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Bagwere People

These live in the eastern part of Uganda mostly in Budaka, Pallisa and Koboko Districts, where they make up 80% of the population in these areas. They Bagwere have the Bagisu, Basoga, Balamogi, Iteso, Banyole and Jopadhola/Badama as their neighbors.

Mbale town which was one time reputed to be the cleanest city in the country is home to some Bagwere. They are also found in towns of Eastern Uganda that is Pallisa, Kagumu, Kibuku, Budaka, Kamonkoli, tirinyi, Kabweri, Bulangira, Kaderuna, kadama, Butebo, kanginima and Kakoro.

The Bagwere people are said to have migrated from Bunyoro and Tooro and travelled along Lake Kyoga, crossing the Mpologoma River. It is for this reason that most of the tribes that have settled along the shores Kyoga like; the Baluli, the Bakenye and Balamogi have almost a similar language to Lugwere. The initial area of the bagwere settlement has shrunk considerably as Iteso and the Bagisu pushed the Bagwere’s frontiers inwards.

Lugwere is their language and is widely spoken in districts Pallisa, Budaka and Kibuku. Bagwere have clans which include the Bagema, Bakaduka, Baloki, Balalaka, and Baikomba Clans.

All the clans of the Bagwere are led by a clan leader or chief and one of the clan leaders is democratically elected to be the IKUMBANIA, chief cultural leader of the Bagwere people. Intermarriages among members of the same clan is strongly prohibited as this is a custom in most of the Bantu cultures.

The traditional music of the bagwere is called Namadu which comprises of a set of seven drums as one of their famous musical instruments. Bagwere are also identified with “Tongoli”, a five-stringed hand instrument modeled along a 21 string instrument elsewhere in Africa known as “Kora”. With modernization in the music industry, there are a number of young upcoming artists in the Bugwere region who are manoeuvring to break-through, who have tried to bring up the bagwere on the scene.

Bagwere are very proud of their heritage and culture, especially as there are few in number but many are very well educated.

The main economic activity of the Bagwere people is subsistence farming and to a lesser extent, fishing and bee keeping are highly practiced in Pallisa District. Cattle, poultry, sheep, goats and pigs are some of the animals reared in the Pallisa district. This district is further blessed with 9 minor lakes that include part of the Lake Kyoga water system.

In early times, parents among the bagwere arranged marriages for their children though later on it became a norm for a boy to look for a girl and upon consent, the girl would introduce the boy to the parents. While being introduced, the boy would pay something to the parents of the girl not as part of bride wealth but as a gift to the parents of the girl. This practice was known as “okutona”. The processes that followed involved the boy inviting the girl’s parents and relatives to come to his family and assess the bride wealth. The parents would normally go and assess the wealth but they could not leave with the cows. The occasion involved feasting and dancing as the boy’s parents would arrange to deliver bride wealth to the girl’s family and delivering the bride wealth was another joy accompanied with feasting, dancing and merry making.

Then the boy’s mother often accompanied by any other person would go to fetch the girl from her parents and she would go singing along the way until they reach the girl’s family at around 8.00pm.

The mother would be given the girl as she returns home singing all the way and on reaching the groom’s home and girl was not supposed to sleep with her new husband before being washed in a ceremony of “okunabbya omugole”. The girl and the boy would stand under a tree; bathe same water furnished with herbs. They would sing as they prepare to come to the courtyard. The girl usually was made to stand before the mother-in law’s door as the mother -in law would bring a basin of water and pour on to the girl’s back.

The newly married girl would then spread her fingernails out as common custom, older men would inspect the girl for signs of pregnancy. The girl’s brother would officially hand over the girl to her husband and the girl with her husband would move to their house.

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