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Culture of Uganda

Culture of Uganda

Uganda is very diverse in culture with about 56 tribes. English the official language in Uganda, though Swahili and Luganda  mostly used on local levels. All these tribes have different cultures and traditional practices. Each tribe has its own staple food, way of dressing. Marriage customs, Cultural dances and music and while on your Safari in Uganda, you will be amazed how the Country is so diverse! These tribes include Baganda who occupy the most of Central region, Basoga in the Eastern part, Banyankole/Bakiga in the Western regions, Langi, Acholi in the North and Alur, Madi, Lugbara in Northwest (West Nile).

Buganda culture

The Baganda are located along the Northern and the Western shores of Lake Victoria. They are the largest Bantu tribe and they speak “Luganda language“. The Baganda are famous for Matooke – (green bananas) wrapped and steamed. The Basoga are famous for sweet potatoes and the northerners are famous for millet.

Of all these tribes, civilization started in the central where the Capital City, Kampala is located. All these tribes have traditional rulers, the Baganda have “Kabaka”. The kabaka has an official home called “Bulange mengo” where cultural ceremonies have to happen. The king also has a man-made lake which if you are on a Kampala city tour you can’t miss it.

The Buganda Government

Baganda are led by a King and is known as the “Kabaka.” The current leader of the Buganda kingdom is well-known as Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II who has been in leadership ever since the restoration of the Buganda kingdom in 1993. The leader of the Buganda government is known as Katikiro Charles Peter Mayiga who was appointed prime minister by the King of Buganda in 2013, the Buganda kingdom has a parliament known as the Lukiiko.

Before Signing the Buganda Agreement of 1900, the Buganda Kingdom was an absolute Monarchy under the leadership of the Kabaka and by then they were three categories of the Kabaka namely;

  1. Chiefs also called Bakungu or Administrative chiefs, who were appointed by the Kabaka.
  2. The Traditional Bataka chieftains.
  3. Batangole chiefs, these served as representatives of the king, they were responsible for Supervising Royal estates, maintaining the internal security in the kingdom as well as military duties.

This helped to enhance the duties of the Lukiiko which acted as the advisory council to the Kabaka. In the 1955 the Buganda kingdom changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. By the time Uganda got its independence, the Buganda kingdom had the ability to perform its own self-government at a high degree. The Buganda kingdom has got 52 recognized clans.

The Economic activity of the Buganda Kingdom

Traditionally the economy of Buganda relied on crop cultivation and cattle keeping was a minor activity. Many Buganda households were served by people outside the kingdom to take care of the cattle especially those that owned farms livestock. The Baganda Women performed most of the agricultural work while the men were busy engaged in politics and Commerce.

Tourist attractions in Buganda Kingdom

There is a wide range of tourist attractions in the Buganda Kingdom which include;

The Royal Mile

This is one of the places that will give you a glimpse sight experience of the ancient architectural designs. The Royal mile is a road that was constructed perfectly in a straight line to connect the Bulange-Buganda parliament to the Twekobe-the Kabaka’s Palace. The King of the Buganda kingdom uses this road to travel to both the administration works and the Royal mile. Apparently, the Culture of Uganda, the royal mile is one of the tourist attractions in Kampala and it is always included on the Kampala city tour itinerary.

Nantawetwa Monument

This is situated within the Centre of the Royal Mile and is found on a wide roundabout that runs through the middle in a single, the road is only used by the Kabaka and the gate that is in the center is kept closed so as to limit and restrict it from the commoners.

The Kabaka’s palace-Twekobe

The Kabaka’s palace was established by Kabaka Mwanga II and the up to now the palace serves as the official residence of all the last 6 kings of the Buganda kingdom. The word Twekobe-means come together in oneness for a cause, therefore the people of Buganda came together to construct a palace for the Kabaka on the Mengo hill and it is in the palace that the Buganda agreement was signed in 1900 which defined the future of Uganda.

Bulange (The Buganda Parliament)

One of the reasons why the Buganda parliament was constructed directly opposite kabaka palace is that Enemies to the kingdom can easily be spotted and sighted. The Bulange was constructed during the colonial regime under the leadership of Kabaka Muteesa II with a purpose of acting as the parliament/ lukiiko of the Buganda kingdom.

Other attractions include;

Kabaka’s lake, Nakayima tree, Ssezibwa Falls, Katereke Prison Ditch, Equator crossing, Mpambire Drum Makers, Ndere culture Centre, Uganda National Museum

Buganda road craft village, Namasole Tomb, Wamala Tomb, Naggalabi Buddo Coronation site among others

Kabaka’s Burial

When a kabaka dies, in the Culture of Uganda, they have burial grounds called Amasilo, the Kabaka soldiers keep and protect this place. When this place is visited, more information is told by the caretakers. The grounds are in kasubi Nabulagala, most of the kingdom’s ancient materials are kept in this place. When entering this place, women should wrap up in case they were wearing trousers or short dresses. The place is acting as a storage for all the traditional souvenirs. Like spears, mats, animal hides and skins among others.

