Batagwenda & Banyaruguru

It is derived 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 Banyarugurualso kept many of their Baganda customs; for example the culture of maintaining the family cemeteries called Ebiggya in Luganda. Many of the communitiesaround them did not traditionally maintain family burial sites until recently. But you can seefamily cemeteries going back several generations in Bunyaruguru.

The Banyaruguru, who number about 200,000 are a very close community. Families tendto 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 Banyaruguruwill 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 Matokethey plant cassava, beans, maize, and Arabica coffee; and in the valleys they grow cabbage, tomatoes, sugarcane and eggplants. They are very hard workingpeople, 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 more wild 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 is millet though they grow and eat other foods like matoke, cassava, maize and sweet potatoes. Most of their traditions and cultures are Kitooro cultures, they name petty names called empaako and they pay much respect to the Tooro kingdom traditions.