The Bakingwe, a minority ethnic group in Kasese, have asked their district leaders to petition government to recognize them as a tribe.
The Bakingwe are a small group that lives on the shores of Lake George and Lake Edward. In pre-colonial times the Bakingwe were based on Kakure Island and the eastern shore of Lake Edward. They traded in salt from Lake Katwe.
Pushed out of the area when Queen Elizabeth National Park was gazette, the Bakingwe now fully rely on fishing for a living.
Yesterday a report on the state of Bakingwe language and culture was released by the Kasese District Development Network. It found that there are just 2,000 Bakingwe living in Kasese, making them less than a tenth of the population of the district.
The report looked into the anthropological origins of the Bakingwe and found that their ancestors migrated into the Lake George area in 1914 and 1915. They moved to escape an epidemic of sleeping sickness and forced labor at the hands of Belgian colonialists.
Kacancu Ngambeki, a representative of the Bakingwe, said that if the tribe is not recognized by the Constitution of Uganda, it will go extinct. He said the Bakingwe deserved to legally recognized in order to develop programs that can protect their language and culture.
The Kasese LC5 vice chairman, Joshua Masereka, said the Bakingwe should start to preserve their traditions even before they receive formal status. He urged them to teach their children their language and to pass down their norms in order to encourage cultural longevity.
About 30 tribes live in Kasese. Katwe-Kabatoro Town Council, where the Bakingwe live, are dominated by the Bakonzo, Basongora and Banyabindi. Apart from the Bakingwe, minority tribes like the Barondo, Bagabo and Bahunde live in the same area.
The Kasese district leaders did not commit themselves to a timeframe within which to consider the Bakingwe request.