Academic journal article Africa

Legacies of Slavery in North-West Uganda: The Story of the 'One-Elevens'

Academic journal article Africa

Legacies of Slavery in North-West Uganda: The Story of the 'One-Elevens'

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article outlines the history of a people known as 'Nubi' or 'Nubians', northern Ugandan Muslims who were closely associated with Idi Amin's rule, and a group to which he himself belonged. They were supposed to be the descendants of former slave soldiers from southern Sudan, who in the late 1880s at the time of the Mahdi's Islamic uprising came into what is now Uganda under the command of a German officer named Emin Pasha. In reality, the identity became an elective one, open to Muslim males from the northern Uganda/southern Sudan borderlands, as well as descendants of the original soldiers. These soldiers, taken on by Frederick Lugard of the Imperial British East Africa Company, formed the core of the forces used to carve out much of Britain's East African Empire. From the days of Emin Pasha to those of Idi Amin, some Nubi men were identified by a marking of three vertical lines on the face--the 'One-Elevens'. Although since Amin's overthrow many Muslims from the north of the country prefer to identify, themselves as members of local Ugandan ethnic groups rather than as 'Nubis', aspects of Nubi identity live on among Ugandan rebel groups, as well as in cyberspace.

RESUME

Cet article decrit brievement l'histoire du peuple que l'on appelle les "Nubiens", musulmans du Nord de l'Ouganda etroitement associes au regime d'Idi Amin Dada et a un groupe auquel ce demier appartenait lui-meme. Ils etaient supposes etre les descendants d'anciens soldats esclaves du Sud du Soudan qui avaient regagne l'actuel Ouganda vers la fin des annees 1880 au moment du soulevement islamique des Mahdis, sous le commandement d'un officier allemand nomme Emin Pasha. En realite, cette identite est devenue elective, ouverte aux hommes musulmans des regions frontalieres du Nord de l'Ouganda/Sud du Soudan, ainsi qu'aux descendants des soldats d'origine. Ces soldats, recrutes par Frederick Lugard de l'Imperial British East Africa Company, formaient l'essentiel des forces utilisees pour batir une grande partie de l'empire britannique en Afrique orientale. Entre la periode d'Emin Pasha et celle d'Idi Amin Dada, certains Nubiens etaient identifies par le marquage de trois lignes verticales sur le visage, appelees "One-Elevens" (unonze). Meme si beaucoup de musulmans du Nord du pays preferent, depuis le renversement d'Amin Dada, s'identifier en tant que membres de groupes ethniques ougandais locaux plutot que comme Nubiens, certains aspects de l'identite nubienne subsistent chez certains groupes rebelles ougandais, ainsi que dans le cyberespace.

**********

On 25 January 1971 the seizure of power in Uganda by General Idi Amin Dada began a decade and a half of political turmoil in the country. As Amin's rule continued, it rested increasingly on the support of a small group of people known in Uganda as 'Nubians' or 'Nubi', to which Amin himself was considered to belong. There is now a certain amount of historical literature on the Nubi (e.g. Hansen 1991; Johnson 1988, 1989, 1992; Soghayroun 1981; Kokole 1995). They were believed to be the descendants of former slave soldiers from southern Sudan who came into what is now Uganda in the late 1880s under the command of a German-born officer known as Emin Pasha, Governor of Sudan's Equatoria Province at the time of the Mahdi's Islamic uprising. It was these soldiers, taken on by Frederick Lugard of the Imperial British East Africa Company, who formed the core of the forces used to carve out, not just Uganda, but much of Britain's East African Empire (Lugard 1893, vol. 2; Moyse-Bartlett 1956).

Previous histories of the Nubi have tended to focus on southern Sudan rather than northern Uganda, and have tended (Kokole being a partial exception) to avoid drawing connections between past and present. In this article I examine the changing meanings of 'Nubi' identity, from its roots in the Sudanese slave-soldier system to the present day, through a focus on the role of the Nubi in the area of Uganda to which Emin took his troops. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.