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Feature: Separating myth from truth in Bachwezi tale

Did you know that Egypt was a land of black people back in the day? That the biblical Moses was in fact a black man? And that the word ëAbairuí might have emerged from 'Hebrew'?

In this widely researched article, JUSTICE PATRICK TABARO unravels the mystery of the Bachwezi, making some very interesting revelations about African history along the way. One of the most controversial epochs in the history of the Great Lakes Region is that of the Abachwezi. Legends abound linking them to heaven and portraying them as spirits or demigods. This article is an attempt to place them in the history of the African people without any embellishment or concealment of information, based on historically verifiable facts.

It is very often said that it is impossible to divorce prejudice, personal experience, class bias and ideology from historical presentations. I take solace in the fact that what follows is largely an analysis of publications and oral tradition. Your presenter claims no credit for original research; that is why authoritative sources will be stated, without unnecessary pedantry or discourses in academia.

A clear understanding of the subject of the Abachwezi must be grounded on the fact that Africa produced the first civilization and culture after evolution had led to the first human being on the continent. Mainstream Christianity now accepts Darwin's theory of evolution with the proviso that the first people to evolve were Adam and Eve.

There is consensus that Egypt was home of advanced civilization, the first of its kind in the history of mankind. It existed at its zenith in North Africa but its beginnings were in the interior of Africa. The achievements of this civilization included astronomy, mathematics, medicine and surgery technology, religion, agriculture, that is, domestication of plants and animals to ensure food security and government to avoid anarchy.

The levels of these knowledge systems are outside the scope of this writing; so is the spread of civilization and culture from Egypt to Europe/Asia and the rest of the world. However, to highlight the significance of Egypt to the world, it is not out of place to point out that Hippocrates (460-370BC) studied his medicine from books written by Imhotep (2655-2600BC). Readers will have noticed that at graduation ceremonies medical graduands take the Hippocratic Oath and swear to preserve life at any cost, inter alia.

Hippocrates the Greek is taught in Eurocentric scholarship as the father of medicine. Imhotep was a black Egyptian doctor (alongside his knowledge in architecture, technology, etc). This is just one example of editing Africans from History, or at best distorting their achievements. The father of medicine and technology was Imhotep and nobody else. It has been suggested that the Abachwezi were Egyptians, Greeks or Portuguese all calculated to show that Bachwezi as achievers could not have been black!

But the link with Egypt betrays a basic fact of African achievements. Egypt is Greek for land of black people, as much as Ethiopia means in Greek, land of sun-burnt people. Hence in early days Greeks saw Egyptians and Ethiopians as black people, during the days of classical Greek civilization (approximately 650-300 BC).

It is crucial to note that black Egyptians had invented the solar calendar, the basis of today's Gregorian calendar by 4245 BC, almost more than 3500 years before the rise of Greek scientists and philosophers such as Thales (624-546 BC), Socrates (469-399 BC) and Aristotle (388-322 BC). With all the distortions, denials, anger and admonition on the part of racists who deny that Egypt was black, one fact stands out as the eloquent proof of the black character of Egyptian civilization - the level of melanin to which black people owe their blackness in the skins of the mummies of pharaohs buried in the pyramids, is the same as that of the Africans south of the Sahara - the so-called negroes, Bantu, etc.

There are other features which link today's Africans to ancient black Egyptians such as similarity between ancient Egyptian language and Sub-Saharan African languages and similarity of customs. The black Nile Valley civilization appears to have been the origin of most of Africa's communities. This is not surprising because the River Nile acted as a natural highway. It requires only courage and resilience to travel all the way from Egypt to Uganda, along the banks of the Nile without even the use of a campus or a map. As early as 2500 BC, Pharaoh Neferkare sent an expedition which reached the Mountains of the Moon (Rwenzori).

Oral tradition in West Africa suggests migrations from the Nile Valley and according to Yosef Ben Jochannan (in African Origins of the Major Western Religions) the Ethiopian (black) Empire by 1800 BC stretched from present Abysinia (Ethiopia) to Sierra Leone.
Early Greek legends suggest that Greece was initially settled and colonized by blacks from Egypt, referred to as Pelesgians by Greeks.

