Busoga is a cultural institution that promotes popular participation and unity among the people of Busoga, through cultural and developmental programs for the improved livelihood of the people of Busoga. It strives for a united people of Busoga, who enjoy economic, social and cultural prosperity. It also continues to enhance, revamp and pave the way for an efficient institutional and management system for the Kyabazinga kingship
Busoga, literally translated to Land of the Soga, is the kingdom of the 11 principalities of the Basoga/Soga (singular Musoga) people. The term Busoga also loosely refers to the area that is generally indigenous to the Basoga. Busoga Kingdom is composed of seven politically organized districts: Kamuli, Iganga, Bugiri, Mayuge, Jinja, and the newly created districts of Kaliro and Busiki. The Busoga area is bounded on the north by the swampy Lake Kyoga, on the west by the Victoria Nile, on the south by Lake Victoria, and on the east by the Mpologoma River, Busoga also includes some islands in Lake Victoria, such as Buvuma Island.
Busoga is ruled by the His Royal Highness “Isebantu Kyabazinga” of Busoga. This name was a symbol of unity derived from the expression and recognition by the Basoga that their leader was the “father of all people who brings all of them together”, and who also serves as their cultural leader.
History of Busoga Kingdom
Written history begins for Busoga in the year 1862. On 28 July 1862, John Hanning Speke, an explorer for the Royal Geographical Society, arrived at Ripon Falls, near the site of the modern town of Jinja, where the Victoria Nile spills out of Lake Victoria and begins its descent to Egypt. Since Speke’s route inland from the East African coast had taken him around the southern end of the Lake Victoria, he approached Busoga from the west through Buganda. Having reached his goal – the source of the Nile, he turned northward and followed the river downstream without further exploring Busoga. He records, however, being told that “Usoga” (the Swahili form of the name “Busoga”) was an “island”, which indicates that the term meant to surrounding peoples essentially what it means today. The present day Busoga Kingdom was, and still is, bounded on the north by the swampy Lake Kyoga, on the west by the Victoria Nile, on the south by Lake Victoria, and on the east by the Mpologoma River.
In the 19th century, one of the principal routes along which Europeans travelled from the coast to Buganda passed through the southern part of Busoga. From John Speke and James Grant, Sir Gerald Portal, F.D Lugard, J.R. Macdonald, and Bishop Tucket all noted that Busoga was plentifully supplied with food and was densely settled as a result. However, between 1898–99 and 1900-01, the first indications of sleeping sickness were reported.
In 1906, orders were issued to evacuate the region. Despite the attempts to clear the area, the epidemic continued in force until 1910. As a result, most of the densely populated parts of Busoga, the home land of over 200,000 persons in the 19th Century, was totally cleared of the population in the ten years. Lubas palace at Bukaleba, also the coveted European fruit mission, collapsed and relocated to other parts of Busoga. Southern Busoga constituted of about one third of the land area of Busoga, and, in 1910, southern Busoga was vacant. In the 1920s and 1930s, some of the evacuees who survived the epidemic began to return to their original land. However, in 1940 a new outbreak of sleeping sickness resurfaced in the area, and it was only in 1956 that resettlement, promoted by the government began again, but things were not going to be the same again. Few Basoga returned to their traditional lands.
Religion and Expressive Culture
The Basoga believe in the existence of a spirit power that is omnipotent and timeless and influences activities in a way that is beyond human understanding.
At the top of the religious hierarchy, is Kibumba (the Creator), who created the people and the earth, moved into the sky, and left behind the spirits as his representatives. The spirit world left behind consisted of emizimu (omuzimu, singular), enkuni, and emisambwa (omusambwa, singular).
Omuzimu is the spirit of a dead relative and can affect the lives of that person’s descendants. Enkuni represent the first place of settlement for the clan and thus are places of worship. Emisambwa are the spirits of “national” heroes such as Kintu, Mukama, and Walumbe. These spirits are associated with marriage, birth, fertility, and death.
Despite the introduction of Christianity and Islam, a significant number of people consciously or unconsciously observe “Indigenous Kisoga Religious Beliefs.” This is the case partly because the Basoga attitude toward religion is primarily utilitarian.
