanda with her three sons one of whom is called Katureebe. She is herself called Angelina (Ngerina) Tibeingana. Because Rwamatego was too old, these three sons are not his except the first one called Mr Babona and his sister called Tibereeba born in 1952 and 1954 respectively. Babona married a girl from Kigazi in Rubanda called Freda Kamayanja the daughter of Kabaka, of the Abaraza sub clan of the Bahimba.  She was a truthful woman, with a good heart and she would easily rebuke you if you ever played foolery on her! She died in the early 1990s.
As I grew up I heard that Rwamatego was an accomplished wrestler who, in living memory, was never toppled by anyone. And as my eyes scanned his legs I came to wholesomely agree with the assertion of his wrestling feats since I noticed that his legs were designed like dodgging bows with the least intention to be torpedoed! 
Rwamatego was a nice good man! Whenever he laughed you would see shining stars in his mouth! Lately, whenever I meet Jotham or Pamina, I just see Omugurusi Rwamatego in their eyes and format! Their laughter, their smiles, their mien and their seemingly holy mood as if reaching out to the gods! I am at times thrown into the holy circle of the heavenly cruising. And do you know what I notice? I see Teego with his chivalrous stature humming on the orderly boundaries of the human free will. 
Obviously by 1982 when he bowed down to take his respectful place by the side of his forefathers, he was a ripened and seasoned old man. In 1981, he had been baptised in the Anglican church at the good prompting of my brother, Benon Wycliffe Turyahumura who even took his photo and was also his godfather in the church! Imagine a great grandson being a godson to his great grandfather! I freshly recall this because a few years earlier his younger brother had succumbed his life to the soil and had been buried in 1977 without any religious rituals! Just thrown in a pit behind his house without words of hope or songs of praise! And it was as soon done and over! 
Rwamatego was the elder brother of Kanyonza ka Rwambanda, the famous witch doctor who had many wives, some of whom I recall their names as Bwijwire, Keishemeza, Keigiragye, Bamukunda, Kabujamire (daughter of Mr Paul Bagorogoza and Rwamutenga- the first woman I saw putting on hides and about one hundred golden or copper rings on both her feet and arms!)
This Kanyonza was very crafty! He would kill bulls and steers and he would thoroughly roast the hearts and livers and take them to thank his gods. Then me, led by my late brother, we would sneak where the bowl or tray for the gods' meat was before the dogs got wind of meaty depositories and we would gorge a sumptuous meal and thereafter we would hear him praising his gods that they have been thankful and happy! We would laugh ourselves to crippled amusement well knowing that we interchanged with his dogs as his gods! As it is obvious to all I have been a god to some diviner in my life!!!
 Kanyonza's death in 1977 was a great loss for us since we lost a predictable source of free meat as it was never assured as a meal unless it was Christmas time, a wedding when our mother as a member of the mothers union would be entitled to a huge bowl of meat for the chairman - our father!- or when a goat died and was not thrown away but was instead slaughtered and put under the fire height stretch (orutara) so that it would be dried and later we would eat its emikaro. 
I recall this Kanyonza being a very ingenious man, exceedingly crafty, resourceful and a master of revenge! Some months, as he told us, he had had a disagreement with a man of Bugongi, a village squeezed between the armpit of Kabale municipality to the west and Muyanje parish of Bubale subcounty, who had challenged and questioned Kanyonza's witchcraft prowess and had soundly assured Kanyonza that he, Kanyonza, would never eat even a hen from him by his wily conduct. Kanyonza assured him that before the year ended he would eat his bull.
A few months later, Kanyonza was returning from Bukoora of the Baheesi clan- the renowned blacksmithing community after whom the Bakiga endearingly named the brown grasshopper "kagyenda kahiire nk'omuheesi wa Bukoora" which, in English, translates as "he who goes while ripe like the Muheesi of Bukora", because with his spear or knife he will always have a meal.
Of course, Kanyonza was on a professional journey. As he passed by the gentleman's home he saw the heavily pregnant daughter-in-law of his nemesis entering the gate. He quietly scoffed,
"Mbwenu shi ogu arakira. Yaafa arimwanaki!", meaning "will this one recover? What a good child he was!"
After an hour or two, as the cows were preparing to return home, the pregnant woman started to complain of terrible pain. Yet she was still weeks to her expected date of delivery. The pains were now terribly incessant and everyone in the homestead hurried to her house. One of the people who had heard Kanyonza say "Yaafa ari mwaana ki" repeated the words and the pregnant woman's father-in-law was jolted. His jaw dropped.
