Am none that you imagine me to be,
Am – what – I – am, not what I seem.
Am with an umbilical cord;
Am a native,
Am African,
Am Ugandan,
A Kiga from Kigezi!"~(Busingye Kellen)

              Bakiga youths performing Kiga traditional  Dance at Rubuguri Primary School,Uganda

The  Bakiga (Kiga) people, or Abakiga ("people of the mountains"), are an agro-pastoralist Rukiga-Bantu ethnic group located in  southern western Uganda ( former Kigezi District), now Kibale district and in north eastern  Byumba area of Rwanda.  The Bakiga are sometimes referred to as the Chiga or Kiga, while the singular form is Omukiga. It has been suggested that the Bakiga arrived in what is modern day Uganda from Rwanda between 1600 and 1700. Additionally, a large number Bakiga were still living in Rwanda at the time of European colonization. An Anglo - German Agreement signed at Brussels on May 14, 1910, modified part of the boundary between British and German territories initially established as the parallel of one degree south latitude by the treaty of 1890. Modified were the sectors between the Congo tripoint and the junction of the Kakitumba and Kagera, comprising the present Rwanda - Uganda boundary, and between the junction and the second crossing of the parallel of one degree south latitude by the Kagera, comprising the western segment of the present Tanzania - Uganda boundary. Details of the final delimitation and demarcation of the Rwanda - Uganda boundary between the Congo tripoint of Sabinio and the southwestern branch (Lubirizi) of the Tshinzinga (Muvogero) are given in an Anglo-German protocol signed at Kamwezi on October 30, 1911. Therefore, many Bakiga became Ugandans by defacto in 1911 when the current international boundaries of Uganda were formally finalized.

                                               Bakiga people of Uganda

Due to over population some of them immigrated to various parts of Uganda majorly in Kabarole, Mbarara, Kibaale and Rukungiri Districts. A few also immigrated to the central districts of Uganda, such as Masaka and Wakiso. Back home in Kabale District, the Bakiga are surrounded by the Bahorooro in the north, Banyarwanda in the South, Bafumbira in the west and Banyankore in the East. (and Byumba prefecture in Rwanda), and number about 8% of the population of Uganda or nearly 3 million according to Population Estimates, Another 3 million have been naturalised in other ethnic regions of Uganda such as Bunyoro, Tooro, Buganda, Northern Tanzania, Eastern Congo and Rwanda as well as those living in Europe and North America. This puts the total Population of People of Kiga origin at about 6 million, roughly the total population of the State of Arizona.

The Bakiga are highly educated people and very developmental. They love new things and enjoy life. Most Bakiga have relinquished their traditional way of life and have now adopted Western way of life.
At the meetings of district councils, English is used although everybody is a Mukiga, though it is the problem of the entire country. Parents who know English well, sometimes resort to speaking it with their children. Those who use English are supposed to be educated and successful.

Bakiga native from Uganda, Kwatsi Alibaruho,is the first African-American (black) Flight Director for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Festo Karwemera, a respected elder from Kabale, offers this general comment: "Accepting the culture of the West is a result of the inferiority complex due to ignorance emanating from the fact that they are the ones introducing civilisation in this land and we tend to assume that everything they do is the best. Their way of living is clean and attractive hence positive because nobody takes trouble to find out how best we can modernise our culture in our own way."

Bakiga tribe man, Amama Mbabazi,, current Ugandan Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling National Resistance Movement party, formerly Security Minister and State Minister for Defence.

Bakiga people have a native Bantu language known as Kiga (also called Rukiga, Ruchiga, or Chiga) which belongs to the larger Niger-Congo language phylum. Kiga is a very similar language to the Nkore language. It was first written in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Kiga is so similar to Nkore (84%–94% lexical similarity) that some argue they are dialects of the same language, called Nkore-Kiga by Charles Taylor.

                                  Bakiga ladies from Uganda

In common with other Bantu languages, Kiga has a noun class system in which prefixes on nouns mark membership of one of the noun genders. Pronouns, adjectives, and verbs reflect the noun gender of the nominal they refer to. Some examples of noun classes:
mu – person (singular), e.g. omukiga = inhabitant of Kigezi land
ru – language, e.g. Rukiga = language of the Kiga
ba – people, e.g. Bakiga = The Kiga people
ki – customs or traditions, e.g. kikiga, (sometimes spelled Kichiga), describes religious tradition common to the Kiga people. Sometimes the people are called 'Chiga' by people not understanding the linguistic rules in relation to the prefixes.
The sound [l] is not distinctive in Rukiga. The letter "r" is used instead.

                                         Rural Bakiga people

Pre-colonial period
The actual origins of the Bakiga are hidden in varying traditions. One school of thought claimed that the Bakiga originally lived in Karagwe having migrated from Bunyoro during the Luo Invasion. They are associated with the Banyambo of Tanzania.