If we should discount legends as unreliable, then one could go by the accounts given by Herodoctus (484-425 BC), a Greek himself, who wrote history extensively and earned himself in Europe the title of Father of History. Herodotus' account of Egyptians is that they were black. Not only did Egyptians colonise Greece and other parts of southern Europe, but their influence and rule extended to western Asia and beyond.

After [their] decline, invasions were mounted from Europe and Asia, against Egypt and North Africa in general. The consequence was intermarriages or forcible acquisition of womenfolk. The cross procreations explains the character of Northern Africa which is mainly brown. Dr Cheikh Anta Diop has established that Arabs and Hebrews of today (the Semites) are a result of procreation between black Africans and white Europeans and white Asians, since their genes are crosses.

Incidentally, other races as known today follow from further crossings with other groups. From the same source (titled the Origin of Ancient Egyptians) we learn that the original men were black; they went to Europe/Asia where mutation occurred, resulting in white people. It is those whites who inter-procreated with blacks. Cheikh Anta Diop was a nuclear scientist, anthropologist, sociologist, historian as well as a master of political economy.

His writings are, therefore, more than authoritative. North Africa has been invaded by Persians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Turks, Arabs, Portuguese, British and French, etc., at different times. However, it is the invasions that have a bearing on the Bachwezi that will be dealt with herein. The invasion by the Hyksos is contentious. From the etymology of the word, shepherd kings or princes from the east, it is possible the Hyksos came from Asia. But another possibility is that they were herdsmen who overran the capital city from the east of the empire (Egyptian). Whatever the case, they were eventually expelled from the Egyptian empire, about 1700BC.

It is the events of the exodus, well covered in the Bible that offers one of the earliest clues as to the origin of the Bachwezi. We proceed from the premise that the Maasai, Akarimojong, the Iteso, the Bahima, the Batutsi and other pastoral communities entered this region, Great Lakes, roughly at the same time, from Basil Davidson's account in the Lost Cities of Africa.

The story of Biblical Moses (1391-1271 BC) is instructive. He lived at the time of the teachings of Akhenaten (1362-1336 BC), an Egyptian king, that there is only one God (monotheism) in the universe. The idea itself had been reached by black Africans of the interior but he is credited with being the most coherent and systematic exponent of the idea. Vehemently opposed by followers of polytheism (believers in many gods), the controversy eventually led to armed conflict and civil war which weakened the empire.

(We know, historically, religious conflicts lead to wars. Recall the wars in Europe after the Reformation). The civil war in Egypt weakened the empire. Many communities exploited the weakness and broke away from the empire. It is in this light that the exodus should be viewed, with Moses leading away believers in one God from Egypt to Canaan. Moses himself must have been black. This is vindicated by the miracle by which he placed his hand on the chest and on stretching his arm (twice) the hand turned white.

You cannot turn from white to white. Moses' black body (the hand) was turning from black to white. Other believers fled Egypt and moved south among whom were the Maasai and their kins. This is inferred from Maasai oral tradition to the effect that they came from the North and the name of their chief priest the Laibon, who is the same as Laban of the Bible. Residual Hieroglyphics among the Maasai is further evidence of origin from Egypt. At the time of the Exodus, Hebrews were black people.

They were described as Hapiru at that time, meaning paid servants. It is the same word which entered English as Hebrews, and our languages in the Great Lakes zone as Abairu (Runyankore, Rukiga, Runyoro, Rutooro) or Abiru in Kinyarwanda/Rufumbira, the writer's language). The invasions mentioned above dispersed Africans to different parts of the continent after the decline of African civilization, with Africans becoming victims rather than empire builders and leaders in science, technology and philosophy.

In spite of the invasions, southern Egypt and southern Ethiopia remain black to this day so much that there are Luo speaking communities in southern Ethiopia. Among these are, Anguak/Anywar- the connection with Luo/Acholi names cannot be mistaken in Uganda.
In southern Ethiopia, we have Shua region as well as Oromo. The Dromo of Ethiopia see themselves as black people. We have the Oromo area of Acholi in Northern Uganda.

