The Batooro inhabit the districts of Kabarole and Kasese. Their area has been infiltrated by many migrants from other parts of western Uganda, particularly the Bakiga.To their east live Banyoro; to their north are the Bamba and Bakonjo; to their southeast and west live Banyankore and to their east live the Baganda. The Batooro are Bantu speaking. Their language is Rutooro.
There existed conflicting legends about the Batooro. One legend asserts that the Batooro are indigenous to Toro and that they originated from the Batembuzi and the Bagabu who are said to have been pioneer inhabitants and rulers of the earth. Some other traditions assert that the Batooro are related to the Bachwezi and the Babito line. What can best be said is that the Batooro being Bantu originated from the Congo region where the other Bantu groups ate said to have originated.
The Batooro Society was stratified into the Bahuma and the Bairu.The relationship between the two was more of a caste rather than class differentiation. The Bahuma were pastoralists while the Bairu were agriculturalists. Socially and economically, there was a symbolic relationship between the two people. The Bairu could get meat, milk, hides and other cattle products from the Bahuma and equally the Bahuma would get beer and some other agricultural products from the Bairu.
Marriage occupied an important position in the cultural life of the Batooro man would not be regarded as complete before he got married. Formerly, marriage would be arranged by the parents of the boy and the girl without their knowledge with or without their consent.Durng the preparations however, the consent of the girl would have to be sought.
A middle-man was usually sought by the boy’s side and his role was socially recognized and rewarded. He was known as Kibonabuko.He had the duty of making investigations about the character of the girl, her family background and her ability to work. After such ground work was completed, the kibinabiko would proceed to secure the girl from her parents on behalf of the boy’s family.
The Kibonabuko would wake up one morning and go to the girl’s family and declare his intentions to marry their daughter. He would make the following statement to the father of the girl:
Sir, I come to you that you should build a house for me. I would like you to be part of my clan; I have come to ask for a wife, the builder of the house.
The normal response from the girl’s father was: I don’t have any child”. The Kibonabuko would insist that the child was there, and on being asked who exactly he wanted, he would name the girl. If the father consented, the Kibonabuko would thankfully kneel down as a sign of appreciation. The next step would be for the boy’s family to take beer to the girl’s parents for the bride wealth to be fixed.
The bride wealth was normally in the form of cows. It varied between the Bahuma and the Bairu. For the Bahuma, it ranged from six to twenty cows. For the Bairu, the ceiling was about eight cows. They would often make payments in goats and hoes. All or part of the bride wealth when due, would be received during a ceremony known as Okujuka. It was a very important ceremony involving a lot if eating, drinking and merry making. There after, the young man’s family could send barkcloth and some skins for the bride’s dress. Meanwhile other formalities would be finalized for the wedding.
On the wedding day, another big feast was organized. The bride would be collected around six or seven o’clock in the evening. Before leaving, she would first perform a ritual of sitting on her parents laps. This ritual was known as okubukara. She would then be lifted onto a litter and carried to the bridegroom’s home. On arrival, she would perform a ritual of being carried on her parent’s in –laws laps. There she would be sprinkled with some herbal water (endemezi) to welcome and bless her. Before the feasting started, the bridegroom would go to bed with the bride, to perform another ritual, okucwa amagita. Thereafter, the guests were given coffee berries, smoking pipes, beer and later food. If the girl was found to be a virgin during okucwa amagita, a gift of a cow or a goat would be sent to her mother to congratulate her on raising her daughter well. On the third day, the bride’s friends and relatives would give her gifts from home. They would come to see where she had been taken. The bride would spend some days in confinement and, at the end of it all, an elaborate ceremony would be held to bring the girl out and to initiate her into the art of cooking and house keeping.
In the event of a divorce, bride wealth would be refunded. However, part of the bride wealth would be retained if the woman had already had some children with her husband.
The Batooro had a concept of a supreme being Ruhanga. Ruhanga was believed to have created all things. He was believed to be a good and benevolent being who unless wronged could not do harm to the people. However, it was believed that the world was full of evil doers; evilspirits and sorceress who could employ their magic to under mine Ruhanga and cause disease, misfortune, barrenness, death and droughts or even bad weather.
The Batooro believed that there existed mediums some of whom were agents of the devil while the good ones were agents of Ruhanga.The Batooro also believed in the Mambwa cult. Shrines were constructed for the worship of emandwa in every home. The Mandwa were usually worshipped and praised by playing of entimbo (drums) and trumpets). In the actual process of worship, people would wear skins (emikako) knitted with beads and cowrie shells. An important medium of the Mandwa would wear a six centimeter bark-cloth material with horns on the head (ekisingo). The whole process of worshiping involved a lot of eating and drinking.