Busoga Culture of Uganda

The king for Busoga who comes from Eastern Uganda is called a Kyabazinga. His palace is called the Igenge palace, located on Igenge Hill. In March 2020, his Highness Kyabazinga William Wilberforce Gabula Nadiope IV, started living in the official palace in Bugembe Town Council in Jinja District. The Kyabazinga’s palace has been unoccupied for six years due to renovation by the government of Uganda. Busoga became a kingdom in 1906, only that it had no central ruler. The king was installed with the help of the British. In Busoga some of the chiefs were appointed by the Kabaka of Buganda and given authority to rule land in Busoga.

The Busoga kingdom fights vigorously for oneness in people with the geared goals of social, cultural and economic prosperity plus the establishment of the “Kyabazinga” which is the local tittle given to the King of Busoga. The word Busoga means the “Land of People (Soga)”. The Busoga kingdom comprises of about 11 principalities of the people of Basoga (people), if is one person is called “Musoga”.

Capital city

Its capital in Bugembe town Adjacent to Jinja which is the second largest city in Uganda after Kampala and Jinja city is famous known as the Adventure capital of East Africa.  Consists of about 8 districts such as the Luuka, Busiki, Kamuli, Mayuge, Kaliro, and Bugiri district. Each district is led by a chairperson/ local Council Five who is elected by the people while the Municipalities are led by a mayor who is also elected.

Jinja city is famous known as the economic and industrial hub of the Busoga areas. The Busoga region is surrounded by Lake Kyoga and here it is separated from the Lango area in the north, it is neighbored by the Buganda kingdom in the west separated by the Victoria, it is bordered by Tanzania and Kenya in the south and it is separated by Lake Victoria. It is as well bordered by the small groups of the Bagishu and Bugwere and they are separated from the Busoga kingdom by River Mpologoma.

The Kyabazinga (King)

The Busoga kingdom is headed by the Isebantu Kyabazinga and apparently, he is known as William Kadhumbula Gabula Nadiope IV. Isebantu means the father of all people and this names stands as a symbol of unity, it was given out of expression as well as recognition from the Basoga people with an essence that the Isebantu brings all people together in love and oneness. The Isebantu Kyabazinga acts as the cultural leader of the Busoga kingdom and according to traditions, the Kyabazinga is supposed be elected although it rotates between chiefs during the timely election of the Lukiiko.

The kazinga was traditionally elected from the five hereditary chief who are believed to trace their origin from the Bunyoro Kitara kingdom. However apparently there has been a change in the Busoga constitution and it this has been traditionally modified so as to all the 11 hereditary chiefs to have a chance to stand in the Election of the Kyabazinga kingship position and the leadership term has limit, it an elected position for life although initially the appointment was for five years.

Ever since 1939 up today, the Busoga kingdom has experienced the Kyabazinga Regimes of under 5 tradition elected leaders, such as between 1939-1949 the First Kyabazinga was Ezekiel Tenywa Wako, in 1949-1955 the second Kyabazinga was William Wilberforce Nadiope II, the third regime 1955-1967 he was Henry Wako Muloki and between 1967-1995 it was Interregnum and this the time the recurrent government restored monarchies in Uganda, 1995-2008 he was Henry Wako Muloki and finally from 2014 until present today, he is Henry Wilberforce Gabula Nadiope IV.

The Economic activity

The Economic activity in Busoga kingdom has been agriculture and it has been significant in the establishment of the Busoga capital. Between the 1920 and 1970 the cash crops like cotton were grown and production was so massive in the Busoga region which is one of the factors that allowed the Busoga capital to become the Agri-indutrial Centre along with other factories. The Busoga kingdom became an economic importance when the railway line was helped the Busoga capital to raise its economic flag at the same time enhanced the establishment of other infrastructures and a lot of casual jobs were generated to the Busoga people who came from various areas to work in factories as well as domestic work.

There was the improvement of services such as Electricity, Culture of Uganda, piped water, Hospitals, Roads and schools among others. The farmers in the Busoga regions who were going both the cash crops and food crops were assured of the market for their produce. Crops which were grown include coffee, cotton, potatoes, Cassava, Bananas, vegetables and the fruits among others.

People’s standards of living improved, there was rapid increase in the revenue of the Busoga kingdom, there was both economic production which was on a high demand but still people could as well grow crops for  subsistence consumption. By the time Uganda achieved its independence in 1962, Busoga kingdom was well established and the Jinja city which was the capital of Busoga was home to about 70% of industries in Uganda including the Nalubale Power Station which is known for supplying Electricity to both Uganda and Kenya and Uganda was a habitat for most of the Asian population who were significant in establishing the East African largest commercial centers.

