By Innocent Atuganyira

BULIISA: Bagungu are the indigenous people of Bugungu, the present day Buliisa district.

They speak the Lugungu language. Some Bagungu have moved and settled in the neighboring districts of Hoima, Masindi and Kiryandongo.

They are traditionally farmers, fishermen, cattle keepers and also hunters.

They faced evacuation from their ancestral land due to sleeping sickness in 1909.

Bagungu men practice an exogamy type of marriage.

Child bearing was highly celebrated among this ethnic group.


Compared to other kinds of birth, twins were treated with care as they were said to possess special spiritual powers.

Naming of the twins among the Bagungu

Some people believe that the birth of twins depends on the earlier descendants while others culturally believe that it’s a blessing from the ancestors but according to science, birth of twins can occur either when two separate eggs become fertilized in the womb or when a single fertilized egg splits into two embryos.

In Lugungu dialect, twins are locally called “baarongo”, the mother of twins is locally called “Ma’baarongo” and the father “Ba’baarongo”.

Gafabusa Juliet an elder and a resident of Buliisa District explains that when twins are born, there is always exchange of gifts locally known as “Mahasa” and the parents or relatives of Ma’baarongo are prohibited from visiting them (twins) until Mahasa is practiced.

She also explains that they (twins) always develop body defects when the rituals are not performed.

She further explains that the placenta of twins is always stored in the small clay pot and placed near the fireplace in the kitchen until they (twins) are officially traditionally brought out of the house.

Twins are given special surnames in accordance to their arrangement at birth, when a boy or a girl is delivered first during birth they are surnamed Isingoma or Nyangoma for a boy and a girl respectively, then, when a boy or a girl are delivered last are surnamed Kato or Nyakato” respectively.

Then the follower of twins is surnamed “Kiiza”, then the follower of Kiiza is surnamed “Kaahwa”, these two names apply to both genders.

In case a man has two or more wives, a child from another woman different from the mother of twins can be given a name belonging to the set of names in case /she falls within the birth range.

According to Kiiza Wilson of Bugungu Heritage and Information Centre, an organisation that documents Bagungu culture and history, when at birth, the child’s legs come first (kawunu in Lugungu), that child also takes on the name of the first twin Isingoma or Nyangoma for a boy and a girl child respectively.

And when the child got upper teeth first, he was named as above; he/she became a twin

He also explains that, when the twin dies, it is not said akwiri (has died) but agusukiri mahasa implying that the twin has died. Twins are treated as spiritual children among the Bagungu and they have a special dance, kaliwa to celebrate them, Kiiza concludes.

Currently, Bagungu are in the struggle to have their own cultural institution separate from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom which they have codenamed Butebbengwa.

Most cultural institutions (Tooro, Buganda, Kooki among others) in Uganda were formerly part of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom but broke away.

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