Chapter IX. History of the Wahuma

The Abyssinians and Gallas - Theory of Conquest of Inferior by Superior Races - The Wahuma and the Kingdom of Kittara - Legendary History of the Kingdom of Uganda - Its Constitution, and the Ceremonials of the Court.

The reader has now had my experience of several of the minor states, and has presently to be introduced to Uganda, the most powerful state in the ancient but now divided great kingdom of Kittara. I shall have to record a residence of considerable duration at the court there; and, before entering on it, I propose to state my theory of the ethnology of that part of Africa inhabited by the people collectively styled Wahuma - otherwise Gallas or Abyssinians. My theory is founded on the traditions of the several nations, as checked by my own observations of what I saw when passing through them. It appears impossible to believe, judging from the physical appearance of the Wahuma, that they can be of any other race than the semi- Shem-Hamitic of Ethiopia. The traditions of the imperial government of Abyssinia go as far back as the scriptural age of King David, from whom the late reigning king of Abyssinia, Sahela Selassie, traced his descent.

Most people appear to regard the Abyssinians as a different race from the Gallas, but, I believe, without foundation. Both alike are Christians of the greatest antiquity. It is true that, whilst the aboriginal Abyssinians in Abyssinia proper are more commonly agriculturists, the Gallas are chiefly a pastoral people; but I conceive that the two may have had the same relations with each other which I found the Wahuma kings and Wahuma herdsmen holding with the agricultural Wazinza in Uzinza, the Wanyambo in Karague, the Waganda in Uganda, and the Wanyoro in Unyoro.

In these countries the government is in the hands of foreigners, who had invaded and taken possession of them, leaving the agricultural aborigines to till the ground, whilst the junior members of the usurping clans herded cattle - just as in Abyssinia, or wherever the Abyssinians or Gallas have shown themselves. There a pastoral clan from the Asiatic side took the government of Abyssinia from its people and have ruled over them ever since, changing, by intermarriage with the Africans, the texture of their hair and colour to a certain extent, but still maintaining a high stamp of Asiatic feature, of which a market characteristic is a bridged instead of bridgeless nose.

It may be presumed that there once existed a foreign but compact government in Abyssinia, which, becoming great and powerful, sent out armies on all sides of it, especially to the south, south- east, and west, slave-hunting and devastating wherever they went, and in process of time becoming too great for one ruler to control. Junior members of the royal family then, pushing their fortunes, dismembered themselves from the parent stock, created separate governments, and, for reasons which cannot be traced, changed their names. In this manner we may suppose that the Gallas separated from the Abyssinians, and located themselves to the south of their native land.

Other Abyssinians, or possibly Gallas - it matters not which they were or what we call them - likewise detaching themselves, fought in the Somali country, subjugated that land, were defeated to a certain extent by the Arabs from the opposite continent, and tried their hands south as far as the Jub river, where they also left many of their numbers behind. Again they attacked Omwita (the present Mombas), were repulsed, were lost sight of in the interior of the continent, and, crossing the Nile close to its source, discovered the rich pasture-lands of Unyoro, and founded the great kingdom of Kittara, where they lost their religion, forgot their language, extracted their lower incisors like the natives, changed their national name to Wahuma, and no longer remembered the names of Hubshi or Galla - though even the present reigning kings retain a singular traditional account of their having once been half white and half black, with hair on the white side straight, and on the black side frizzly. It was a curious indication of the prevailing idea still entertained by them of their foreign extraction, that it was surmised in Unyoro that the approach of us white men into their country from both sides at once, augured an intention on our part to take back the country from them. Believing, as they do, that Africa formerly belonged to Europeans, from whom it was taken by negroes with whom they had allied themselves, the Wahuma make themselves a small residue of the original European stock driven from the land - an idea which seems natural enough when we consider that the Wahuma are, in numbers, quite insignificant compared with the natives.