Identity, indigeneity, and citizenship: the Nubi ethnic minority in Uganda
The study sought to examine how and why the Nubi were able to maintain and consolidate their identity in Uganda from the time of their arrival in the 1890s to 1995 when they were incorporated into the Ugandan Constitution as one of the indigenous ethnic groups. The following key questions guided this Study: Who are the Ugandan Nubi? How were they able to consolidate themselves as an ethnic community? Why was their identity contested in different historical contexts? Drawing on archival sources including colonial correspondence, letters, newspapers, tax tickets, among others; and oral interviews conducted in Bombo, Arua, and Fort Portal with mainly Nubi men and women from 2018 to 2020, the study shows that Ugandan Nubi constitutes a unique ethnic group that transcends the perceived understanding of ethnicity linked to primordialism and attached to territorial space. They trace their ancestry to the former Sudanese British colonial soldiers whom Fredrick Lugard recruited into the King's African Rifles in the 1890s. Over the years, they came to constitute a conglomeration of various ethnic communities from both Sudan and Uganda, and yet they ably maintained themselves as a distinct group bound together by Islam and other aspects, including language, food, dress, and crafts. Historical conditions that shaped the way the Nubi defined and identified themselves included their service in both the colonial and postcolonial armies, emphasis on Islamic teaching, formation of Sudanese Associations in the 1920s and 1950s, Amin's rise to power, and their support of the NRA. Although their indigeneity and citizenship were highly contested, and although some of them temporarily took on pseudo ethnic identity to survive discrimination, the Nubi did not totally denounce their Nubiness. Instead, they deployed it to address their concerns. By unpacking the ways in which they used their distinctiveness to make demands upon both the colonial and postcolonial governments in Uganda, the study shows the validity of the instrumentalism and social constructivist theories of ethnicity, all criticism withstanding. In addition, the study reveals that the co-existence of the Nubi within a historical space with other ethnic societies is a watershed in understanding ethnicity as a hybrid social construct. These hybrid identities include Nubi-Lugwara, Nubi-Kakwa, Nubi-Toro, among others.