Bunyoro Assumes Empaako Tradition Conservation Project

1757 Views Hoima, Uganda

In short
In the tradition, children are given one of twelve names shared across the communities in addition to their given and family names. Common among the Bunyoro, Batooro, Batuku, Banyabindi and Batagwenda communities', the tradition was recently inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO as an intangible heritage in need of safeguarding.

Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom has partnered with the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) to preserve the Empaako tradition, a naming system practiced by several communities in western Uganda.

In the tradition, children are given one of twelve names shared across the communities in addition to their given and family names. Common among the Bunyoro, Batooro, Batuku, Banyabindi and Batagwenda communities', the tradition was recently inscribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO as an intangible heritage in need of safeguarding.

The Partnership started with a Memorandum of Understanding signed on Thursday through which, CCFU will pilot a three month Empaako Heritage Conservation Project in Bunyoro.  Bruhan Kyakuhaire, the Kingdom Minister of culture signed on behalf of the kingdom while Emily Drani, the CCFU Executive Director signed on behalf of her organization.

Drani says CCFU will support the Empaako pilot project in Bunyoro with Ugx 9million.The money among others will be spent on proving indigenous tree seedlings to the foresters,  mobilization and setting up mini nursery beds for trees to distribute in schools and homes for planting at the naming of every new born.

According to Drani, the organization will support selected private foresters in the kingdom to plant at least two acres of forests and give them Empaako (Peti-names). Twelve forests will be planted as per the 12 pet-names in Bunyoro and Tooro. Drani reveals that the initiative was prompted by the kingdom proposal to have the Empaako conserved since it was under threat from some religions and foreign cultures.

The CCFU Executive Director says on top of preserving Empaako, giving forests pet-names will partly guard against the rampant forest degradation, as people will identify and respect forests with which they share a pet-name.
 
//Cue in: "Many of…
Cue out: …trying to protect."//
 
She adds that CCFU is implementing a similar project in Aryek Chiefdom and Alur Kingdom. She explains however that in the two kingdoms they are promoting the preservation and growing of Shea Butter Tree, which produces oil used to anoint kings.

Blasio Mugasa, the Bunyoro Kingdom deputy Prime Minister says CCFU's intervention has come at the right time, as the Empaako tradition is under threat from some religious sects and immigrants. Believers of the Faith of Unity founded by Desteo Bisaka do not possess Empaako, as they regard it as satanic.

Bunyoro culture Minister Bruhan Kyokuhaire says Empaako remains of much cultural relevance in Bunyoro and Tooro because it is used to accord honor and love.

//Cue in: "It may be…
  Cue out: ….for greeting."//
 
The need to recognize the Empaako tradition, prior to the intervention by UNESCO was first initiated in 2011 by Engabu Za Tooro (EZT), a cultural organization in the Rwenzori region. It followed a research carried which indicated that the tradition was under threat from various groups especially cults which prohibited believers from greeting using the pet name. They associated the name to the demi- gods.

According to UNESCO, it was established that Use of Empaako can defuse tension or anger and sends a strong message about social identity and unity, peace and reconciliation.