Marriage and Family
To ensure the continuation of a clan, marriages, particularly those involving men whose offspring automatically become members, are encouraged.
Polygamous marriages were encouraged because they increased a man’s chances of having a large family.
Since marriages are between families rather than individuals, relatives on both sides become interested in whom one is marrying. Once the two families reach an understanding, the man’s side pays bride-wealth to his prospective in-laws in appreciation for raising his wife-to-be.
A wife expects her husband to provide housing and clothing and to treat her and her relatives well. The husband expects his wife (or wives) to be a good cook and to work hard enough to provide daily food, bear children, and have good relations with his relatives. Failure by either party to meet these obligations may result in separation or divorce. Families try to intervene to prevent the dissolution of a marriage.
Communication with spirits was done through “religious professionals,” the most important of whom were the abaswezi (omuswezi, singular), who act as mediums of various emisambwa. Emisambwa decide who becomes omuswezi by possessing a person, who then is taught the skills of divination and medium ship by the senior abaswezi.
The second category are called the abaigha (omuigha, singular), who play the role of “doctor.” These persons are not possessed by emisambwa; but their skills in divination are inherited. Thus, if a father was omuigha, one of his sons was expected to follow in his footsteps. Abaigha can diagnose problems and provide solutions. They also make charms that people wear for protection from diseases and enemies.
There are abalogo (omulogo, singular) who use mystical power to harm or kill people. This group is hated, and if anybody is caught in the act of okuloga, the public may kill that person.
To placate the spirit of a dead relative, family members have to perform rites involving offerings of food or meat or libations of beer. Failure to maintain a good relationship with the omuzimu can lead to misfortune, sickness, or death. Normalization of this relationship is achieved by sharing a ritual meal with the living members of the family and the displeased spirit.
When families face sickness, drought, poverty, or misunderstandings, the Basoga believe that this may be a sign of displeasure from the spirits. A ceremony intended to reconcile with these spirits is performed. When there is a drought, the Basoga consult with the God of Rain (Musoke). A variety of foods are tied in a bark cloth and thrown into Lake Victoria, where the God of Rain resides.
The Basoga also honor occasions related to foreign religions. In 1977 the Church of Uganda celebrated a century of Christian activities in Uganda.
Arts and craft
The Basoga excel in making drums, mats, and baskets. Emphasis is placed on indigenous music and dancing as forms of entertainment.
The traditional healers known as abaigha are consulted, together with doctors who practice modern medicine.
Death and after life
The musambwa associated with death is Walumbe. It is believed that when a person dies, the spirit remains alive while the flesh is rotting. Since the Basoga believe that life after death is a continuation of what one was doing on earth, the deceased must be given a proper burial, which includes burying the body in ancestral land, ensuring that all clan traditions are followed before and after the burial, and burying the body with some items that were associated with the deceased.
Attractions and historical sites
This was the first settlement area for Basoga of Bunyoro origin led by Prince Mukama. The hill, although not yet familiar to many people outside Busoga, Kagulu hill has a breathtaking scenery that gives a clear view of almost the entire Busoga. Kagulu hill is unique in the attractions it offers. It is the only hill in Uganda that has been adapted for tourist climbing, with constructed steps to make it easy for visitors to access the top.
The site comprises of a shrine and the residence of the former Kyabazinga of Busoga, Sir William Wilberforce Kadhumbula Nadiope, who died in 1976; The shrine, covered by beautiful marbles consist of graves of other various members of the royal family, such his father and mother, Yosia Nadiope and Nasikombi respectively.
The source of the Nile
The source of the Nile, the second longest river in the world, marked by the discovery of one of the first European explorers, John Speke, is an internationally unique attraction. The tranquility and splendor of both Lake Victoria and River Nile embody great memories of any visitor.
This among others, such as the Bujagali ancestral site for the Basoga ancestral spirits at Bujagali falls, includes the numerous rapids along the Nile, virgin nature across the region, and the culture of the people and the great Lake Victoria by no doubt gives Busoga Kingdom its distinct place in tourism.
Southern Busoga is lined with the waters of Lake Victoria. The coastline starts from Jinja, Uganda and goes eastwards, to the border with Kenya.