Of the Bafumbira and Bufumbira

town signpost

I arrived at Qualicell Bus terminal for my trip to Kisoro, at 6:10am. I was told that the first bus to Kisoro for the day, had left at 6:00 am.  The next bus was leaving at 6:30pm. I wished I had come a little earlier. But it was too late. I decided to board the bus to Kabale and from there board to Kisoro town. The bus was leaving at 8:00am. I walked to where the bus was to begin my wait for the time for departure.

There were two passengers in the bus. They seemed to have waited for ages. I got a place to seat. I noticed that the bus was dirty. There were empty bottles of drinking water everywhere and polythene bags. I sat nonetheless and waited.

A group of boys came in after close to thirty minutes to clean the bus. This took a while. I stood outside throughout the cleaning. More passengers came. By 8:00am, most of the seats were filled.

We left Qualicell Bus terminal for Kabale, a few minutes past eight. The bus was slow at first as more passengers boarded along the way. But it gathered pace afterwards and within four hours, we were in Mbarara.

We had to stop shortly after we left Mbarara when one of the tyres was pierced by a nail. The change of the tyre took a while. The passengers were frustrated but suppressed the agitation. The music videos and movie clips that were playing on TV in the bus, kept them occupied.

We reached Kabale at 5:00pm.  I boarded a Toyota Ipsum that provides taxi service from Kabale to Kisoro. It is supposed to carry seven passengers. The one I boarded carried twelve. There were five passengers in the back and middle rows, instead of three.

I sat in the co driver’s seat.  I was happy that I was going to reach Kisoro in comfort. But along the way, a woman with a child was picked up. I shared the front seat with her. There was a pillow on the handbrake on which I sat. I was so uncomfortable. My legs and back hurt badly. I could not wait for her to get off. But when she did, another passenger took her place.

The journey to Kisoro was long. There are so many corners. With each corner, I held onto the seats as I tried not to crash into the driver.

I arrived in Kisoro at 7:15pm. The journey that had started at 8:00 am had finally come to an end.

Kisoro is inhabited by people of different ethnicities.  There are the Congolese, the Hutus, the Tutsis and the Bafumbira, among others. The Bafumbira were the focus of my trip.

Canon Samuel Mfitumukiza and I

As I learned from David MS Munyangabo, the Bafumbira originated from Rwanda. Mr. Munyangabo is a Mufumbira and a retired head teacher. He told me that “The Bafumbira” were governed by chiefs who answered to the King of Rwanda. They were mainly Hutus and Tutsis. It is the country demarcations that split them from Rwanda as a kingdom.

Rufumbira, the language spoken by the Bafumbira, is similar to Runyarwanda. It is the accents that are different. I wanted to know what makes the accents different. I learnt this from Canon Samuel Mfitumukiza, to whom I was introduced by Mr. Munyangabo. The canon told me that the closeness to Bakiga is what is responsible for the difference in accents.  Rufumbira has an intonation of the Bakiga.

The Bafumbira have eight main clans: the Bazibaga, Abagahe, Abagesera, Abasigi, Abagiri, Abagara, Abarihira and Abungura. The clans have sub groups. For instance, there are the Basinga under the Bagahe.

There are a number of foods considered as staple foods among the Bafumbira. Beans, peas, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize and millet, are the main foods.

The Bafumbira have transformed over the years. Long ago they lived in thatched houses. The roofs were thatched with either sorghum or grass from wetlands. The walls were round and built with mud and sticks. Today, they stay in houses built with bricks and mortar for the walls, and roofed with iron sheets or Mangalore tiles.

Like in other cultures in Uganda, marriage among the Bafumbira was organised by the parents. The boy and girl were not aware of the arrangement until the day of the marriage. It was a marriage between strangers. They would meet in a room after the wedding. The bride price was a cow.

The Bafumbira named their children depending on a family situation. If a child was born in a period of brewing beer, that child was named Senzoga. If the birth happened when the father of the child was on a journey, that child was named Senzira. If there was a lot of food in the household, the child was named Nyirabakire.

I learnt a lot about the Bafumbira. This rekindled the need to know more about other cultures and ethnic groups, outside my own.

David WS Munyangabo and I

Mulumba Ivan Matthias

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