                         Bakiga people. Circa 1950

Another tradition which claim seems to be based on empirical evidence also aver that the cradle of the Bakiga was in Buganza in Rwanda. Mentioned in one of their folk songs - Abakiga twena tukaruga Rwanda, omu Byumba na Ruhenjere, - meaning that all of us Bakiga, we came from Rwanda in Byumba and Ruhenjere (called Ruhengeri in Rwanda). Both Byumba and Ruhengeri are Rwandan cities. The Bakiga are believed to be the descendants of Kashyiga, who came to be called Kakiga son of Mbogo from the small Kingdom of Bumbogo in Rwanda later. He came to form the present community of the Bakiga of Kigyezi or Kigezi as a result of Immigration. So Bakiga migrated from Buganza in search of fertile land and to escape natural harzards due to internal political conflicts.
From Rwanda, the Bakiga are said to have migrated to Bwisa, to Bugoyi, then to Rutchru, all in Zaire, and they finally settled in Kigezi. Since the Bakiga are Bantu speakers, this tradition could be true. What may equally be true id that the Bakiga were part of the Bantu speakers who migrated from the Congo region, through Bunyoro, Karagwe, Rwanda and eastern Zaire to finally settle in Kigezi. What has not yet been established are the exact dates when they settled in each of the areas en route to Kigezi.
Before the year 1700 A.D., Rwanda is believed to have been occupied by the Twa people, and then was later on occupied by the second immigration of the Hutu people, and the third was the Tutsi. Rwanda was organised in small states and chiefdoms but under one ruler called the Mwami. Originally, he was also known as Omukama. Among the Bakiga, the ruling person was therefore named Mukama, equivalent to Mwami in other parts of Rwanda.
Originally, the name Mukama was not a name, but rather the title of a Ruler. But later on it came to be recognised as a name, implying to one ruling man. In the Bakiga culture, the name was later attributed to God as Lord. Among the Bakiga, the name Mukama is not a female name. There are not many Bakiga called by the name Mukama. It is a name that was reserved to be used in the family of the ruling clan, the Bamuhutu, who possess the inheritance powers. If there is any person bearing the name Mukama, he must be a Bamuhutu, specifically a Mungura/Mwitira, or belong to the royal clan of the Bamuhutu. Not even in Rwanda among the Tutsi who took over the Kingdom after Mbogo had been defeated, did they dare to use the name Mukama because it signified a more fundamental power than they had assumed. Similar names could be like Byamukama, Kyomukama, Womukama, Kamukama, Bainomukama and so on. Therefore, the title for the King in Rwanda remained Mwami (Omwami), whereas in the Rukiga (the Kiga Kingdom) they continued to use the title Mukama (Omukama).

                            Bakiga man in traditional dress

Kiga Kindgom
 Kakiga was responsible for the formation of the Kiga Kingdom, its clans and sub-clans, and all the direct descents of his children. Each clan was identified by a totem and also by what they were forbidden from eating. For example, the Ba-Mungwe’s totem was the bushbuck and they were prohibited from hunting it for food. All these measures were intended for the protection, sustenance, and well-being of the clans as they were not competing for the same food. There are many clans and sub-clans in the Kiga tribe, but the major ones are: Ba-Mungura (the Royal Clan in which the Mukama was supposed to be born), Ba-Musigi (the clan that was supposed to keep the defence of the King or the Mukama), Ba-Mungwe, Ba-Kinyagiro, Ba-Mugiri, Ba-Muhutu, Ba-Mugera, and Ba-Mugyesera, Ba-Mugyeyo. Each of these clans has sub-clans.
The Abukuru b-ekika was a committee of elders chosen by the clan to issue rules and administer justice. If a case was particularly serious and involved more than one clan, the cases would be heard publicly. An Omukuru, ideally a wise elder who knew the customs and traditions of his people, and who could be trusted to give fair advice and justice, was elected to preside over this expanded court.
Kakiga, the son of Mbogo from the state of Bumbogo and of the Abahitira (Abungura) clan, made his move towards the west and settled in the forests of Kagarama, the mountains of the present border of Rwanda and Uganda in Kigezi district. In around 1700, Kakiga established his own community and wished to initiate a new Kingdom, but wanted to go back to fight the Nyoro invaders, first. Kakiga found out that the new land was very fertile and had good grass for the cattle. Together with his friends, they made a deal to stay. These became a new group of people called the Abakiga or Bakiga.
As time went on, the population grew and Kakiga wanted to expand his localities. He started sending groups to search and conquer. He sent the first group towards the east in the parts of Karweru, where the group of the Abasigi was supposed to conquer. This group was under the leadership of Rwandeme. This was believed to be the strongest group that was to fight the forces of Ankore. Unfortunately, Rwandeme lost the Royal drum. Since the Kingdom could not stand without a drum, Rwandeme never dared to return to Kagarama. He remained in the mountains of Karweru and his group intermarried with the Ankore people. This explains why most of the Abasigi are found in these parts of the region. It also gives the reason to why there are many different accents, intonations, and spellings in the Rukiga language.

Bakiga tribe man, Festo Kivengere, former Anglican Bishop and critic of dictator Idi Amin's regime. His tomb at St Peter's cathedral, Rugarama in Kabale District is revered by many Anglican Kiga people.

