|UFDC Home||myUFDC Home | Help ||
|Table of Contents|
|Ibn Batuta's visit to East Africa...|
|A history of Teso to 1937|
|Tribal names and customs in Teso...|
|Land and chieftainship among the...|
|Land tenure in Acholi|
|Gordon's fort at Mruli|
|The Indian origins of some African...|
|Cattle breeding problems in...|
|The food of Tilapia in East...|
ALL VOLUMES CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
|Table of Contents|
Front Cover 1
Front Cover 2
Title Page 1
Title Page 2
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
Table of Contents 2
Ibn Batuta's visit to East Africa A.D. 1332: A translation
A history of Teso to 1937
Tribal names and customs in Teso District
Land and chieftainship among the Acholi
Land tenure in Acholi
Gordon's fort at Mruli
The Indian origins of some African cultivated plants and African cattle
Cattle breeding problems in Uganda
The food of Tilapia in East Africa
Back Cover 1
Back Cover 2
The Uganda Journal
THE JOURNAL OF THE UGANDA SOCIETY
VOLUME 19, No. I
Ibn Batuta's Visit to East Africa A.D. 1332: a Translation
G. S. P. FREEMAN-GRENVILLB
A History of Teso to 1937 J. C. D. LAWRANCE
Tribal Names and Customs in Teso District B. NM. KAGOLO
Land and Chieftainship among the Acholi R. M. BERE
Land Tenure in Acholi D. 0. OCHENG
Gordon's Fort at Mruli SIR JOHN MIL NER GRAY
The Indian Origins of some African Cultivated Plants and African Cattle
IVaN R. DALE
Cattle Breeding Problems in Uganda DR. M. H. FRENCH
The Food of Tilapia in East Africa G. R. FIsa
Rock Paintings in Teso J. C. D. LAWRANCE
Nsimbi and his Pipe SIR JOHN M ILNER GRAY
Kabarega's Embassy to the Mabdists in 1897 SmR JOHN MILNER GRAY
Tippu Tib and Uganda SIR JOHN MILNER GRAY
On a few Fish from Bwamba LORD RICHARD PERCY AND M. W. RIDLEY
Uganda Place Names R. F. J. LINDSELL
J. J. Uganda. Bishop Willis H. B. THOMAS
Sir William Gowers: a Tribute CATr. C. R. S. PITMAN
Karamoja Bell. Captain W. D. M. Bell M.uOR B. G. KINLOCH
Tribal Crafts of Uganda (by Margaret Trowell and
Economic Development and Tribal Change (edited
Europe and Africa Iby K. Ingham) -
The Building of Mount Elgon (by K. A. Davies)
K. P. Wachsmann)
DR. J. P. CHAPIN
by A. I. Richards)
A. N. PRENTICE
THE UGANDA SOCIETY
Price Shs. 10 (1Os.)
His Excellency Sir Andrew Cohen, K.C.M.O., K.C.V.O., O.B.E.
Dr. Audrey I. Richards, C.B.E.
The Hon. Secretary
The Hon. Treasurer
The Hon. Editors
The Hon. Librarian
Dr. E. M. Chenery
Mr. W. J. A. Harris
Mr. A. H. Stump
Corresponding Secretary at Jinja:
Corresponding Secretary at Mbale:
Corresponding Secretary at Serere:
Dr. H. C. Trowell, O.B.E.
Mr. S. W. Kulubya, C.B.E.
Mr. R. B. C. Liddell
Mr. D. K. Marphatia
Mr. C. N. Mukuye
Mr. L. P. Saldanha
Mrs. K. M. Trowell, M.B.E.
Mr. J. R. Verjee
Dr. K. P. Wachsmann
Mr. H. S. S. Few
Mrs. M. M. Wallis
Dr. W. H. R. Lumsden
Dr. A. W. Southall
Mr. C. H. J. Wild
Hon. Legal Adviser
Mr. C. L. Holcom
Mr. T. R. F. Cox
Mr. F. Lukyn Williams
Mr. D. J. Parsons
Corresponding Secretary at Fort Portal: Mr. F. Gibson
H.H. Edward Mutesa 11, Kabakg Sir Mark Wilson
of Bugarfda Mr. E. B. Haddon
R. A. Tito Winyli 1, C.B.E. Mr. H. B. Thomas, o.B.E.
Sir E. F. Twining, c.C.M.G., M.B.E. Dr. A. W. Williams
Sir John Milner Gray
Sir A. R. Cook, C.M.G., O.B.E.
Mr. E. J. Wayland, C.B.E.
Dr. H. H. Hunter, C.B.E., LL.D.
Mr. H-. Jowitt, C.M.O.
Sir H. R. Hone,
K.B.E., M.C., K.C.
Mr. I. Sykes, O.B.E.
Mr. N. V. Brasnett
Captain C. R. S. Pitman,
C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C.
Mr. S. W. Kulubya, C.B.E.
Mr. E. A. Temple Perkins
Mr. R. A. Snoxall
Dr. K. A. Davies, C.M.G., O.B.E.
Mr. G. H. E. Hopkins, o.B.E.
Mrs. K. M. Trowell, M.B.E.
Dr. W. J. Eggeling
Dr. G. ap Griffith
Rev. Fr. F. B. Gaffney, W.F.
Dr. A. W. Williams
Dr. J. B. Hutchinson,
Mr. J. D. Jameson, O.B.E.
Mrs. K. M. Trowell, M.B.B.
Mr. B. K. Mulyanti
Mr. G. P. Saben
Secretary- Mrs. M. M. Wallis
THE JOURNAL OF THE UGANDA SOCIETY
DR. W. H. R. LUMSDEN}
DR. A. W. SOUTHALLj ITon. Editors
MAJOR B. G. KINLOCH, M.C.
DR. AUDREY I. RICHARDS, C.B.E.
DR. K. P. WACHSMANN
(assisted in England by H. B. THOMAS, O.B.E.)
THE UGANDA SOCIETY
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY HEADLEY BROTHERS LTD
109 KINGSWAY LONDON WC2 AND ASHFORD KENT
Ibn Batuta's Visit to East Africa A.D. 1332: a Translation
G. S. P. FREEMAN-GRENVILLE
A History of Teso to 1937 J. C. D. LAWRANCE
Tribal Names and Customs in Teso District B. M. KAGOLO
Land and Chieftainship among the Acholi R. M. BERE
Land Tenure in Acholi D. 0. OCHENG
Gordon's Fort at Mruli SIR JOHN MILNER GRAY
The Indian Origins of some African Cultivated Plants and African Cattle
IVAN R. DALE
Cattle Breeding Problems in Uganda DR. M. H. FRENCH
The Food of Tilapia in East Africa G. R. FISH
Rock Paintings in Teso J. C. D. LAWRANCE
Nsimbi and his Pipe SIR JOHN MILNER GRAY
Kabarega's Embassy to the Mahdists in 1897 SIR JOHN MILNER GRAY
Tippu Tib and Uganda SIR JoHN MILNER GRAY
On a few Fish from Bwamba LORD RICHARD PERCY AND M. W. RIDLEY
Uganda Place Names R. F. J. LINDSELL
J. J. Uganda. Bishop Willis H. B. THOMAS
Sir William Gowers: a Tribute CAPT. C. R. S. PrrMAN
Karamoja Bell. Captain W. D. M. Bell MAJOR B. G. KINLOCH
Tribal Crafts of Uganda (by Margaret Trowell and K. P. Wachsmann)
DR. J. P. CHAPIN
Economic Development and Tribal Change (edited by A. I. Richards)
A. N. PRENTICE
Europe and Africa (by K. Ingham) R. HINDMARSH
The Building of Mount Elgon (by K. A. Davies) W. PULFREY
IBN BATUTA'S VISIT TO EAST AFRICA A.D. 1332:
By G. S. P. FREEMAN-GRENVILLE
O F all the medieval Arab writers and geographers to mention East Africa
in their works, only one, Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Batuta, usually
known by the last of his names, himself visited what are today the coasts of
Somaliland, Kenya and Tanganyika. He was thus the first writer since the
anonymous author of The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, who wrote about
A.D. 60, to have personal knowledge of the coast before the coming of the
Portuguese. For this reason, and for the light he throws on the civilization and
customs of the coast, his work is of special interest.
Ibn Batuta was born in Tangier in 1304 and died in Marrakesh in 1377.
Between 1325 and his last journey into the interior of West Africa in 1353 he
visited every country of the Muslim world, reaching also, in the East, Ceylon,
Bengal and China. He made four pilgrimages to Mecca; it was after one of
these that, in 1332, he set off from Jeddah to Aden, and thence travelled to East
Africa before voyaging, by way of the South Arabian coast, to India. By pro-
fession he was a lawyer, and indeed held the office of Qadhi in several places
during his adventurous life. But more than anything he was by nature a 'globe
trotter'; his journeys were undertaken as a result of an insatiable curiosity in
other lands. His final journey, into West Africa, was undertaken because he
could not bear the thought that he had seen only the Muslims of East Africa
and not those of the West.
The only complete translation of his works is in French. It was published
with the Arabic text in 18631, and is now out of print, and most difficult to
obtain. An abbreviated English translation was published by Professor H. A. R.
Gibb in 19292. Unfortunately considerations of space led Professor Gibb to
shorten very considerably the account of his visit to East Africa. I have there-
fore translated here the complete account, since it contains many details of
information which may be valuable to those interested in the history of East
I reserve to a later date discussion of the text and comments which may be
made upon it.
Setting off from Aden, I voyaged on the sea for four days and arrived at the
town of Zeila. It is a Berber town, inhabited by a black people who follow the
Shafi'i rite. Their country is desert, continuing for a distance of two months'
journey, starting from Zeila and finishing in Mogadishu. Their wealth is in
camels, and they also possess sheep famous for their butter. The people of Zeila
are black in complexion and for the most part heretics. It is a large town with a
considerable market, but it is the filthiest town in existence, the most woe-
begone and the most stinking. The source of this odour is the great quantity
I Les Voyages d'Ibn Batoutah. Vols. 1-4. (1863) Paris.
2 Gibb, H. A. R. (1929). Ibn Battuta's Travels in Asia-Africa, 1325-1354. London:
2 UGANDA JOURNAL
of fish brought there as well as from the blood of the camels which are
slaughtered in the streets. During our stay at Zeila we preferred to spend the
night on board rather than in the town on account of its filthiness.
Leaving there we sailed for fifteen nights and arrived at Mogadishu, an
extremely large town. The people have a great number of camels, and slaughter
several hundred daily. They also have many sheep. The people are very wealthy,
and weave a cloth which takes its name from the town, and has no equal. This
cloth is exported to Egypt and elsewhere.
Among the customs of the town is the following:-
When a ship comes into port, it is boarded from sanbuq, that is, little boats.
Each sanbuq carries several young inhabitants of Mogadishu, each carrying a
tray of food. Each one of them presents the food to a merchant on board,
crying out 'This man is my guest'. They all do likewise. No disembarking
merchant goes to a house other than that of his host from among these young
men, unless he has frequently visited the town and knows its inhabitants well.
In this case he stays where he likes.
When a merchant arrives at his host's house, the latter sells for him what he
has brought and makes his purchases. The people of Mogadishu regard it with
reprobation if a man buys from the merchant an article at a price higher than
that of the market or sells the guest something without his host being present.
They find it advantageous to act in this manner.
When the young men boarded the ship on which I was, one of them
approached me. My companions said to him: 'This man is not a merchant; he
is a lawyer.' Then the young man called his companions and said to them: 'This
personage is the guest of the Qadhi.' Among them was one of the Qadhi's
servants; he informed him of this. He came down to the seashore accompanied
by a number of his pupils and sent one of them to me. I then landed with my
companions and greeted the Qadhi and his entourage. He said to me 'In the
name of God, let us go and greet the Sheikh'. I said: 'Who is the Sheikh?' and
he replied: 'The Sultan.' For the people here call their Sultan Sheikh.
I answered the Qadhi: 'When I have found my lodging, I will visit the
Sheikh.' He replied: 'It is the custom here, whenever a lawyer, or a sharif3 or
a holy man comes, that he does not go to his lodging until he has seen the
Sultan.' So I went with them as they asked.
Of the Sultan of Mogadishu-As we have said, the Sultan of Mogadishu is
only called Sheikh by his subjects. His name is Abu Bakr ibn Sheikh Omar,
and is by origin from Berbera. He speaks the dialect of Mogadishu, but knows
It is the custom, when a vessel arrives, for the Sultan's sanbuq to go out and
ask whence the ship is, who its proprietor and who its rubban-he is the pilot
or captain-what its cargo and what merchants or others may be on board.
When the crew of the sanbuq have found all this out, the Sultan is informed.
and he entertains all persons worthy of such an honour.
When I arrived at the Sultan's Palace with the Qadhi, whom I have already
3 A descendant of the prophet Muhammad.
IBN BATUTA'S VISIT TO EAST AFRICA A.D. 1332 3
mentioned-his name is Ibn al-Burhan al-Masri-a eunuch came out and
greeted the Qadhi. He said: 'Go and do your duty, and inform our Lord the
Sheikh that this man has arrived from the Hijaz.' The eunuch delivered his
message and returned, carrying a tray of betel leaves and nuts. He gave me ten
leaves and some nuts, and the same to the Qadhi; then he shared the remainder
of the tray among my companions and the Qadhi's followers. He then brought
a bottle of Damascus rose-water and sprinkled it upon me and upon the Qadhi,
and said: 'Our Master commands that he stay in the lodging of the (Qadhi's)
pupils.' Now this was a house built to entertain them.
The Qadhi took me by the hand and we went to the house. It is in the neigh-
bourhood of that of the Sheikh, and furnished with carpets and every necessity.
Later the same eunuch brought a meal from the Sheikh's house. He was
accompanied by one of the ministers whose duty it is to look after guests. He
said to us: 'Our Master greets you and bids you welcome.' After this he served
the meal and we ate it.
The food of these people is buttered rice. They serve it on a large wooden
tray. With the rice they serve side-dishes, stews of chicken, meat, fish and
vegetables. They cook bananas before they are ripe in fresh milk and serve
them in a dish. They pour the boiled milk off into another vessel, and put into
it cooked lemons and peppers cooked in vinegar and brine, green ginger and
mangos, which look like apples, except that they have a nut. When the mango
reaches maturity, it is very sweet and is eaten as a fruit; but prior to that it is
acid like a lemon, and is cooked in vinegar. When the Mogadishu people have
eaten a mouthful of rice, they swallow these salty things and the vinegar pickles.
A single one of them eats as much as several of us; it is their custom. They
are very corpulent and large-stomached.
When we had eaten, the Qadhi went home. We stayed in this place for three
days. They brought us food thrice daily, for such is their custom.
On the fourth day, which was a Friday, the Qadhi, the pupils and one of the
ministers of the Sheikh, came to visit me and brought me a suit of clothes.
Their dress is a loin-cloth (which they fasten round the waist instead of
small-clothes, of which they are ignorant), a tunic of Egyptian linen with a
fringe, a cloak of double Jerusalem stuff, and a turban of fringed Egyptian
material. They also brought suitable clothes for my companions.
We went to the principal mosque and prayed behind the Sheikh's enclosure.
When the Sheikh issued from the door of the enclosure, the Qadhi and I
greeted him. He replied with good wishes for us both, and talked with the
Qadhi in the local language. Then he said to me in Arabic: 'You are welcome;
you have honoured our country and have delighted us.'
He went out into the courtyard of the mosque, and halted near his father's
tomb which stands there. After he had recited from the Quran and prayed, the
emirs and military commanders came and greeted the 'Sultan. The ceremony
is the same as that observed in the Yemen. The man who gives the greeting
touches the ground with his forefinger and then places it on his head, saying:
'May God give you success.'
After that the Sheikh left the mosque and, resuming his sandals, ordered the
Qadhi and myself to do the same. He went on foot to his house which is near
4 UGANDA JOURNAL
the mosque, all the congregation going barefoot. Over the head of the Sheikh
was carried a coloured silken canopy mounted on four staves, each with a
golden bird on top. He wore that day a flowing cloak of green material from
Jerusalem, covering a fine and ample gown of Egyptian stuff. He was girt with
a silk sash and a voluminous turban. They beat drums before him and sounded
trumpets and clarions. The military commanders and emirs preceded and
followed him; the Qadhi, the lawyers and sharifs accompanied him.
This was the state with which he entered into his audience chamber. The
viziers, the emirs and military commanders sit on a bench arranged for them
there. A carpet is set for the Qadhi on which no other than he may sit. The
lawyers and sharifs accompany him. There they remain until the afternoon
When they have observed this prayer together with the Sheikh, all the soldiers
present themselves and stand in files according to their respective ranks. Then
they play the timbals, the clarions, the trumpets and the flutes. While these
instruments are played, no one moves or shifts from his place, and anyone who
happens to be moving stands still, and goes neither forward nor back. When
they have finished playing the military music, those present salute with their
fingers in the manner we have described and return, home. Such is their custom
On Saturday the people come to the door of the Sheikh's house, and sit on
stone benches outside the house. The Qadhi, the lawyers, the sharifs, the holy
men, the elders and the pilgrims enter into the second room and sit on wooden
benches used for this purpose. The Qadhi sits on a separate bench, and each
class of person has its own allotted bench which cannot be changed for another.
The Sheikh then seats himself in his audience chamber, and sends for the
Qadhi, who takes his place upon his left. Then the lawyers enter, and the chief
of them sit before the Sultan; the remainder salute him and return to their
original places. Then the sharifs enter, and the chief of them sit before him;
the rest salute him and return to their original places. If, however, they are
the guests of the Sheikh, they sit on his right. The same ceremonial is observed
by the elders and the pilgrims, the viziers, the emirs and the military com-
manders, each class following the other.
Food is then brought. The Qadhi, the sharifs, and those who are seated in
the audience chamber, eat in the presence of the Sheikh, who shares this feast
with them. When he wishes to honour one of his principal emirs, he sends for
him and has him eat in their company; the others eat in the outer chamber. In
this they observe the same order as in their admission into the presence of
He himself then returns to his dwelling, and the Qadhi, the viziers, the
private secretary and four of the principal emirs sit to hear causes and com-
plaints. Those concerning the Shari'ah4 are settled by the Qadhi, other matters
by the members of the council, that is, the viziers and emirs. When a matter
requires the consultation of the Sultan, they write to him, and he sends an
immediate reply, such as his prudence may decide, written on the back of the
note. Such is the custom observed continuously by this people.
