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From Kitara to the Lost Counties: Genealogy, Land and Legitimacy in the Kingdom of Bunyoro, Western Uganda

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This article examines the use of genealogy in the politics of colonial Bunyoro, a kingdom within the modern state of Uganda. In particular, the article focuses on Bunyoro's attempt to have territory that had been transferred to a neighbouring kingdom at the time of conquest, known as the ‘lost counties', restored to their homeland. Such ethnic, irredentist political activity in Africa has often been regarded as retrogressive and anti-modern. In Bunyoro, early attempts to win back the lost counties did emphasise the ruling dynasty's genealogical claim for regional pre-eminence on the grounds that Bunyoro was the oldest and formerly the largest of the Great Lakes kingdoms. What is significant is that when Bunyoro's leaders realised that this concentration on the ancient past was counterproductive, they revised their strategy. The Banyoro began to use imperial ideology against local colonial policy, by turning the rhetoric of indirect rule, anti-slavery and ultimately self-determination against their British over-rulers. Similarly, the royal government employed petitions based on archival research, effective lobbying of nationalist politicians, British Queen's Counsels, and finally low-level terrorism in an increasingly modern and sophisticated campaign.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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