Out of anger at his father, Mbogo, Kakiga ordered obligatory circumcision of all male children. Many did not support this, but he maintained that every Mungura shall have to be circumcised, and that Kings must be circumcised too. This is why the Abungura is the only clan in the entire Kiga tribe that undergoes circumcision. The circumcision was to be taken at the eleventh (11) age. The rest of the Bakiga do not circumcise under cultural obligation. But these days, some take it for other reasons, but not because they have to. Kakiga also left the Kiga legacy of the system of naming. The Kiga people take the family name after their grand father, or after their father has died. That is why, it is very hard to trace the lineage of the Bakiga through family names. But among different clans, they still hold the norm of the founding father. For instance, Mbogo could be the son of Rwambogo. But in like a seventh generation, Mubangizi could be the son of Mubanga. All in all, the same names would be revolving around in the same family. But nowadays, many educated Bakiga find it useful to use their parent names, even if they are still alive. Even the Royal clan does it. This separation and rebellion will mark the complexity of the Kiga community, letting it look as though she never had a political system.
The major factors that led to the failure of the formation of the Kiga kingdom to the fullest were, mostly, a lack of trust and fear of Kakiga, the lack of a military strong enough for a successful invasion, the sudden prosper and discovery of fertile lands. Kakiga, though he lost the royal drum, he continued to be strong. He sent another group to attack further in the north. This was the group of the Abaromba and the Abahimba. These diffused to most parts of Muko, Rubanda, and Kihihi. Other groups went to Kakore and Mparo, and proceeded to Nyakishenyi and Nyarushanje. We still find a mixture of Ankore and Kinyarwanda accents and intonations in these areas. Kakiga attempted to make another drum, but he could not get testicles of brave enemies to decorate it. He only made declarations that his sons and daughters should not marry any foreigner, because he believed that the pure King should be from Rwanda.
He made his shield out of cattle skin. He promoted agriculture and his tools were mainly the panga, the spear, and the hoe. He enjoyed wrestling, dancing, hunting and keeping cattle. The most common figures of the few known Bungura Royals include: Muhanga (Mubanga), Rwabutare, Kamboji, Kabogo, Katumba, Katamujuna, Kahigyi, Bakunzi, Mbogo, Rwakasole, Mungura, Rwambogo. The Abungura, though few as they may be, are still the recognized Royal clan of the Kiga tribe and most of them live in outskirts of Kabale town, and still enjoy their hereditary wealth. They are not wealthy in the strict sense of the word. They are renowned for their love for research and education. The Bungura were also known for their tough leadership, and at times, they are referred to as arrogant, and aggressive.
There has been a variety of experiences in the life of the Bakiga, such as interactions with other Kingdoms, religions, and many other cultures. The bakiga are very hospitable and enjoy the privilege of having a mixed language. Rukiga, as a language, is a combination of the influence of the accents and alphabets from Rwanda, Ankore, Toro, Bufumbira, and Swahili.
While the Bakiga would later be classified as Hutu, originally they considered themselves an entirely separate people. In modern Rwanda, the Hutus of southern Rwanda are called Banyanduga, while the Hutus in the northern Rwanda are collectively referred to as Bakiga.

                                                              Bakiga women
Colonial Period
The Bakiga communities defended their independence until the collaboration of German colonial forces and the royal troops of the Mwami or Mukama succeeded in incorporating the region into the Rwandan colonial state at the turn of the twentieth century. The region remained a hotbed of discontent against the central authority for many years. One of the strongest influences upon the character of the Bakiga was the anti-centrist cult of Nyabingi.

Bakiga tribe man, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, economist and banker, current Governor of the Central Bank of Uganda.

After the death of the Rwandan King, Kigeri IV Rwabugiri in 1895, one of his wives called Muhumuza fled to the mountains of Kiga and proclaimed an anti-colonial rebellion in 1911. She was captured the same year and her resistance taken up by Ndungutse, generally recognized as the son of Muhumuza and Rwabugiri. Ndungutse was killed, though sporadic rebellions sprang up until the advent of Belgian rule after World War I. The conditions for these rebellions were created by the system of forced labor tribute (ubareetwa) imposed on the Bakiga by their new colonial masters. P.T.W. Baxter noted that, "The proud boast of the Kiga is that they were never, as a people, subjugated by either Tutsi or Hima." However, this resistance was, paradoxically, in large part led or inspired by disaffected members of the Tutsi elite.
The Bakiga became one of two major forces, along with the hill-level tensions of Hutu peasants and Tutsi chiefs, in the formation of "Social Revolution" of 1959. In the pre-colonial system, land usage was controlled by chiefs who owned land (bakonde) or controlled access to it (bagererwa). With the onset of colonial rule, these chiefs were technically replaced by southern Tutsi and Bakiga who agreed to work for them. However, the old order was never entirely erased, resulting in tensions between the two. While the older bakonde yearned for a return to their old status, younger generations of bakonde were able to merge their claims into that of the anti-colonial/Tutsi revolutionary movement.

Bakiga tribe man, Kizza Besigye, Ugandan Opposition Politician, current leader of the Forum for Democratic Change, three time runner-up to President Yoweri Museveni in presidential elections (2001, 2006, 2011)

Bakiga were both pastoralists and agriculturalists. They grew sorghum, peas, millet, potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables and beans (Grace Carswell, J B Perseglove, M M Edel, Belshaw, Charsley &Katebarirwe). These were supplemented with pumpkins, yams, and a variety of green vegetables (Wikipedia, Karwemera, and Grace Carswell). By the 1930s Matooke had become a formidable crop in the subcounties of Rwamucucu, Bukinda, Kamwezi, Kashambya and Rujumbura County. Livestock included cattle, goats and sheep. Non livestock animals included dogs kept mainly for accompanying people grazing cattle and for hunting purposes.

                                       Bakiga family with their livestock, Uganda

Food was always prepared in abundance. It was good manners (still is) for a visitor to join a family eating a meal with or without invitation. The Bakiga used to produce beer, omuramba (still do), from sorghum. It could be both food and an alcoholic drink. By the 1930s Rwarwa/ Tonto had joined the Beer ranks in the areas where matooke (Orutookye, the plantation) was grown. To enjoy these drinks, people would sit on wooden stools in a convenient place surrounding a pot. The men would then drink by means of long tubes (ebishekye); they would drink as they discussed matters affecting their country. The elders would also settle disputes, recite their heroic deeds and their history, and sing and dance around a pot of omuramba.
 Some among the Bakiga were great iron-smiths (the Baheesi) who were making hoes, knives, and spears. Pottery was also highly developed (kubumba), and a wide range of carpentry existed (kubaija: amato, ebitebe etc). They reared bees and produced honey. Women were in charge of digging, while men cleared the bush and erected round grass-thatched huts. Nearly all activities were done communally.
The Bakiga made beer, omuramba, played a significant social role. It had a food component and was an alcoholic drink necessary for social gatherings.