4 The sacred law of Islam.
IBN BATUTA'S VISIT TO EAST AFRICA A.D. 1332 5
THE LAND OF THE ZANJ
Mombasa-I embarked at Mogadishu and set out for the land of the Sawahil
and the town of Kulwa (sc. Kilwa) in the land of the Zanjs. We arrived at
Monbasa (sc. Mombasa), a great island, two days journey by sea from the
land of the Sawahil. This island is independent of the continent, and has as
trees bananas, lemons and oranges. Its people also gather a fruit they call
jammun (sc. Eugenia-jambu) which is like an olive; it has a nut like an olive,
but its taste is extremely sweet. They do not engage in agriculture, but import
grain from the Sawahil. The greater part of their food is bananas and fish.
They follow the Shafi'i rite, and are pious, chaste and virtuous: their mosques
are very solidly constructed of wood. Near every mosque door is a well, or two,
one or two cubits deep; water is drawn with a wooden vessel to which is fixed
a thin cane, a cubit long. The earth round the mosque and the well is beaten
flat. Whoever wishes to enter the mosque begins by washing his feet. Near the
door is a piece of heavy material on which he dries them. Anyone who wishes
to make his ablutions takes the cup between his thighs, pours the water on to
his hands, and so makes his ablution. Everyone here goes barefoot.
Kilwa Kisiwani-We spent a night in this island, and then took to the sea
again to go to Kulwa, a large town built on the shore, whose inhabitants are
for the most part Zanjs, of an extremely black colour. They have incisions
in their faces, similar to those of the Limiin at Jenadah. A merchant told me
that the town of Sofala is situated at a distance of half a month's march from
Kulwa, and that from Sofala to Yufi in the land of the Limiin is a month's
journey. From Yufi powdered gold is brought to Sofala.
Kulwa is one of the most beautiful and best constructed towns: it is all
elegantly built. The concrete roofs are reconstructed with mangrove poles5. The
rains are abundant. The people carry on the Holy War, for they inhabit a land
contiguous to that of idolatrous Zanjs. Their chief qualities are piety and
devotion: they follow the Shafi'i rite.
Concerning the Sultan of Kulwa. When I arrived at the town the Sultan
was Abu Al-Mudhaffer Hasan surnamed Abu al-Muwahib, on account of the
5 It has been customary to translate this sentence: 'it is built entirely of wood.' This
cannot be correct for the following reasons. The History of Kilwa, edited from an Arabic
MS. by S. Arthur Strong (J. R. Asiat. Soc., 1895, pp. 385-430) states that, in the reign of
the Sultan whom Ibn Batuta visited, the Great Mosque had fallen into such disrepair that
the people were obliged to worship in tents. Since Ibn Batuta does not mention this, we
may suppose that the event took place after his visit. The History continues that in the
reign of Sultan Suleiman (c. 1431-1452) the mosque was restored, but that skilled masons
could not be found to do so in the ancient manner. This restoration was evident to
Dorman in 1938 (see Dorman, M. H. (1938). The Kilwa Civilization and the Kilwa Ruins.
Tanganyika Notes No. 6, 61-71) and to Dr. A. G. Mathew in 1951. Thus there was a
stone mosque at this period. Moreover, Ibn Batuta himself says that the roofs of the Kilwa
houses were (c pLj.-saqaf-a term which he uses elsewhere in contradistinction
to wood (Arabic text1, Vol. 2., p. 189), and which is the familiar Kiswahili sakafu a
concrete roof laid over mangrove poles. Ibn Batuta, who had travelled widely and seen
most of the important cities of the Muslim world, would hardly have described Kilwa
as 'one of the fairest of cities' if it had only been a wooden shanty town. We should
therefore emend L-b'il khashb-'with wood' to c, L-b'il hash
-'with elegance'. If this emendation seems bold, the question arises how a heavy sakafu
roof could be placed on top of a wooden house-clearly an architectural impossibility.
6 UGANDA JOURNAL
multitude of his gifts (muwahib) and his acts of generosity. He makes frequent
raids into the Zanj country, attacks them and carries off booty from them, of
which he sets aside a fifth, which he distributes in the manner prescribed by
the Quran. He places the portion reserved for the family of the Prophet in a
separate chest, and when sharifs come to visit him, he gives it to them. They
visit him from Iraq, the Hijaz and other countries.
I met at his court several from the Hijaz, among whom were Muhammad
ibn Jammaz, Mansur ibn Libidah ibn Abi Namii, and Muhammad ibn
Shumailah ibn Abi Namii. I saw in Mogadishu Tabl ibn Kubaish ibn Jammaz,
who also wished to visit him.
This Sultan is extremely humble; he sits and eats with beggars and venerates
holy men and sharifs. The story of one of his generous actions is as follows:-
I found myself near him one Friday as he was leaving prayers and returning
to his house. A beggar from Yemen approached him and said '0 Abu al-
Muwahib'. He replied 'Here I am, 0 beggar. What is your need?'. 'Give me the
clothes you are wearing.' 'Certainly, I will give you them.' 'At once.' 'Yes,
indeed, at once.'
He returned to the mosque and, entering the preacher's house, took off his
clothes and put on others, and said to the beggar: 'Enter and take them'.
The beggar entered, took them, wrapped them in a napkin, placed them on
his head and departed. Those who stood by showered the Sultan with thanks
for the humility and generosity he had displayed.
His son and successor designate took the clothes back from the beggar, and
gave him in exchange ten slaves. When the Sultan learned how much his
subjects praised this action, he ordered ten more slaves and two loads of ivory
to be given to the beggar. For most presents in this country are ivory; gold is
When this virtuous and liberal Sultan died-may the mercy of God be upon
him-his brother Daud became king, and conducted himself in the opposite
manner. When a poor man came to him, he said: 'The giver of gifts is dead,
and has left nothing to give.' Visitors stayed at his court a great number of
months, and only then did he give them some little thing. He did this to such
an extent that no one came more to visit him.
We embarked from Kulwa for the town of Dhafari (in Arabia)....
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937*
By J. C. D. LAWRANCE
Introduction -- 7
Early Inhabitants before the Teso Invasion 10
Origins of the Iteso 11
The First Migration-Karamoja to Usuku 1700-1800 14
The Second Migration-Spread outwards from Usuku 1800-1900 17
The Kumam in the Second Migration 19
Semei Kakunguru 1895-1899 20
Kakunguru's subjugation of Teso 1899-1904 21
Kakunguru's legacy to Teso 24
Teso administered from Mbale 1904-1909 25
The introduction of cotton 27
Teso administered from Kumi 1909-1914 29
The First World War 30
Economic and social development 31
Native administration 1909-1937 35
Chronological table (to 1951) 38
T HIS is the story of the development of Teso District and of the social,
economic and political advance of its peoples up to the year 1937, when the
conciliar system of local government, which is now adopted throughout Uganda,
was first tried out in Teso. Only fifty years ago these peoples were in a state of
naked barbarism, existing by a precarious and primitive system of shifting
cultivation, ravaged by famine, disease and inter-tribal warfare. Since the
beginning of this century Kakunguru's Sniders have established peace and
ordered government; the missionaries have brought the benefits of Christian
teaching and education; and the introduction of cotton and the plough, and the
improvement of farming methods under the British administration have raised
standards of living and resulted in rapid development of communications and
trade, bringing wealth to the district and removing the constant threat of famine
and disease. These efforts of outsiders would have achieved scant success had
not the Iteso themselves readily and quickly accepted and assimilated these
new ideas and techniques and used them to the best advantage. The resultant
wealth has been wisely invested in further improvements by Teso's progressive
Yet, less than forty years ago, Bishop Kitching expressed surprise that the
name of such a large and progressive tribe as the Teso had not appeared in any
of the works on the peoples of the Uganda Protectorate.1 His was one of the
first published works to use the name Teso. Captain Kirkpatrick recorded that
in 1898 the northern, eastern and south-eastern shores of Lake Kyoga were
populated by Wakedi.2 When Speke reached Uganda in 1862 this name, Kidi,
From the Uganda Government Essay Competition, 1953.
I Kitching (1915). 2 Kirkpatrick (1899).
8 UGANDA JOURNAL
was known throughout the western Lake Victoria region as applying to the
unsubdued and unclad tribesmen who lived on the east side of the Nile opposite
Bunyoro; and in course of time the Baganda used the name to cover the whole
of the similarly unclad peoples who extended eastwards to Mount Elgon. The
Iteso, however, claim that the name comes from Ikidea, the people of the east
(kide), the inhabitants of modem Bukedea.*
At the turn of the century Sir H. H. Johnston published his comprehensive
The Uganda Protectorate in which there is no mention of Teso. The country
then termed Bukedi was inhabited mainly by Lango and Miro tribes. "In the
southern part of Bukedi are those extraordinary marsh-lakes Kwania, Kamoda
and Kioga (sometimes called Choga)."3 At that time, therefore, Bukedi referred
to what is now Lango District. "This condition of constant swampiness-of
rivers that are narrow marshes, and of lakes that may have open water at their
centre but are belted round the sides with untraversable swamps-appears to
extend from Bukedi across the plains to the very verge of Elgon's foot-hills,
and thence again westwards to Muruli on the Victoria Nile. Between Elgon
and Bukedi, however, though the land is occasionally swampy, it is excellent
soil and a good proportion of it has been put under cultivation by the fine, tall,.
naked tribe of the Elgumi, a race speaking a language closely allied to the Silk.
Elgumi is the name given to them by the Masai. I believe they call themselves.
As late as 1908 the country now known as Lango District was still called
Bukedi. In the Intelligence Report for that year is an account of a journey by
the sub-commissioner, Unyoro District, across the Nile to the "Bukedi and
The problem of the name 'Bukedi' was ventilated, under the heading 'Tribal Nick-
names', Uganda J. 11 (1947) 65-7, and 12 (1948) 115-16.
In a following article, Mr. B. M. Kagolo, a Muganda writer, resident for eight years in
Teso District, records explanations now current in the District of the meanings of 'Bukedi'
and of other local tribal names. [ED.]
3 Johnston (1902). 4 Johnston (1902).
[EDITORIAL NOTE. An earlier reference to Teso in print is to be found in
The Church Missionary Intelligencer for May 1901, p. 370. The pioneer
missionary-linguist, the Rev. W. A. Crabtree, writing on 25 January 1901 from
"Semei Kakunguru's headquarters" (sc. Mpumude, Bugishu) reported, "There
is a people who I find are called Teso. I should think about two-thirds of the
people in Kakunguru's district speak Teso .. (which) is strikingly akin to Bari
in many of its roots and forms. I have been able to draw up a Mateka (first
reading-book), and have sent it to Mengo. Couldn't someone definitely take up
this Teso work? visiting districts unknown to any white man but un-
doubtedly belonging to Teso".
The earliest appearance of the name Teso on a map seems to be in a 1: Im.
scale War Office map dated 1905. (Old Africa series T.S.G.S. No. 1539: sheet
No. 86, Albert Nyanza.) Here it is unobtrusively inserted to the south-west of
Lake Salisbury in the midst of a series of 'mutala' names; while to the north
of the lake, stretched across the map in the manner of the mediaeval Hic sunt
leones, is the legend "Natives rich in flocks herds and food but reported
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 9
Achopi Countries".5 In another Intelligence Report of 1908 is an account,
accompanied by a map, by Captain R. H. Johnston of the 4th King's African
Rifles, of the country round Bululu and Lake Salisbury. In this is perhaps the
earliest published reference to Teso: "I heard there was not much cultivation at
Tesso but a lot of cattle and sheep, and the country north of that grass lands
with few inhabitants." 'Tesso' is shown on the map close to Abela Rock. It is
not clear whether the name refers to the area north-east of the rock or to the
rock itself: probably the former is meant, although Sir Albert Cook in Uganda
Memories records his understanding that "Teso mountain an imposing mass
of granite rocks" gave its name to the whole country. Captain Johnston called
the inhabitants of Teso, Wakedi: "The soldiers I saw at Angorla (Ngora) on
leave said the greater part of the Wakeddi of A Company, 4th K.A.R., came
from there." He also names the language Teso: "Between Seroti and Chooroo
the language changes. The language to the east being Tesso, while to the west
it is Umiro."6
In the Kumi station diary for 1909 touring by administrative officers north of
Lake Salisbury and the Agu Channel is referred to as 'visiting Teso'. The name
had at that time a localized meaning. "There was only one part of the district
which was, and is still, called 'Ateso', i.e. the land of the Iteso, and that is the
area of Usuku or Napak ."7
A map printed in 1913 shows Teso as a separate district with (somewhat
prematurely) a Government station at 'Siroti'.8 The district was bounded on the
south by Bukedi, which corresponded roughly with the modern Bugishu and
Bukedi districts without the southern county of Samia-Bugwe, and on the north
by Lango. The boundaries of Teso District when first constituted in 1912
approximated to the present ones except that Kaberamaido county was in
Lango, and Omoro County of Lango was in Teso. The people became generally
known as Teso about the same time as the district was so named. A .writer in
the 1913 Handbook in an account of Teso District refers to its inhabitants as
Bakedi, while elsewhere in the same book there appears an anthropological
account of the Bateso.8
Both the district and its people have been known by the name Teso since that
time. The Luganda form Bateso was normally used to describe the people till
Luganda went out of vogue about 1937 and now the Ateso form, Iteso, is in
general use. Of the former names Bukedi has been bestowed on the neighbour-
ing district to the south, while the term Elgumi has disappeared; the name
Wamia persisted in the Tororo area and in Kenya until recent times, though
the people formerly known as Wamia have now been officially renamed Itesio.
Although the Iteso have managed to shed their foreign nicknames of Wakedi,
Wamia and Elgumi, their neighbours in Teso, the Kumam, have not been so
lucky. Driberg states that Kumam is a bantuized form Akum, which was a
nickname given to the tribe now known as Kumam.9 The Kumam themselves
claim Lango as their real name and still refer to themselves as Lango. "They
say in ordinary conversation 'we Lango do such and such a thing' and refer to
bush paths as 'yo Lango', to native medicines as 'yat Lango'. They speak of
5 Uganda Protectorate (1908 b). 6 Uganda Protectorate (1908 a). 7 Wright (1942).
8 Uganda Protectorate (1913). 9 Driberg (1923).
10 UGANDA JOURNAL
'lep Lango' (Lango language), 'paco Lango' (Lango home), 'pone Lango'
(Lango customs)."10 Some Kumam believe the nickname was given because
they used to grieve over their cattle stolen by the Lango; kumo means 'to
grieve'. The Kumam recognize and accept this nickname and have on several
occasions attempted to alter the name of Kaberamaido County to Kumam
County; but the Iteso-dominated District Council has resisted this change.
Equally well-known is the title lkokolemu or Lango Ikokolemu. Various
derivations have been suggested for this name. Driberg believes them to have
been the 'children of Olemu' (ikoku means 'child'). Father Walshe records the
story of how "many years ago, far away in Karamoja or beyond, a certain mem-
ber of the Lango family stole a head-dress of honour-alem-and with some
other relations fled towards Lake Kyoga where they settled down among the Jo
Wer (Chopi) and learned their Nilotic language. They were called Ikokolemu
by the rest of the family, akoko in Ateso meaning 'to steal'."10 The Iteso usually
call the Kumam by the name Ikokolemu which is the title used to describe one
of the four main divisions of the Teso tribe, the other three being the Ingoratok
of Ngora, Kumi, and Bukedea Counties, the Iseera of Serere, Soroti and
Amuria Counties and the Iteso of Usuku County. The name is probably first
recorded by Captain Johnston, 4th K.A.R., in the 1908 Intelligence Report:
"It is understood that the people round Chooroo are called Cockalarumo, they
however speak Umiro language.""'
The title Kumam was, however, in current use when the 1913 Handbook was
published and, though best known to themselves as Lango or Lango Ikokolemu
and to the Iteso as Akum or Ikokolemu, the people have retained the name
Kumam to this day.
EARLY INHABITANTS BEFORE THE TESO INVASION
It has often been assumed that, because there are no traditions of wars with
previous occupants, the Iteso found their present country empty when they first
arrived in it within the last two hundred and fifty years. There are, however,
stories of a strange, dwarf race of pale-skinned people who lived in the rocks
at places as far apart as Achuloi, Asuret and Nyero. Uganda was at one time
peopled by the Bushmen, whose features and habits correspond with these
accounts.12 The well-known bent of the Bushmen for rock paintings has been
demonstrated at Nyero, Asuret and Ngora in Teso.13
The largest group of paintings is at Nyero and consists mainly of naturalistic
drawings of men, canoes, leaves and flowers and of geometric designs among
which concentric circles predominate. There is considerable superposition of
designs and two different colours of pigment are used. As a general rule
naturalistic are older than geometric drawings and the use of red pigment was
common before that of white pigment. These changes in technique and style
were very gradual and it seems likely from the evidence of the paintings alone
that the shelters at Nyero were occupied for a considerable period of time.
There is a thick deposit on the floor of the main shelter which again indicates
a long occupation, for it has yielded rough lava implements, better-shaped
10 Walshe (1947). 1" Uganda Protectorate (1908 b). 12 Seligman (1930).
13 Lawrance (1953 a).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 11
obsidian and quartz implements, and pottery. There are also numerous bones
in the deposit. From this evidence it may be surmised that these early inhabi-
tants were hunters and, if the canoe paintings are any indication, fishermen.
It is probable that the Iteso on their migrations found the last survivors of this
race of stone-age men still lurking in the rock outcrops which are a feature of
the Teso countryside. With their stone implements they would be no match for
the Iteso and their disappearance has been complete.
ORIGINS OF THE ITESO
It is generally accepted that the Iteso belong to the Nilo-Hamitic or Half
Hamitic family of tribes. This is a linguistic grouping of little value by itself
for historical deductions. But within the Nilo-Hamitic family is a small group
of contiguous tribes with a common culture and origin. Wright includes in this
group the Karamojong, Jie and Lango in Uganda; the Turkana and Suk in
Kenya; the Topotha, Donyiro and Jiye in the Sudan, and possibly the Buma
and Karo in Abyssinia. He names the group Itunga (people) on the analogy of
the use of the words Bantu and Ji or Jo to represent groups of peoples.14
Father Tarantino"s lists a more comprehensive group which he chooses to
call the 'Lango Family'. It contains:
In Abyssinia-the Dime and Bako.