Attractions and historical sites in Busoga kingdom
Kagulu Rock

The Kagulu Rock is known as the first Settlement region for the Bunyoro-Basoga led the Mukama. However much the Kagulu’s culture influence was wide range, Culture of Uganda, there is a legacy landmark which is visibly known as the Kagulu Rock. The Kagulu Rock is situated between two roads branch at its foot one leading to Gwaya and another to Lyingo. The summit of the rock will allow you to enjoy the spectacular scenic views of the Busoga region and it has steps that will help you to access the top. Kagulu Rock for a long time has been one of the Tourist attractions in the eastern region of Uganda and it has caught a glimpse sight to NGO workers within the region apparently it is one of the impressive tourist attractions in the Busoga region.

Source of the Nile

The source of the Nile is the Point of Origin of the flow of the longest river in the World, River Nile. The river separates from Lake Victoria in Jinja which is the adventure capital of East Africa. The source of the Nile was discovered by John Speke who was one of the early European explorers in Uganda.  Apparently, the source of the Nile is one of the key tourist attractions in Uganda that hosts numerous numbers of visitors from all over the world.

Budhumbula Shrine and Palace

The tourist attraction is located about 2 kilometers from Kamuli- Jinja Highway. It houses various shrines. And it is a home to the Late Kyabazinga William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope who passed on in 1976. The shrines are covered by Marbles.  The site houses other shrines of the Royal Family such as Nadiope Father and Mother plus the shrines of his son as well as the former government minister in Uganda called Yuliya Babirye Nadiope. The palace is one of the legacy structures of the British colonial Government that was donated in 1914.

Lake Victoria

The Busoga kingdom is bordered by Lake Victoria in the south which is one Africa’s great lakes with fresh waters. The Lake’s Coastline runs from east of Jinja to the border of Kenya.

Bugisu  Culture of Uganda (Bamasaba of Eastern Uganda)

The Bagisu People are well-known as the Bamasaba, they are situated in the western and southern Halves of Mount Elgon. The Mountain   stretches west in form of fingers of the Hand traversing through steep and tidal valleys which are amidst them. The Bagisu land in the south cracked and comprises of Jumble Hills Wedged against the high Escarpment such as the crushed tablecloth. The Escarpment perishes gradually to form sweeping plains spreading in the northeast which is a resident to the Iteso Tribes.

The Bagishu people speak the common language known as Lumasaba which is also well-referred to as the Lugisu. The Bagishu people are famous for their circumcision traditional rituals which are known as Imbalu. These traditional Rituals are performed every two years in the month of August.

History of the Bagisu people

The Bagisu are believed to have originated from the hole of Mountain Elgon. Their ancient life was anti-social and survival in the society was attached to the Slogan “Survival for the Fittest”. Although little is described about the Bagishu, they are believed to be close relatives to the sub group of the Luhya inhabiting some parts of Kenya. The early immigrants into the indigenous Bagisu are known to have entered Mt. Elgon Area in the 16th century coming from the Eastern Plains. Bagisu is part of Bantu ethnic groups since their language has got words of Bantu speakers.

The Political set up of the Bagisu

The Bagisu people have a weak political tradition structures which are based on Clans. Each clan within the Bagishu people has its own cultural leader. Who is known as Umwami we Sikoka-the chief of the clan. The clan chiefs were traditionally chosen. Basing on their wisdom and wealth, Culture of Uganda the Chiefs play the duties of maintaining Law and Order, emphasized unity among the people, and encouraged people to respect and maintain the cultural values of the clan. Some of the clan cultural values included making Sacrifices to their ancestral spirits.

Circumcision Rituals

This one of the Fascinating Unique Social customs of the Bagisu people. And this is a male Circumcision that has a mysterious origin among the Bagisu. However their tradition claim that the practice originated Kalenjin demand in the time. When Masaba who is a hero ancestor wanted to marry a Kalenjin Girl. Other theories assume that the circumcision originated from the demand to make the male complete. With their sexual organs and the practice started with an aim of serving the life of the male Bagisu people.

The Bagisu are highly superstitious people

Before the circumcision is done, there is a tradition herb that was administered to the male victim. So as to arouse their desire for circumcision. This herb is called Itinanyi which is as well tied on the big toe of the candidate to be circumcised. Although this is done when he is unaware. According to the power that is believed to be in the local herb ityanyi, if circumcision is delayed to the candidate who is supposed to be circumcised. This candidate may end up circumcising himself due to the uncontrolled desire that enters in the mind.

Circumcision rituals within the Bagisu is done only every after past two years. This traditional ritual is performing to boys that have reached their puberty. Those who tried to doge the ritual practice are usually hunted by force. The candidates to be circumcised are always tuned.  By walking them around for about 3 days on the village, then smear them with cassava floor and they are painted with the Malwa Yeast paste. Then their relatives and friends will dance the traditional dances demonstrating the circumcision while drumming and singing.

