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Obama's Royal African Roots

Black Star News, Commentary , Akena p'Ojok Posted: Dec 30, 2008

It has been a long time coming, Barack Obama said on election night. He was right. The U.S. President-elect has roots in a long line of African kings and leaders of the Great River Nile Basin. The world woke up to a great occurrence in modern political history.

Is it or is it not to be? The world watched and waited with tears of joy and hope as well as tears of lost dreams. It revealed itself fully on November 4. The United States of America, the most powerful state in the world, was to have its 44th president, and this time with a bang, with a difference. The 44th president was to come from a different race, a race that has known nothing than endurance, slavery and spoliation; and he was to be called by a strange name "Barack Obama". The people of the U.S. elected its first African-American President.

The subject of African resistance and heroism has at last assumed its rightful historical place. It has been long coming. Obama's roots in Africa can be traced to goat-breeders, yes! (But how many great and excellent leaders have had very humble beginnings?) Obama's roots can be traced further to a cluster of a sub-set of African peoples who have social and ethno-linguistic similarities called "Luo" or "Lwo".

The Luo-speaking peoples inhabit the Great River Nile Basin which extends over 2,500 km from Gezira in the Sudan to the eastern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania; and 2,000 km from Gambella in Western Ethiopia to Bahr-el-Ghazal in Western Sudan.

The Luo-speaking peoples have long produced some of Africa's great leaders in the past and in modern times in the Nile Basin that might have been neglected by history. The Great Warrior King of the Nile, Rath Nyikango of the Chollo (Shilluk) peoples at Pachodo whose kingdom was ravaged by Turko-Egyptian expansion, slave trade and the Mahdist wars is survived by his lineage Rath Kwongo Dak Padiet (1992) who leads his people today.

The Great Warrior King Nyie Gillo, Ocwudho, who founded the Anywaa (Anuak) Kingdom on the Nile tributary rivers Sobat/Baro/Akobo, whose lineage is Nyie Akwei-wa-Cam and Agwaa Akwon, and others have led their people to modern times. The kingdom's people eventually migrated southwards into present day Uganda. The Anywaa Kingdom was devastated by wars, livestock raids and slave trade through Ethiopia and colonialism. At the same time there was a Great Migration of the Luo-speaking peoples southwards along Bahr-el-Ghazal and through Wau/Rumbek in the Sudan up the Nile outlet from Lake Albert at P'Kwach in Alurland, where some sections established the Kingdom of Ukuru/Atyak (in Uganda/Congo) and the royal lineage there was manifested in the late Rwoth Ubimo Jobi II.

From settlements at P'Kwach, a royal clan calling itself the "PaBiito" crossed into Bunyoroland and made a subtle entry into the leadership and established the "Ba'Biito" Dynasty over Bunyoro-Kitara.

The first king of the Biito royal clan is remembered as "Rwoth" Omukama Isingoma Mpuga Rukidi l Nyatworo. The Biito Dynasty abolished the primitive and backward caste system then practiced and established a society based on egalitarian principles in which human beings were considered to have equal birth rights. The people married freely and mixed and the population increased rapidly. It introduced agriculture side by side with pastoral livestock keeping. It abolished the barbaric practice of slaughtering princes at coronations and introduced the politics of structured segmentation as a means of diffusing political tension in the palaces; and expanding the kingdom. As a consequence, the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara grew into a powerful and prosperous dynasty that ruled over an area that stretched from Lake Albert to the shores of Lake Victoria.

The Royal Biito Clan lineage is survived in the modern times by Omukama Kamurasi; the great warrior king Kabalega who fought the British for 22 years; Tito Winyi II and the incumbent King Omukama Gafabusa Iguru I. The royal Biito clan established many separate royal villages in the various communities, each with a core membership made up of a particular sub-lineage of the "father royalty" and a replica administration of the "mother" kingdom. They sent out royal princes to live among the people they learned to lead. Prince Kimera Rukidi was sent out to "Entebbe" in Buganda from where he succeeded in building a powerful kingdom for himself, accumulated wealth, built an army and
eventually declared himself the King (Kabaka) of a separate kingdom known as present day Buganda.

