'Tuko Pamoja': The cultural identity of post-colonial Uganda

Saturday April 20 2024

Nyati crew after interviewing Buganda Kingdom Prime Minister Charles Peter Mayiga. PHOTO | POOL


The docuseries “Tuko Pamoja” (We Are One) explores Uganda’s sense of identity and togetherness or belonging as a post-colonial nation, heroes from Uganda’s pre-colonial history, and what Uganda could borrow from history to solve contemporary challenges.

The documentary series about Uganda’s 19th Century is written by Rogers Atukunda and directed by Cindy Evelyn Magara Amooti constructs and deconstructs history by interviewing historians, various cultural leaders and opinion leaders in the country.

It explores the unifying political, economic and cultural heritage of the peoples of the Great Lakes region traced from the great Bunyoro-Kitara Empire that covered Uganda, and extended to Rwanda, Burundi, northern Tanganyika, parts of Kenya and Sudan up to Gondokoro.

The docuseries that premiered in February 2024 in Kampala, and running up to June 2024 were produced by Nyati Motion Pictures.

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The 13 segments include: Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom; Buganda; Tooro; Karo Karungi: Ankore (Ankole and The Mporo States, Buhweju); Kigezi (Bafumbira, Bakiga and Batwa); Labongo Land (Acholi and Jopadhola); Gipiri Land (Alur); The ‘Ango’ peoples: Lango, Karamajong, Teso; Bukedi Land: Basoga, Bagisu, Babukhusu, Samya, Bagwe; The Rwenzori (Rwenzururu/Rwenjura) peoples: Bakonjo, Bamba and Basongora; Lado Enclave/West Nilers: (Lugbara, Aringa, Madi, Kakwa); Break Away Kingdoms: Bunyara, Buruli, Kooki; and Uganda: The Making of a Nation.


Bunyoro Kitara is the first segment because its history: as the largest empire in East and Central Africa, encapsulates the thesis of the “Tuko Pamoja” (We are one) series. It premiered at the National Theatre in Kampala on February 3, 2024 and screened at Ham Cinemax from February 4 - 10.

The second segment, Buganda, is one of the embryonic kingdoms that grew from a mere three counties of a nation, that today it is seen as a nation within a nation. It has strong links with Bunyoro and Bugisu hence the Tukopamojaness! It premiered at the National Theatre on February 11, 2024, and it screened at the National Theatre on the February 13, 19 and 20, and all week at Ham Cinemax.

Ankole: (Kaaro-Karungi) Nkore, Buhweju, Buzimba and Mpororo States). Ankole brings on screen of a people linked to Bunyoro and Rwanda, who had a great history but their history is in a museum! It premiered at the National Theatre on February 28, 2024, and screened at Ham Cinemax for a week.

The ‘Ango’ peoples: Lango, Karamojong and Itesots—shows the connections of the Ateker people and more so the role played by the Langi. The Langi, who are Ateker by DNA and Luo by language, stand out as significant in the history of Uganda since they were protecting Omukama Kabaleega and Kabaka Mwanga in Kangai. It premiered at National Theatre on March 10, 2024, and screened at the National Theatre and Ham Cinemax for a week.

Tooro is like a siamese twin of Bunyoro Kitara and they are closely linked to their ancestors the Luos, whose names they adorn as praise names (Amooti, Abwooli, Akiiki, and Abbala, among others). It will premiere on April 6, 2024, at Ndere Center.

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Luo (Labongo and Gipir Land (Acholi and Jopadhola and Alur). Spread all over Uganda and the Great lakes region, the Luo’s civilization is felt in all parts of this world because they were and still are the rulers of the major Kingdoms in the region. It will premiere on April 20, 2024 at Ndere Center.

Uganda: The Making of a Nation. After seeing how the various peoples of Uganda are interconnected, “Tuko Pamoja” delves into how these people are clamped together into a country called Uganda. How are they fostering national unity? It will premiere on June 1, 2024 at Ndere Center.

Asked what major issues they are addressing in this production, Magara, said: “The documentary addresses loss of identity, cultural confusion or call the negative effects of hybridity, neocolonialism, self-hate (because there is nothing positive popularised about our heritage), tribalism and ethnic divisions, and decolonisation, among others.”

““Tuko Pamoja,” as the title suggests, looks at Africa’s unity in diversity. It primarily constructs and deconstructs history by interviewing historians, various cultural leaders, opinion leaders and youths in Uganda, with the key informer being the court historian of any given community. Guided by the oral tradition culture, the filmmaker (Cindy Magara) goes into the community to seek an in-depth understanding of the construction of cultural identity/ethnicity and how they relate or fit in the larger Uganda that is seen to have closely linked yet diverse peoples,” she adds.

“For each community, we explore how they responded to the slave trade and British colonialism, the most tumultuous times for the peoples of Africa, and how they made an indelible mark on Africa. This film aims to foster cohesion since our pre-colonial history shows that we are one (Tuko Pamoja) yet the colonialists wanted to see us divided on, for example, along tribal lines to subjugate us. When we all know this history, it will reduce ethnic tensions,” Magara further adds.

According to Magara, Bunyoro’s rulers were all related. “They kept intermarrying, and their children formed new dynasties. The old Kitara ruled the Great Lakes Region, and the sons of the kings of Bunyoro kept breaking away, forming new kingdoms in the region. They met different people, and they either unified the area with war and blood brotherhood (ceremony of sharing blood in friendship) or married their daughters to unify the region.”

Adding: “Firstly, the rulers of Bunyoro, Buganda, Busoga and Tooro are all Babiito (Bito-Luos from Northern Uganda). The Babiito, first settled in present-day Bunyoro before continuing their movement back into Northern Uganda, Eastern DR Congo, Kenya and Tanzania. Their linguistic affinity entails their connectivity.”

“Secondly, the rulers of Ankole (Bahinda) were cattle keepers in charge of the royal herds of Bunyoro kings before breaking away to form their separate kingdom. The founder of Nkore, Ruhinda rwa Njunaki, was the son of the last Muchwezi king of Bunyoro, Wamara. After founding Nkore (Kaaro-Karungi), Ruhinda proceeded to Tanzania and founded the Karagwe Kingdom. That is a quick demonstration of our interconnectedness,” Magara further adds.

When asked how the public has received their docuseries, Magara replied: “I would say that we are getting a very positive reception. When we premiered Bunyoro-Kitara segment on February 3, 2024, many Ugandans particularly from Bunyoro and Tooro turned up to watch the film. For the Buganda segment, this being Kampala- the heart of the kingdom- it was a full house. Busoga, Ankole, Ateker, Luhya all had enthusiastic guests. The most interesting comment was “why didn’t our teacher tell us this in our history class?””

“We have got numerous calls from people wanting to tell us their stories. The people are generally happy with Tuko Pamoja for giving them the voice to articulate their history. I think Tuko Pamoja is a turning point for Africans to appreciate our heritage and identity. We have received positive commendations and encouragement from leaders and individuals, including an award given to me on March 30, 2024 by Kabaleega Foundation and Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom for my contribution to film and literature,” she added.