It is the residents of Shua who settled in Chwa county of Acholi in Uganda who with further movement southwards were described as Abachwezi in Bantu language speaking communities in present-day Uganda. We can tell from other similarities in terminology in Luo/Acholi, Runyankore and Kinyarwanda, notably Otoore, Acholi war dance and Intore, Kinyarwanda royal dance that in the ancient past the people of the Great Lakes region and indeed all African people had common culture.

The other noteworthy terminology is Shengo, which is Amharic, Ethiopia's official language, meaning councilor Parliament, and Eishengyero, council in Runyankore, which in Kinyarwanda has the equivalent in gushengera, a verb which means holding council with the king or chief. It is highly probable that Chwezi was further rendered Chuzi and eventually Tutsi. Scholars of linguistics inform us that Luo and other northern Uganda languages are 40% similar to southern Uganda languages in root words, indicating similar historical origins.

Those who were stuck with the Hamitic myth led by John Speke ought to have been aware that ancient Egyptians described themselves as khamite (Hamite), meaning people of black land. The Hamitic theory held that indigenous communities knew nothing until white related people 'Hamites' arrived in this region as opposed to Bantu.

Nothing can be further from the truth. In actual fact, the people in question before leaving Egypt would have described themselves as Bantu. This is easily inferred from the fact that pictorial writing/hieroglyphics, as in E. A. Wallis Budge's Dictionary of Hieroglyphics (1920) for people/community reads 'ntu', from which the Bantu derives. As now every student knows, these Bantu started migrating en masse and crisscrossed Africa well before Jesus Christ was born.

Historically, the so-called Bantu have the same origin as Bachwezi, in Egypt. The most singular event which led to the mass migration of the Bantu was the liquidation of the Egyptian kingdom and its incorporation into the Persian Empire in 525 BC when Cambyses the Persian king occupied Egypt and killed the native (hence black king of Egypt, Amasis). This marked the end of native rule in Egypt (except for a period of five years from 404 BC) as thereafter the earlier referred to succession of foreign rulers followed (Persians, Greeks, Romans, Turks etc).

Scholars of the Bible will easily remember the epoch of the great Empires (Persians under Cyrus, Greeks, Egyptians, etc.) about this time. Early colonial scholars having boxed themselves into the Hamitic myth found it impossible to explain how Bachwezi/ 'Hamites' and native Bantu could belong to the same clans, since clans and their totems denote common ancestry of the clan members.

They resorted to hypotheses such as clans uniting for protection. The better view clearly emerging from Gerald Massey's Book of Beginnings is to the effect that totemism emerged from ancient Black Egypt. Hence the Bachwezi migrated with their totems as identities, as did the 'Bantu', all from the common ground in Egypt (recall the black empire stretched from Ethiopia to Sierra Leone.

If, for example, the Bachwezi of the monkey clan (Nkima in Luganda), Abazirankende (in Kinyarwanda) reached present-day Rwanda and neighbouring territories, they would easily identify with those of the same totem as relatives, having common ancestry. My clan the Abagesera traces its ancestry to Kagesera, Ruhinda and Kimenyi and comprises of the Abahutu, Abatutsi and Abatwa, who erroneously colonial writers portrayed as belonging to different races! Their common totem is the monkey.

The Bachwezi have never vapourized into thin air. They migrated to this region like so many other people, and are here with us. Doubting Thomases will be assuaged by Taylor,s study of the Batooro in 1950s. He joined them, as anthropologists often do, and lived among them. He attended their ceremonies and noticed that some of the rituals were performed at night. These are observations not lost in the misty distant past but fairly recent when citizens in their mid 60s were starting to go to school.

If some of the Bachwezi are taller and bigger in physique, than their neighbours and countrymen, the answer lies in diet and environment. It appears meat and dairy products lead to more-than-average height, which explains why the Dinkas of Sudan (great cattlekeepers) together with Batutsi of Eastern Africa are among the tallest people in the world.

In a sociological survey made by one Franz Boas in the 1930s in America about immigrants, it was found that children and grandchildren were not only taller than their parents and grandparents, but even head formation had undergone changes. This was due to different diet and environment in the newly acquired country.

The author is a retired judge of the High Court of Uganda.

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