                           Bakiga people on Lake Bunyonyi

The Bakiga were and still are very good zither (enanga) players. They played it alone or in groups.
Food Security; The Bakiga attached a lot of importance to the availability of food all the time. At times food would be abundant and at times harvests would be poor due to bad weather. It was the role of the family heads to ensure that food was available in all circumstances. For this reason the Bakiga had structures to store food staffs for long periods. The bigger granneries (Ebitara) were used to store unthreshed food staffs like sorghum, maize and others. The threshed grains and cereals were stored in smaller well smeared grannaries (ebihumi).

Social Structure
The Bakiga were organized into clans the biggest of which was Basiga clan. Each clan was composed if several lineages and each lineage had ahead, Omukuru w’omuryango. A man was not allowed to marry from his clan.

Inheritance; the male children could divide their fathers estate amongst themselves. It was normal for fathers to give some land to their daughters upon marriage as part of the assets (emihingizo) to accompany the daughtesr to their new married lives. This used to act as an asset start up (entandikwa) for the new family particularly when the boys' parents asset base was so lacking. At other times when the girls father either had fewer boys or had land in abundance.
Bakiga Girl and boy at an orphanage, Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

Homesteads; A mukiga homestead consisted of a main house or hut, a kitchen, a kraal, sanitation facilities and a series of grannaries. All these were enclosed in a strong fence made up of mainly thorny plants like emikwatangwe (plants that restrain leopards). The fence was meant to offer protection against wild animals on livestock, thieves and enemies.

Marriage was a very important cultural institution among the Bakiga. In ancient times virginity was very important. If an unmarried girl got pregnant, she would be taken to a forest, tied to a tree, and left to the mercy of animals. Alternatively, she would be thrown over a cliff. Kisizi Falls were most used for this purpose. At Lake Bunyonyi, a one meter high island was used for dumping these unfortunate girls. Migrating tribes or nomads unable to dowry for a bride would sometimes rescue these girls and take them for a wife. In these instances, the girl could never be returned to her community and had to move away. Though these practices have been stopped in recent times, unmarried girls or women who get pregnant today still face severe forms of alternative social sanctions within their communities or clans.


Traditionally, no marriage could be honored without the payment of bride wealth. In the past, a marriage could be arranged by the boy’s father or uncle on the boy’s behalf. The final arrangements could only be made after the payment of bride wealth. The bride was normally paid by the boy’s father. It involved cows, goats and hoes. The amount paid differed from group to group and from family to family within each group. It is said that it was taboo to sell any animals given as bride wealth. Such animals could be used to obtain wives for the girl’s brothers or father.
Bakiga tribe kids at a wedding

The Bakiga are a very polygamous society; the number of wives was only limited by the availability of land and bride wealth obligations.
The Bride wealth paid on a girl was shared among the girl’s principal relatives. Of the relatives the most important were Nyinarimi (maternal uncle) and ishenkazi (paternal aunt). If one of them went away dissatisfied, so they said, he could render the girl barren or cause her to have incessant ill- health by inciting the wrath of the ancestors.
Boys tended to marry at a slightly late age, between eighteen and twenty years, while girls could be marred off between fourteen and sixteen years of age. The normal trend was for girls from richer families to get married later than girls from poorer families. Before marriage, a girl wield spend a month or so in seclusion. During this period, she would be well fed and instructed in the art of home management.
There are divorce cases among the Bakiga. The common causes were barrenness and laziness on the part of the wife or the husband. Some other matters of misunderstanding between a husband and a wife could also lead to divorce. A divorcee was allowed to remarry but she would fetch less bride wealth this time as she would no longer be a virgin. The majority of the would-be instances of divorce were settled by the elders. They would normally be called by the woman’s father to listen to both the husband and the wife and try to have the two sides reach an amicable conclusion that would prevent divorce. In such cases, it was normal to fine the offending party. Fighting in the home between husbands and wives was frequent, but would not normally lead to divorce.

                                            Bakiga tribe woman and her child

Polical Structure
 The Bakiga were a segmentary society. Political authority rested in the hands of lineage leaders, Abakuru b’emiryango Ngorogoza), many of whom had excellent oratory as well as military skills. There existed neither chiefs nor kings among the Bakiga. The clan elders Bakuru B’emiryango (Ngorogoza) were influential and highly respected elders and were supposed to be impartial in administering justice. Some leaders such as Basubi emerged to prominence because they had mystical skills. They were rain makers. Others were Baigirwa, the mediums of Nyabingi cult.
The Bakiga were warlike. They resisted the Batutsi and Bahima incursions. As a politically segmented society, they did not have a standing army. However, they had warlords who would mobilize and lead the people to war in the event of invasion. The warlords were men who had killed a large number of enemies in wars without losing any of their men or weapons. Every able-bodied male was culturally obliged to be a soldier.

Bakiga tribe man, Ruhakana Rugunda, former Ugandan Permanent Representative to the United Nations and first Ugandan Chairman of the UN Security Council, currently Minister of Health.