In the Sudan-the Toposa, Dongotono, Lotuko and Lango.
In Kenya-the Suk, Turkana, Nandi and Masai.
In Uganda-the Lango, Teso, Kumam, Abwor, Dodoth, Jie (or Lango-
Olok) and Karamojong (or Lango-Dyang).
Gulliver16 limits the tribes comprising the group to the Teso, Karamojong,
Jie and Dodoth in Uganda; the Turkana in Kenya and the Donyiro, Jiye and
Toposa in the Sudan. This group he names the Teso Dialect Cluster from the
biggest tribe in the group. But because the Teso people now have a different
social system and culture from those of the other tribes in the group, all of
whom have close affinities other than linguistic ones and an account of common
origin, he excludes the Iteso and names the remaining tribes the 'Karamojong
Cluster' because all the tribes in it trace their origin from the Karamojong.
The Iteso too should be grouped in the 'Karamojong Cluster' for, in
addition to common cultural and social features, the tradition of origin in
Karamoja is universally held. It is indeed one of the few historical traditions
which the Iteso have.17
It is, however, of interest to note an apparent scientific objection to this
grouping, which has been brought to light by examinations of the distribution
of the sickle-cell trait in the blood of the tribes of Uganda." Whereas the
Hamitic and Nilo-Hamitic Bahima, Sebei, Suk and Karamojong show an
average percentage of sicklaemia of only 2-6, the percentage among the Iteso
is 17-8; among the Lango it is 27, which is typical of the Nilotic tribes. As a
possible solution to this scientific difficulty it has been suggested that both the
Lango and the Iteso were, like other Nilo-Hamitic tribes, largely free from
14 Wright (1942).
17 Lawrance (1953 b).
15 Tarantino (1949 a).
18 Lehmann & Raper (1951).
16 Gulliver (1952).
12 UGANDA JOURNAL
sickle-cell trait when they first came in contact with Nilotic tribes in the
country they now inhabit. Because the proportion of Nilotic people left in
Lango district was much greater than that left in Teso district, the Lango were
absorbed to a greater extent into the community they had conquered and, as
a result, show a greater percentage of sickle-cell trait than the Iteso.19 The
adoption by the Lango and the Kumam of the Nilotic language which they now
speak, supports this theory, but it is not wholly satisfactory; for there is no
evidence of any contact or wars between the invading Iteso and a resident
Nilotic people in Teso district. Until further research has been undertaken on
the sickle-cell trait as an ethnological factor the belief, backed by evidence of
tradition and culture, that the Iteso belong to the 'Karamojong Cluster' must
These traditions have been assembled and recorded:20 The ancestors of the
Iteso came from the direction of Abyssinia through Karamoja district. Their
travels lasted through six generations or ages. The first generation was known
as 'Ojurata's tadpoles'; they were men of short stature with large heads, who
lived among swamps and on lake sides. Okori's generation followed Ojurata's;
they were the men who first began to till the ground and grow crops. During
the third generation, Oyangaese's, people began to keep livestock and the
custom arose whereby men take their name from the cattle they own. During
Otikiri's generation which followed, various crafts were learned, bead-making,
tanning and the construction of musical instruments. By the fifth generation,
Arionga's, the people were established in Karamoja and known as Iworopom.
Their centres were Mount Moroto, and Okong, a place which has not been
identified. They were subjected to steady pressure from the Turkana to the
east; grazing and water were insufficient for the increased herds and so the
tribe split into three groups. The first, led by Okong and Angisa, penetrated
into what is now Teso district at Angisa near Magoro. From this first group a
subsidiary group went further afield and settled near Tororo. The second group
colonized the slopes of Mount Kamalinga (Napak) and Mount Akisim. One
of these colonizers was Alekilek, who has given his name to the curiously
shaped volcanic plug of that name. The third group stayed in Karamoja. They
are the Karamojong (aikar-to stay; imojong-old men), the tired old men
who stayed behind. Perhaps the name Teso is derived from the word ates
meaning 'child'; Teso is the land of the children who left the old men behind.
Other traditions, however, assert that the name of the tribe comes from the
name of a leader of one of the early expeditions, who was called Etesot. During
the sixth generation, Asonya's, the Iteso spread further westwards and occupied
most of the modem Teso District. This is the generation of the second migra-
tion which will be described later in more detail. It will later be shown that the
movement from Karamoja to Teso in Arionga's generation, and the spread
19 Wright (1951).
Recent information indicates that sickle-cell trait may be a character of little
ethnological significance. There is evidence that the trait is of value as a protection
against infection with certain malaria parasites and its occurrence may, therefore, be
determined not so much by a tribe's antecedents as by the prevalence of malaria in its
territory. (See Allison, A. C. (1954). Protection afforded by sickle-cell trait against
subtertian malarial infection. Brit. med. J., 1, 290-4.) [Ens.]
20 Amootoi ka Etesot (1948).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 13
westwards and southwards over the whole district during Asonya's generation,
each lasted about one hundred years and it may therefore be surmised that the
first four generations each correspond approximately to a century's span.
The only other recorded traditions are that the Iteso 'came from the East'
and that the place of origin was Iworopom due east of Usuku. The split may
have occurred at a point on the Loyoro River in Karamoja, possibly at Koten
Hill, the former home of the Jie, within the last two hundred and fifty years.21
Karamojong traditions as related to Captain Turpin in 1916 show that the
country between Mount Kadam, Mount Elgon and the Suk Hills was formerly
occupied by a tribe called the Oropom, which had similar habits, customs and
language to those of the Karamojong.21a
There are remarkably close affinities between the Teso and Toposa langu-
ages although the territories of these two tribes are separated by hundreds of
miles. How close the two languages are may be seen from a comparison of a
few words denoting animals, parts of the body and household and natural
objects. The same similarity runs through other parts of speech and all classes
English Toposa Ateso
Man (n)akile ekiliokit
Woman (n)aberu aberu
Tongue (n)angadyep angajep
Breast (n)akisim ikisina
Bull (n)emong emong
Goat (ny)akine akinei
Elephant (ny)atome etom
Leopard (ny)eris eris
Milk (ny)akile akile
Meat (ny)akiring akiring
Grass (ng)anya anya
Water akipi akipi
Smoke (ny)apurru apuru
Fire (ny)akim akim
Sun (ny)akolong akolong
Moon (ny)elap elap
Language affinity is not always good evidence but in the absence of con-
flicting evidence it may, with caution, be accepted. Gulliver, from traditions
collected among the Turkana and lie, believes that the Toposa split peacefully
from the Jie after the latter moved to their present habitat near Kotido. The
Toposa were among the last tribes of the cluster to break away and colonize
new lands. They arrived in their present country about one hundred and fifty
years ago.22 This linguistic affinity between the Iteso and Toposa may suggest
a common origin. If this is so, and if Gulliver's historical account is correct,
then the Iteso are among the most recent of the 'Karamojong Cluster' to break
off from the Jie, the parent tribe. The Jie were at that time already in their
21 Wright (1942).
21a Turpin (1948).
22 Gulliver (1952).
14 UGANDA JOURNAL
modern habitat at Kotido and it would be from there that the first Teso
THE FIRST MIGRATION-KARAMOJA TO USUKU 1700-1800
The term 'first migration' must not mislead. It is used to describe a long and
continuing process lasting perhaps a hundred or more years, consisting of
successive waves of settlement. The first migration was still in process in com-
paratively recent times. Oleumo, who is still living at Magoro and is believed
to be approaching his centenary, claims that his father brought him as a small
boy to Magoro from Karamoja. Okolimong, the soothsayer of Usuku, whose
influence was so considerable at the time British administration was first
extended to Usuku in 1909, was born at "Aarapamu beyond Angisa in
If the Iteso and Toposa obtained their separate entity after most of the other
tribes of the cluster, the date when the first migration started cannot be early
in the history of Hamitic expansion which, according to Westermann, began
about the beginning of the sixteenth century. On the other hand, it is known
from genealogical trees of the modern Iteso that the tribe was already
established in Usuku one hundred and twenty years ago.
In the later half of the seventeenth century pressure from Hamitic invaders
and a severe drought and famine caused a southward movement of the Lwo
peoples, which eventually brought the Jaluo to their present home in the
Nyanza Province of Kenya.23 There is no tradition of wars between the Jaluo
and the Iteso. Yet the Jaluo must have passed through Teso district to reach
Budama and Kavirondo. If the Iteso were by then established in Usuku, some
contact would have been likely even if the Jaluo hugged the shores of Lake
Kyoga and the Mpologoma River. It is likely therefore that the Iteso had not
yet arrived in Usuku at the time of the Lwo migration. By the end of the
eighteenth century when the Lango again started moving to the south and
west, the Iteso and the Kumam had already begun their outward expansion
It is, therefore, probable that the first migration of the Iteso which eventually
took the tribe from the area of Kotido in Jie country to the shores of Lake
Salisbury in Usuku, began with the emigration of a few families at the end of
the seventeenth or beginning of the eighteenth century. Thereafter more and
more emigrants followed the early colonists until at the beginning of the
nineteenth century the tribe was established in Usuku and its numbers had
risen to such an extent that a second migration to new lands became necessary.
The first migration may therefore be dated approximately between 1700 and
There is complete absence of tradition as to why the Iteso broke off from
the Jie. That the reasons were economic may safely be assumed but the incident
which gave rise to the break is not remembered. The derivation of the word
Karamojong from aikar-to stay behind-and imojong-the old men and of
Ikokolemu from akoko and alem has already been mentioned. Neither of these
stories is widely enough held to be of any historical value.
23 Driberg (1923).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 15
While the Iteso have no traditions on this subject the Karamojong claim
that the Iworopom (Iteso) were driven from Karamoja by force of arms.
Turpin's informants24 state that about 1830 their grandfathers organized a
SECOND MIGRATION (ITESO)
2 0 SECOND MIGRATION (ISEERA 6 KUMAM)
SECOND MIGRATION (INGORATOK)
----. MIGRATIONS SINCE 1910
The migrations of the Teso tribe.
powerful raid and completely broke up the Iworopom tribe. Some Iworopom
were captured and absorbed by the Karamojong, but others fled along the
northern base of Mount Elgon towards Teso District and others along the
24 Turpin (1948).
16 UGANDA JOURNAL
eastern side of the mountain to Wamia, the country of the Kenya Iteso. In
1894 rinderpest destroyed the cattle of the Karamojong; locusts ate up their
meagre crops, and in 1896 the rains failed and disease carried off large numbers
of their small stock. In the ensuing famine it is alleged that two-thirds of the
Karamojong tribe perished or were scattered. "Fully twenty per cent of the
eastern Kumama ... are of Karimojo, Jie and Dodosi origin." The Karamojong
did, and still do, refer to the Iteso as Kumam. "About half the Bakora section
of Karimojo emigrated to Kumama but many died of hunger or were killed
by the Kumama." That skirmishes and fights between the Karamojong and
Iworopom or Iteso took place over water or grazing in their former lands in
south-east Karamoja is probable and is implied in Teso traditions; these fights
may have culminated in the large-scale battle to which Turpin's informants
refer. It is, however, certain that by 1830 the Iteso were already established
in Usuku and that the movement of Iworopom or Iteso from their Karamoja
habitat had started many years before, prompted by pressure from their
One significant fact is the relative population of the Iteso and their parent
Jie or Karamojong. The population table in the 1913 Handbook of the
Uganda Protectorate gives the African population of Teso District as 250,141
compared with an approximate 50,000 in Karamoja and Lobor together.
Although environment may be responsible for a rapid increase and famine may
have resulted in a considerable fall in the population of Karamoja, it is incon-
ceivable that the Iteso were ever so numerically inferior to the Jie or Karamo-
jong that they could have been driven out by them. It must be assumed that
the movement was in the main a peaceful one prompted by economic necessity;
the country round Kotido is semi-arid and badly watered and there is no
reason to believe it was otherwise two hundred and fifty years ago. It is reason-
able, too, to suppose that the economy of the inhabitants at that time
approximated to the economy of their present-day descendants, for little
development has yet taken place in the area. The ancestors of the Iteso
practised nomadic pastoralism. They placed reliance more on their flocks and
herds than on agriculture, but cultivated sorghum and perhaps finger millet.
Though they lived in stockaded homesteads in the rainy season, they had to
roam far afield in the dry season in search of water and grass for their stock
on which they almost wholly depended. Any serious drought or any substantial
increase in livestock or population caused economic distress which could
only be remedied by the migration of some of the people.
It was probably a drought or famine which set the Iteso on their first migra-
tion; perhaps it was the same drought or famine which started the Lwo
migrations southwards. The numbers of families migrating may have been
few at first but when the news of the new, rich land was spread, the numbers
increased rapidly until the migratory stream reached the barrier of Lake
There the Iteso halted, for they had no knowledge of canoes. They settled,
and their numbers multiplied by the arrival of new immigrants until further
expansion was inevitable and the second migration started. To this day it is
the inhabitants of Usuku who are properly known as Iteso whereas other
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 17
members of the tribe are called by their territorial group names, Ingoratok or
The focal point seems to have been Magoro. The population to the square
mile is markedly higher in Magoro and Toroma than in any other part of
Usuku although there are no differences in climate or soil fertility.
The second migration outwards from Usuku began only in the last hundred
and fifty years. The great-grandfathers of many of the modern generation were
still living in Usuku approximately one hundred and twenty years ago, though
in one or two cases the second migration had started and the great-grandfathers
had moved to Gweri or elsewhere. Thus in Bukedea out of fifty-six persons
questioned as to the place where their ekek (extended family) founder lived
(usually the great-grandfather), twenty-two answered Magoro and nineteen
Usuku, which was a vaguer answer which would include Magoro; one answered
Kokorio and one Tisai, both places close to Magoro but on the route of the
second migration; three answered Turkana and, if their answer is to be believed,
it might indicate that the first migration was still in process when the outward
expansion from Usuku, the second migration, had begun.
The route taken during the first migration must remain a matter of con-
jecture. After the break from the parent Jie tribe the Iteso, or Iworopom as
they were then called, moved southwards towards Mount Moroto. From the
few traditions that exist it is probable that they journeyed much further south
to the country between Mount Kadam and the Suk Hills and entered what is
now Teso District from the east near Angisa and perhaps also through the
gap between Mount Akisim and Mount Napak. The most likely route would
be along the water course known as Kiriki, Greek or Kelim which drains into
Lake Salisbury near Angisa. The recurrence of the same names for geographi-
cal features along the route southwards from Jie and in Teso District itself is
interesting. Kapel occurs as the name of a rock in three places between Kotido
and Nabilatuk in Karamoja and again in Teso where it appears on maps as
Kapiri. Ngora and Komolo also appear along the route in Karamoja and in
Teso. This recurrence is not, however, of any historical value, since many of
the features are named after their shape (e.g. moruita-pointed rock) or after
trees (e.g. okoboi-Terminalia spekei).
THE SECOND MIGRATION-SPREAD OUTWARDS FROM USUKU 1800-1900
Usuku is well-watered and fertile compared with the semi-arid country
round Kotido. Flocks and herds multiplied, and all the time there was the
increasing flood of immigrants from Karamoja which was, by the beginning of
the twentieth century, to swell the population to more than double the present-
day population of all Karamoja. The new immigrants turned more to cultiva-
tion, and homesteads became more fixed; the area under cultivation grew, and
uncultivated land in Magoro began to be scarce; all around were vast
The process of the second migration was a gradual one like that of the first
migration. The first families to move out from the Magoro focus probably did
so about 1800, while families were still arriving from Karamoja. The process
continued throughout the century and the advance guards had already crossed
18 UGANDA JOURNAL
the waters of the Lwere River and the Mpologoma, into Pallisa County of
Bukedi district and into Busoga, when further expansion was blocked by the
extension of British administration in the first decade of the twentieth century.
As the country was well watered and there were no hostile tribes, the new
migrations were not confined to one particular route. All accounts agree that
there were three main thrusts outwards from the focus at Magoro.25 The first,
Kakunguru's conquest of Teso 1899-1904.
a smaller movement than the other two, was northwards to Ngariam and
Katakwi. The second was westwards by way of Kapujan in Toroma and Gweri
to Soroti and thence fanwise to Serere and Amuria and the shores of Lake
Kyoga. The third was southwards across the ford at Ochomai into Kapiri and
25 Wright (1942).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 19
thence fanwise through Ngora and Kumi counties to Bukedea and Pallisa. The
second and third migratory streams met again along the waters of the Agu
Channel, which separates Serere and Ngora counties. The first and the second
migratory streams met in eastern Amuria. All three movements were taking
place at the same time.
Those who crossed the ford at Ochomai were the forefathers of the modern
Ingoratok, and those who migrated north or west founded the Iseera. These
two groups of the tribe, called after the places where they settled, Ngora and
Serere, have differences in dialect (which is why the groups are called ineresinei,
from einer-to speak) and in age-set ceremonies. The people of Bukedea are
often classed as Ingoratok but by tradition are really a separate small group,
the Ikidea, who migrated eastwards (kide) from the Ngora and Kanyum areas.
Those who stayed in Usuku retained the name Iteso.
The spread of Iteso in the second migration had important economic effects
on the tribe. The Jopaluo bartered iron hoes with the Lango and the Lango in
their turn would retail their surplus hoes to the Kumam amongst whom they
would exchange the hoes for cattle, three hoes-such was their scarcity-being
the equivalent of one heifer.26 Previous to this, the Iteso had used only wooden
hoes. The Bantu tribes also carried on a lively trade with the Iteso on the Lake
Kyoga littoral. Banyoro iron work was exchanged for hides, skins, goats and
ivory. Bark cloth and beads were much welcomed trade goods and the Kumam
even in the early part of the twentieth century wore barkcloth strips. But the
most notable import was the sweet-potato and the groundnut, both of which
crops were previously unknown. Oleumo of Magoro, who is mentioned above,
claims to recall the day when the Iteso had no knowledge of these crops. The
fertility of the soil and the plentiful rainfall and consequent increased crop
yields made the change from pastoralism to agriculture complete. This in turn
had an effect on the size and construction of the family homestead. Homesteads
became permanent for there was ample land in the vicinity of the homestead
even for shifting cultivation. The population began to increase rapidly.
