The Batooro people are located in Kabarole and Kasese district in Toro Kingdom that ruled by the Babiito dynasty whose origins date 14th century.
The Batooro society has traditionally been demarcated along “economic activity” lines, rather than caste. Two classes could be identified, the Bahuma and the Bairu. The bahuma were the cattle keepers, the Bairu the land tillers. The two classes lived symbiotically as one provided the needed milk, meat, and butter; and the other provided the needed food products.
Today, the line of demarcation is growing very faint. Since the old days, the Batooro have always considered themselves as one people, under the unifying leadership of the Omukama (king) who was, until 1967, their ruler. Under the Uganda constitution, the kings are recognized as cultural heads of their tribe.
Every Mutooro child born is automatically a member of the Batooro tribe. Apart from the standard naming ceremonies, which take place at a very early age, there are no strict rites of passage, as found in some of the other Uganda tribes. The system of naming Batooro children is rather unique and needs some explanation for the sake of our Western friends.
Every Mutooro child has his or her own “last name”! The reason for this is very simple. Kitooro names must have a meaning; they must say something about the prevailing conditions or circumstances surrounding the birth of the child being named.
Contrary to the norm that kitooro names have a kitooro meaning and say something, the empaako names do not mean anything in rutooro; because they really are not kitooro names in origin. They were brought to Bunyoro by the Luo who invaded Bunyoro from the North. They have been assimilated into the language and tagged with special meanings; for instance, Akiiki bears the tag “Rukiikura mahaanga” (savior of Nations).
Marriage was important to the Batooro and a man was not regarded complete before he got married.
Traditionally marriage was arranged by the parents of a couple.
Marriage arrangements involved a middleman called kirangabuko, who is deployed by the boy’s family. He did research on the girl and her family. Of great interest is the girls’ ability to do domestic chores. If he found out that the chosen girl was lazy or had bad manners, he would advise the boy’s parents against her.
If she passed the test, he would initiate negotiations with her parents. He would say to the father of the girl: Sir, I come for you to build a home for me. I would like you to be part of my clan. I have come to ask for a wife, the builder of the house. The girl’s father would reply: I don’t have any child.
The kirangabuko would insist that a girl existed in the homestead. This would prompt the girl’s father to ask him to name the girl. If the father consented, the kirangabuko would kneel down to show his gratitude. The boy’s family would then visit the girl’s parents to negotiate the bride price. They carried local brew.
The bride price was worked out in terms of cows. It varied between the Bahuma and the Bairu. For the Bahuma, it ranged from six to 20 cows. For the Bairu, the ceiling was eight cows. Another ceremony called enjugano/omukaaga was held to receive the bride price. It involved partying. The boy’s family would then send bark cloth and skins for the bride’s wedding outfit.
This was followed by the wedding ceremony, which was a three-day feast. Strong, young men from the groom’s home would carry the girl from her parent’s home at 6:00 pm. Before leaving, she would first perform a ritual of sitting on her parent’s laps. This ritual was known as okubukara. She would then be carried all the way to the boy’s hut.
On arrival, she would first be carried on the laps of the boy’s parents. They then gave her a maiden name and sprinkled her with a herbal concoction mixed with water (endembeezi), to bless and welcome her into her new family.
The Bairu cultivated crops like millet, sorghum, bananas, sweet potatoes, peas, and vegetables. The Bahuma kept cattle to provide milk, meat, and hides. These were supplemented with economic activities like blacksmithing. The blacksmiths produced spears, hoes, axes, knives, and arrowheads.
Besides, they also had potters who produced household utensils such as water, beer, and sauce pots. The women were skilled at weaving and produced an assortment of basketry such as winnowing trays, plate baskets, bags, harvesting baskets, and other baskets for household chores.
The men constructed houses cleared bushes and hunted wild animals. Activities like hunting and house construction were done communally. The Batooro built circular huts with grass-thatched roofs.