Social Control
The Bakiga abhorred anti-social activities and if any one was caught he was heavily punished.
 Such activities included stealing, blocking paths, murder, sorcery and night dancing. In the case of murder for example, the murderer was buried alive in the same grave with the victim. Virginity was highly esteemed and it was a very serous offence for a girl to get pregnant before marriage. If an unmarried girl became pregnant, she would either be taken to a forest and tied to a tree feet and arms and town over a cliff. Most pregnant girls among the Bakiga were taken to the Kisizi falls in Ndorwa and thrown down the cliff. They would drown in the falls. The lucky ones were simply cursed and disowned by their people. As a result M M Edel referred to the social controls amongst the Bakiga as an ordered anarchy (either for his lack of appreciation of Bakiga culture not well or just being arrogant).  The legal system followed a similar order but also involved different clan elders. Edel refers to the Bakiga Legal procedure as action of the offended party whether to right an injury by retaliation or compel payment of an obligation.

                                   Bakiga people at a meeting

Conflict resolution
In settling disputes the elderly members of a clan the abakuru b’emiryango (Ngorogoza). Clansmen elected a lineage head on the criteria of character (truthful, brave, a war-leader) and power (a rich man, a medicine man, or a priest). Different lineage heads would gather and publicly discuss potential issues of wider concern. What lineage heads did not solve together could result in fighting between groups. The Bakiga were natural born-warriors.

                                           Bakiga people

Religious Belief
The Bakiga believed in a supreme being Ruhanga or Kazooba Nyamuhanga; the Creator of all things earthly and heavenly. God is also known through many attributes. As the supreme elder and the ruler of the universe, he is called Mukama. When associated with the power of the sun, he is Kazooba-Nyamuhanga. In his aspect as the one who makes things grow, he is called Biheeko.
At a lower level they believed in the cult of Nyabingi ( the spirit of a much respected rain-maker). The Nyabingi cult was said to have originated from Karagwe. It had its base at Kagarama, near Lake Bunyonyi.  There were special shrines for Nyabingi known as endaro. Through Nyamingi’s representatives known as Abagirwa people would worship and tender sacrifices of beer and roasted meat to Nyamingi. The Nyabingi cult believed that their god was able to make them win wars and give them courage and strength in the agitation against colonialism, some believed that Emandwa would defend them against bad spirits, and other gods were for bumper harvests, good luck and others.

Other religious practices included ordinary charms, magical practicing and divine practices (Ngorogoza, Turyahikayo-Rugyema,Murindwa Rutanga).
Many Bakiga with the influence of Christianity adopted 'theo-phoric' names. These names are eschatological (Turya-guma-nawe) meaning we will be with God for ever.

                                     Bakiga Christian singers,Rwanda

Nowadays most Bakiga are Christians (Muslims are few) and starkly divided into Catholics and Protestants, a division which strongly polarizes communities. One's religion can determine professional prospects and religious preferences heavily influence local political elections.

The dressing code
 Men used to dress in one cow hide or two if they were rich. The skin hung from the shoulder, covering private parts. A man would belt himself for a fight or a dance, while for clearing land one would put it aside and carry out his work without skin and put it on again after finishing his activity. Women used to wear skirts made from several skins and a top. A skin garment covered the torso. The women garments for Special occasions were designed and decorated with ringlets and beads through tiny holes bored along the edges of the skin (Ebishato). Both wealthy men and women would have additional decorational ornaments for the legs and the hands,"The Enyerere and Emiringa"

Parenthood preparation
 Boys were coached by their fathers and uncles through the men routine. Such included herding cattle, clearing the bushes in preparation for cultivation, hunting, splitting firewood, building houses and others. For mothers to be, Virginity was very important. If an unmarried girl got pregnant, she would be taken to a forest, tied to a tree, and left to the mercy of animals.
                                            Bakiga children,Uganda

 Alternatively, she would be thrown over a cliff. Hamuhonga at the boundary of Rwamucucu and Kashambya, Kisizi Falls were some of the areas used for this purpose. At Lake Bunyonyi, a special island was used for dumping these unfortunate girls. From here some were salvaged to become second wives or to be wives of some men with limited means of survival usually unable to raise dowery. A marriage needed to be preceded by a payment of bride wealth, which meant cows, goats, and hoes. If a man had enough of these and plenty of land, he could get as many wives as desired: polygamy was a norm (Turyahikayo-Rugyema,Edel). For instance, one of the remnants of the royal clan of the Abungura, Umwami Katamujuna, had ten wives, though, at the coming of Christianity he had to compromise seven of them. A muhimba Rubango of Ibumba is estimated to have had thirteen wives.
Dr Kizza Besigye campaigns for the Ugandan Presidential Elections