The extension of trade with neighboring tribes also brought the Iteso into
contact with other foreigners. Among the wars recorded with the Lango is one
between the Iteso of Katakwi and the Lango of Moroto County. The Iteso
had killed Obwa Witum's brother when he came to sell ivory to one of the
Arab or Abyssinian buyers.27 There are stories of Arab slavers, who were
greatly feared, who brought slaves across Lake Kyoga and were not averse to
picking up more on the way. In 1898 the campaign against Kabarega and the
Sudanese mutineers brought expeditions of Baganda. The Iteso and Kumam
were looted and pillaged by both sides. They were also constantly at war
among themselves until Semei Kakunguru brought a semblance of peace and
order to the district.
THE KUMAM IN THE SECOND MIGRATION
The Kumam traditions only date back to the time when they were living in
the original Teso focus at Magoro. There is the story of a poor man named
Amam who lived on the shores of Lake Salisbury. He moved to Soroti and
26 Driberg (1923). '27 Tarantino (1949 b).
20 UGANDA JOURNAL
became prosperous and the advance parties of his group pushed on to Kamoda
and Lale without opposition.28
Evidence from an elderly Chopi informant living at Bululu indicates that the
Kumam first came in contact with the Chopi at a time when the informant's
great-grandfathers were alive, which would presumably be about 1840; the
Kumam, who were known to the Chopi as Lango while the people now known
as Lango were called Miro, had come from the direction of Kamoda and Lale
and spoke a language which was foreign to the Nilotic speaking Chopi. Other
traditions show that the ancestors of the Kumam came by way of Soroti, Lale
and Kamoda from Angodingod in Toroma.29
On this evidence it would appear that the break between the Teso and
Kumam tribes is recent and dates only from the time of the second migration.
Or if the Kumam broke away from the Jie at approximately the same time as
the Iteso and became a separate entity they must have followed the same
migratory route and have been very friendly with the Iteso.
The former theory is the more likely. Driberg believes that the change in
language among the Kumam took place within the period 1870-1920. It was
not uncommon in his day to find old men in the Kumam villages who spoke
nothing but their original Teso mother-tongue. Lango tradition, too, confirms
that when the Lango first contacted the Kumam four days' to the south-east
(which would place them approximately near Magoro) they spoke a language
unlike Lango but more like that of the Langudyang (Karamojong).30 Kumam
dances, ornaments, marriage customs and agricultural methods are identical
with the Teso ones. There is, moreover, an unbroken tradition of peace with
the Iteso, and the Kumam and Iteso frequently intermarry.
Relations between the Lango and Kumam were also friendly before they
came in close contact with each other and economic differences arose. In the
beginning of the 19th century the second migration brought the Kumam up to
the banks of the Omunyal River and the shores of Lake Kyoga in the modern
Kaberamaido county without meeting any opposition. But when they advanced
further towards the Abalang River they met the Lango, who were migrating
southwards and who had reached Ochero. This contact resulted in a breach
of the friendly relations which had hitherto existed. In the ensuing fight the
Kumam were routed by the Lango and driven back across the Omunyal
Thereafter the initiative passed to the Lango, who continually raided the
Kumam and penetrated as far as Katine near Soroti. The Kumam never again
advanced beyond the Omunyal River until Semei Kakunguru with his army of
Baganda took up their cause and established them on the line of the Abalang
SEMEI KAKUNGURU 1895-1899
Semei Lwakilenzi Kakunguru was already a tried general and an important
political figure in Buganda when he paid what was probably his first visit to
Lango and Teso in 1895. He was married to a sister of the Kabaka Mwanga
28 Wright (1942).
30 Driberg (1923).
29 Walshe (1947).
31 Driberg (1923).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 21
and after the Bunyoro campaign of 1893-4 had been allotted the chieftainship
of part of the captured lands, the modern Bugerere County.
In 1895 Kakunguru joined a force under William Grant with some 400
Baganda. An attack was made on Kabarega's position opposite Mruli, which,
although successful, failed to secure the capture of Kabarega. Forty Baganda
were killed in action and Kakunguru withdrew to Bugerere. There followed a
dispute with Apolo Kagwa, the Katikiro, which resulted in a court case at
Mengo in which Kakunguru was severely fined. He thereupon resigned his
office of Kimbugwe, withdrew from Buganda politics to his home in Bugerere,
and thereafter turned his attention to Lango and Teso.
"Captain Sitwell in the course of a patrol of northern Buganda in
February 1896, visited Kakunguru at his home in Bugerere and discussed
means of coming to terms with the 'Bakedi', the naked tribesmen from the
far side of Lake Kyoga, who were thought to be in league with Kabarega,
and who periodically raided on the southern side of Lake Kyoga. With them
Kakunguru was already gaining touch, laying the foundations of the influ-
ence which played so great a part in his subsequent career; and in September
1896, he brought a deputation of Kumam and Teso chiefs to Mengo to ask
for protection against the Lango."32
It was in that year that he established his first fort in Teso, on Kaweri Island
in Lake Kyoga, with an expedition of fifty rifles under A. Gwantamu. Posts
were also established on the two rocky islets in the vicinity. The remains of
this occupation can be seen in the stone foundations of granaries, the mill-
stones and numerous nsambya trees. Kirkpatrick in 1898 recorded that
"Kakunguru has a fort on Kaweri Island and says he is their chief. He says
there are about 200 men on the island".33
In the following year Kakunguru was fully occupied in campaigning against
the mutineers but in 1898 he accompanied Captain Kirkpatrick of the
Macdonald Expedition on a reconnaissance of Lake Kyoga. The following year
with 440 Baganda auxiliaries he joined Lieutenant-Colonel Evatt's 'Wakeddi
Field Force' at Chiawanti in Lango. The force was ferried across Lake Kwania
to the Namasale peninsula and in April 1899 surprised and captured both
Kabarega and Mwanga at Kangai. "It is generally agreed that Kakunguru's
influence enabled him to induce the Lango to reveal the enemy's movements;
it is even claimed that he personally extracted Kabarega from the swamp in
which he had taken refuge."34
The acting Commissioner, Colonel Ternan, then placed Kakunguru in
charge of the area to the north of Lake Kyoga "to bring the unruly tribesmen
under control and keep the region free of mutineer fugitives".35 He was given
a number of guns but no subsidy and made his headquarters at Kagaa.
KAKUNGURU'S SUBJUGATION OF TESO 1899-1904
The fascinating story of how Kakunguru completed the subjugation of Teso
and Mbale districts within the space of five years is told in a lengthy manuscript
32 Thomas (1939). 33 Kirkpatrick (1899). 34 Thomas (1939).
35 Thomas (1939).
22 UGANDA JOURNAL
by one of his lieutenants, Simoni Waswa.36 The pattern of occupation was every-
where the same; first an armed expedition would be made from an established
fort to a new area; the pretexts were often obscure, sometimes a request for
help from a warring faction or sometimes a threat of attack by local inhabi-
tants; after skirmishes or pitched battles a new fort would be established and a
garrison of armed Baganda installed. This garrison would then extend its
influence over the surrounding countryside by establishing armed posts or
minor forts. When local opposition had been overcome the region would be
proclaimed a saza and the smaller areas controlled by the outlying posts would
be defined as gombololas. Baganda chiefs were appointed down to muruka
At the time of the capture of Mwanga and Kabarega in April 1899 Kakun-
guru's only fort was on Kaweri Island. He immediately set to work to establish
a base on the mainland in the heart of the area he was to administer. The fort
at Kagaa in Lango close to the Teso border took only three weeks to build; its
massive ramparts, which can be seen to this day, must have required the labour
of many hundreds of unwilling workers. The Lango did not attack in force
until after the fort was completed and they were then repulsed. Kakunguru at
this time could command some 500 rifles, but they were not concentrated at
Kagaa. Subsidiary posts had already been opened at Kangai, Ekwera, Dokolo,
Akabo, Chakwara and Aputi. Lango attacks continued and within three
months 25 Baganda had been killed in action. Nevertheless, in October 1899,
Kakunguru felt he could leave Kagaa and journey to Serere peninsula by canoe,
where he established a fort at Sambwe on the lake shore, which he left under
the command of Maraki Magongo with 90 rifles. A new saza was proclaimed,
the first in Teso, organized on the Buganda model with a hierarchy of Baganda
chiefs. Occupation of the Serere peninsula involved fighting and bloodshed,
but contact had been established for some years from Kaweri Island and
opposition was slight. Next month reinforcements of 150 rifles arrived at Kagaa
from Buganda and Kakunguru immediately took the field against his principal
enemy, the Lango. In a pitched battle at Dokolo, Baganda rifles triumphed
over the bravery of the Lango; casualties were heavy on both sides. The saza
of Dokolo was then proclaimed. In eight months Kakunguru had lost 73 men
in the fighting and many more by disease. Early in 1900 he moved his head-
quarters from Kagaa fort to Bululu, which was made the headquarters of a
new saza of Kumam under Reuben Bitege.
His fame had spread as far as Usuku, for Omiat of Komolo came to Bululu
to beg his assistance against his neighbours. But Kakunguru had now received
a wider commission. Sir Harry Johnston had arrived in Uganda to draw up the
Buganda Agreement. There was no place in Buganda for Kakunguru. He had
quarrelled openly with Apolo Kagwa and Buganda could not hold two such
personalities as theirs. Sir Harry Johnston was, however, so impressed by
the capable manner in which Kakunguru had set about his task of subjuga-
ting the Lango that he proposed that he should be graded as a sort of Assistant
District Commissioner; he told him "to extend his influence eastwards through
the Teso country where scattered mutineers, Baganda rebels and Arab slave
36 Waswa (1950).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 23
dealers were harassing the country".37 In 1900 Kakunguru accordingly moved
his main force of 300 rifles through the Serere peninsula to Pallisa. He was
never again to be based in Teso, but he continued to direct operations from his
new headquarters in Mbale District.
The same technique was followed. He first assembled a field force at his
new headquarters in Bugwere by calling in some of the Serere and Kumam
garrisons, and then presented a demand to the Teso chiefs to allow a fort at
Bukedea. The field force of 350 rifles crossed the Lwere River and routed the
Iteso at Kidongole without difficulty. The Baganda found Bukedea itself
deserted. Scouting expeditions ranged as far as Mkongoro and Agule, but on
this occasion no forts were established. Kakunguru had already become
involved in his Bugishu campaigns, which demanded his personal leadership.
Nevertheless, at the end of 1900 he sent a force of 250 rifles from Pallisa to
subjugate Ngora. A fort was established at Pege in spite of vigorous opposition
from the Iteso of Ngora and Kumi and, in the following year, Ngora was pro-
claimed a saza under Jafari Mayanja. On the way back to Pallisa the column
built Mkongoro fort, the remains of which can still be seen, and left a garrison
of 50 rifles in it. The Baganda did not have it all their own way, for an attempt
to establish a fort at Kumi was foiled by the Iteso of Nyero.
These spectacular successes had lured large numbers of Baganda to Kakun-
guru's standard by promise of the quick rewards of a freebooter's life. He was
unable or unwilling to check the excesses of these followers, who extorted and
plundered without hindrance. Eventually complaints filtered through to the
British authorities and an administrative officer was sent to investigate. He
found that the complaints were indeed justified; the country was desolated;
food reserves and livestock were seized by the Baganda and houses and crops
destroyed. It was therefore decided that the British administration should
assume direct control of the region.
Kakunguru was at Budaka surrounded by his satellite horde of armed
Baganda. W. R. Walker, an administrative officer, with 40 police, was given
the task of relieving him of his commission; he had to persuade Kakunguru to
haul down the Union Jack which he flew and to settle at Mbale without any
executive authority. The negotiations were long and stormy but Walker was at
last successful. It was his followers, not Kakunguru himself, who had pillaged
the country and all these men had to be removed once Kakunguru had agreed
to resign from the head of affairs. While Walker kept watch at Budaka,
William Grant, the Provincial Commissioner, toured the Teso forts. At Bululu
he left Musabira, a Munyoro, in charge with a Banyoro garrison. The Baganda
were withdrawn from the outposts and concentrated at the new centre at
Mbale. The same action was taken at Serere, where the saza fort had been
built when Sambwe was abandoned, at Ngora and at Mkongoro; in these three
centres Grant left parties of Uganda Government police. Kakunguru's 5,000
followers congregated round him at Mbale and planted their gardens and trees.
Apart from these garrisons at four centres in Teso there was no governmental
control for the next two years by which time an administrative centre had been
opened in Mbale.
37 Thomas (1939).
24 UGANDA JOURNAL
It was the first wish of the new administration that Kakunguru should
complete his great work in Teso and in 1904 he was sent by the District Com-
missioner, Mbale, to establish posts at various places in Serere, and at Soroti
and Gweri, which had hitherto been unadministered. On this expedition forts
were built at Kumi, which became the headquarters of a new saza including
the old Ngora Saza, and at Bukedea; outposts were established at Kapiri,
Mukura and Aturitur. Many of his Baganda followers were taken on to the
Government pay-roll and posted back to the outposts held before the with-
drawal two years earlier. In the same year Soroti was constituted a saza under
Reuben Bitege, who had formerly ruled Kumam, and Bukedea was placed
under Luka Lukanda.
Kakunguru then disappears from the Teso scene to engage in varied activities
in Mbale and Busoga, and to die, twenty-five years later, an embittered and
fanatical old man.
KAKUNGURU'S LEGACY TO TESO
"Teso's first experience of civilized ideas of government was brought by
Semei Kakunguru, the able Muganda chief, who first reduced the district to
order, cut the roads, and began to direct the local chiefs. The way in which
he handled the country is a good illustration of the rare capacity of the
Baganda for organization and government, and also of their rapacity and
overbearing tone towards all whom they consider beneath them. Order was
indeed established, but rather after the method of making desolation and
calling it peace; Kakunguru and his dependents accumulated cattle in large
numbers, and many seem to have regarded the country as a sort of Eldorado,
to which resort might be had in times of failure or disgrace at home."38
Although the excesses of his followers eventually brought about Kakunguru's
downfall, his brief rule resulted in lasting benefits to the district. When he
started his great work at Kagaa in 1899 he found warfare and anarchy; when
he left Teso in 1904 the district was peaceful with an ordered government on
the Buganda model, with a hierarchy of officials owning allegiance to a central
power. It was organized into five counties under Baganda county chiefs, based
on the forts at Bukedea, Kumi, Soroti, Serere and Bululu. Any organization
which might run contrary to his system he suppressed. The age-set ceremonies
were rigidly forbidden either because they interfered with road-making and
other communal duties or because they were the basis of a military organiza-
tion. So successful was this suppression that, in spite of the importance of these
ceremonies in the social life of the people until that time, the structure of the
ceremonies is today virtually forgotten. The organization of his government was
so firmly established that it was accepted by the Iteso without opposition, and
it is even believed by some of the modern generation that the present system
His occupation affected the language of the country. It is to be expected that
Luganda words would be adopted for objects with no Ateso equivalent such as
ekitabo (book) and emudu (gun); Luganda borrowed many of these words from
Kiswahili. But the influence of Luganda went much further and even common
words have been replaced by Luganda equivalents such as imisirin (from the
38 Kitching (1912).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 25
the Luganda emisiri-gardens) instead of the Ateso word imanikoria. Other
examples are egudo (road), amucalat (lady), emukopit (peasant), emusago
(court case) and elukumi (one thousand). In all these instances the Luganda
form has been accepted into the Ateso language in preference to a vernacular
Of visible works his greatest achievement was his road system, which has
formed the basis of the modern road network of the district. Although some
of his roads have since been abandoned, their direction can still be seen by the
lines of imported nsambya or mvule trees, which he caused to be planted at
the road sides. The roads, bridges, houses and forts required a continual supply
of local labour, which Kakunguru ensured was always forthcoming. When he
built his.station at Bululu he commanded labour from places as far afield as
Asuret, Arapai, Soroti, Lale, Kamoda and Katine. His forts soon fell into
disrepair for they were not required. The work of subjugation had been quickly
and efficiently done and there was little recourse to further fighting.
TESO ADMINISTERED FROM MBALE 1904-1909
The distant administrators of Mbale could exercise but scant control over
the vast expanses of Mbale and Teso Districts. Intelligence reports as late as
1908 show that Teso was then unmapped and largely unexplored. The Baganda
at the various outposts could but rarely be visited, and unadministered tribes
on the northern and eastern marches caused continual trouble. The Collector
at Mbale was informed, by W. D. M. (Karamoja) Bell in 1906, of armed raids
on the Iteso for cattle by "Greeks and a Somali".
Musabira, who had been left by Grant in charge of Kumam county at
Bululu in 1902, was shortly afterwards killed by the Lango while on a punitive
expedition in their country. His death was, however, unlucky for the Lango.
His relative, Kazana, who succeeded him, was an able general and inflicted
several crushing defeats on the Lango. Under his protection the Kumam moved
up to the Abalang River never to leave that country again. "Unassisted by
Government, he extended his influence over the whole Kumam area. This very
considerable influence Kazana placed unreservedly at the disposal of Govern-
ment, when in 1907 British administration was commenced at Bululu."39 His
influence was indeed considerable. It is recorded in the 1908 Intelligence Report
that "there is a stream six feet deep and eight feet wide running between
Terrerie and Papaye, which divides Kazana's country from the Mbale dis-
trict".40 Driberg ranks Kazana in his day as the most potent enemy with whom
the Lango have had to deal.41 Kazana followed Kakunguru's policy of alliance
with the Kumam against the Lango. "In spite of vigorous resistance the Lango
were forced back almost to the line of the Abalang, with the exceptions of
Agaya (now known as Kagaa or Ochero) and their outposts on the Namasale
peninsula, and Kazana introduced among the Akum, who were now fast
spreading westwards, a system of administration planned on the Baganda
model. This system he organized and developed, including within its scope the
Lango settlements at Agaya and Awelo."41 Kazana was recognized as chief of
39 Uganda Protectorate (1913). 40 Uganda Protectorate (1908 b).
41 Driberg (1923).
26 UGANDA JOURNAL
the Kumam country when British administration was extended to that part of
Uganda and he continued in office until his retirement in 1918. With the
opening of the first administrative station for Lango at Bululu in 1907'responsi-
bility for the Kumam area passed from Mbale. More than thirty years were to
pass before it was again included in Teso district. Bululu was soon abandoned
in favour of Nabieso and little remains today to mark the site of the station
except the well-tended graves of the two Europeans who died there.
