The Mysterious Twin Lakes of Kitara Region

Mystery largely sarouds the formation of the Kitara’s twin crater lakes Kyema and Kamweru found in Rubirizi district of Kitara region. 

The pair located in Magambo Sub-county is part of the 32 crater lakes and one pair of twin lakes, sit on the western arm of the East African Rift Valley.

Kamweru and Kyema are the only conjoined lakes in Africa, which makes this a good tourism destination. Lake Kamweru has a heritage cave besides it which fills the crater with water. There are many plant species, birds, monkeys and other wild animals around the twin lakes.

The twin lakes are in the same locality where we find Lake Africa, a crater lake formed in the very shape of African continent.

Although science attributes the formation of these lakes to volcanic eruption in the 17th Century, folklore tales of interesting stories, a lot of which form the mystery of these lakes.
According to locals of Magambo Sub-county, Lake Kamweru was a crater which later got filled up with water from a nearby lake Nzuguto, that is now a wetland.

“The Nzuguto lake shifted from the current Nzuguto wetland and filled Kamweru crater to form the current Kamweru crater lake in the 1930s. Many people who lived in Kamweru crater died, and nobody took record of it that is why the government does not think about Rubirizi District and its tourism potential and culture,’’ says Daniel Katugano, 74, a resident.

Katugano owes his story to his father who he says migrated from Buganda to the area in 1797.
He tells of how Endyoka, the owner of the lake, mysteriously transferred the water of Lake Nzuguto to Kamweru.

“Heavy water waves, commonly known as endyoka mukama we Nyanja (Endyoka king of the lake), passed through the soil via the cave and transferred water from then Lake Nzuguto,” says Katugano.

However, district local leaders have this to say. “Due to volcanicity, the land developed fault lines to the crater and water followed fault lines from Nzuguto to Kamweru through the cave forming Lake Kamweru. People’s stories are just thoughts that cannot be proved scientifically. Basically people attribute a lot of things to these lakes Kamweru and Kyema but there is no scientific proof. Those are just superstitions which are not true.”

Nonetheless, these are the only conjoined lakes in Africa, which makes the district a good tourism potential. Lake Kamweru has a heritage cave besides it which fills the crater with water and there are many tree species around it harboring monkeys and other wild animals.

The heritage cave is said to have been the residents’ hiding place during the Idi Amin and Milton Obote regimes as well as during the NRA bush war.

“During Obote and Amin’s regimes people would prepare food early before the soldiers would attack them and hide in the cave for some days. Equally so, in 1981, NRA rebels would pass by the cave without noticing that there were people hiding in it. But before those political events, the cave was used for sacrifice by the owners of the lake, the Bagesera clan,’’ Katugano says.
The cave is one of the attractions.

At the twin lakes, tourists enjoy canoe rides as they look at beautiful birds, and have walks through a community wetland that supplies water to Lake Kamweru, budding and spot fishing. Cultural tourism with the Banyaruguru community is also a major attraction. According to local leaders, the lake’s green colour and the terrain of the area where the lakes are located also make them a great tourism site.

Residents like Katugano hope that the district and sub-counties would set up rules to regulate human activity on the lake. The leaders should stop residents from over fishing in them, cultivating near them, and deforestation around them. This would lead to high productivity and earn the government a lot of revenue so that we can get better services.

Myths about the twin lakes

An interesting tale goes that, in the months of June and July, fish floated on the water of the twin lakes allowing residents to easily fish them out with baskets or spears. It was attributed to heat at the bottom of the lakes and the phenomenon was termed as “Okufa kwe Nyanja’’ (dying of a lake). However, according to Katugano, a clan believed to be the owners of the lake, called the Bazumira didn’t participate in this. They were respected for their role as locaters of dead bodies of those who had drowned in the lakes. They carried out rituals and were believed to sacrifice sheep to prevent death in the lakes. However, with the advent of Christianity, such traditional clans and rituals have since died and currently no one owns the twin lakes.

People around the Twin Lakes

Lake Nkugute is located in Bunyaruguru County, where the inhabitants are a tribe called Banyaruguru. Banyaruguru are a segment of emigrants from Buganda alongside Batagwenda a tribe settled in Kitagwenda county near Bunyaruguru. Batagwenda and Banyaruguru derive long from Buganda’s history and finds out that this was after two Baganda kings had fought against each other and one died in the field.

According to the way the Bunyaruguru tell the story, it was the year 1797 and Kabaka (King) Junju Sendegeya, the 27th Kabaka of Buganda was reigning, with his capital at Magonga. His younger brother, Prince Semakookiro Wasajja Nabbunga, rose up in arms against him. Ssemakookiro then sent a contingent of soldiers to capture Junju. His final instruction to the regiment was: “Temumulekaayo!” meaning “Do not leave him behind!” Of course Junju dispatched a regiment of his own to repulse the aggressors. He personally participated in the battle, as was common in those days for kings to do. Sadly, he did not survive the fighting.

Ssemakookiro’s men then proceeded to Bamunaanika to report that they had killed Junju. Ssemakookiro was angered. He had instructed them to capture his brother, not to murder him! He was so upset that he ordered those who participated in the battle together with their descendants and extended families, to leave Buganda or he would make them face the same fate as they had subjected to his brother. The outcasts fled west to present day Kitagwenda in Kamwenge District, in the Kingdom of Toro. Those who still had the strength to climb the hills and mountains of Northern Ankole went on into present-day Rubirizi District, in what is commonly known as Bunyaruguru. Other sources give versions which slightly differ in details, but the flight of the Banyaruguru and the Batagwenda is a historical fact, that occurred slightly over 200 years ago.

The Banyaruguru, especially the older folks, speak fluent Luganda in addition to Runyankole and other languages. Their dialect of Runyankole is similar to the dialect of Rutooro called Rutagwenda. They maintain their allegiance to the Baganda clans from which they descended, those who fled came from 12 Baganda clans. The Banyaruguru also kept many of their Baganda customs; for example, the culture of maintaining the family cemeteries called Ebiggya in Luganda. Many of the communities around them did not traditionally maintain family burial sites until recently. But you can see family cemeteries going back several generations in Bunyaruguru.

The Banyaruguru, who number about 200,000 are a very close community. Families tend to have very strong bonds, investing together, and holding land within the family and within the clan. Unlike in Bugandawhere they split land into small individual plots, the Banyaruguru will build a joint residence where each sibling has a bungalow, on maybe two acres of the family land and the remaining acreage (which might be substantial in some cases), is planted with matoke. Between the Matoke they plant cassava, beans, maize, and Arabica coffee; and in the valleys they grow cabbage, tomatoes, sugarcane and eggplants. They are very hard working people, often up and in the gardens by six in the morning. The rich, fertile, volcanic soils have not been extensively utilized until very recently, so yields are impressive, without the help of fertilizer or pesticides.

The Banyaruguru dress mostly like Banyankole and Baganda; their names are a mixture of Kinyankole and Kiganda names. Most of the traditions and customs are Kinyankole with some Kiganda culture practiced

The Batagwenda men were originally hunters, though nowadays there are no wilder animals to hunt. But let an elephant or lion get to Kitagwenda from Queen Elizabeth National park, be sure it will not go back.

There are two segments of Batagwenda. There are Banyantara up the hills of Ntara above Lake George and those who live around the hills of Kikondo and Kinyamugara commonly known as Abakondo and Abakurungo in Kikurungo.

The staple food of Batagwenda and Banyaruguru is millet though they grow and eat other foods like matoke, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes. Banyaruguru mostly eat millet with fish.