Medical Practice
 the Bakiga had very wonderful ways of promoting good health. Some were preventive, corrective while others were curative. The common preventive measures were ample feeding and okushandaga (innoculation/administration of drugs through a skin incision). While good feeding ensured strength and vigor, Okushandaga was meant to confer immunity against a wide range of diseases including protecting a person from being charmed or struck by thunder. Surgery was a wide applied practice ranging from simple to the most complicated surgery as that of the brain for those whose sculls could crack during wars or mere accidents. There were living examples of the people who had undergone surgery survived until they died of old age in my village of Ibumba. There were two ladies who during their youth had been speared and the intestines gashed out. The doctors of the day trimmed and sterilized (Okwotera) small calabashes, carefully stacked the intestines taking care not to strangulate them and pressed them back into their abdominal cavities. One of the ladies was a mother to Rwakabuga a musigyi of Nyakafura village and a church catechist, the other was a wife to Mpigika, son of Nturanabo the son of Mwate the son of Mbumburi of Macumu. Headache was surgically treated by puncturing one of the blood vessels on the facial area above the ear on which a small well trimmed sterilized gourd (engunga) would be stuck by the suction pressure resulting from the vacuum created by the expulsion of air by heat. Excessive bad blood causing headache would sucked into this vessel. Most of the curative drugs were derived from the herbs that treated awide range of diseases. Remedies for poison were selectively and commonly administered (Okutanasya/vomiting in order to expel the ingested poison). They even had an antidote for excessive vomiting induced by such medications. Babies born prematurely could be incubated using millet bran until they could mature. Cuts would be treated with enyabarashana/Bidens pilosae which could effectively arrest the bleeding. Urinaly complications/Enzibe/possibly prostate cancer would effectively be treated with preparations from the Stinging nestle/ Ekicuriganyi. Bruises and fractures were treated/okumunga either in the presence or absence of the patient as long as the area of the fracture was known. Stories of love portions were rife especially in polygamous settings to attract the close attention of the husband from other wives and women. A critical examination of the bakiga medical practice could form a very vital foundation for relevant reliable basic medical care solutions.

                      Bakiga people of Lake Bunyonyi

The form of dance for the Bakiga is called the Ekizino. Ekizino is a royal dance from the Bakiga people of Kigezi, which is known as "Switzerland of Africa" because of its weather and landscape similar to most European countries. Temperatures at night readily drop to 4°C - 10°C. Livestock are traditionally kept indoors, often under a raised wooden pole bed, to generate heat to keep the family members warm.
Bakiga people dancing traditional Ekizino dance,Kgezi,Uganda

During colder months, Ekizino is the warm-up dance. Since Kigezi is a hilly region, the men who go out farming early in the morning cold must jump around for a while to get warm, and also to stretch their muscles after work. Traditionally, the people also used to stamp the ground until they found signs of water. Therefore, this very vigorous dance represents their jumping, stamping and is meant to demonstrate stamina and strength. Women participant in this vigorous dance along as well, with a more elegant display of their arms.
Musical instruments

Omukuli (flute): The flute is widely popular in all regions of Uganda. It is played both as a solo and accompaniment instrument. It is made out of a variety of materials that have a square hole chipped out of one of the ends. It has finger holes that help in playing different pitches and melody. The player directs a stream of air over the sharp rim or on top of the pipe. It has a pentatonic scale, sol, la, do, re, mi, or do, re, mi, sol, la. Endere is tuned on the xylophone key since the xylophone is omnipresent throughout Uganda.
Amakondere (trumpets): Low-pitched instruments are cut from the trunks of the papaw tree. High-pitched trumpets are made of antelope horn. Medium-register trumpets are hollowed out from tree roots. The and are blown in a transverse position through a slanted mouth-hole at the end. In an ensemble of these instruments, each player sounds his single pitch. These come from the Lugbara and Kebu tribes of the western Nile region. In some traditional societies, horns were used as means of communications, for example, in an emergency. They are played in groups of seven or more. These side-blown horns sometimes have a fingerhole, which is used for grace-note ornaments.
DAN BESIGYE a.k.a Menshan
Bakiga tribe man, menshan (Daniel Besigye), Ugandan reggae musician.

Endingidi (fiddle): a one string instrument which is attached to a flexible stick with a wooden sound box and is played with a bow. It is tuned in a pentatonic scale. It accompanies dances and it is included in an ensemble of most Ugandan instruments.
Enanga (trough zither): a zither with eight strings which run above a wooden trough. A zither is an instrument. It is mainly a story-telling or poem reciting instrument and it accompanies some dances in Kigezi Western part of Uganda. It is tuned in a pentatonic scale.
Engoma (drums): In a Bakiga society, as one of the African traditions, Drums bring the power that drives the performance and the rhythm of the vigorous dance.

                                 Bakiga tribe kids performing traditional Ekizino dance

Bakiga Proverbs
Among the Bakiga a proverb is known as orufumu. Which term brings to a related Kikiga term, omufumu which refers to “medicine man” So in a way as observed by Cistenino (1987: 7), a proverb is a “soothing sentence…….” However in its being soothing, there is a always a message, depending on the occasion in which it is used. As such performance of proverbs should be purposed lest they lose their meaning and therein their existence threatened.

Enda tehwayo. The stomach has no end. This means that one cannot eat food that is enough to satisfy the stomach. Every other day a person has to work so as to fill his stomach.The word “stomach” in the proverb brings to mind its associate, “food”. As such in saying that the stomach has no end, the implication is that there can never be an end to the desire for food and other things. This is because food gives life. Therefore given that everyone possesses a stomach, he has to feed it and the only way to feed it is by working so as to get food. On a larger scale, the stomach symbolizes man’s endless desires. Thus the proverb encourages the lazy especially the young to work hard so as to live a satisfied and meaningful life

Bakiga tribe man, Kizza Besigye, Ugandan Opposition Politician, current leader of the Forum for Democratic Change, three time runner-up to President Yoweri Museveni in presidential elections (2001, 2006, 2011)

Obwikara hamwe bukatubura omugurusi. Sitting idle made an old man impotent. This means that sitting down without doing anything makes one look useless to himself and his society. Here the state of impotence is symbolic of the consequences of being idle. Just like an impotent man is childless and therefore disrespected in the Kiga culture, so is a lazy and idle person for he is not productive both to himself and society. As such he is a viewed as an ultimate burden to society. Therefore such a proverb encourages the young to be actively engaged in work so that they are recognized by society

