The People

A Banya Rwenzururu (The people of Rwenzururu)


The term Banyarwenzururu refers to the people of Rwenzururu (Rwenzori Mountains). Banyarwenzururu also means the mountain covered with snow, which was mistakebly re-named by explorer H.M, Stanely as Ruwenzori- the Mountains of the Moon. The Rwenzururu Kingdom is a monarchy of the inhabitants of and people descending from the Rwenzori Mountains

The Bakonzo/Banande, Bamba and Basumba are ethnic groups that originally lived and still live on and around the Rwenzururu Mountians. Currently, the Bakonzo alone are about 6,000,000 people with an estimated 1,000,000 on the Ugandan side of the Mountain and 5,000,000 on the Democratic Republic of Congo side and are more commonly known as Banande. Both the Bakonzo and Banande belong to the Bayira community, a Bantu speaking people. On the Ugandan side the Bakonzo occupy the Rwenzururu Mountains cut across the District of Kasese, Kabarole and Bundibugyo. Those in Congo are found in North Kivu province with Butembo and Beni as their major towns. The Bamba who are sub-divided into Babwisi, Babutoku, Vonoma and Babila predominantly occupy the plains of Bundibugyo district. The Basumba are divided and scattered in the plains of Bundibugyo district. They move to and fro in the Semliki valley of Bundibugyo district.

Like any other group of people around the world living on mountain, the Bakonzo, Bamba and Basumba are courageous, industrious, self-reliant and hospitable. As a hospitable society, the Bakonzo, Bamba and Basumba hosted and gave sanctuary to people of other ethnic groups who used to be persecuted by the ancient Kings of Bunyoro such as Kamurasi, Kyebambe, and Kabarega. Such groups were the Batooro, Batuku, Banyabindi, Basongora and Banyagwaki.

The Bakonzo bear themselves with great dignity, are conscientious about education and that wonderful core spirit of conservative African values and modest manners. They are relaxed yet hard working and very sociable, caring, respectful, loving, loyal, trusting and trustworthy. There are a number of theories as to the history of the first Bakonzo but here you will read of the two most common. The Bakonzo claim to have been the first begings to settle on Rwenzururu Mountains and believe to have been created by God just as Adam and Eve in Eden. Legend on the other hand has it that the Bakonzo once lived on Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda and that during the Kintu migration, the Bakonzo came with Kintu and other peoples to Buganda and later migrated further to the western highlands of Mount Rwenzori which has a climate similar to that of Mount Elgon where they had originally lived. This is said to have been around A.D 1300.

The Initiation

The Bakonzo share some elements of culture with the Bamba, one such element was the initiation. The purpose of initiation was to transform the initiates from childhood to adulthood. Therefore all the male children, before or after reaching puberty, had to undergo circumcision. This was conducted jointly by the Bakonzo and the Bamba. The ceremony would normally begin in Bwamba and then end in Bukonzo. The initiation ceremony was conducted after long intervals, often fifteen to seventeen years. It involved all male children from the age of three years.

The Economy

The Bakonzo are agriculturalists. They grow mainly matoke, yams, potatoes, cassava and beans. At a later time, they took up coffee and cotton growing. In addition, they reared short-horned cows, goats, sheep and fowls. Their short-horned cows were looted by Kabarega’s worriors from Bunyoro-kitara, and the rest died of cattle diseses brought by the long-horned cows of the pastoralists of the Bachwezi descent. Production was initially subsistence and they supplemented their produce by hunting and fishing on Lakes Edward and George.