There were troubles on the eastern border. Kakunguru had never seriously
attempted to administer Usuku. Some Baganda had settled at Kokorio on the
north shore of Lake Salisbury in 1901 but an administrative post was not
established there until 1905 when posts were added also at Kapujan, Amusia
and Magoro. This invasion from across the lake was resented and in 1907 it
was necessary for the D.C., Mbale, to take a force of police to arrest the
ringleaders of the opposition at Toroma. Meanwhile an attempt was made
to open the way to Usuku across the Komolo swamp and Reuben Kagwa
led an expedition to found an outpost at Abela Rock. There was a pitched
battle with the Iteso, who were worsted, but when the Baganda tried to
establish a post at Katakwi, they were driven back to their base. In 1908
Enosi Kagwa Rujumba advanced again to the Komolo and established a fort.
In the following year with Baganda reinforcements from various places in
Teso and from Mbale he succeeded in making forts at Abela and Usuku,
which became the headquarters of a new saza under his rule. Attempts to
extend his influence to Ngariam were repulsed. Affairs in the new county were
at that time dominated by Okolimong, whose position was strengthened by his
allegedly magic powers. He had foretold the coming of the Baganda "wearing
clothes which look like butterflies". Fortunately his attitude was friendly and
his influence ensured that the new county quickly became settled.
From the outset the British administration confirmed the position of local
Iteso leaders. Outstanding among these was Oumo of Kumi, whose influence
extended over a large part of Kumi county and over the lake to Magoro. He
was a man of considerable wealth "whose home at Kabata covered an area of
half a square mile and whose children formed two football teams". At Ngora
Ijala commanded equal prestige. Ijala had quarrelled with his father, who had
forced him to leave home and take refuge with friends in Busoga. There he
acquired a knowledge of Luganda. When Kakunguru set up his headquarters
in Pallisa, Ijala joined him and returned to Ngora in 1901 with the Baganda
column to take his revenge. He soon persuaded his Baganda overlords to kill
his father and to put him in his place. Under Baganda protection he extended
his influence over the whole of Ngora County. His rule was precarious in its early
stages and his houses were fortified and continually guarded. Both Oumo and
Ijala remained in power after the administrative station was established at
Kumi in 1909. Ijala was, however, soon in trouble for cutting off a man's ears
for committing adultery with one of his wives. He survived this misdemeanor.
although the D.C., Kumi, fined him twenty head of cattle.
Except in outlying parts of Usuku there was little trouble in the District
and by 1908 the country was settled enough for the first missionary, the Rev.
A. L. Kitching of the Church Missionary Society, to build his house at Ngora.
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 27
In the 1908 Intelligence Report it is recorded that "there are Hindi shops at
Bululu, Serere, Angorla, Kangoro, Kumi, Makurrah, Kapiri, Seroti and
Kararki".42 In 1909 a sub-station of the Mbale Collectorate was established
THE INTRODUCTION OF COTTON
The opening of Kumi administrative station marked the start of an economic
revolution in Teso. Credit for the introduction of cotton into the district
probably belongs to the C.M.S. It is recorded that in the 1908/9 season 4,056
lb. of seed cotton were obtained from Kumi District. Government followed up
this modest beginning with an all-out effort with spectacular results. In 1909
a cotton instructor was appointed and a year later a ploughing instructor
started a ploughing school at Kumi; and, in the following year, the first cotton
experimental station was founded at Kadunguru. Within a year the cotton crop
had jumped from 4,056 lb. to 500 tons, which was one-eighth of Uganda's total
crop. Thereafter it rose rapidly to 8,836 tons in 1913/14, which was one-third
of the Protectorate crop. This rapid increase was not achieved without much
patient experimental work by the District Agricultural Officer, R. G. Harper,
who spent some fourteen years of his service in Teso. It was Harper who
evolved N.32 seed to replace the Allen and Sunflower, thereby improving the
yield and bringing increased wealth to the district. In the first year of the new
seed the crop rose from 2,424 to 11,803 tons, although the cultivated acreage
rose only from 47,000 to 84,000. His N.17 seed was even more successful and
was still in use in very recent times. Harper stayed in Teso long enough to
witness the closing in 1916 of the Kadunguru Experimental Station, where he
had begun his work, in favour of a site at Simsa near Soroti and, in 1920, the
removal from Simsa to the present site of the experimental station at Serere.
An equally important innovation was the plough, which made the planting
of increased acreages of cotton possible. Progress was, however, slow to begin
with. In the ploughing school's first year sixteen oxen were provided by chiefs
for training and twenty acres were ploughed at Ngora. Soon chiefs began to
buy their own ploughs. Nevertheless, in spite of a second ploughing school at
Kadunguru, there were only about 200 ploughs in use in the district by 1920.
It had been difficult to obtain ploughs during the war years and prices had
risen, but in that year supplies began to be more plentiful and prices began to
drop. Thereafter the number of ploughs in the district rose in a spectacular
manner to some 40,000 at the present day.
The rapid increase in the cotton crop produced an equally rapid expansion
in communications. The seed cotton had at first to be transported to Kampala
or to Kenya for ginning. There were no carts in the district-the first ox-cart
to be seen in Teso was brought by the ploughing instructor who opened the
Kumi ploughing school in 1910-and the roads were in any case unfit for such
traffic. The whole cotton crop had to be carried by head-loads to the lake ports.
In two months in 1914 no less than 38,000 porters had to be found by the
administration for this purpose and 5,000 tons of cotton were moved in this
way. Meanwhile efforts were being made to find better means of transport and
42 Uganda Protectorate (1908 b).
28 UGANDA JOURNAL
by 1917 it could be said that "porter transport of cotton is now, it is hoped,
a thing of the past".43
Donkeys and camels were tried without success, and it was on a canal for
marine transport from Lake Kyoga to Lake Salisbury that the administration
pinned its early hopes. The scheme was never successful but it was not finally
abandoned until 1918 after considerable expenditure and effort. In 1913 some
900 men were employed on weed cutting in the channel from Sambwe to Agu.
The cost of extending the canal to Lake Salisbury was then estimated at
"The passage if made successfully would be the most important develop-
ment scheme accomplished in the district. It would open up the rich country
north of Lake Salisbury and bring it and the as yet unadministered country
on its borders within a few days of Jinja and along its whole length the canal
would serve the richest cotton growing-area in the Protectorate."44
Grave difficulties were soon apparent. Mechanical weed-cutters were not avail-
able and cutting by hand was unpopular and slow. Although a channel was
cleared as far as Agu, it quickly became blocked again and additional labour
had to be found to secure the sides of the canal with stakes. After survey, which
disclosed that, in January 1914, the level of Lake Salisbury was 321 feet higher
than that of Lake Kyoga, a fear was expressed that an extension of the canal
to Lake Salisbury might lower the level of water in that lake. Nevertheless, by
1914 steamers of the Busoga Railway Marine were plying regularly at Bugondo
and two new ports were opened at Sambwe and Lale. A lighter worked
between Agu and Sambwe "handling about 30 tons of cargo a month, a fraction
of the amount of cargo available for export from this port".45 The inland water-
ways of the district were put to good use. Fleets' of canoes owned by the
missions, or by the Native Administration, ferried cotton across Lake Salisbury
and from Meroki to Lake Kyoga. As late as 1918 "the half-pressed bales from
the Kumi and Toroma ginneries of the Uganda Company are transported to
Gweri by Lukiko canoes across Lake Salisbury. They are then carted over the
earth road to Soroti for pressing and the bales are finally shipped at Lale".46
The outbreak of war reduced the funds available for weed-cutting and a
startling drop in the water level in 1917 and 1918 eventually killed all hopes of
steamers using Agu Port; even at Lale the steamer had to stand well out in
The need for a port at Agu in any case no longer existed. After the establish-
ment of two ginneries at Bugondo by the B.E.A. Corporation and the Bukedi
(Uganda) Cotton and Trading Company in 1912 the number of ginneries in
Teso rose rapidly. Two years later there were five, and five years later ten,
ginneries working. By 1920 the number had risen to twenty; this number proved
uneconomic and within a few years some ginneries fell silent.
A steady effort had meanwhile been made to improve road transport. In 1913
work was begun on the metalling and culverting of main roads and some
commercial firms began to use ox-carts. Their experiments were sometimes
43 Teso District Annual Report (1916/17). 44 Teso District Annual Report (1912/13).
45 Teso District Annual Report (1913/14). 46 Teso District Annual Report (1917/18).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 29
premature, for earth roads did not stand up to this traffic. By 1915 the road
from Bugondo to Serere had been metalled and a steel bridge constructed at
Kyere, while on the east side of the Agu Channel a metalled road ran from
the ferry at Agu to Kumi. The road from Soroti to Lale Port was by then
strong enough to carry the steam tractor and trucks of the Bombay-Uganda
Syndicate. Shortly after the war the roads had been improved to such an extent
that motor transport became possible and by 1929 the railway had reached
TESO ADMINISTERED FROM KUMI 1909-1914
The rapid expansion of communications for the needs of the cotton industry
was only one of the many problems which faced the early administration in
Teso. The many urgent tasks which this expansion entailed necessitated the
establishment of a full administrative post within the area. Kumi District was
formally constituted by Proclamation on 11 July 1912. Previously the area
admimstered from Kumi had been part of Bukedi District administered from
Mbale, although for all practical purposes it had been a separate district since
the station was first opened at Kumi in 1909. Kakunguru's administrative
arrangement, whereby the whole area was divided into five counties of Bukedea,
Kumi, Serere, Soroti and Usuku, was retained in the new district. The
boundaries of the new district were approximately the same as they are today,
except that the modem Kaberamaido county formed part of Lango District;
northern Amuria and the country round Omoro was included in the district
but was unadministered.
This unadministered territory to the north and north east caused immediate
"The general state of native affairs in that part of Usuku county bordering
on the Koromojan unadministered territory was far from satisfactory
throughout the year. The chiefs and people in this county are very backward
and it will be some years before agents can be removed with safety. Lawless
behaviour was frequent and several murders were committed, the people
taking refuge in Koromoja in anticipation of inquiry and proceedings as
they also do on the approach of tax-collectors. In January serious distur-
bances occurred. The natives of the Nariam and Adachal centres under
Headman Jotum murdered chief Amuge and 17 of his people and carried off
a number of cattle. They fled into Koromoja with their cattle on the
approach of the district officers ."47
In the north the Lango living in the unadministered part of the district con-
tinually raided their more peaceful neighbours near Orungo. In 1914 punitive
measures were undertaken by the D.C. with a patrol of the King's African
Rifles. The raiding Lango were effectively punished and stolen cattle restored,
but no immediate effort was made to extend administration beyond Orungo.
The patrol then proceeded successfully to punish the murder of chief Amuge.
Jotum himself was shot while resisting arrest and the stolen cattle were
47 Teso District Annual Report (1913/14).
30 UGANDA JOURNAL
Raids by the Lango continued until, in 1915, it was decided to establish a
post at Omoro in the heart of the unadministered country. The post was
put under a Muganda agent and visited monthly by administrative officers.
Although it was resented by some local headmen, against whom strong action
had to be taken, there was no further need to resort to armed force. Within
two years the Lango in the area were planting cotton and paying tax. Omoro
was shortly afterwards constituted as a separate county, which was ceded to
Lango District a few years after the war in the administrative reorganization,
which also transferred Bukedea County to Bugwere District.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
The administrative centre at Kumi had been sited as a sub-station of
Mbale and, although the population is at its densest in the neighbourhood of
Kumi, it was soon found that the station was inconveniently placed as the
headquarters of the new Teso District. The decision to move to Soroti 'for
administrative reasons' was taken shortly after the formal constitution of the
district in 1912.* The move took place shortly before the outbreak of World
War I two years later. The new station had an unlucky start. Within four
months the District Commissioner and another officer had died of blackwater
fever. The only permanent buildings on the new site were two houses and the
district office and strongroom. The war effectively stopped all further develop-
ment, so that living and working conditions for the government staff were far
from satisfactory. At the end of the war the D.C. recorded somewhat peevishly
that "in spite of the heavy influx of European officials into the district, attention
was being given to building of an experimental laboratory at Serere in prefer-
ence to much needed housing in Soroti".48 The opening of Bugondo as a port
and the erection there in 1912 of two ginneries had made it the trade centre of
the district. Plans and surveys were made in anticipation of Bugondo develop-
ing as the largest town in the district. The traders were at first slow to move
to the new headquarters at Soroti. Transport and mail facilities were better at
Bugondo and even as late as 1919 all telegrams from Soroti had to be sent to
Bugondo post office by runner. Nevertheless, in spite of restrictions caused by
the war, the new township at Soroti continued to grow. By 1917 "building of
permanent shops at Soroti has proceeded in spite of the war. Bugondo is
now stagnant and has little trade except what is brought by the two
ginneries".49 When, to commemorate peace in 1919, the D.C. planted the
avenue of jacaranda trees, which is still a feature of the town, Soroti had taken
on its present form and layout. It was not the last time that there was talk of
moving the district headquarters. The site near the rock was hot and malarial
whereas on the water-shed at Arapai less than seven miles away the climate
was noticeably cooler and fresher. When the railway survey showed that the
railway station was to be sited at Arapai there was an added reason for moving
the town. But while the pros and cons were discussed, more buildings went up
Soon after his appointment as Governor Sir Frederick Jackson toured across Lake
Salisbury to Soroti. His diary for 11 August 1911 reads "Stayed at Seroti and climbed hill
to get a view of the country. Could see no better place for a station". [Ens.]
48 Teso District Annual Report (1920).
49 Teso District Annual Report (1916/17).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 31
and the chances of removal grew more remote. The idea was not, however,
formally abandoned until the end of the Second World War.
Teso's considerable manpower was used in the early years of the war on the
increased production of cotton and on the road works and porterage tasks
necessary to move the crop. Efforts to recruit for the Carrier Corps for service
in German East Africa began in 1917, but out of nearly 18,000 men collected
over 14,000 were rejected on medical grounds and the attempt was abandoned.
Nevertheless, operations by the King's African Rifles against the Turkana
necessitated the employment of large numbers of porters to carry the supplies
of the expedition from the base at Lale Port to Moroto in Karamoja. In 1918
the numbers so employed from Soroti and Usuku counties was over 32,000 and
much of the time and effort of chiefs and administrative officers was spent in
raising and controlling this army of carriers. The number of Iteso who served
in the German East African campaign was not great. Many of these were
absorbed at the close of hostilities into the force of chiefs' police, which was
first formed in 1919 to guard the communal food reserves necessitated by the
Hitherto the effort of the British administration had been directed mainly
towards the establishment of law and order and the encouragement of cotton
planting. The District and the people had other needs. The end of the war
enabled the Uganda Government to recruit the necessary staff and devote funds
to much needed social and economic development in Teso.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Although Harper's work at the experimental farm at Kadunguru was con-
centrated on the improvement of cotton strains, food crops were not neglected.
"Experiments with new food crops have been made at Kadunguru but it is
doubtful whether the natives, who are no less conservative than Europeans in
the matter of diet, will take to any new foodstuffs for some time to come or
alter appreciably their methods of cultivation."50 This forty-year-old prophecy
has proved true, in spite of the improvements achieved.
The drought, which in 1918 caused lake levels to drop to such an extent that
the steamer was forced to anchor some miles out at Lale, while canoes could
no longer ply on Lake Salisbury, caused widespread famine throughout the
District in the following year. The now familiar system of compulsory grain
storage at chiefs' headquarters, which later gave way in Teso to compulsory
storage at the family home, was started as a result of this famine; communal
plots of millet were grown under supervision in every village area. Nevertheless,
in 1927 it was recorded that "famine is at hand due to the negligence of the
native. It is to be regretted that despite the large agricultural staff in Teso, no
improvements in agriculture can be chronicled beyond a slight increase in the
number of ploughs (2,941) in use and the inauguration by the administration of
acre plots at each gombolola".51
This stricture was not deserved. The agricultural experimental station had
been moved during the war years to Simsa, near Soroti, and in 1920 to Serere.
so0 Teso District Annual Report (1912/13).
5s Teso District Annual Report (1927).
32 UGANDA JOURNAL
In the early years of this new station the farm on the hillside quickly lost its
fertility through soil erosion. As a result of this discovery considerable experi-
mental work on measures to combat soil erosion was undertaken and Teso
District reaped the early benefits of this work. Strip-cropping and bunding are
now such features of the countryside that it is apt to be forgotten that they
were introduced so recently.
Famine relief had to be undertaken on a large scale in 1928 and many of the
roads in Teso were constructed at this time in return for food for the labourers
and their families. Perhaps as a result of this famine attempts were made to
increase food production by opening up estates both by private enterprise and
by direct government action. The idea was not new. In 1920 a representative of
the London Produce Company had visited Teso and submitted a scheme to
the newly formed Uganda Development Commission for clearing and planting
a cotton estate of 8,000 acres. The scheme was not accepted, but the Bombay-
Uganda Company obtained land for a small estate at Achuna and in 1929 a
start was made by Government on stumping and ploughing large areas of land
near the new railway station at Soroti and at Tira for use by Iteso cultivators.
Further areas were chosen at Ngora, but the economies in staff and funds
caused by the world slump curtailed and eventually stopped the scheme when
little more than 100 acres had been cleared.
In 1931 "all agricultural activity was considerably influenced by the locust
infestation. The major part of the wimbi, maize and mtama crop was com-
pletely destroyed... "52
The heavy pressure on the land in south Teso and the consequent inevitable
deterioration of the soil posed a problem to the administration, which has yet
to be solved. In the north-eastern parts of the District there was still land in
abundance, but the bush was thick, water was scarce and communications did
not exist. It was believed that the prevailing north-east winds would spread the
desert conditions of Karamoja westwards into Teso and thereby reduce the
fertility of the land. The Teso Informal Committee, the forerunner of the
district team, came into being in the 1930s to consider ways and means of
tackling these problems.53 The Teso Resettlement Scheme, which was the out-
come of its deliberations, was never fully implemented and no organized
removal of families from south Teso took place. But it resulted in the establish-
ment of a Crown Forest Reserve on the Karamoja border and, in recent years,
in the construction of communications and water supplies, which have en-
couraged voluntary resettlement.