Atashweire ayesiga okushumba. He who does not marry hopes to be a slave. The proverb literally means, that the man who fails to marry cannot be a master of his own instead ends up being a slave to someone else.
In the proverb the word “marry” is symbolic of the benefits of hard work. This is in a way that among the Bakiga, for a man to be able to marry someone’s daughter he has to show that he is competent. His competence is judged by his being able to work. “Slave” symbolizes lack of recognition from society for failure to work. As such one has to be creative enough so as to work by himself and enjoy the fruits of his labour lest he becomes s as lave to be used by others and therein lose his independence and recognition

Enshohera etagyenzire terya kookoro. The fly that does not set out does not feed on a wound. The proverb means that a fly that is too lazy to fly out misses the opportunity of enjoying the sweetness of a wound.
The word “wound” is symbolic of a reward and “the fly that does not set out” is symbolic of those people who sit idly claiming they have nothing to do. Given that wounds are delicious to flies and yet not found everywhere, then flies are expected to ‘think’ of how to access one and which is by flying out and looking for them. Similarly, in life good things are not that easy to come by and so one has to be creative and think of how to get them. The implication of this is that by all means one has to work. Such a proverb therefore encourages the young not to waste time just looking for who can give them what to do but to be also creative and work for themselves.

Enkoko etarahura teiguta. The hen that does not scratch never gets satisfied. Through the above proverb, it is observed that if a hen does not scratch the ground then it cannot get enough worms to feed on. In the proverb, “scratch” symbolizes work but also creativity in human terms. Therefore to be satisfied one has to think of what to do because it is only through working that satisfaction can be got. Such a proverb thus encourages the young who are usually ambitious and yet do not want to work, to work so as to achieve a fulfilled life.

Obwenda amaka enkombe ekabyama egarami. The desire for a family caused the dove to fly until it lay exhausted on its back. The above means that the dove that wanted to marry and have a family was forced to lie on its back so as to get what it wanted. The word “exhausted” indicates some of the negative things that go with work – perhaps the reason as to why some people resent working. However as reflected in the proverb, the fact remains that in as much as work may be demanding, it is the only way through which we can get anything good especially that which we desire and value as represented by “family.” The proverb also suggests that to get something one has to sacrifice something. The proverb therefore encourages the young to look beyond the demands of any work and focus on the good work brings.

Ah’okushaka hare ohingayo. Instead of looking for food from far, grow it there. This points the fact that its better to cultivate one’s own food in a far place than to go looking for food from there. Here the proverb points to hard work. It indicates the tendency to want easy life assymbolized y the act of “looking for good” In the proverb we get the implication that hard work is preferred because it also breeds self-reliance. To grow food, which represents hard work is more beneficial than just looking for it. As much, given that
there are more benefits in working hard than just working, the young are encouraged towork hard through the proverb.

Akajere katootsire kagwubwa kagncwa. The small foot that does not miss treading ends up treading a path.
The small foot that constantly treads on the ground eventually leads the formation of a path. “The small foot” is symbolic of little capability and its being able to create a “path” is symbolic of impact.As such when one constantly does something, even that which he knows little of, he eventually becomes an expert in it. The proverb therefore upholds the virtue of persistence that is also echoed by the adage; “practice makes perfect.” Through the proverb even the young who do not know how to do anything or have little skill, not to
give up but to keep trying out what they know for they will succeed in the end.

Aku oyehingiire niko kakumara enjara. What you grow is what satisfies your hunger. That only the food you have grown yourself, however little, is what can be enough to get rid of your hunger. “Hunger” is symbolic of desires as well as goals. So how much one wants determines the extent to which he will work.The proverb therefore encourages putting in their best they can in whatever they do if they to achieve want they want. It also cautions them to take responsibility of their decisions’ outcome.

Emirimo ebiri ekarema empisi. Two jobs defeated the hyena. That doing two jobs at ago- eating while chasing after another prey, made the hyena to instead lose the meat that it had already hunted as well as failed to catch the prey it was chasing. Here the two jobs that a hyena attempted to do was to eat its victim and at the same time run after another prey for more meat. The proverb means that it is vain for one to think that he can do more than one thing at ago. This is because ultimately one of the two will not be done well or worse still; the two jobs may both not be done at all.

Akanuzire karuga omu ituutu. That which is delicious comes from sweat. That, that which is sweet only comes through sweat. This implies that nothing good comes without hard work as symbolized by sweat. The proverb therefore reminds people especially the young in this case that everyone has to work. It rebukes them against the mentality of resenting work because of the much effort and sacrifices needed – no pain, no gain

             Bakiga tribe man shaka-ssali, is radio and TV presenter with the Voice of America

Agateraine nigo gata eigufa. The united jaws crush the bone. That a bone can only be broken by many teeth because then they are stronger than a single tooth when used to do the same job. “The bone” in the proverb is symbolic of a hard task. The proverb therefore means that to be able to do certain tasks especially the hard ones, we should seek the hand of another. One should not be ashamed to seek help physical or moral.
As such the young, through the proverb are encouraged to seek advice about that which they do not know much on how to do it. The proverb also indicates pride and calls for humility in accepting that they cannot know how to do everything hence the need for advice.

