The Ndiga (Sheep) Clan


The following material was written by a member of the Ndiga clan who chose to remain anonymous.

Akabbiro (Minor Totem): Mpologoma (Lion)

Omubala (Clan motto): Nyabo Nabbosa, Mpaawo alimuliisa endiga

Ow'Akasolya (Head of Clan): Lwomwa.

Obutaka (Clan Seat): Mbaale, Mawokota.

There are seventeen major clan elders (Abamasiga) directly under Lwomwa:

Buvi at Bunnamweri in Mawokota county
Kaggwe at Bukaggwe in Mawokota
Kibeevu at Ssi Bukunja Kyaggwe county
Kiguli at Sseenene, Mawokota
Lutalo at Buyijja, Mawokota
Luwanga at Mpami, Mawokota
Mpungu at Bweya in Butambala county
Nakabaale at Mmembe, Mawokota
Nakiyenje at Bugiri in Busiro county
Nnamusota at Maziba, Mawokota
Ndalu at Mpanga, Mawokota
Ssekakoni at Bussi in Busiro county
Ssekkoba at Busanga Kkoome in Kyaggwe county
Ssemiti at Buyanga, Mawokota
Ssentumbwe at Nakabiso, Mawokota
Sserunkuuma at Mpami, Mawokota
Wakikunga at Mutungo in Kyaddondo county.

The ritual duties of the Ndiga clan in the king's palace include among other duties to play the royal drums; Tadde, Nantakiika and Entenga. They were also charged with the custodianship of the Kibuka's shrine as we shall see later on.

When King Kateregga defeated Bunyoro in Butambala and incorporated that county into Buganda, he appointed Mpungu an elder the Ndiga clan to be its first chief. The original title for that chief was Wakayembe. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, King Jjunju defeated Mukudde Bwakamba in Nyendo the then ruler of Buddu and that county was also added to Buganda. Jjunju appointed Luzige of Ndiga clan as its first chief.

The clan has had two Namasole (queen mothers); Nalugwa Kimbugwe's mother and Nabulya Nalugwa, Prince Musanje Ggolooba's wife and mother to kings Mwanga I, Namugala and Kyabaggu.

A number of men, elders, from the clan have held prominent offices in the kingdom through various reigns, the most prominent in history is Nyonyintono who was the chief minister during the most turbulent days of King Kalema and the religious wars in Buganda.

Mbaale the chief domain of the clan is located in Mawokota county some twenty two miles south of Mengo (the current administration center of the kingdom of Buganda) and about fourteen miles east of Magonga ( the first capital of the Buganda kingdom during Kintu's reign). The current administration center at Mpigi seems to have overshadowed the fame and importance of Mbaale. Mpigi used to be just a subsection of Mbaale, way back in history before the coming of the colonial administration which reversed its status.

The region around Mbaale was settled mostly by members of the clan and many clan elders (Abamasiga) have their domains within the region as noted above. The region stretches as far as Sseenene, to include Maziba, Lungala, Nakabiso, Mpanga, Mpami (presently the town center of Mpigi), Ggala, Bunnamweri, Kakoola, Kitavujja and Kisozi across Kkoba swamp and other several villages within the region. Of course many other domains are found in other counties; Butambala, Busiro and Kyaggwe but dominantly Mawokota is the main county that houses a bigger group of the clan members. Although clan members are now scattered all over the kingdom, not to mention the entire world, they still point to those places as their origin.

This region could be called the region of shrines. Of course the most well known shrine in the area is that of Kibuka (Kibuka omumbaale), there is also the shrine of Wanga on the eastern slopes of Lwasi hill, Mwendanseko at Bunnamweri and a few other bushes and thickets which people still revere for their spiritual ritualistic attachments. The Kalyesubula tree (as old and gallantly tall as one can imagine) has a ritual significance in relation with Kibuka as we shall see later, and it is a very important landmark in the region's history. Several hills in the area enhance the clan's pride. These are: Lwasi and Kitavujja one longest range, Kulumba rising out of the slow landing terrain, Maziba touches the fringes of Sseenene, Nakabiso and Mpanga across Kkoba and Katonga forests, all together form the natural geography and pride of the region, clan members normally call those hills their ancestral hills (ensozi zab'endiga).

