PhD Public Defense by Mr. Yahya Sseremba

PhD Public Defence
MISR Seminar Room 1
Event Date
July 25, 2018
Event Time
02:15 PM
On going construction


The Director Makerere Institute of Social Research Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, cordially invites you to the PhD Public Defence of Mr. Yahya Sseremba scheduled to take place on Wednesday 25th July, 2018 at 2:15p.m. at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in Seminar Room 1.


Thesis title: “The State and the Puzzle of Tribe: Rethinking Mass Violence in Uganda’s Rwenzori Area.”



Professor Mahmood Mamdani, MISR.


Opponent / Discussant:

Associate Professor Suren Pillay - Acting Director and Senior Researcher, DST~NRF Flagship on Critical Thought in African Humanities - centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, South Africa.


ABSTRACT: Far from being instigated by politicians and far from being a clash of cultures, the recurrent mass violence in Uganda’s Rwenzori area is a popular struggle of political minorities to become political majorities. Combining the approaches of history, anthropology and political science, this thesis examines archival resources, oral sources and interviews to study three realities driving the fighting. First, the colonialists dismantled the pre-colonial organization of societies and put tribe at the center of political organization. In a policy that required one to be a member of a ‘native tribe’ of Toro to qualify for political and socioeconomic inclusion, the British made it possible for the recognized native tribe (Batoro) to discriminate with a clear conscience against ‘tribes’ not defined in law as native (Bakonzo and Bamba). Second, instead of questioning this arrangement in which native tribe was the basis for inclusion, the Bakonzo and Bamba demanded to be equally recognized in law as native tribes of Toro like the Batoro and later asked for a separate tribal homeland. The demands of the Bakonzo and Bamba carried forward the tribalized structure that the colonialists established. The struggle of these two societies reflects the success with which colonial rule shaped the responses of anti-colonial movements. Third, the responses of post-colonial regimes were equally derivative in the sense that they turned the Bakonzo and Bamba into political majorities by granting each a tribal homeland. This gave rise to new political minorities—Basongora, Banyabindi, Bakingwe and Bagabo in the Bakonzo’s Kasese homeland and the Bakonzo in the Bamba’s Bundibugyo homeland. I break down the category homeland (district and kingdom) as a tribalizing unit of the state and show that to create a political majority is to produce political minorities who in turn demand for separate homelands in an endless cycle. This is the dilemma of the post-colonial state that Uganda exemplifies. To overcome the impasse, the state should be reformed so that residence replaces ancestry as the basis for inclusion. Besides dissecting the post-colonial state to analyze its polarizing character, I explain mass violence in Africa without using primordialist terms like culture and without denying the agency of society.

The event is open to the Public.