The Executive Director of Engabu Za Tooro (Tooro Youth Platform for Action) Stephen Rwagweri Atwoki has appealed to the Empaako communities to take charge of their own destiny in safeguarding their culture from extinction so that their culture is sustainably safeguarded and preserved for generations.
“We are not going to spoon feed our people in preserving their very own culture, we shall only empower our people to take charge of their own destiny in preserving their own culture for generations since the UNECSO co-funded project is temporary and only aimed at boosting us (Empaako communities).” Said Rwagweri Atwoki.
|Rwagweri (seated) stressing a point at the meeting|
Rwagweri Atwoki added, “UNESCO is only supporting us with 80 percent of the funds for 2 (two) years and we need to contribute the remaining 20 percent since it is our very own culture we are safeguarding from extinction and not the cultures of the Europeans and Americans who are providing the biggest chunk of the funds and soon we shall launch a campaign titled ‘Mucwezi njuna nagawe otaireho’ to mobilise resources to safeguard our very own cultural elements threatened with extinction like the Empaako Intangible cultural heritage.”
“We cannot do something for us without us and we need to start now and not later in mobilizing ourselves in safeguarding our culture and traditions from extinction through such campaigns like ‘Mucwezi njuna nagawe otaireho’. We already have solid evidence to show that cultures, clans or communities can be extinct especially when powerful ones come and take over the weak ones for instance the once powerful Bacwezi clan is no more. The once powerful Basongora community is fast sliding towards a cliff.” Said Rwagweri Atwoki while speaking at the Bagweri Clan function in Kitumba, East Division – Fort Portal Municipality.
Rwagweri Atwoki who is also a Mufumambogo and the head of the Bafumambogo clan in Tooro Kingdom whose totem is a buffalo further appealed to the people in the Empaako communities to seek inspiration from Buganda Kingdom whose ‘Etofali’ campaign has assisted them to revitalize their culture and develop as a community through mobilizing resources from Baganda themselves to restore Kasubi Royal Tombs and other Buganda royal cultural sites, starting of television and radio stations, universities and massive building projects among others.
|Some of the clan members who attended the clan meeting|
While speaking at a clan meeting for the Bagweri clan in Kitumba, East Division – Fort Portal Municipality on Sunday, 20th July 2018, Rwagweri Atwoki highlighted 3 (three) signs to show that our culture is becoming extinct like abandoning our traditional rituals for instance the Empaako naming ritual, weakening family institutions like clans and families and displacement of people from their ancestral territories.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted a decision to co-fund a two year project for the safeguarding of Empaako naming system during the 12th session of the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which was held in December, 2017 at the International Convention Centre located in Jeju Island in the Republic of South Korea.
Empaako is naming system whereby in addition to a family and given name, a child is given a special name called Empaako selected from a fixed and closed list of 12 (twelve) Empaako names shared by the entire society and used as a declaration of respect, endearment or affection.
This practice has been shared and transmitted from generation to generation in Empaako communities of Batooro, Banyoro, Banyabindi, Basongora, Batuku, Batagwenda, Banyaruguru, Bagungu, Ba Nya Mbogaand Baziba located in Western Uganda, Eastern DR Congo and Northern Tanzania respectively.
However, the Empaako naming practice is facing threats of extinction mostly due to decline of its mother language (Runyoro - Rutooro), modernization, abandoning our traditional rituals, weakening cultural institutions, and attack from modern religious extremist denominations.
The one day Bagweri clan meeting which attracted over 100 clan members was organized by Bagweri Clan Brotherhood and co-supported by Engabu Za Tooro (Tooro Youth Platform for Action).
The Bagweri clan brotherhood which is headed by Rugumayo Dominick Apuuli started in 2015 with an aim of revitalizing culture, strengthening Bagweri clan and empowering the Bagweri clan members economically through giving low interest loans to clan members from their SACCO.
According to the clan chairperson, Rugumayo Apuuli, since 2015, the Bagweri Brotherhood which operates in Busoro Sub County and Fort Portal Municipality in Kabarole district has helped in reducing conflicts among the Bagweri clan members through using the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism mostly arbitrating in disputes relating to land and family conflicts.
The organization has also assisted in preserving our traditional cultures especially through teaching children morals and African cultures like respecting old people and dressing among others. Children of the underprivileged clan members have also been supported with education scholarships and gifts given to the best performing students to encourage education of children among Bagweri clan members.
Lastly, the Bagweri Clan brotherhood has also assisted in empowering the Bagweri clan members economically through giving low interest loans to clan memberswith locally generated funds from clan members to the Bagweri Savings, and credit cooperative organization (SACCO).