BATOORO CULTURE

The Batooro people live in the Kabarole, Kyenjojo and Kasese districts in the west of Uganda. It can be noted that their area has been infiltrated by a range of immigrants from different parts of Uganda mostly the Bakiga from South Western Uganda. They border with the Banyoro, Bamba and Bakonzo, Banyankole and the Baganda. The Batooro speak the language Rotooro and it has great attachment with the Runyoro.
Regarding the origin, the Batooro assert that they originated from the Batembuzi and the Bagabu the initial inhabitants of the earth. The other tradition notes that the Batooro have got a descent from the Bachwezi and the Babiito lineage. However, the majorly accepted description puts the Batooro among the Bantu group that entered Uganda from the southwestern side hailing Central African parts.

tooro king

L-R: Former Tooro King, current king when he was declared youngest king and how he looks like today

The Society of the Batooro was divided into the Bairu and the Bahuma and the relationship amongst the two was much of caste other than differentiation of class. The Bahuma carried out pastoralism while the Bairu were cultivators. These two groups lived symbiotically with the Bahuma providing milk, meat, hides along with other cattle products while the Bairu provided beer along with other products of agriculture.
Regarding Marriage, the Batooro attached great significance to marriage as the man would never be regarded complete before he got a wife. The marriage would be put together by the parent’s children without seeking the consent of the bride and groom. An intermediate would be sought by the side of the boy locally known as Kibonabuko whose duty was to investigate the character of the gorilla along with the general setting and background of her family. He would go ahead to secure the girl from the girl’s family to the boy’s family. This person would get to the girl’s family in a certain day and declare the intentions to marry their daughter. He would mention the following words to the father of the girl; that Sir, I have come to you that you should build a home for me. I am pleading hat you become part of the clan and thus i have come to ask for a wife who is the builder of the home.

The normal feedback from the father’s girl would be; I do not have a child and the intermediate would insist that the gorilla is there. He would then be asked on who the girl after which he would mention the name and if he girl’s father consented, the intermediate would definitely kneel down and thank the father by kneeling down. The family of the boy would bring beer to the girl’s family and then the bride price would be fixed. The bride wealth varied among the Bahuma and the Bairu. The Bahuma gave six (6) – twenty (20) cows while for the Bairu had a ceiling of eight (8) cows. For the Bairu, they would often give goats and hoes. The bride price delivery ceremony was marked with lots of celebration including eating and drinking. After this function, the boy’s family would then send a bark cloth and some skins to make the dress for the bride. After this encounter, the marriage formalities would be formalized. The bride would be collected in the evening at around 6pm or 7pm. Before the bride leaving her parents’ home, she would have to sit on the laps of her parents as a ritual locally known as Okubukara. The bride would then be lifted up to the groom’s home. Upon arriving at the boy’s home, she would also be carried on the laps of the parent’s in law where she would be sprinkled with herbal water aimed at welcoming and blessing her. The groom would go with the bride to the Bed for another ritual before the feasting started. After this, the parents would be given coffee berries beer and smoking pipes and then food. If the girl was found virgin, the cow or a goat would be sent to her mother for raising her responsibly. The relatives and the friends would bring gifts to the bride on a third day and see where she had been taken. The bride would spend some days in confinement and after that a ceremony would be conducted to bring the bride out and embark on her duties including housekeeping and cooking. Regarding divorce, the bride wealth would definitely be refunded however, when the woman had already had children, part of would be retained.

Men at a wedding in Tooro, The bride, and the bride price
Men at a wedding in Tooro, The bride, and the bride price

Regarding religion, the Batooro had a concept of the Supreme Being named Ruhanga. Ruhanga was known to have created everything. The Ruhanga was considered to be good who could hardly any bad to people unless wronged. They also agreed that the world was full of evil doers including sorcerers and evil spirits. These evil doers would use magic to cause misfortune, disease, bareness, droughts and death among other bad things to the people. The Batooro also believed that there existed mediums some of which were bad working for the devil while others were good working for the Supreme Being. The Batooro also had belief in the Mambwa cult and every home had a shrine to worship the cult. The drums and trumpets would be blown to please the cult and people would put on skins crafted with beads and cowrie shells. The most significant medium of the cult could out on 6cm bark cloth material that had horn on its head and the process of praise and worshiping included rating ad drinking. In case of a misfortune or death, a witch doctor would be consulted and the after the appropriate attempts would be conducted to please the spirits and thus avert the misfortune. The Mandwa (cult) supplications would be conducted at night. The man would lit up fire in front his house and then utter his problems to the cult. The language used was slightly altered from the traditional Rutooro and surprisingly it would involve much of the Runyankole words. Fore example, they would call Omukama, Omugabe, Omwaana Omwerere among others.
Apart from their family names, the Batooro have got pet names just like the neighbouring Banyoro. The pet name (Empaako) was considered as a sign of social identity. When the related people greeted each other, the younger would sit on the elder’s lap. Among the Babiito, the young would have to touch the forehead and the elders’ chin prior to announcing the empaako.

empaako in tooro
Regarding the blood brother hood, just like the neighboring Banyankore, the Batooro also carried out blood brother hood. This function included coffee berries, a knife, bark-cloth, fig tree branches and grass sprouts called Ejubwe. The blood got from the cut below the naval would be put in a coffee berry and consumed by the two to mark the climax of the function. After this, the two would be considered as brothers. An old man and woman would act as witnesses on the event.
Regarding the economy, the Batooro carried out both pastoralism and crop growing. The Bahuma reared cows while the Bairu grew crops. The cows carried much significance with the both groups and they were always regarded as a symbol of wealth. The Batooro cultivated a range of millet, bananas, sorghum, among others. They were also potters while the women carried out craft making including basket weaving.
Regarding the political setting, the Batooro had a central government led by the King of Tooro Kingdom locally known as Omukama. The Tooro Kingdom was founded in 1930 by the Prince Kaboyo after seceding from Bunyoro Kitala Kingdom. The Kings of Tooro hail from the Babiito clan and the royal regalia included spears, drums, iron forks, beads, chairs, wooden spoons, knives and axels.