He now remembered his argument with Kanyonza a few months earlier and the sweat in his mouth was as palpable as that which was vehemently sliding down the cliff of his nose. He almost fainted. He told his sons to pick the best of his goat steers and take it to Kanyonza to quell the evil one from harming or hurting his daughter in law. Moreover, this daughter in law was the best in his home and she really fed him like a king. 
The boys running with ka buttock give me legs (kabunu mp'amaguru) quickly reduced the ten kilometre distance between Bugongi and Kachenaga to metres and Rutobo (spotted steer) was delivered with ease to the prophet of Kachecks! As was the norm, before the goat could even enter his gate which was now sealed with emihingo (protective dry wooden logs), Kanyonza who was sipping from his Bamukunda's rugunda (a graceful slender calabash filled with omukyurikye) told his son Katungyeza to sharpen the knives quickly.  He was hearing the sound of feet heralding good news. 
 He whispered to Bamukunda in the softest of his wooing voice: "Iwe kigotomerwa! Nyina wabaana! Reeba rutaaba twagirya!", meaning, "You, my drinkable! The mother of my children. We are going to eat the bull!" l fear he could have convinced the devil to repent. 
 Kanyonza had already told her that he wanted to eat that man's bull to teach him a lesson that his father Rwambanda was not an ordinary man but one who picked fire from death's heel to light his tobacco pipe in the storm and thereafter slapped death into the pit of unconsciousness! As usual Bamukunda praised him and told him that she had already prepared the millet to eat with the meath.
"Abakunu! Abakunu! Abakunu! " The two young men with Rutobo were heard knocking on the mihingo, shouting with urgency.  "Eh! Kahayori! Ishe Kirenzi! Mubeigurire baanamwe! Owangye tihakingwa!" Kanyonza said, meaning  "Eh! King Kahaya! Me the father of Kirenzi! You boys open for them! My home is never closed! 
The two boys entered with a thoroughbred steer with white and brown spots. At the sight of it, the snakes inside Kanyonza's stomach were in frenzied jubilation. Even before the boys could say who they were, Kanyonza's mischievous smile assured them of his welcome and said, "Mwiroko mugambire sho ngu tibaasiima. Reeba agire juba mureete rutaaba! Mwakyerererwa omwana na nyina tibarakira. Mwirukye!",  meaning, "Go and tell your father that the gods are not thankful.
Tell him to be fast and bring the bull, otherwise the baby abd mother will die. Run!" 
Before the boys could reach the gate Rutobo's life was over! And the rationale was simple. "Obutera kishaka tibugarukayo!" That when you are seeking medicine, the gifts you carry to the doctor are never returned! 
As the duo sped from the ravines of the healing Kachecks to Bugongi, the woman in labour's tormenting woes and pain increased as if bewitched by the unhappy gods of Kanyonza! Hardly had the boys entered their home than their father asked them whether they had not found Kanyonza. They told him of the urgency to deliver rutaaba or else their inlaw and the baby would die.
The man revisited his argument with the sage and, with bitterness, he told them that with godspeed they should deliver the bull to Kanyonza. The boys were now four as they escorted the bull to the temple of life in Kachecks! It was already pitch darkness and no temptations of the moon to disturb the night could be traced in the sky. The boys with their hearts in their mouth raced to Kachecks, with the bull receiving whips to avoid delay. 
When the bull lowed at Kanyonza's gate, he was swallowing the last soup of Rutobo. He told us that he had never eaten a sweeter steer. He coughed and commanded his sons to gladly receive rutaaba and fill his blood calabash lest his foe thinks himself the wiser. He assured the four boys that their wife was going to be very well and by the time they returned home they would find the mother and baby boy resting. He told them not to stop anywhere on their return journey but run straight to their father with good news that if one wanted to eat someone's property one had to do it with wisdom.
Indeed as the boys entered their home, the painful jabs harassing the mother quickly ebbed. As the midwife beat warm waters on her younger stomach (Enda nto or womb), the thrilling and gratifying peace embraced her with hugs of serene bliss that she could hardly guess that Muhoozi, her son, had popped out. 
The man, now seething with anger gathered his brothers and a neighbour to go and retrieve rutaaba from the thieving menace of Kachecks. It appeared that emotions were now driving reason. But before they could depart the man's senior wife and the mother in law of the now relieved mother told the men to first sip some porridge and wait for the night to ease. Otherwise they might be mistaken for burglars in Kachecks.
As the dry throats softened and as the currents of anger calmed down the same first wife asked them to listen to her. As she said so, her husband was almost erupting as if she was responsible for rutaaba's journey. To make matters worse she also hailed from the line of Kirunga kya Nyarukuru, the favourite wife of Kasigi! 