Girl’s part

For the Girls specifically the sisters of the candidate to be circumcised are fully engaged in the circumcision tradition ritual. This is through participating in the dancing and singing as they run around the village. After circumcision in done now the candidates are believed to have been transitioned into a true mature male and a true Mugisu person. The boys that are not circumcised is referred to as Musinde and circumcision operation is done very fast carefully.

The circumcision is done by two people, the circumciser and the assistant who pulls the foreskin of the penis before the Circumciser cuts it off. The circumciser does three cuttings and ends the Ritual.

After the circumcision

After the circumcision the candidates are taken to their fathers wrapped in a piece of cloth. And made to sit down on a stool. He is made to walk around his father’s house for three days.  During these days he is not allowed to eat using his hands, he is fed. After those three days the circumciser is called upon to wash his hands.  Before he starts eating and here makes the completion of the initiation into manhood. It after the circumcision rituals then the initiated man is allowed to marry. And he is taught the duties of manhood include agriculture as an important activity and emphasized to behave as a man always. However, in the Culture of Uganda, according to their traditional belief healing of the wood. Will depend on how many goats were slaughtered during circumcision.

After Healing

After healing of their wood all candidates that were circumcised are required to attend the ritual which is performed. The ceremonial ritual is referred to as the Iremba. It is always a big function where even government officials are invited to attend the ritual. During this ritual ceremony, Culture of Uganda, any girl from the community was invited to play sex with the boy. And the girl was not supposed to refuse if she refuses the girl was cursed not to have children her marriage.

Attractions in Bugisu Land

Mountain Elgon national park, Mbale Town, Sipi Falls, Semei Kakungulu Burial site


Teso Culture of Uganda

The Teso people are one of the Ethnic Groups in the Eastern region of Uganda and they occupy some parts of Kenya. They occupy the sub regions of the current districts of Kumi, Amuria, Katatwi, Palisa, Kaberamaido and Bukedea district. The Iteso people speak the Nilotics language. The eastern Nilotics are divided into two categories such as the Teso Speaking people plus the Maa speaking known as the Maasai branch. The Teso people are further divided into other categories, the Ateso Speaking people and the Karamojong group. Such as the Turkana, Jie, and Ikaramojong as well the Dodoth in Uganda and Kenya.

Historical background and culture of the Iteso People

The Iteso People are believed to have originated from Sudan over some period back though it is not possible to calculate their period of movement. Other theories assume that Iteso Originated from the Karamojong and took the south direction. This is believed to have happened sometime back since the Iteso doesn’t bear the cultural names and rituals like the Karamojong. Most of the Iteso clan names are mixed with the Bantu speaking people and the Nilotics. The Iteso people are also mixed with the Japadola due to their migration.

During the Colonial era, the Iteso had a cool relationship with the pre-colonial period and they were acrimonious. Due to the intermarriages, Culture of Uganda, the Iteso were intermixed with their neighbors. And this diluted their customs and traditional element. That can be as well spotted in the nearby surrounding people.

The Iteso situated in Kenya and Uganda is a result of British colonial rule who indirectly ruled them. In 1902 western Kenya was transferred from Uganda to Kenya.

The Economic set up of the Iteso

The staple food for the Teso people is Finger Millet and Sorghum. However the colonial offices introduced cassava to act as a supplement. To their food and to assist them to withstand famine. The cassava was cooked together with millet and sorghum. The women were good at growing vegetables, in their small gardens near their houses. And they could gather wild foods such as the Mushrooms Delicacy. Whilst the Men were busy cattle herdsmen grazing cattle.

The Teso as well depended on agriculture and the main cash crops grown was cotton. This was grown by both women and men they had separate plots of land and they each earned individual income. The oxen were used for plowing another household could hire labor. Other cash crops that were grown include; tobacco and Maize which were grown during the long rains. The commercial activities included owning small shops, trading cattle. And also employment in the public sector jobs to act as a local administrator and school teacher.

Marriage and Family

Marriage among the Teso people was recognized from two points of view.  The spouses come together as an alliance it happens between two exogamous clans. The first alliance is expressed in the practical arrangement of establishing a household. While the second one is expressed in the ceremonial rituals as well as healing practices. Most Iteso people both men and women entered polygamous marriages. Although this was reduced in the early colonial era. One man could marry about 4 or more women who will have less than one umbrella. And they respected their husband. Divorce was a rare thing since whenever divorced happened. Then the parents of girls were required to return the bride wealth. That was paid when taking the girl from their parents.

Other Culture of Uganda include;

Banyankole, Banyoro, Bakiga, Basamya, Batoro, Alur, Acholi, Langi, Japadola and Kumam among others.