This royal lineage is survived by King Kabaka Mwanga who also resisted British colonization, Sir Fredrick Mutesa who became the first President of independent Uganda and the incumbent King Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Kimera Mutebi II. Another royal Biito Prince, Mukama "Namutukula" of the Baisengobi was sent to Busoga and established himself on Kagulu Hill with the Balamogi. That line is survived by the incumbent Mulookis. In the modern times, the young and ambitious royal Biito Prince Kaboyo was sent to live in a royal village on the
mountains of Tooro. He quickly pronounced himself King Kaboyo Olimi I of Tooro Kingdom, surprising his loving father Omukama Kyebambe III of Bunyoro-Kitara.

Omukama Kaboyo Olimi I is survived by the youngest King in Uganda; King Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV, son of the late Omukama P. Kaboyo Olimi VII. Rwot Abok Awic of Payira lost his Rwotship to the British. The structured segmentation form of governance was at once the strength of the Biito Dynasty but also its weakness and undoing. The bulk of the Great Migration of the Luo-speaking peoples proceeded east from Pa'Kwach and on the way established settlements of the "Kidibane", Lira, Kokolem, Jo'Padhola and finally settled as Ja'Luo on the eastern shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania where they multiplied in great numbers. This is the place where you may trace Obama's nearest relatives.

The Luo-speaking peoples have been progenitors of these superb kings and leaders, and have of recent times also provided modern religious leadership. Three of Uganda's Anglican Archbishops, were/are of Luo-speaking. They are; the Most Rev. Janani Luwum (martyred), the late Most Rev. Yona Okoth, and the incumbent Archbishop the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi. Kenya's first Kenyan Anglican Archbishop, the Most Rev. Festo Olang's was of fine Luo stock. There is also a good array of Luo leaders in modern politics. Dr A.M Obote was the first Prime Minister of post-independence Uganda.

He then became the second President after President Kabaka Frederick Mutesa. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the well known freedom-fighter, became Kenya's first Vice President at independence. Other distinguished leaders are Tom Mboya (assassinated), Argwing K'Odek (murdered), Robert Ouko (murdered), Oceng Oneko and now the Prime Minister of Kenya, Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga.

Until the close of the colonial era it was fashionable to portray Africans and their descendants everywhere as passive and generally grateful recipients of the benefits of European authority and systems. The struggle for freedom and equality in the Americas and the Caribbean influenced events in the liberation movements in Africa and all had the cumulative effect of decolonizing the African mind and historiography.

It is worth invoking the spirit of some of Africa's greats in the liberation and freedom struggle; Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Abdel Nasser, Patrice Lumumba, Augustino Neto, Ahmed Ben Bella, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta and Nelson Mandela and more. Given those prevailing conditions of struggle, this array of leaders would tell you that to be a leader you must be strong and courageous, have dignity in the face of adversity, benevolence in place of cruelty, but also be charismatic, inspirational and spiritual.

These are some of the qualities that Obama, the "child of destiny" exuded at all times beside his natural compelling intelligence and oratory. He is an heir to the struggle. For the African-Americans, nothing could be nearer a miracle than an African-American President of the U.S.A. It has been a process, a struggle in their new found land of collaboration without submission.

It is a change; it is a fresh hope for the future. It is a fulfilled dream. High up in his mountain-top-of-hope, Martin Luther King Jr. may look down in wonderment and whisper to himself "Hallelujah, religion should not be incongruent with change", and return to his grave in peace.

The real "march" has begun from oppression and humiliation to freedom and performance. I can see the day when President Obama would embrace Kabaka Kimera Mutebi and Omukama Oyo and Omukama Iguru I, and whisper to each others ears and say, "Yes, it has been a long time coming, brother. We have met, at last" The psychological impact of Obama on the African is yet to be fathomed.

Mr. p'Ojok was minister of power, posts and telecommunications in the Obote II government of Uganda.

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