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Historical Background of Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba

Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba is a cultural institution comprised majorly of three ethnic communities namely Bamba, Vanoma and Babwiisi. The three have lived together since the time of mass movement of people between 12th -16th century on the land comprised of western slopes of Mount Rwenzori and Semuliki valley in present day Bundibugyo District.

The three ethnic groups have since nearly diffused into a single cultural heritage, demonstrated by their artistic and cultural expressions, including language and literary arts, performing and visual arts and handicrafts, indigenous knowledge, cultural beliefs, traditions and values, cultural sites, monuments and antiquities, among others. For instance, while nearly all are collectively known as “Bamba”, most of them speak “Lubwisi” as their common dialect. In effect, the three have strong socio-cultural and economic relationships and shared livelihoods, bound in social groups of extended families, tied together by blood, kinship, marriage, consanguinity, propinquity, and surname identification. They all practice and profess male circumcision.

Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba is a culmination of a long standing desire by the indigenous communities in Bundibugyo to contribute positively to their socio- economic and cultural development, taking advantage of the co-operation for the common good within them. It is a framework meant to harness the cherished culture and traditional heritage as passed on by the forefathers; to revive, and preserve cultural norms in all its glory and esteem for the good and benefit of the future generations yet to come by strengthening the existing clan system. Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba is premised on the conscious duty to exercise the right of people to determine their destiny, fostering unity amongst the communities in Bwamba by establishing an entity dedicated to organizing themselves into useful and productive citizens.

The umbrella cultural framework now called Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba is not entirely new, except its centralized leadership under Omudhingiya, Martin Kamya Ayongi. Traditionally, the communities have enjoyed very strong structures; a group of families form a ridge (Kitubbi); a given number of ridges form a sub clan (Kanumba) while a set of sub clans form a clan (Ntula). It is the clan heads that now have one unifying leadership in the name of Omudhingiya. Since time immemorial, the indigenous people who form Bwamba have been governed through this clan system.

This strength in the cultural diffusion between the Bamba, Babwisi and Vonoma explains why both slavery and Kabalega’s intrusion in a bid to expand Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom after the break away of Tooro Kingdom in this area was resisted with considerable success. The same spirit and structures were used throughout the 1960s to defeat repression and marginalisation by the then Tooro Kingdom which lead to the popular Rwenzururu Movement. Similarly, this same spirit has brought sanity to Bwamba, by non-violently discouraging expansionist tendencies of Obusinga bwa Rwenzururu from Kasese, and has helped to stem overt tribal tensions that turned into near skirmishes between the Bakonzo and other communities in Bundibugyo, especially during 2012 and 2013.

The growing need to independently develop the culture and social milieu of the people, and stem provocative tendencies of marauding cultural institutions culminated into two-days Traditional Leaders and Youth Conference of 783 participants at Bundibugyo Teachers College on 9th-10th August 2012. This Conference unanimously resolved to establish a unifying cultural institution titled Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba to be spearheaded by Omudhingiya (The cultural leader). The first cultural leader was unanimously declared as Omudhingiya Martin Ayongi Kamya. An interim arrangement for full establishment of Obudhingiya was immediately instituted and spearheaded by Mzee Fulgensio Bamwitirebye as Esimudhingiya (head of elders council), to set the framework for coronation of Omudhingiya.

The first unifying cultural leader (Omudhingiya) is a son of the late Yeremiah Kawamara, one of the three founders of the Rwenzururu movement. His Highness Martin Kamya Ayongi, derives allegiance as a cultural leader of the Bamba, Babwisi and Vonoma communities in Bundibugyo district by birth in accordance with the consent of the people His Highness leads, as required under section 5 (1) (a) of the Act. His father, Kawamara was a member of the Orukurato Rwa Tooro during the 1960s representing Busaru sub-county in Bwamba County. Kawamara became leader of the Rwenzururu movement (1962-1974) when Bwamba was separated from Tooro to form Semuliki District. Both parents and grandparents of Omudhingiya Martin Kamya are Babwisi, one of the indigenous tribes that have existed in Uganda since 1926 and listed under Schedule III of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995.

The choice of His Highness Martin Kamya Ayongi was not by accident. His late father represents the epitome of unity of purpose in a struggle to harness respect for indigenous communities in the face of expansionist tendencies of marauding Kingdoms and other cultural institutions in the Rwenzori region against other ethnic communities erroneously termed “small tribes”. It is therefore a continuation of a struggle for respect of people and their cultural sovereignty in a multi-ethnic but highly diffused community of Bundibugyo. It is work that the late father of Omudhingiya and his two colleagues [Isaya Mukirane - father to omusinga Mumbere and Petero Mupalya – serving as chief advisor to omudhingiya] championed during the 1960s.

Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba Cultural institution is legally derived from the mandate of the people in accordance with Article 246 of 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and Institution of the Traditional and Cultural Leaders Act 2011. As required by law, and as guided by H.E the President during a meeting with the elders at State House Entebbe on 19th September 2012, Bundibugyo District Council sat on 30th October, 2012, and unanimously passed a resolution for recognition of Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba as a Cultural Institution in Bundibugyo District. Also in place is the constitution, flag, anthem and emblem of Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba certified by Office of Registrar of Trademarks, Department of Uganda Registration Services Bureau in accordance with the Trademarks Act No. 17 of 2010.

The coronation of Omudhingiya therefore marked the epitome of a protracted struggle for cultural identity and respect, but also set a new platform for enhancing social development goals for all the people of Bundibugyo.

Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba is a voluntary, non-profit, non-denominational cultural institution set up for charitable and cultural purposes to support the institution of the cultural leadership of Obudhingiya.

The cultural institution has in place a Constitution which, subject to the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Statues and Statutory orders, Rules and Regulations and Bye-laws made thereunder is the supreme law with unlimited jurisdiction over the people who subscribe to Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba wherever they may be in respect of the traditions, customs, culture, practices and institutions of culture.

The official seat of the institution and the Cultural Leader of Obudhingiya is in Bundibugyo district, Western Uganda.

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