The Iteso did not have to rely entirely on the products of the soil in times of
famine. The District supports a large cattle population, which as a result of
patient Government endeavour now represents a considerable source of wealth.
Before the advent of the British administration disease took heavy toll of the
cattle population every year. The disastrous rinderpest outbreak of 1890 is
still remembered as the first real date in Teso history. A stock census taken in
1912 recorded only 115,991 head of cattle in an area approximating in size to
the present-day District, without Kaberamaido County, with its 632,000. A
52 Teso District Annual Report (1931).
53 Uganda Protectorate (1937).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 33
European stock inspector was posted to the District from 1913 onwards and
veterinary officers visited as occasion demanded until a permanent posting was
made immediately after the first world war. Their task was formidable and
was probably accomplished so successfully only because continuity of staff was
in those days deemed essential. H. A. Strauss, the first stock inspector, served
in Teso nine years and W. S. Aitken, the first veterinary officer, for as long.
The export trade was quickly organized, although it was frequently inter-
rupted by outbreaks of disease. "There is considerable trade in cattle both
among natives themselves and also with outsiders. Many cattle are sent
annually to Mbale and Jinja for slaughter and some have also been exported
to East Africa (Kenya). Immune cattle are very scarce on account of the
shortage of staff of the veterinary division."54 This shortage of staff was
remedied soon after the war, when an all-out attack on cattle disease was
launched. The veterinary staff in 1921 totalled eight Europeans. By 1926 at
least one of the major scourges, pleuro-pneumonia, had been brought under
control: "With the exception of Usuku County there is little fear of there being
a spread of pleuro-pneumonia. .";55 and two years later: "Pleuro-pneumonia
has now practically been stamped out in Teso."56 But rinderpest outbreaks
continued to dislocate trade involving heavy calls on staff. In 1928 seven
veterinary officers and five stock inspectors were working on rinderpest control
in Teso and the disease has remained a potential source of danger to the
present day. But the organization in the 1930s of special export markets and
inoculation of all cattle within the areas bordering on Karamoja has con-
siderably reduced the danger.
The patient teaching of Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries began
even before the establishment of an administrative station in the District, when
Rev. A. L. Kitching of the C.M.S. founded the mission station at Ngora in 1908
and was followed soon afterwards by the fathers of the Mill Hill Mission.
It is to these missionaries that the Iteso owe the advances in education which
have enabled them to progress with such rapidity. The administration relied
entirely on the mission schools for the supply of Iteso chiefs to replace the
Baganda agents. Not the least of the early difficulties in the educational field
centred on the choice of language. "Luganda is becoming more widely spoken
and tends to increase in use while education is in the hands of Luganda-
speaking missionaries. ... Seeing the difficulty of the Teso tongue, the small
area of the Protectorate in which it is spoken, and the unlikelihood of any
district officer, always subject to sudden transfer, ever acquiring the native
language to a degree sufficient for carrying on business, the change is not
unwelcome. Like other outlandish dialects (such as Welsh and Erse) its disuse
might well be encouraged in favour of the language of the largest and most
intelligent portion of the country of which it forms part."57 The Ateso language
had wide differences of dialect due to the early migrations of the tribe already
described. The early missionaries at Ngora, who first reduced the language to
s4 Teso District Annual Report (1916/17).
ss Teso District Annual Report (1926).
56 Teso District Annual Report (1928).
57 Teso District Annual Report (1912/13).
34 UGANDA JOURNAL
writing, naturally took the dialect of Ngora as the norm. Unfortunately Roman
Catholic and Protestant endeavour in this field was not welded together in the
early days and divergencies in meaning and orthography were perpetuated.
Luganda remained for many years the language of officialdom and even the
medium of instruction in schools. "Luganda is becoming widely spoken among
the chiefs and headmen owing largely to mission influence and to that of the
many Baganda in the district and it would now be possible to make the
speaking of this language a qualification for Government employment."58 But
one of the first decisions of the District Education Board which was set up in
1925 was to introduce Ateso as the medium of instruction in elementary
schools. There was still need of a lingua franca. Within a year or two Kiswahili
was officially adopted in place of Luganda but never prospered, because of
mission opposition, and has in recent years been discarded in favour of English.
The Church, like the Government, relied on Baganda workers for its early
effort. A Muganda missionary, Andereya Batulabude, had begun evangelical
work in Teso some years before Rev. A. L. Kitching's arrival. The first African
candidates for ordination were Baganda, but training of Iteso church workers
went rapidly ahead. The Native Anglican Church quickly expanded until in
1926 Rev. A. L. Kitching was consecrated the first bishop of the newly-created
Upper Nile Diocese. His cathedral was at Ngora where he had started his
work twenty years earlier.
The work of the Christian missions was not confined to religion and educa-
tion. The C.M.S. undertook pioneer work on the control of leprosy. Dr. C. A.
Wiggins, after retirement from his post of Director of Medical Services in
Uganda shortly after the first World War, devoted himself to this work. He
joined the staff of the Freda Carr C.M.S. Hospital, then recently founded under
the direction of Dr. E. V. Hunter, where he started a leper ward. In 1928, in
co-operation with Government, he established several leprosy clinics in the
District. While attendance was compulsory much useful work was done, but
within a year attendance was made voluntary and the clinic ceased to justify
the effort. Dr. Wiggins then started a hospital for leper children at Kumi and
an adult centre at Kapiri. A few years later, and shortly before the adult centre
was moved to its present site at Ongino, this valuable work passed to other
hands; it has continued to expand and some 800 lepers, not only from Teso
but also from the neighboring districts, are now under treatment at this
The early efforts of the Government Medical Department were devoted to
the control of plague and smallpox, which took heavy toll of life each year.
The early Baganda conquerors of Teso suffered over 1,500 casualties from
disease, mainly smallpox and plague. The Indian medical officer at Kumi
himself perished while combating an outbreak of plague in Usuku. In the
early days, little could be done beyond isolating affected persons and burning
the houses in which the cases occurred. By 1917 a medical officer had been
appointed and vaccination and inoculation were started; nevertheless, in that
year there were 827 deaths from plague and 1,729 from smallpox. It was some
time before the District was free. In 1929 "work in Mukongoro and Kanyum
58 Teso District Annual Report (1914/15).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 35
was at a standstill from June owing to plague. Plague also interfered with trade
in Soroti from August to December."59 The eradication of these two diseases
owes much to the early health inspectors and above all to R. C. D. Hooper,
who served for many years in the District. The Iteso have given him a lasting
testimonial by coining the word ehupa into the language to mean a health
NATIVE ADMINISTRATION 1909-1937
The British Administration, when it took over Kakunguru's organization,
found it necessary and convenient to use Baganda executive staff. But from the
beginning a consistent policy was adopted of replacing Baganda by local
officials. This was no easy task, for the local population was uneducated and
untrained. It says much for the honest application of this policy that its logical
conclusion was achieved within such a short period of time. By 1913 the
organization of native administration in the District was complete. Iteso chiefs
had been appointed to all sub-counties and a county council had been estab-
lished in each county, consisting of the local chiefs under the presidency of
one of their number. These councils were deliberative as well as judicial bodies
but had no executive functions. Baganda agents were retained to assist and
to instruct most of these sub-county chiefs and it was these agents who held
the real executive power. But the reduction in their numbers was so rapid as
to give local administrators some cause for alarm. "In regard to the Govern-
ment agents who have been so largely responsible for the training and
organization of the native government and to whom has been ascribed the
rapid progress of the district and its present day peacefulness and prosperity,
a radical change of policy has been introduced from headquarters. These
agents were placed in charge of the chiefs to instruct them in proper methods
of conduct and control of their people and they have been withdrawn from
such charges as and when their chiefs have proved themselves fit to rule alone.
Last year five chiefs were in accordance with this policy declared independent
and the agents withdrawn from their countries. This year a further six were
emancipated. During the year, however, instructions were received that the
establishment of agents was to be substantially reduced and at the close of the
year eighteen had to be withdrawn. This has involved the making independent
of fourteen more chiefs, some of whom were indeed ready for emancipation;
but others were not ready and some anxiety is felt as 'to the effects of this
acceleration .... ."60
In spite of the outbreak of war the policy was steadily carried out. The
training of local chiefs owes much to W. G. Adams, who was D.C. throughout
most of the war years. When he left Teso in 1919 the process was almost
complete and only the county agents remained. There were no longer anxieties
concerning the speed at which the policy was implemented, only doubt that
the agents themselves had been adequately recompensed by the Government
for the valuable services they had rendered. When the Native Law Ordinance
59 Teso District Annual Report (1929).
6o Teso District Annual Report (1912/13).
36 UGANDA JOURNAL
came into force the following year, the District Native Council was formed
to consider alterations to customary law. "The institution of this Council is a
good forward step making the time closer when the district will be sufficiently
advanced to govern its own people without the help of Baganda agents. These
agents have done, and continue to do, extremely good work, but the policy
to be followed is the ultimate total retrenchment of these agents when the
Lukiko and the chiefs are in a sufficiently advanced stage to govern by them-
selves rather than their permanent retention on the score that 'we get on very
well as we are'."61
Until 1919 each county was regarded as a watertight compartment and only
a native of a county could become a chief in it. A wider view of district
administration demanded that the best use should be made of the talent in the
whole District. "They are all Teso and under Soroti as headquarters of the
district."62 So began the idea of a local government service. Most of the talent at
that time was to be found in Kumi county. "Kumi on account of its supremacy
in intellect produced by the two Ngora schools has been for some time
the exemplary county of the district. During the last few months many changes
have been made throughout the district in respect of gombolola chiefdoms,
and Kumi has been extensively drawn from to fill vacancies."62 These appoint-
ments of Ingoratok chiefs in other parts of the District were to be the cause
of resentment in later years.
The final stage of retrenchment of Baganda was begun in the following year
with the appointment of the first Etesot county chief, Nasanaeri Iporiket, to
Kumi County. This experiment was quickly followed by instating Enoka
Epaku, Eria Ochom and Isaka Onaba as the first county chiefs of Soroti,
Usuku and Serere counties. The other counties remained under Baganda agents.
This arrangement suffered an initial set-back by the death of one of these men
and of his successor within a year. Talent was so scarce that this loss was
serious. But this fact alone did not explain the failure of the experiment. The
doubts of the early administrators regarding the pace at which the policy
should be implemented were perhaps well founded, for by 1926 affairs were far
from satisfactory: "The total revenues accruing to chiefs from licit and illicit
sources is excessive for their needs and quite disproportionate to their responsi-
bilities and public services in general. A principal difficulty with which the
Government has to contend is the very small difference in intelligence,
mentality or character between the most retrograde peasant and the best of the
chiefs. There has been no ruling class in the county in the past and the majority
of the chiefs approximate in reality more nearly to petty officials of a clerkly
type than to real chiefs or leaders of the people, who could by precept and
example ensure any proper progress of the race. Stability of character, whether
good or bad, is in the present phase conspicuously weaker than is found in the
average African race. This is probably due to the suppression of their natural
tribal characteristics by importation of Baganda ideals, which have not been
either complete or very suitable to the natural genius of the tribe. ."63 Two
61 Teso District Annual Report (1919/20).
62 Teso District Annual Report (1920).
63 Teso District Annual Report (1926).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 37
county chiefs were publicly dismissed the following year and deported from
the district, one of whom was the same Enoka Epaku, who had so hopefully
been appointed at the beginning of the experiment only seven years before.
The remaining county chiefs were given smaller areas to control by splitting
all the counties into two and thereby forming the new counties of Amuria,
Napak, Kasilo and Ngora in addition to the former counties of Soroti, Usuku,
Serere and Kumi. Baganda agents were again introduced, not as executive
heads of counties, but as advisers to a group of counties. Timuteo Mukasa
supervised Kumi, Ngora, Usuku and Napak and Eria Gyagenda the remainder.
This time there was no retrogression and by 1937 the time had come to take
another step forward. The spread of education had resulted in a class of
educated or semi-educated men, who wished to share in the administration of
local affairs, but who were often feared and repressed by the chiefs, many of
whom were of inferior education. It was to counteract the obvious dangers of
this situation that the District Commissioner, F. R. Kennedy, worked out the
system of councils in Teso, which with local variations was later introduced in
all other districts of the Protectorate. The council of chiefs had, of course,
been in existence for many years, but its function was judicial or advisory and
its composition exclusively chiefly. Under Kennedy's scheme this autocratic
body had to give way to representative councils of peasants, traders and school-
masters. Such a novel conception would hardly have achieved the success it
did, had not the D.C. ensured that it contained a strong element of appeal to
local sentiment. In the surge of national enthusiasm at this time the Luganda
words for units of administration, such as saza and gombolola, were discarded
in favour of the Ateso ebuku and etem. Kennedy organized his new councils
on these convenient units of administration, which had been imposed by
Kakunguru and accepted by the Iteso; at the same time he tried to build on
the Teso political organization, which had existed before the Baganda conquest.
But the only political organization of the Iteso was the age-set system, which
had been destroyed by Kakunguru's command. The inclusion in the new
councils of clan leaders (apolok ka atekerin) proved a happy alternative. This
move ensured popular support for the councils, although clans have no
political significance in Teso and clan leaders are in effect petty chieftains.
"The bulk of elected members were recruited from the ranks of the so-called
'clan' or 'kinship group' leaders, who for the most part inherit their positions.
There is thus a nucleus on the councils of men accustomed to command respect
and brought up with a sense of duty to the community. It seems worthy of
note that the authority of these clan leaders, whose existence and potenti-
alities had for years been ignored, has now been sufficiently revived to enable
them once again to become a vital force in the tribe. The restoration of their
prestige and authority was at first obstructed by the chiefs who, having them-
selves no hereditary claims, feared rivalry from these men who have. Their
fears have, however, been put to rest by the whole-hearted manner in which
the clan leaders have co-operated with them in the work of administration."64
Kennedy's experiment was the start of local government in Teso.
64 Teso District Annual Report (1937).
38 UGANDA JOURNAL
The story so far has been largely of gifts by outsiders to the Iteso: peace and
a pattern of administration from Kakunguru; Christianity and education from
the missionaries; communications and trade from the activities of the early
European and Indian traders; and economic, social and political improvement
from the British administration.
The Iteso themselves have advanced a long way since the first families moved
out from Karamoja with their flocks and herds to look for pasture in new lands.
When the early European observers knew them the "Teso though quick-
tempered and revengeful were a cheerful and simple race. The peasants were
still a naked people and even prominent chiefs were to be seen in their own
villages as naked as when they were born".65 Their path has not always been
easy. Their freedom to indulge in profitable raids on neighbours and to enjoy
the lengthy festivities of age-set ceremonies was wrested from them by the
conquering Baganda, who provided instead the drab substitute of forced
labour on public works. The British administration, so far from restoring this
former freedom, introduced a new obligation, poll-tax, and, by enforcing the
planting of cotton, ensured that there was no excuse for failure to pay it. Com-
pulsory labour was still required to till the lands of the chiefs in the days before
luwalo commutation was allowed and to move the cotton crop and the loads
of military expeditions.
The teaching of the mission schools and of the Government was quickly
assimilated and the wealth from cotton soon brought a rise in living standards.
The work of progress still goes on, delayed by the Second World War, but since
accelerated. When the story of the years from 1937 onwards comes to be
written, it will be one of achievement by the Teso people themselves.
1700 Approximate start of the first migration, which brought the Iteso from
Karamoja to the north shore of Lake Salisbury in Usuku county.
1800 Approximate start of the second migration, which brought the Iteso west and
south from Usuku over the whole of Teso District and the north of Bukedi
and Busoga Districts; the approximate start of contact and friction between
the Lango and the Kumam.
1890 Disastrous rinderpest epidemic.
1896 Fort established on Kaweri Island by S. Kakunguru. Baganda garrison of
fifty rifles installed. Deputation of Teso chiefs taken to Mengo to see Kabaka
1898 Survey of Lake Kyoga shores by Captain Kirkpatrick accompanied by
1899 Capture of Kabaka Mwanga at Kangai on the Lango/Teso border. Kakun-
guru authorized to subjugate area north of Lake Kyoga. Forts established at
Kagaa in Kaberamaido, at Sambwe in Serere county and at Dokolo in Lango
district. Serere Saza proclaimed.
65 Teso District Annual Report (1913/14).
A HISTORY OF TESO TO 1937 39
1900 Bululu fort built. Saza of Kumam proclaimed. Kakunguru authorized by Sir
Harry Johnston to subjugate Bukedi. Fort established at Pege near Ngora.
1901 Ngora Saza proclaimed. Fort built at Mkongoro.
1902 Kakunguru relieved of his command and settled at Mbale. Baganda garrisons
removed from the Teso forts. Banyoro garrison under Musabira left at
Bululu and Uganda police posts at Serere, Ngora and Mkongoro.
1904 Kakunguru sent by the Collector (D.C.), Mbale, to establish saza head-
quarters at Soroti, Kumi and Bukedea.
1907 Administrative headquarters established at Bululu to control Kumam and
Lango country. Punitive expedition by the Collector, Mbale, in Usuku.
1908 Mission station established at Ngora by Rev. A. L. Kitching. Indian traders
reported at most centres in Teso district. First cotton crop recorded (4,056 lb.).
1909 Headquarters of Lango District moved from Bululu to Nabieso. Administra-
tive headquarters established at Kumi as a sub-station of the Mbale
1910 A ploughing school opened at Kumi.
1911 An agricultural experimental station opened at Kadunguru.
1912 Teso constituted as a separate district. B.E.A. Corporation and Bukedi
(Uganda) Cotton and Trading Company built the first two ginneries in Teso
at Bugondo. Mission station founded at Ngora by the Mill Hill Mission.
Retrenchment of Baganda agents begun.
1914 District headquarters moved from Kumi to Soroti. Punitive expedition with
military forces in Amuria and Usuku counties.
1915 Administration extended to Omoro County.
1916 Agricultural experimental station moved from Kadunguru to Simsa near
1919 Start of a native administration service. Chiefs appointed for the first time
outside local areas. Famine. System of compulsory grain storage started.
1920 Appointment of the first Teso county chief, N. Iporikot, to Kumi County.
The agricultural experimental station moved from Simsa to Serere.
q1923 Bukedea County transferred to Bukedi District, which was split into the
three Districts of Bugwere, Bugishu and Budama.
