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Stories and folktales are told to inspire the children, they are told to mentor them, to pass the great knowledge down to the young generation. So that wisdom of the tribe can stay, so that it cannot die. The children are told about their roots; how Kususwa emerged from the foothills of Mount Elgon and came conquering and occupying land previously owned by the Japadhola who are referred to as “Bamya”. It is said that if Kususwa was not greedy for goats, he could have occupied land upto the current day Kidoko and Merikit.

Meanwhile it is the great fighters from Busukuya that conquered and occupied the land upto Lwatsusi, near Molo. They say that their target was to reach the great hill that stands in the Centre of present day Tororo but were hampered by the Bazungu who came and ended tribal wars.


Inspite of this not so good past, the relationship between Bagisu and Bamya is relatively good. During the circumcision season, whenever a man feared and called onto his mother during the circumcision, the sacrifice that is slaughtered; a goat (indurume) or sheep is not eaten, it is given to “Bamya”, “afterall, all of them are basinde (uncircumcised), they can take the curse”.


Wanyanga shall be circumcised on the first of the year and we are all looking forward. By now we have proven that he will withstand the knife; everyone is eager because last year we had planned and he had promised that he will be the one to close the year; but he suddenly went to Kenya and evaded the knife.

Wanyanga had a tendency of only returning home in the “year of girls” when we don’t carry out circumcision. But this is what happened this year.


Ityanyi, an inducing herb was mixed with alcohol and served to him in a gourd. The alcohol served in a gourd is referred to as “ipawu”. After galloping the alcohol and comfortably sitting among the elders, kuka Wandwasi casually brought up the topic of Wanyanga’s circumcision. “A man at your age should be having a wife or two; look at all your agemates, they have children but all that you take back home is this foreskin. Before the last year ended, we thought that you were going to pay this debt of Bamasaba; but all you did was to run away to Kenya. You’re bringing shame to your father’s house”

As Wandwasi spoke, all the other elders were nodding their heads in agreement; Wanyanga’s father was facing down drawing as if writing something into the ground with his toe.

“In our clan, no one has ever grown to this age without paying the debt to our ancestors; I, your father was circumcised during the great famine of nalubya. I was way younger than Wakharu’s son who is going to be circumcised at beginning of year. My son, why do you want to ashame me? Even Wenani, a child of yesterday is now married with two wives and is soon getting another. Other clans are increasing but ours is not, you’re my only son…” other words were lost in the emotions

Suddenly, Wanyanga rose up and declared; “Papa, ingana ukhwingila khulutwela”

Thursday continued

All was set in time lest Wanyanga changes his mind. Trouble came on the last day, just hours after being blessed by his uncle, at a point of no return, when the circumcision candidate cannot refuse. By now, all was in our hands, Wanyanga had no say; he had to face the knife; come what may.

He requested to be left alone, we refused; he asked to be allowed to urinate, we took him; he asked to be left to visit the latrine and we still escorted him to the bush. At such a moment, all focus is on the candidate; you’re guarded like a recently captured fugitive and it is everyone’s concern to ensure that you’re within their reach especially after the 3 days of celebration and soliciting of gifts from all the neighborhood. Wanyanga was not an ordinary boy, he was the only boy; even Bamakoki are eagerly waiting to tax Wotwali, Wanyanga’s father.


After soliciting blessings of the ancestors by dancing around their graves and being smeared with “busse” from a male goat, Wanyanga was good to go. 500 meters to the circumcision ground, the drum beats changed to base and the rhythm also changed to the famous “Bamasaba khwareera”

When a “child” as the circumcision candidate is referred to reaches at such a distance, the pace is reduced and 100 meters can take a full hour to cover, men with sticks that bear big heads, known as “ilungu” come forward. All people now give way to the respected men of the clan to surround the “child”. At the circumcision ground, young men like us have to look for the best points from where to view; some climb surrounding trees while others climb atop the nearby houses.

There are those men who lead while clearing the way. They move with all kinds of weapons; pangas, spears, lungus; they dance while charging forward and stumping their feet to the ground, bitungu; then elders and Wanyanga come behind these men also with their lungus raised, the drummers follow patiently behind the procession and behind them are the women and girls shaking their behinds, you may think they will fall off; even Nabutono umuganda whose behind was not as big could hold her back and shake it; some of us could then stop to admire her pointed breasts as they rhythmically heaved to the beat of the drum.


By now, Wanyanga’s voice was lost in the drums but we could make it out as he came forward reaching a line where women do not cross;

“sema oyee”,


“samwene moto”,


Umushebi and his helper cannot be seen, but he is hiding somewhere among the crowds ready with his bag containing all the equipment.

Wanyanga charges forward, elders give way, the clan leader removes his dancing sticks “kyimishinga” handing him the clan stick which he holds to the front as he approaches the circumcision platform “isawu”. The drums stop, silence!

Everything seems to have happened so fast, we who were viewing from the tree started jumping down falling on the people down, umushebi had not blown the whistle and we knew that there is going to be a big fight between relatives from the mother’s side and from the paternal side.

As if they expected it, women and children took to their heels!


On a Sunday that follows such events, most of us do not go to Church!

Till then, we shall keep you posted

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