Akatukuru akabutairemu niko kabwihamu.  The basket with which the millet was sown is the same one with which to harvest it. That the basket, which you used to measure the seeds for sowing, will the same basket
that you will use for harvesting the yield; if it was big, then your yield will also be big. The proverb means that how much is sown is the much that is reaped. It therefore sounds the same message as the common saying “You reap what you sow.” As such no beating about the bush in work. Everything lays out itself clearly – one should expect as much as she puts in. Hence the young reminded and encouraged of the need to face the reality about work. They are discouraged from nothing for things other than working for them, for it is an
indication of laziness.

The man at the left is Bakiga tribe man, Charles muhangi, a Ugandan businessman and rally driver, former African Rally Champion, owner of Horizon Football Club and Horizon Coaches, a popular bus company that plies the route between Kabale and Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Bakiga native from Uganda, Kwatsi Alibaruho, the  Flight Director for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi " Place of many Little Birds"is a body of water seven kilometres west from Kabale Town, southwestern Uganda close to the border with Rwanda.  It is 25 km long and 7 km wide, covering an area of 61 square kilometres. The lake's altitude is 1,962 m above sea level and it is surrounded by hills that are 2,200 to 2,478 m high and intensely cultivated.
Towns on it shores include Kyevu and Muko, while its 29 islands include Punishment Island and Bushara Island are concentrated in the central part. These islands have few settlements, they are mostly used for tourist facilities and for a secondary and a primary school.
It is a popular location for watersports.

The data on the lake's maximum depth varies, from 44 m to 900 m in parts. If the latter is true, Lake Bunyonyi is the second deepest lake in Africa.
It is one of the few lakes in the region that is free of bilharzia and safe for swimming.
 The temperature on the surface rises to 25 degrees Celsius. In the beginning of the 20th century, fish were introduced to the lake and in the 1930s fishing became profitable. Unfortunately in the 1960s the fish died massively as a result of a violent shallow mixing, likely caused by wind. Subsistence fishing prevailed in the lake, people mostly caught clarias species - the lake's depth and stratification makes it difficult for the breeding of the common Ugandan species Nile Perch and Tilapia. Nevertheless, 300,000 Nile Tilapias and Clarias fish were released in the lake at the end of 2002. Also present in the lake are Mud fish, Cray fish and Mirrowcarp - and plenty of their predators, otters.
The lake's main centre is Bufuka Village. The area's inhabitants are from the Bakiga and the Batwa tribes.

                                              Lake Bunyonyi

                 AM WHAT I AM!
My people are strong:                                                It’s true my palms and hands
Yes, I may seem not-                                                Divorce me from the mighty hills
Hands too tender to hoe bitakuli,                               From hewing logs that boil the bushera
Muscles too scarce to avail a pot-ful of bushera,       And the kilos of the fermenting pot;
And taste buds so foreign to it.                                 Alas! The difference is nil.
Alas! Those are your dreams.
Bakiga native from Uganda, Kwatsi Alibaruho, the  Flight Director for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

My people are pinned as hostile,                                Though our fair ones
Many a time rude and hard hearted,                           Are labeled the fighters
Yes, I may qualify not -                                              I admit am too unlearned,
A maiden too tranquil and agile.                                 But still of my roots;
Yet still roots with the hostile.                                     Rooting with my people.

                    Bakiga tribe man shaka-ssali, is radio and TV presenter with the Voice of America

My people are frank                                                  My people are tough:
Yes I have a place there -                                          Yes, I may claim half of that
Than love me for biting your back,                              A heart so meek, smitten and soft,
Rather love me for biting your face,                             Yet I root with the tough.
Then, I know that you perfectly love.

Bakiga tribe man, Kizza Besigye, Ugandan Opposition Politician, current leader of the Forum for Democratic Change, three time runner-up to President Yoweri Museveni in presidential elections (2001, 2006, 2011)

My brothers’ tongues                                                  Don’t imagine that:
Own them to our roots,                                               My tongue pronouncing perfect Luganda,
And mine distinctly disowns me-                                 Am Ganda.
Spelling me as Chaga,                                                My face being round,
Sometimes as Ganda,                                                 Am Chaga.
Still as Kamba,                                                          My personality being soft-spoken,
But spares me as Kiga.                                              Am Toro.
Alas! My tongue is only fooling you.                          And of course neither a Negro,
                                                                                Though English befriend my tongue,
                                                                                And my name will cock ears,
                                                                                 Am what I am!

Bakiga tribe man, Festo Kivengere, former Anglican Bishop and critic of dictator Idi Amin's regime. His tomb at St Peter's cathedral, Rugarama in Kabale District is revered by many Anglican Kiga people.


  Two Bakiga great sons!

(From R to L) Bakiga tribe man and Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, US State Department’s John Hoover, Director, Office of Regional and Security Affairs, Bureau of African Affairs and Mwangi Kimenyi director of Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) of the Brookings Institute

20YEAR success story of Pepsi-Uganda. Seen in the picture are the Pepsi top brass; Mr.Saad Abdul-Latif- CEO of PepsiCo Asia, Middle East & Africa (AMEA), Mr. Sanjeev Chadha, PRESIDENT of Middle East & Asia and Ugandan Directors; Chairman Mr.Amos Nzeeyi, a Bakiga tribe man, Mr. Kalyoboke & the beautiful Prof. Dr. Maggie Kigozi. Congrats team Pepsi-cola we are honored to dress you.


  1. all I can say is am blessed to have blood from this great tribe flow within me....LONG LIVE BAKIGA

  2. A lovely and refreshing read for me...i love being a Mukiga through and through.

  3. Bakiga are the most succsesful ugandans i love them but i also love my Ankole and Chiganda tribes

  4. True Bakiga indeed we are..... Ruhanga akatukuuma munonga.... Still loading..........


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