Withe the men's thudding chests calmly settled, one of them asked the gentleman to let his wife tell them what she had on her mind. Of course, he said that not because they wanted to listen to her but to merely acknowledge her presence and porridge
 She cleared her voice and with her small stature but with a lingering and receding calipygious form you could decipher why she was in this home! While all the last vestiges of her youthful beauty could no longer be traced, what was overtly visible on her subdued radiant mien was that in her youth she might have been a leopard to boys! She was unwashed diamonds! Her thrilling diastema that seemed to emit light when she smiled held the men in hypnotic mesmerised trance that the same delay could have added to their slowing dive into the Kachecks floric. 
"Mbwenu kunabaire ndakura nahuriraga ngu eyibatweire kutweija tegaruka. Amakuru ngu etamara abagitweijire." In English, "as I was growing up, I used to hear that once you gave to the altar you did not claim back. It meant that the gods might get annoyed and destroy the ones who had brought the sacrifice." 
There was such a long silence that you could hear a bean germinate! It was so long that all that was heard was the heavy breathing of each man present. Even hers was audible! As they kept quiet and silent, the stillness so ominous, she added,  "We are so lucky that Kenyangye has delivered a healthy baby boy. Isn't that boy better than the war you want to start? What if it is already slaughtered? I am thinking that we leave the confrontation with Kanyonza."
Ruzibiza, who was her in law asked Makondo, her husband, to give him a minute. They went out and, after about ten minutes, they returned, with Makondo cursing and swearing. He picked the calabash full of porridge and drank as if he was appeasing his ancestors, for you could see the bulging flow in his throat like a python swallowing a dog! By the time he put down the half calabash (orushare) it was already safe to conclude the terms of the armistice without war. He looked around, from man to man. They were eight men including his four sons, and then his gaze finally settled on his wife, Keigwisagye (the calming one). 
He looked at her and it seemed like all else present was inconsequential! He looked at her beautiful face and a ghostly smile leered on his lips - the sort that is visible on a man who is about to confess. As the tension heightened, his retracting orbits hidden in the thick forests of eyelashes that belied his handsomeness, the eyes filled with the children of tears, the type that drop before it rains! Just as the Bakiga say, "enjura yatandika kunaga abaana" (rain is starting to drop children." 
Makondo started to cry loudly. Huge tears were dropping from his eyes like a broken water fountain! He cried so loudly that every man present was startled, wondering what was going on. "Keiiigwisaagyeeee! Youuu! Remember me telling you about Kanyonza! Amahiira gandiira enumi! (the pus has eaten my bull!) 
His wife came closer to him and with her mwenda (a woman's wrapping cloth) she wiped his tears and consoled him. His brothers consoled him but their words were lost in his raging cry. His sons, in order not to taste his ire had, one by one, sneaked out because their distressed father was an ugly picture of pitiable sympathy. They were utterly shocked by his crying. They had lost many members in the family but at no time had they ever seen him cry this much. He always portrayed himself as a solid fortified imperial guru that adversity could never risk bruise in the tender heart. But Kanyonza's eating his bull had finally revealed his humanity. 
After what seemed like an eternity, that time when the fox is up early to pour out the water and when the first rooster crowed before Jesus Christ was betrayed, Makondo suddenly stopped crying and laughed. "Buziima ekishaija kyandiira enumi! Eh! Haaza nkaba ngizire ngu kirazaana!" (Really this man has eaten my bull! Eh! I had thought he was joking!) "Anyway, it is okay since Kenyangye is safe! But I will get Kanyonza! One day, I will get him!" 
Of course one could discern the proverbial kicks of the cowardly! And his brothers and neighbour agreed with him, not because they believed him but because they wanted to repair his broken heart. They, too, remembered how his giant bull had been a menace to theirs and how he had always gloated at the village irrigating pub that his bull, like that of Ruyooka rya Maganya, was the only bull that could be trusted to breed another bull!" That was why he claimed that it was in order that he gets a free drink (omusha) since his bull was freely helping their cows. And many a time he went home arashoshora omurengye- a drunkard's soulful recitations and renditions while returning home- that he trusted no one but his bull which he had endearingly named Rwehobuganzi! It was sad that he never tasted its fully ripened testis! 
In the meantime, at Makondo's home, instead of ululating with joy about the arrival of a son they were mourning Rwehobuganzi's tragedy at the Kanyonza home. At Kanyonza's, family and his neighbours were playing flutes and harps and singing praises to Kanyonza ka Rwambanda's heroics! As the famous bull put on its last feeble resistence, it was mercilessly slain by his son Bindeeba. The gushing yells of its bleeding pipes let out the trauma of the most hideously painful groaning. By the hour of one in the night, its skin was off and some of its tender parts slept in many Kachenagans' stomachs
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A very rich story!

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