Bagwere People


The Bagwere people live in the east of Uganda in the district of Pallisa. They speak the Lugwere language and it similar to that of Lulamoji and Lusoga in lots of respects. The Bagwere are said to have originated from Bunyoro and then initially moved to Bulamoji and Bugabula before proceeding to the present day Pallisa. The traditions allege that that these people migrated from Bunyoro following collapse of the Bachwezi Empire with the arrival of the Luo. Their language and historical pieces of their origins traced in Bunyoro shows the Bagwere are Bantu group. Therefore their origin could be Katanga region in central Africa like other Bantu groups.


Regarding birth, when the Mugwere woman was pregnant, she was not meant to look at the bird’s nest. It was feared that she would have a miscarriage. After giving birth, the woman was not meant to leave home She slept o banana leaves and the customs had it that she could not eat anything from the clan of the husband until the confinement days are done. During this period, she was meant to eat from the neighbors from her parent’s home or from the neighbors.     She could eat cooked unpeeled bananas and if the piece of the banana broke during the peeling or cooking, she was not supposed to eat it. Apart from that, the woman was not meant to look at the sky before the umbilical cord breaks off.

Regarding the naming, the Mugwere child would not be named until the umbilical cord gets off. After the cord breaks off, a special food was secured from the lady’s home and usually it would be a banana with Nyondi still on it. The person who would go to collect he food would greet no body along the way to and fro. Then the child was moved out of the house and if the woman had sex with another man other than her husband in the days of pregnancy, the child would not be brought out from the house by the door way. The child could be passed through the window or any other house opening. The name would be given by the auntie of the grandmother of the child. Some of the names given carried with them meanings but some did not.

When the first born child was born, some food would be cooked outside the hut of the mother and the father and the mother of the child could consume it. Some seeds from the woman’s home would also be eaten. If the woman had committed adultery during the times of pregnancy, she could not eat on the food. This applied to men too. The brother or a friend would stand in for him.

Regarding the death among the Bagweri, it should be noted that people had to cry loudly and failure to do it showed that you might have had a hand in the person’s death. If the deceased was an old man, the mourners could pass around the village singing and mourning to take away the spirit of the dead. The body could take two days before being buried. The corpses would be put to the grave with a needle or a mweroko a small stone that was used for grinding so that the corpse is fortified against the body hunters. It was asserted that if the body hunters called upon the body to come out of the grave, the corpse would tell them that is busy grinding or sewing.

The normal mourning days were three and the ritual ceremony would be brought to an end by a ceremony called Okunaba where herbs would be pounded and mixed into the water and sprinkled to very present member and the doorway of the house of the deceased. The goat would be killed and eaten to put everything to an end. The night prior to Okunaba ceremony, the nieces and nephews (Bayiwa) would be given chicken to slaughter and eat to mark their important role in the funeral rites. They were supposed to remove all the rubbish scattered around and thus should be paid for it. The burying of a suicide case differed from that of normal death and there were no prayers and weeping so much. The sheep was slaughtered and consumed by the Bayiwa alone probably because of their unlucky role of cutting the rope. The tree where the deceased hanged himself would be uprooted and burnt and it he hanged himself in the house; it would be destroyed and burnt regardless of its size or goodness. Such a house was noted to be contaminated.

Regarding marriage, the marriages for the children were arranged by the parents and subsequently it became customary for the boy to look for the girl and upon consent the girl would introduce the boy to her parents and during introduction, the boy would carry a gift to girl’s family not as part of bride wealth and this was known as Okutona. After determining the bride wealth to give, the girl’s family members would visit the boy’s family to assess the bride wealth and dancing and feasting would be arranged. After this encounter, the boy’s parents would plan to bring the bride wealth to the lady’s home. Feasting and dancing also marked this day of delivering the bride wealth.

After the bride wealth issues are sorted, the mother of the boy would go along with another person to the girl’s family to pick the bride. The mother would go singing up to the girl’s family and wild reach at about 8pm. She would be given the girl and return singing up her family. The bride would not sleep with the groom until she undergoes a ritual ceremony locally called Okunabyya Omugole. The couple would stand under the tree and bathe in the same water that is filled with the respective herbs. They would prepare to proceed to the courtyard amidst singing where the girl was made to stand before the door of the mothers in law and would bring a basin of water to pour on the back of the girl. Then the girl would spread her fingernails out as per the custom and the old women would carry out an inspection for any pregnancy signs. After this function, the girls would be officially handed over to the respective husband and then proceed to their house. The woman could not eat any food from the husband’s parents until she first takes food from her parents.

Economically, the Bagweri were agriculturalists and grown plenty of crops with main ones being Matooke, sorghum, Cassava and apparently they grow rice. They also reared cattle, sheep, goats and chicken.

However, their women wore not supposed to consume lung fish (mamba), chicken and eggs and a kite like bird called Wansaka. In the event of death of the husband, any brother would inherit the wife and the entire property. The Bagweri liked dancing at a range of events and the common musical instruments they used to play include the tongoli, dingidi, drums and kongo (thumb piano). The clan of the Balangira had special drums for their specific functions.