South of the region, the area is flanked by the hill ranges of Mayembe ga Mbogo on which sits the present district administration of Mpigi, and the giant Ssaabwe an ancestral hill of the Ffumbe (Civet cat) clan . In fact Magunda (the Ffumbe clan elder) sits at Lwanga on the southern slopes of Ssaabwe. To the north are the Lugave hill ranges of Katende currently with a Catholic mission as a major landmark. Currently the Kibuuka's shrine is also in close contact with modern development, an archdeaconary center has grown out of a small Church of Uganda parish and a Senior Secondary School named after Kibuka of Mbaale.

Possible origin

Michael Nsimbi in 'Amannya Amaganda N'ennono Zaago' has given us a quite convincing interpretation using our oral traditions which trace the origins of the Buganda clans. I do commend that effort of excavating our traditions and bring out such worthy information. The problem with narrating our history from the distant past using oral traditions as the only method to rely upon is the conflict and sometimes confusion brought about by the different views and versions. We have to accept that in all different versions there may be an element of truth although there could be several exaggerations as well. We depend on sources that are told by the skillful narrator and quite often the degree of hyperbole cannot be heeded 'Ewakanyumiza ......' Students of oral traditions have away of analyzing the stories, evaluate their relevance in a given piece of history and correlate them with the actual events that took place in a particular context.

I may have a version that is different from what Mr. Nsimbi has already given us, and there may be several others although they are not in print but with exception of a few isolated instances both sources relate to each other. My version is from my late father (a recollection of bits and pieces of some stories he felt were valuable information but I disregarded when they were told, and now I see how important they are) and my late granny who proudly took me around our traditional grave yards pointing out a long line of several generations of my descendants which brought us to the very first person in our clan.

It is said that the clan descended from a man called Mbaale who came to Buganda with Kintu. Mbaale joined Kintu in the Masaaba hills and became one of the good fighters in Kintu's company. After Kintu had settled at Magonga he allotted his brave men some regions to settle and Mbaale was given the place which bears his name to the present day. Mbaale moved around with a sheep which he regarded as a personal companion, these days we may call it a pet, so he generally became to be known as 'a man of Ndiga' (Omusajja ow'endiga). Before he died, it is said he made a pledge to his companion, the sheep, "no one from my loins or from the loins of my descendants should slaughter you for meat or give you up as a sacrifice any where in this area I call my domain". This same message was passed down to all his descendants, something that prompted the saying 'Olangajja nga eyakasibira e Mbaale' (it gives a piece of mind to keep sheep at Mbaale because no body bothers it). This version may collaborate with the story I was told when I lived in Mbale in Eastern Uganda. There is a distinct clan 'Abatandiga' (apparently those who refuse to eat mutton). I am not sure.

Mbaale is said to have had three sons; Ssekkoba, Kaggwe and Bbosa was the youngest. It is said that Ssekkoba wandered back to the east passing through Ssese islands and then returned to Buganda and settled in Kyaggwe islands of Kkoome where he finally died at Busanga. Kaggwe the other son was born in a broad day light, a taboo during those days hence his name 'Kaggwe-ensonyi ng'omukazi azaala emisana' (shame for having seen his mother's nakedness). This son together with his mother were sent away to Nakabiso across Kkoba forest and that was how that area also became a portion of the clan domain. When Kaggwe grew up he assumed the rank of eldership (ow'Esiga) in the area. Bbosa the youngest stayed and settled at Bunnamweri.

It is not clear whether Kalyesubula was Bbosa's son or Ssekkoba's (here my father insists that he was Bbosa's while my granny's collaborates with Nsimbi that he was Ssekkoba's and he was born in Ssese Islands and was a page (musiige) of Lubaale Wannema). Whatever the truth was there is a common ground that Kalyesubula is closely tied up with Kibuka's story. Bbosa's other sons included Buvi, Kibi, Kabwa and several others. At least some versions collaborate that Kalyesubula lived in Ssese in Wannema' court either sent there by Bbosa to serve the god Wannema as he must have been the first son, or left there by Ssekkoba for the same purpose. It must be remembered the birth of children to many families was a result of continuous prayers to and the benevolence of the gods (so it was thought) so it was a common practice to dedicate some children to the service of the gods, apparently Kalyesubula might have been an award to Wannema. However, Kalyesubula left the islands and returned to his fatherland as Wannema's envoy on the mainland.

Kibuka comes to the mainland

It is perhaps necessary to give a brief account about the Ssese Islands. These islands, located in the midst of the sea of deities , Nalubaale (Lake Victoria) were revered as the home of the most important gods in the lives of the Baganda, therefore they were never invaded nor incorporated as a part of the Buganda kingdom until recently in the 1900 Agreement that brought ten other (including Ssese Islands) counties under the Buganda jurisdiction. A number of Buganda kings, as well as commoners visited the islands to pay tribute to the gods and pray for whatever needs they had.

