A recent incident over property inheritance has brought to light the ongoing conflict between the Church, customary tradition and the bequeathed English law. Trampling on clan-based governance is leading to the fragmentation of African societies.
Last month, the main cathedral of Uganda's Native Anglican Church--now known as the Church of Uganda--became the site and source of an ongoing discussion for one of Uganda's native communities. The occasion was the funeral service of a former high government official and academic and one-time Chancellor to the national university.
At the close, the announcement was made of the professor's decision to have one of his daughters named as the heir to his property, including customary land.
The process itself, as reported in our media, was unusual, but not unknown. A priest called for the declaration to be made and specified that this was a duty assigned to his church in the late professor's will. He then pointed out that he belonged to the same Ffumbe (civet cat) clan as the deceased, before going on to back up the decision by citing a Biblical passage.
A number of responses, many entirely predictable, then played out. The hereditary head of the clan later denounced the event, and stated that they would not recognise the church's right to install customary heirs, not to mention a woman installed as heir to a man.
A number of feminist voices applauded the decision, and accused the clan elders of simply being misogynists harbouring a venal interest in the late professor's property. "Why shouldn't a woman become heir to a man?" they asked.
Despite the 100-year-plus incursion of the churches into Buganda, the compromise on the occasion of death has been to allow the Christians to do their Christian part in the church at the graveside, and then allow the "cultural things" to be done at the wake before the funeral and afterwards. This is a new development, where the Native Anglican Church became the vehicle to announce, officiate and then implement this action.
English-speaking public discourse in Uganda has become a little too encumbered by first, social media that serves only to facilitate immediate reactions, and second, the burden of too many years of an education to acquire that English based on a design encouraging Africans to think of culture in only negative terms, or ornamental ones, at best.
This is to be expected. As the radical Nigerian thinker Chinweizu pointed out: "That's what we all are...