1924 Enactment of the Native Law Ordinance. Formation of the District Native
1926 Dismissal and deportation of county chief, E. Epaku, and the re-employment
of Baganda agents. Counties reduced in size by the formation of Amuria,
Napak, Kasilo and Ngora Counties.
1929 The railway reached Soroti.
1930 Locust infestation followed by famine. Leprosy centres started by Dr.
Wiggins at Kumi and Kapiri.
1937 Introduction of the council system: councils established at district, county,
sub-county and parish levels.
1939 Transfer back to Teso of Kumam County from Lango District and Bukedea
County from Bugwere District.
1942 Amalgamation of counties into the four divisions of Kaberamaido, Serere,
Amuria and Kumi.
1946 The divisional system abolished and the District re-organized into seven
counties, Kaberamaido, Amuria, Usuku, Soroti, Serere, Kumi and Bukedea.
40 UGANDA JOURNAL
1947 The D.C. withdrew from chairmanship of the District Council. A central
organization of the Native Administration formed by the appointment of a
Treasurer and a Chief Judge, who with the Secretary General appointed
earlier are the executives of the District Council.
1950 System of election to councils according to occupation abandoned in favour
of a system of proportional representation.
1951 Ngora County re-constituted.
Amootoi ka Etesot (about 1948). The findings of the Amootoi ka Etesot Society.
Driberg, J. H. (1923). The Lango. London: Fisher Unwin.
Gulliver, P. H. (1952). The Karamojong cluster. Africa, 22, 1.
Johnston, Sir H. H. (1902). The Uganda Protectorate. 2 vols. London: Hutchinson
Kirkpatrick, R. T. (1899). Lake Choga and surrounding country. Geographical J.,
13, 410-2. (Reprinted (1946) Uganda J., 10, 160-2.)
Kitching, A. L. (1912). On the Backwaters of the Nile. London.
-- (1915). A handbook of the Ateso language. London: S.P.C.K.
Lawrance, J. C. D. (1953a). Rock paintings in Teso. Uganda J., 17, 8-13.
---- (1953b). T'he Karamojong cluster-a note. Africa, 23, 244.
Lehmann, H., and Raper, A. B. (1951). Distribution of the sickle-cell trait in Uganda,
and its ethnological significance. Uganda J., 15, 41-3.
Seligman, C. G. (1930). Races of Africa. London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd.
Tarantino, A. (1949a). Notes on the Lango. Uganda J., 13, 145-53.
---- (1949b). Lango Wars. Uganda J., 13, 230-5.
Thomas, H. B. (1939). Capax Imperii-The Story of Semei Kakunguru. Uganda J.,
Turpin, C. A. (1948). The occupation of the Turkwel River area by the Karamojong
tribe. Uganda J., 12, 161-5.
Uganda Protectorate (1908a). Intelligence Report No. 34.
---(1908b). Intelligence Report No. 35.
-- (1913). Handbook of Uganda. (Compiled by H. R. Wallis.)
---(1937). Report of the Teso Informal Committee. Entebbe: Department of
Walshe, C. I. (1947). Notes on the Kumam. Uganda J., 11, 101-5.
Waswa, S. (1950). Kakunguru mu Bukedi. Luganda MS.
Wright, A. C. A. (1942). Notes on the Iteso social organization. Uganda J., 9, 57-80,
(1951). Blood grouping and the tribal historian. Uganda J., 15, 44-48.
TRIBAL NAMES AND CUSTOMS IN TESO DISTRICT
By B. M. KAGOLO
T HIS name was given by Kakunguru and his warriors to the people living
in what is now Teso District and in a small portion of Mbale District now
known as Pallisa County. When Kakunguru and his warriors reached Nyero,
a gombolola in Kumi County of Teso District, they met with very good fighting
men, who killed a lot of them. When Kakunguru asked where these brave
fighters had come from, he was informed that they were people from Kide. In
Luganda they were bantu be Kide or Be Kide or Bakedi. Kide is a muruka in
Ongino Gombolola of Kumi County. Henceforward, Kakunguru and his
warriors gave the name Bakedi to all people who spoke the language of these
fighters. These people were pure Iteso.
The people in Buganda got to know everybody who spoke the Iteso language
as a Mukedi and they have been called Bakedi right up to the present day.
Most of the people in Buganda do not know where an Etesot comes from or
who he is.
As years passed by, the people in Teso District began to dislike the name
Mukedi. The name was erroneously interpreted to them. They were told that
the name Mukedi in Luganda means one who goes naked, which is not true at
all. For, when Kakunguru and his men got into the Eastern Province, they
found most of the people naked. They did not call all of them Bakedi; others
were called by the names of the localities in which they were found. The people
in Budama were called Badama, the people in Bunyuli were called Banyuli, the
people in Samia were called Basamia and the people in Bugishu were called
Bagishu or Bageso. It is only the people who were found in Teso District and
in Pallisa County who were called Bakedi and the district Bukedi. The name
Bukedi has now been taken over by the Counties of Pallisa, Budaka, Bunyuli,
Nagongera and Samia-Bugwe. It is the people in these five counties who are
expected now to call themselves Bakedi. The majority of the real owners of the
name Bakedi now call themselves Iteso, and their district Teso District. The
people in what is now known as Bukedi do not like to be called Bakedi. The
people in Pallisa County prefer to be called Iteso, the people in Budaka County
call themselves Bagwere, the people in Nagongera County call themselves
Japadhola, the people in Bunyuli County call themselves Banyuli, and the
people in Samia-Bugwe call themselves Basamia. The name Mukedi is dying
out in the Eastern Province; the real cause being bad interpretation of the
This is the name of a small place of no historical importance in Usuku
County. But the name has now been given to a whole area comprising the
1 From the Uganda Government Essay Competition, 1953.
42 UGANDA JOURNAL
Counties of Bukedea, Kumi, Ngora, Usuku, Soroti, Serere, Amuria and Kabera-
maido. The people who live in these eight counties are now known as the Iteso
people and their language Ateso.
Originally the Iteso people came from Karamoja, looking for arable land,
and settled in Usuku County. From Usuku County some of these people
migrated to the Gweri, Soroti and Arapai Gombololas of Soroti County. Others
crossed Lakes Salisbury from Usuku, and settled in the Gombolola of Ongino
in Kumi County and in the Gombolola of Mukura in Ngora County. From
these places the people spread over Teso District.
A long time after leaving Karamoja, the Iteso people developed a type of
dancing which was in some ways similar to that of their grandfathers, the
Karamojong, but differed in dress. One of the principal dresses consisted of
empty pods of a plant called in Ateso ecumama. Inside these empty pods they
put nails, stones or pieces of iron and tied them round their legs. Whenever
they jumped up or moved their legs about whilst dancing, these pods made
various noises or sounds. When the Karamojong saw them dancing with these
bells on their legs, they nicknamed them Ecumama; whence the name Kumanr
is derived. All the country which these people inhabited, was named Kumam
by the Karamojong and was called so by the Bagishu for a long time. After
many years the name Kumam was confined to the people of Kaberamaido and
Recently there have arisen, in Teso District, disagreements between the
people themselves, as to the general use of the name Etesot. The people,
speaking what is now known as the Kumam language, seem not to like being
called by the name Etesot. They prefer to be called Kumam. They state that the
word Etesot originates from the word ates, an Ateso word meaning 'a grave'.
A person who keeps graves or a grave is called an Atesot or Etesot. The
Kumam say that their forefathers were never gravekeepers. The reason why
this might have been so may be found in the following section.
The name Kumam is now confined to the people living in Kyoga County of
Lango District and to the people living in Kaberamaido County of Teso District.
One also finds people in some parts of the Gombololas of Bugondo and Tira,
Serere County, and some people in the Gombololas of Soroti, Kamoda and
Katine, Soroti County, calling themselves Kumam. The language these people
speak is different from the language spoken by the pure Iteso, being the same
language as that which is spoken by the people of Kaberamaido and Kyoga
Counties. Many of the names of these Kumam people are different from the
general names of the pure Iteso people. The changes in language and names of
the Kumam people came about in this manner:
In ancient days, some people from Tororo area, called the Paluo, went and
settled round the ports of Bugondo and Bululu, and on Kaweri Island in Lake
Kyoga. These people are known locally as the Ipagero or Kawer. They are
found also at Atura and at Masindi Port. Their language is very similar to
Ludama, and their main occupation is fishing.
It is related that when the Ipagero were the only people inhabiting the ports
TRIBAL NAMES AND CUSTOMS IN TESO DISTRICT 43
of Bugondo and Bululu and Kaweri Island, many Iteso youths, whose fathers
had no cattle to buy wives for their sons, used to kidnap Iteso girls and take
refuge with them among the Paluo or Kawer people. Whilst among these people,
the Iteso youths worked as hard as they could to purchase cattle with which
they might buy their kidnapped girls. These obtained, the youths returned
together with their kidnapped spouses to the girls' parents and confessed to
have stolen their daughters and agreed to marry them properly. The parents of
the girls would then welcome the youths and their daughters and settle on a
bride-price. This concluded, the youths went back to the Paluo or Kawer people
to fetch their cattle and children and returned to settle for good among their
Many of these youths never took any trouble to see whether their fathers
were alive or dead. The children they brought with them, through being bred
among the Ipagero people and with Ipagero children, could not speak pure
Ateso. Many of the names of these children were similar to those used by the
Ipagero. This process, so it is said, went on until a new language, now called
Kumam or Akokolem(o), was formed.
Generally speaking, the word Ngoratok means the people of Ngora. But even
people in Kumi and in Bukedea Counties are sometimes called Ngoratok, and
it is often scornfully given to the Iteso people living in Ngora, Kumi and
Bukedea Counties, by the rest of the people in Teso District, and, even more
so, by the Kumam.
It is believed that some years ago, there was a big famine in Teso District,
which made the people of Ngora, Kumi and Bukedea Counties go about the
District exchanging their nephews and nieces for food. The food these poor
people got from their own tribesmen was often mainly the residue of ajon-an
Iteso beer. Some of the children who were exchanged in this manner, are now
grown up men; they are to be found in some parts of Kaberamaido, Amuria
and in other Counties of Teso District.
The name Ikokolemu is .given contemptuously to the people speaking the
Kumam language, mainly by people of Ngora, Kumi and Bukedea Counties,
in retaliation for the name Ngoratok. It is composed of two Iteso words: ikoko
-you have stolen, and alem-a head dress worn in olden days by elders at the
back of their heads.
There is a common belief among the Iteso, that when their great-great-
grandfathers, whose descendants now speak the Kumam language, migrated
from Kakolyo, a gombolola in Usuku County, one of them stole an alem and
fled with it to Soroti County. On account of this act, they are all nicknamed
The Kumam people themselves, to try to disguise the real meaning of the
name Ikokolem, say that it is a combination of two words: ikoku-a child, and
olem-a famous old man in Usuku County. The Kumam people wish to be
regarded as his children.
44 UGANDA JOURNAL
SOME CUSTOMS OF THE ITESO PEOPLE
Marriage-In olden days, it was the duty of a father to look for a girl fit
for his son to marry. The general procedure used to be as follows:
A father used to arrange with one of his very intimate friends, who happened
to have a baby daughter, or a wife in labour and about to deliver, not to give
his daughter in marriage when she grew up, to anyone else but to his son. If his
friend consented, a small iron armlet was put round the baby daughter's wrist,
by the father of the boy. The armlet showed that the baby girl was engaged.
From this time, the man who engaged the baby girl began giving cattle and
goats, as bride price, to the girl's parents until the girl was old enough to be
married. He then had beer specially prepared in his house and invited the
people of the girl's family to come and feast. During this feasting, the host
introduced the son for whom he had engaged the girl, to his guests.
After a while, very early one morning, the father of the boy took a very good
cow, in milk, together with its calf, to the girl's mother and told her parents
that he wished to take their daughter. If they were agreeable, they asked him
for a spear. The man used to tell them the day on which he would bring the
spear. The girl from this time started to be taught in her mother's hut, by her
aunt, everything about married life. On the day the man promised to bring
the spear to the girl's parents, butter was smeared over the girl's skin by her
aunt and she was kept ready to be taken to her husband. The girl's mother had
nothing to do in the whole affair. When the people bringing the spear arrived,
the bearer of the spear stepped forward and stuck it into the ground with its
blade pointing upwards, in front of the hut of the girl's mother. Beer was
generally served to the guests, after which the girl, accompanied by her aunt,
sisters and brothers, was taken to the family of her husband. On arriving at
the home of her husband's family, the bride with all her retinue sat in the
compound. The bride's aunt showed her to the husband's people and asked
them to have a thorough look at her skin. The bride had her skin well examined
for any spots of disease. If spots of any dangerous disease were found on her
skin, the bride could be rejected. But if no spots were seen, food and beer was
offered to the guests and all ate and made merry up to sunset.
At about sunset, the older people of the bride's family returned to their
homes and came back the next day for presents and for more feasting. After
sunset the bride was taken into her husband's hut by his sisters after a mock
fight between her and her sisters-in-law; the younger sisters and brothers of the
bride often remained for a good many days with their newly married sister,
helping her to become acquainted with the new life and family.
The bride was always taken to her husband during daytime between the
hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., never at dusk, for fear of fights and other occur-
rences. If a bride was taken to the bridegroom late in the evening, people
generally said that she was a wizard's daughter.
The cow in milk brought to the girl's mother was entirely the property of
the girl's mother. She alone used its milk and butter. Its offspring could never
be given away as bride-price for wives for the sons of other women in the
family, but only for her own sons' wives. The newly married girl worked in her
mother-in-law's house and plots. The newly married boy never asked his newly
TRIBAL NAMES AND CUSTOMS IN TESO DISTRICT 45
married wife for food but only his mother. It was always the duty of the boy's
mother to see that her daughter-in-law acquired enough food and plots to run
her own house. After seeing these acquired, she then told her daughter-in-law
to start managing her own home and look after her husband herself.
After this, the girl went back to her family and informed them that she had
been allowed to manage her own home. Goats, chickens, wimbi, and sometimes
cattle were collected by the people of the family of the married girl and were
taken to the home where their daughter was married. A day on which the girl
would start cooking in her husband's house was arranged, and the girl's people
returned home. On the eve of the day chosen for the girl first to cook in her
husband's house, her aunt, generally accompanied by one lady, came and spent
the night in one of the houses of their son-in-law's parents. Very early the
following morning the boy's mother and the girl's aunt collected grass and also
two sticks from the roof of each of the houses in the compound, and heaped
all these in the middle of the compound. The grass and sticks had to be
collected from the houses of married people.
To set the heap on fire they knelt at it with the girl, and, taking a glowing
cinder, put it on a small bundle of grass taken from the heap. The girl held
the bundle of grass, her hand being supported by her aunt, by her mother-in-
law and by all the other women present. They all blew at the cinder until the
grass caught fire, and with this the heap was set on fire. Whilst blowing at the
cinder and setting fire to the heap, they all told the girl that fire was always lit
in that manner. All the other places where food was to be cooked, were lit with
flames taken from this heap. The pots for boiling meat and water for preparing
food were put on the fires and boiled. At the proper time for stirring wimbi
into food, all the women doing the cooking gathered at the big heap together
with the two mothers, and assisted the girl to stir wimbi by supporting her
hand. During this action, the women told the girl that food was prepared in
that manner; that she should always do it properly; that she should always
cook food for her husband and for all people who came to her house; that she
should never be stingy with food.
All the food prepared both here and elsewhere for the occasion was gathered
in the compound in front of the boy's hut, and eating commenced. Beer
prepared by the girl, and all beer brought for the feast was drunk. From then
onwards, the girl began running her own house.
After some weeks the boy killed a big chicken, generally a cock, got some
meat, had the food prepared at his house and invited his parents to come and
dine. After taking this food, his parents were then at liberty to take food, at
any time, at his house. The girl, too, prepared beer and food and took them
to her parents. They took the food and drank the beer prepared at their
daughter's house and, from this time onwards, they too could take food at their
daughter's home at any time.
Present System of Marriage-Nowadays it is the duty of a boy to look for a
girl to marry. When he has chosen her, he arranges with her the date on which
to visit her parents and the girl informs them of it. On the appointed day, the
boy, sometimes accompanied by a friend, visits the girl's parents to find out
46 UGANDA JOURNAL
whether they are willing to let him marry their daughter. If they are willing,
he returns to his parents and informs them that he has found a girl to marry.
He tells them who the girl is and where she lives. The boy's father, after
notifying the girl's parents of his coming, goes to them, together with a few
of his friends, to ask the number of head of cattle and goats and the amount
of money required for their daughter. This settled, he gives the date on which
the girl's parents may fetch the bride price. Before he returns home with his
friends, it is customary for beer to be served by the girl's parents to the guests,
sometimes food also, but not chicken's meat. The same thing is done by the
boy's parents when the girl's people fetch the bride-price. The girl's father is
free to pick out any head of cattle he likes from the herd shown to him,
provided he does not exceed the number agreed upon. When this is finished, the
goats are shown to him and the money he asked for is given to him; then
together with his friends he returns to his house.
The cattle and goats, with always a sheep as a present for the fairies which
looked after the girl whilst she was in her parents' home, are all driven to the
home of the girl's father by the boy who wishes to marry her. Then a day is
arranged for marriage. The girl is taught everything about marriage by her aunt
in her mother's hut. When the time comes for the marriage, the girl is smeared
with butter and is taken, generally at night, to the boy's home by her aunt,
with people shouting and dancing. They all stay for the night in one of the
houses in the compound of the boy's home. The day following, the girl's aunt
calls upon the women in the boy's family to come and examine carefully the
skin of the bride for any dangerous skin disease. If no skin disease is seen, she
bathes her niece in water containing Cynodon grass; food and beer is then
offered to the guests and feasting begins. If it is a Christian marriage, the bride
is taken to her bridegroom's home during the day time, about 4 p.m. and tea
is often served to the guests.
The bride is washed in water containing Cynodon grass in the hope that she
may be as fecund as this grass and increase greatly the boy's family.
The number of head of cattle required for bride-price depends on localities:
in Kaberamaido County the number varies between 15 and 25; in Usuku and
Amuria Counties between 15 and 30; in Serere and Soroti Counties between
10 and 15; in Kumi, Ngora and Bukedea Counties between 8 and 12; in
Pallisa County between 3 and 8. The number of goats and shillings also varies
in much the same way.