In the event of disease, death or misfortune, a mufumu (divinera0 would be consulted to interpret the demands of emandwa. Thereafter, appropriate measures would be taken to appease the mandwa. Supplications to the Mandwa were normally effected at night. A man would put fire in front of the house and pronounce his problems to the Mandwa. The language used to in addressing the emandwa was slightly different from the common one used in ordinary parlance. The pronunciation of certain words was slightly alterd.Suprisingly; in talking to emandwa the Batooro would use Runyankole terminologies. For instance Omukama was pronounced as omugabe, okurora, as okureea, omwaana omwerere, and severalothers.
Besides their family names, the Batooro like the Banyoro have pet names called empaako.These pet names are said to be of Luo origin though the Luo do not use them. Empaako was a sign of social identity. When greeting each other, the Batooro use the empaako.when people w ho were related greeted each other, the younger would sit on the lap of the elder. Among the Babiito, the younger would touch the forehead and chin of the elder before announcing the empaako.
The Batooro, like their Banyankole neighbours, practiced blood brotherhood, but a man could also make blood brotherhood with a woman. The main ingredient s of the ceremony included coffee berries, a new bark-cloth, a knife, two branches of a fig tree and sprouts of a grass called ejubwe. The climax of the ceremony was the taking, with coffee berries of one’s blood from a cut made just below the navel. Then the two blood brothers would take an oath to behave as real brothers in all respects. Two men and one old woman would usually act as witnesses to the occasion.
The two celebrants would pronounce the following words to each other during the ceremony:
Brothers fight and shave each other; they cut each other’s nails; they beat each other and help each other.
If you become dishonest to me your stomach will swell. When come to you with horrible disease, you will not send me away. When I come naked you will not send me away. When I come to your home, I will not go away hungry. We shall not do evil to each other, nor shall our children and clans.
The economy of Bunyoro was partly agricultural and partly pastoral. The Bahuma were agriculturalists while the Bairu were pastoralists. Cows were much valued by both groups and besides providing milk and beef, cattle were a symbol of wealth.
The Batooro cultivated millet, sorghum, bananas, peas and a variety of green vegetables. They also had local industries to produce iron complements such as spears, hoes, knives and arrowheads, bark-cloth and salt. Besides, they also had a number of potters who produced a variety of household utensils such as waterpots, beerpots and sauce pots.
The women were good at basket weaving and they produced a wide assortment of basketry such as winnowing trays, plate baskets, bags, harvesting baskets and several baskets for routine household work. The men constructed houses, cleared bushes and hunted wild animals. Certain activities like hunting, and house construction were done on a communal basis. House construction involved eating, drinking and dancing. Batooro built circular huts with grass thatched roofs.
The Batooro had a centralized system of Government. Toro had until1830 been a part of Bunyoro. In 1830, Prince Kaboyo declared Toro independent of Bunyoro and recognized it into another Kingdom.
At the head of the Kingdom was a king known as Omukama, the first being Kaboyo Kansunsunkwanzi, the actual founder of the Kingdom. He was succeeded by his son Nyika who was in turn succeeded by Kasagama. Kasagama ruled until he was dethroned by Kabalega but was later reinstated in1891 by sir Lugard an agent of the imperial British East African Company (IBEA Co) which was trying to extend British Imperialism to Uganda. The King was hereditary and he had to be from the Babiito dynasty which was ruling Bunyoro. He was assisted b a hierarchy of chiefs and a standing army. But in times of war, all able bodied men would be called upon to serve in the defense of the Kingdom. The chiefly regalia included drums, iron forks, spears, wooden spoons, chairs, crowns, beads, axes and knives.
The county of Mwenge was of particular importance to the Kingdom. It contained a school of political education when Toro was still part of Bunyoro. When Toro broke away from Bunyoro, Mwenge maintained its function. The sons of the Kings were sent to Mwenge to learn the art and the language of government. It is said that there were also special tutors for the king’s daughters. When the King’s wives were about to give birth, they would be sent to Mwenge. Rebellious princes were also sent to a school in mwenge and it is perhaps because of the political and social importance of Mwenge that no war was fought in Mwenge.
The Toro Kingdom suffered the same fate as Bunyoro, Buganda and Ankole with the event of republican in 1967. However, the institution of Omukama was reinstated in 1993 albeit without its former political and administrative powers. Omukama Olimi Kaboyo was installed as the fifth Omukama of Toro. He reigns as the cultural head of the Batooro.