Traditional Marriages in Uganda: Youth Embracing Cross-Cultural Marriage

Traditional Marriages in Uganda: Youth Embracing Cross-Cultural Marriage


By Enoch Mutabaazi
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First published: January 26, 2006


It was a holiday of misery for George William Kamuntu as he encountered pointed questioning from a host of his relatives about his choice of bride to be. A month to last years Christmas, Kamuntu, a Makerere University graduate, had hosted his uncle from their village. Gladly, he introduced his Alur bride to be to his uncle. The uncle, according to Kamuntu did not express any dissatisfaction, at least gauging by his reaction. Soon, Kamuntus uncle was back to their village in Western Uganda. Along with his luggage from the city he carried with him news, which he spread fast-as if announcing an impending epidemic to Kamuntus other family members.

Several rounds of meetings were held to come up with the familys position on whether Kamuntu should be allowed to marry an Alur from northern Uganda. It was agreed that a contingent of grown up paternal uncles and elders would be dispatched to Kampala and stop any further plans by Kamuntu to marry with the woman of his life. But on second thought, the family agreed to wait for him during Christmas holiday.

When Kamuntu went for holidays on the festive season and was welcomed by a ton of accusations and questions from relative after relative. He brushed off the challenges from the enraged family members with little success. By the time he returned to the city, a crest fallen Kamuntu seemed more convinced that he could not stand hostility directed to his prospective wife by his very own family. Now his relationship hangs in balance.

Kamuntus case is not an isolated incident. It is one of many that occur behind Ugandas social scenes. Uganda is a multi-cultural country with over 70 different tribes. While many young people, especially the educated ones look for quality in their prospective spouses, their conservative parents and diehard relatives still look at culture and traditions, which encourage marriage within the same cultural setting.

Where it is a common sight to find youth from various tribes in Uganda mixing, relating and interacting freely, not so many of such relationships end up into marriages. Pressure from relatives like that facing Kamuntu among other factors lead to numerous disagreements and eventual break ups. This is a sign that the mixture of culture/traditions and modernity still proves a sour grill down here.

While some educated parents (not always the case though) can stand their sons and daughters marrying companions of their choice be it from other tribes, the case is different when the parents and relatives are less affluent. Yet parents and relatives are still very influential in the marriage decisions. They have to approve.

They will always try to impose their opinions, especially to daughters, sometimes with threats of denouncing them from the family and further from the clan if they went against the familys decision.

Samson Bukenya, a Muganda was literally thrown out of his fathers home when he tried to introduce his Musoga girl friend to his Dad. With a sarcastic smile, Bukenyas Dad took him by the hand like a little boy and rushed him to the guest wing before scorning him.

Ani eyakugamba nti tuwasa banamawanga? banatulisa sere-who advised you that we just marry from any tribe? They will feed you on grass, Bukenyas father asked in reference to varying delicacies served by different tribes in Uganda but often despised by others like Sere among the Baganda.

Bukenyas attempts to convince his Dad that he had right to choose his lifelong partner were not entertained and shortly after the incident, a faint-hearted Bukenya had to end his love to the woman of his choice.

Many parents defend the attempt to influence childrens choice of spouses in the name of preserving their culture and identity. But to others, there is a far more hidden intention to retain control of their children and gain unchallengeable access to their wealth.

Ah, tell us how that Alur will welcome and prepare milk to her father in-law, one of Kamuntus uncles confronted him at one occasion.

However, cross-cultural marriages are a growing trend despite resistance from yester years' generation. Yet it remains a big stage of social conflicts as disillusioned parents desperately try to keep hold of the traditional influence over children while the young generation yearns for more freedom in choosing a marriage partner.

By Enoch Mutabaazi
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First published: January 26, 2006
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Enoch Mutabaazi is a media practitioner at Ultimate Media Consult with more than six years experience in the print and electronic media. Since he majored in Broadcast Journalism at his graduate studies Mutabaazi first worked as a reporter at Uganda Television (now Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV) before he discovered his multidimensional skills in writing and public relations at Ultimate Media Consult. He is currently the Production Executive at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and writes occasionally.