When King Nakibinge was fighting Bunyoro in the present Ssingo county, the enemy's force overwhelmed him and he also sought some help from any source. He was advised to visit the islands to seek the help of the Wannema's youngest son, Kyobe ( the original name of Kibuka), who was said to have a talent of fighting from the sky, hence the name Kibuka (the flyer). The king was told that Kalyesubula had grown up in Wannema's court and knew Kyobe very well he would be of great value if he was included in the trip since it was apparent that Wannema would be reluctant to let his young son to come to the mainland.

Kalyesubula warned the king about Wannema's personal affection to his son but devised a trick how he would identify Kyobe among the numerous sons Wannema had. 'When he appears I will scratch my left ear, for the others it will be a foot or some other part of the body' Kalyesubula advised the king. In the islands an apparition of sea gods passed around until towards the end Kyobe (or Kibuka) appeared and Kalyesubula played his trick for the king.

Wannema was not pleased with Kalyesubula's personal indulgence in the affairs of the gods, as that he, Kalyesubula, had been sent to the mainland to spy for the gods not spy on the gods. However, Wannema let his son come to the mainland on some conditions: One, if Kibuka died in Nakibinge's battles the king's first son born thereafter would be sent to Wannema as a page. Secondly, since Kalyesubula had been instrumental in the entire arrangement, a kind of betrayal, he should be answerable for any repercussion that would befall Kibuka. Since Kibuka was now no longer a god of the lake like others he needed a chief priest, a man on the mainland, and the ritual fell on Kalyesubula as a custodian of the Kibuka's shrines on the land.

It is said that Kibuka fought ferociously pushing Bunyoro further west and although Nakibinge lost his life in the battle Bunyoro felt the impact of the king fighter.

Kibuka fought from the sky surprising the Bunyoro forces with the raining arrows that dangled their fighting men without any heed, and worse still they could not spot where they were being shot from. It is said that Kibuka was tricked into a love affair with a beautiful Munyoro girl who revealed Kibuka's fighting secret to her tribesmen. One soldier from Bunyoro spotted Kibuka in the sky and shot an arrow through the cloud which fatally wounded him. Kibuka however, did not die instantly but fell on the branches of a long oak tree, Kalyesubula (we have seen it above) where he was spotted the next morning by one of the Ndiga elders in the area. In an effort to bring down the wounded fighter, the elder was overwhelmed by the weight of a god personality and he let the haggard fighter fall to the ground and died. Because of this act of throwing down the wounded god, the elder was given the name Nakatandaggira to echo the thrust of the fall.

That unfortunate incident leading to Kibuka's death sparked the hatred and the expulsion of all Banyoro from the area hence the saying 'Odda Mbaale mu Baganda banno' (if you do not like non-Baganda, go settle in Mbaale where only your fellow Baganda live). Kalyesubula was also thrown into a cave where he was imprisoned. He was a man of humor who cracked jokes and made those who visited him in his cave prison laugh, the cave was therefore named Mwendanseko (a place of laughter).

After a while when the uproar over Kibuka's death had subsided Kalyesubula was released from his cave. He had not shaved since the day he was thrown in his dungeon so he had grown bushy hair all over. He had a chance to shave the day he was released from prison and he said "Lwowona emupuku Lwomwa" (you shave on the day you get out of prison). Since then he assumed a new name 'Lwomwa' from his usual jokes he used to humorously crack. All elders that followed in his steps took on the name Lwomwa as the official title for top most elder of the Ndiga Clan. And since he, Kalyesubula had been given the charge of Kibuka, he became an overseer over Kibuka's shrine at Mbaale. The chief priestess of the shrine is called Nagalemedde, also sometimes referred to as Kibuka's wife. The office of Lwomwa is assumed by the top most elder (Ow'Akasolya) of the Ndiga.

It is often erroneously assumed that because of Kibuka's close association with Ndiga clan he belonged to the clan as well. Kibuka was a god and therefore apparently with no particular clan affiliation, although some say he was from Mmamba clan. He got closer to us because of our great grand father who, as a matter of fact, brought him to Buganda. I do descend from Buvi's line at Bunnamweri, where the first Lwomwa had his seat, and his prison cave (Mwendanseko) now overgrown with thickets and bushes is just a few yards from the house I lived in during the early years my youth.

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