The bride-price, officially recognized, is five head of cattle and no more. If
one insists on giving only the official bride-price, many a time one is told to
go and marry a District Officer's daughter; such a one never gets a girl to marry.
A few years ago girls used to delight in hearing that they were bought for a
big number of cattle. In a harem the woman bought for the biggest number of
cattle used to look upon herself as the most beautiful.
Death Ceremonies in Olden Days-When a person of some importance fell
ill his relatives and friends were always informed. If he died, they were all told
immediately, generally by drumming. Wealthy people often brought cattle,
the less wealthy, goats, for their friend's burial. When many of them had
TRIBAL NAMES AND CUSTOMS IN TESO DISTRICT 47
arrived and had seen the dead body, which might take a day or two before
burial, a bull, known to have been chosen by the departed when still alive for
his burial, was speared by one of the sons of the dead man's daughter. If the
grandson was a small child, one of the men present put a spear in the child's
hands and assisted him to spear the bull. The bull used to bleed until it died,
without having its head chopped off or its throat cut. The beast had its skin
taken off and cow dung was collected from the fourth stomach and daubed on
the dead man's face. The membrane covering the stomach was removed care-
fully and was put round the dead man's face, covering all the cow dung. The
dead body was wrapped in the animal's skin or sometimes in another, which
the dead man had chosen before his death to be buried in, and was put in a
grave dug in the hut of one of his wives. If many head of cattle were brought
for the burial, some of them were slaughtered and their skins put in the grave
over the body; some of the goats, too, were slain and their skins put in the
grave. This done, all the people turned back the soil into the grave; those who
dug the grave saw that the grave was properly packed with earth, up to floor
level. The grave was guarded strictly, for fear of somebody coming and taking
away the dead body. At no time during the day nor night would the grave be
left alone. If it was a small child left to guard the grave, during day time, when
the grown up people returned, they always asked it whether anybody had
called at the hut during their absence; if so, they asked how he behaved, what
he said and who it was. This guarding of the grave was maintained for a good
After the burial, the people who dug the grave shared the meat of the
speared bull with the people of the dead man's household. This meat was all
roasted and eaten at the dead man's home, and none of it was carried away.
All other mourners ate only the meat of other slaughtered animals or chickens
which were brought to the burial or as consolation to the bereaved. On the
third day after the burial, beer, which was always prepared on the day the body
was buried, was offered to the mourners. All the mourners then dispersed,
leaving only the relatives and intimate friends of the late man carrying on
mourning. The dead man's brother, relative or intimate friend came, after
some weeks, on a certain day, and pointed out to the people the successor of
the dead man and distributed his property to his sons. All the animals which
were not slaughtered for the burial or during the mourning time were
slaughtered on this occasion. The younger wives of the deceased became wives
to his heir and the other wives were shared by his brothers or relatives, as the
women themselves wished. The women who did not wish to be married to any
of these people remained in the successor's compound and regarded him as
their son. They did not return to their families. If one of them happened to
fall in love with anybody not related to the dead man, bride price had to be
given to the heir, before she could leave him and be married elsewhere.
In the preparation of these notes, particularly those relating to the Kumam
people and their language, I have had the help of Mr. Edward Esingu, formerly
Saza Chief of Kaberamaido County, and of Mr. Yoweri Obongoi, in 1952
48 UGANDA JOURNAL
Gombolola Chief of Ocero in Kaberamaido County. These two are pure
I was told of the origin of the names Bakedi and Bukedi by Michael
Gwamba who was one of Kakunguru's warriors; while information regarding
the history and customs of the Iteso people, was gathered from various old
folk during my tours in Teso District. To all these helpers I am most grateful.
LAND AND CHIEFTAINSHIP AMONG THE ACHOLI1
By R. M. BERE
IN days of old when the Acholi clans were still travelling from place to place
and had no settled homes, the people did not know over whose land it was
that they were passing; nor at that time did it seem to matter, although these
ideas were soon to change. As they journeyed, hunters came across a duiker
and gave chase but it proved too swift for them and disappeared into the
midst of a great herd of cattle, which had been seen on the far bank of a wide
river. The hunters seeing this, crossed the river and gathered in all the cattle,
each one taking his share; one kept fifty head, another a hundred, and so on
until all were satisfied. In this way all the cattle found owners and thus, for
the first time, became the property of man.
Amongst the hunters, however, there was one elder who could not run fast
enough to keep up with the chase and so stayed behind watching the distribu-
tion of the cattle from the vantage point of a large ant-hill. Being unable to
take any of the cattle, this man who had stayed behind on his ant-hill took
for himself the land and in so doing said to the others:
"You have taken the cattle but I am now the owner of the land; these are
your cows but from today you herd them on my land."
An owner of two hundred head replied:
"Truly, you are the owner of the land and we will divide our cattle with you.
Of mine you may have one hundred, from each of us you shall take half."
In this way it came about that the owner of the land became rich and was
made Rwot, chief or head of the clans. Immediately he gave out certain orders:
"Whosoever strikes his friend and draws blood shall pay six goats; whoso-
ever kills a bull on my land shall give me the stomach; whosoever kills a wild
animal with his spear shall give me the hind leg. When an animal falls into a
pit, that is woman's meat and should not be brought to me; but an animal
caught in the net, that is my meat and the hind leg should be given to me;
when an animal is caught in a trap, that, too, is the fruit of my land."
This is the old fable which teaches us the origin of the chieftainship and how
the owner of the land became ruler over the people.2 The land-holding regula-
tions arise from this tradition, although clearly much changed and modified at
the dictate of new circumstances and by the impact of new ideas. We see also
in it the origins of customary law. It is perhaps the essence of the fable that
the chief's rights over the people as well as the land came in answer to public
demand, not as the result of force or even mighty feats of arms. A study of
the system of land tenure cannot be divorced from its political background;
where the chief was land-holder and lawgiver his social circumstances must be
examined. In Acholi this entails a proper realization of the nature of the clan.
The Acholi clan, or consociation as modern anthropologists prefer to call it,
is fundamentally an enlarged family group: it consists of the aristocratic
1 From the Uganda Government Essay Competition, 1953.
2 In a following article this story is related in the words of an Acholi writer, Mr. D. 0.
50 UGANDA JOURNAL
lineage, known as the Kal, to which a varying number of unrelated communi-
ties or individual strangers to the blood, together called the Lobong, have
become attached. These communities themselves are normally of common
descent, each with its own head, and together their numbers are frequently
greater than those of the Kal. The Kal itself may be divided into a series of
cadet branches, each of which again has its own head. All these people are
today loosely known as the 'clan heads', and each is spoken of by the people
as a Won Kaka, but the groups under them have never been separate entities.
The whole consociation was the political unit of bygone days and its head
was the head of its aristocratic community; he was the Rwot, the Chief, but
there seems never to have been any social differentiation between the members
of the aristocratic and of the commoner communities. Throughout the Acholi
country there were several hundred of these various communities, grouped
together under some thirty politically independent Rwodi, the extent of whose
domain and the number of whose subjects varied considerably. These were the
chiefs found in possession at the turn of the century when the first tentative
moves were made to administer the Acholi people. They formed the original
framework on which our administration was built, being grouped for the most
part into smaller administrative counties; some of the lesser consociations, and
the larger amongst the subordinate communities were treated as sub-counties
or divisions under their own Jagi.
The District Stations of Gulu and Kitgum were opened in 1911 and 1912,
when modern administration began, and for some time a majority of these
chiefs or their descendants retained their position although an inherited chief-
tainship was never specifically accepted by the British Government which
frequently was forced into appointing its own nominees. The position in 1930
(which forms a convenient half-way stage and was the year in which the writer
first worked in Acholi) was that approximately half the chiefs had hereditary
claims and probably half the remainder had their homes in the areas of their
administration; the tendency was for the proportion of Government nominees
to increase. The ordinary Acholi accepted these people as their chiefs, provided
that they did not come from hostile clans and it was a healthy sign of the times
that they seemed to want the official posting as a condition of their complete
acceptance of a man as their natural leader. Whilst normally the chieftainship
was inherited, there was never a fixed doctrine of primogeniture, and succession
moved, with the generations, into different branches of the 'royal' families,
sometimes even to someone not of the blood who showed, perhaps, greater
skill with the rain-stones in time of drought-for the Rwot was also rainmaker.
The installation of a new Rwot was marked by a ceremony which included
the taking of a new wife, who shared with her husband (who may of course
have had any number of other wives) the traditional enthronement or chair-
taking. She became the dak-ker or wife of the chieftainship and her first-born
son was, in most clans, the heir apparent, who would in normal circumstances
succeed his father.
In the late nineteen-thirties the opportunity (afforded by the creation of a
united Acholi District) to attempt the reorganization of the administration on
entirely traditional lines was taken. The clans were re-grouped into a series of
LAND AND CHIEFTAINSHIP AMONG THE ACHOLI 51
some forty divisions, corresponding roughly with the old consociations: the
title of Rwot was allowed to those chiefs who could sustain their claim to it,
whilst the others were called Jago. A real effort was made to find the hereditary
claimants to these chieftainships, many of whom were of course already in
office, and only if of really outstanding ability were those chiefs whom the
Government had put in as its own nominees allowed to retain their positions:
where no clan chief was forthcoming a regency appointment was made. At the
same time the lower levels of officially recognized chiefs, the parish and village
chiefs (Mukungu and Won Paco), were re-grouped and the numerous lobong
communities were allowed to produce their hereditary heads to fill these
positions, an arrangement which produced considerable confusion and an
entirely excessive number of petty chiefs. Certain variations were made in the
systems of tax collection and in the Native Courts, so that the normal govern-
mental machine could be kept going.
This move failed and, although it is somewhat outside the scope of this
paper, it may be of more than passing interest briefly to examine some of the
reasons for this, for it had been an important attempt to model a modern
administration on a traditional African pattern. In the first place must be put
the fact that an inherited capacity to 'make rain' and to carry out other
traditional functions did not necessarily also ensure possession of those
qualities which make a sound administrator, tax collector or magistrate. Then
again, although clan loyalties remained, there was already a definite weakening
of the clan links, for unrelated groups had no longer any reason to ally them-
selves with more powerful neighbours, as had been the case in the more
turbulent times of old. This gave some of the Lobong communities the oppor-
tunity to claim a politically independent position which they had never in fact
possessed, and so introduced a new type of rivalry. In fact, some of them did
this to such good effect that many people working amongst the Acholi during
and after this period have entirely failed to realize the importance of the old
consociations or that the traditional Rwot really was worthy of the title of
chief and all that that implies. It should be sufficient to remind ourselves,
however, that in 1900 Major Delm6-Radcliffe recommended "identifying the
Chiefs with the Administration and making them a part of the Governmental
organization". Finally, the system was not very efficient and it would have
required a strong administrative staff with plenty of leisure to make it work.
World War II prevented that, and the most critical time came when the District
Staff was at its weakest and most overburdened with other duties. Even so, let
it be remembered in its favour that the system produced the best recruiting
organization for the military forces of the Commonwealth that was found
anywhere in Uganda.
The next move, in 1943, was to switch over to the normal Uganda pattern
of administration, chiefs being promoted and transferred according to admini-
strative convenience; at one time, for a short while, it actually became a matter
of policy to keep men away from their home areas. Many of the traditional
chiefs were dismissed, retrenched or retired, and others were transferred to fill
vacancies caused by these removals: new chiefs were appointed irrespective of
clan or family. The six senior chiefs became Rwot County with the status
52 UGANDA JOURNAL
normally accorded to county chiefs, whilst the remainder became Jagi or
divisional chiefs. Chieftainships were amalgamated with the idea of eliminating
those not required for administrative efficiency. Appointments were made on
the recommendation of the District Council, whose members voted on names
put forward by County and Divisional Councils which were created during this
period and on which the community heads, the Ludito Kaka, have representa-
tion. All councils put forward suggestions for any vacancy, an arrangement
which somewhat nullified the democratic principle that Government should
not only benefit but represent the people, for the Council of the area over
which the Chief was destined to rule had no greater say than any other. This
has latterly been changed so that now only those Councils concerned with an
appointment put forward their nominations.
Few mourned the passing of the clan system of administration; the reforms
which followed it, although they moved too far from the basic sociological
pattern of the tribal organization, have produced a framework upon which a
more modern system of local government can be built. With any African tribe,
however, full understanding of the indigenous system is of fundamental im-
portance if a successful reconstruction of its administrative machine is to be
achieved; even a modern local government should be designed to keep in touch
The position of an African Chief is one of great complexity, for he must be
representative as well as ruler of his people, not only the authority but also a
link in the chain which joins the mass of the common people to an impersonal
government machine. It is of vital importance to any African administration,
and to the welfare of the people, that this link should not be broken; it is the
greatest safeguard against control falling into the hands of irresponsible and
evil-disposed people. For this reason the pattern of affairs to which we should
be able to look forward is a blend of the old and the new. The hereditary
Rwodi, as such, have dropped from their places in the administrative organiza-
tion, and are likely to be replaced by local notables. Where a hereditary Rwot
is suitable for appointment as a modern chief, and there are several that are,
one can expect that the local council will recommend his appointment, and
that he will be supported, so that he will become Jago of the Division bearing
the clan name; in due course he will be in the running for chieftainship of his
County. Chiefs will be liable for transfer but will be moved only for very
special reasons. If a chief fails amongst his own people, he is even less likely
to be a success elsewhere, a truth which has been proved many times, but which
is by no means always appreciated. Fortunately transfer is no longer necessary
to ensure promotion, for the divisional chiefs are not now paid according to
the number of their taxpayers. The position of the lesser chiefs will be much
the same and some of the heads of communities will find their way to these
posts. Their influence, however will remain principally in the councils on which
they have a number of seats. As the power of the councils grows, the influence
of these people will grow with it and they will not have to pretend to be civil
The traditional Acholi system of land holding is based on the clan with, as
was shown by the fable with which this paper opened, the Rwot holding the
LAND AND CHIEFTAINSHIP AMONG THE ACHOLI 53
interest in it on behalf of all the members of his consociation. As far as it is
now possible to ascertain, it was absolutely fundamental to the old Acholi
system that the Rwot alone was owner of all rights in the clan lands and that
the lesser chiefs and community heads had no independent rights. The Rwot
was the Won Lobo, the owner of the land. The Acholi use the word Won
implying ownership, possession, parenthood and even in certain circumstances,
responsibility. It is as well therefore to emphasize that the Rwot was in no
sense a personal proprietor; he was, in effect, the trustee, whose rights were
essentially over the user of the land and were exercised according to established
custom on behalf of the whole consociation. He had also certain magical
responsibilities, as for instance to carry out the ceremonial necessary before
the annual grain planting. The Rwot owned the land in the sense that a parent
owned his children, and in the paragraphs that follow the word Won will be
found translated sometimes as owner and sometimes as father..
The geographical boundaries of these lands were known and recognized,
although there must frequently have been times when these were questioned
by neighboring clans; they are, in fact, still the cause of frequent disputes and
must surely have produced a deal of fighting in the old days. There must also,
in this large and sparsely populated country, have been wide areas unclaimed
or with the claims over them so slight as to be insupportable, Tradition tells
us of frequent population movements; clan boundaries therefore certainly
changed with the generations. Within these boundaries, however, at any given
time the Rwot's authority was supreme and he functioned through a number
of representatives, individually known as Won Piny-Father of the Soil. The
Won Piny was normally head of one or other of the subordinate aristocratic
or commoner groups and thus the same person as the Won Kaka, whose
position has already been explained. He was thus lord of all the land holders,
and known in turn as Won Ngom-owner of the earth he cultivated; these
were the family heads, for occupation was on a family, not an individual, basis.
In spite, or perhaps because, of this hierarchic system, individual or family
rights were absolute, any member of the consociation being able to settle
anywhere within the boundaries, and there seems to have been ample
machinery for the settling of disputes. Strangers could settle only by leave of
the Rwot or Won Piny, but were encouraged, as their presence strengthened
and enlarged the group.
This is the common traditional pattern of land holding amongst the Nilotic
peoples and it sufficed for the days of subsistence agriculture and shifting
cultivation, when land was more than enough for all. Density of population
is still no problem but the introduction of new and economic crops and a settled
stable form of government, which made for more permanent occupation and
encouraged some degree of concentration, brought new circumstances to bear
on the people's traditional way of living. When to these is added the slow
growth of what may best be described as the democratic idea, we find a new
system growing from the old, giving more rights to the individual.
Cultivation was of two kinds, individually near the village (Poto Gang) and
communally further afield (Kitara or Mankor). The first of these was the family's
private holding and included the land on which the village was situated. There
54 UGANDA JOURNAL
was absolute security to all land under present or past cultivation, so safe-
guarding fallow as well as crop-bearing land. In this way rights were absolute
and it was in no sense an exaggeration for a man thus placed to be known as
the Won Ngom-father of the earth he cultivated. Within the consociation
there was no restriction and any member of it could lay claim to such land as
he wanted, either by the act of cultivation or by demarcation. As changes came
in the people's mode of life, so did the family rights gradually merge into those
of the individual and that is now the position. Land held by this means may
be given away or bequeathed, provided that the Won Piny is informed, though
he cannot interfere within the clan. A man may thus return to an abandoned
holding, and I have been told that he had the right to remove anyone who had
taken his place, unless of course there had been a formal gift. This right has
not lasted to the present day and would, of course, be untenable under modern
conditions. Nowadays also, land is rarely occupied, except in quite remote
places, without previous authority of the Won Piny and of the official chief of
the appropriate grade.
By tradition the main cultivation took place in the village fields (Poto Gang),
additional crops being cultivated on a communal basis some distance from the
village; this is the Kitara and it forms a vital part in modern development. A
group of neighbours or relations, acting under the direction of an agreed leader,
join together to plant a chosen area with a certain crop. Each member of the
group takes his own segment of the Kitara and is the sole owner of its produce;
the cultivation, however, is done communally by means of working parties
(Awak), each member having his crops cultivated in rotation and of course
working in his turn on those of the other members. It is his duty, when the
day's work on his land is over, to provide food and beer for the others.
Traditionally there are no rights whatsoever over the land of a Kitara, but
only over the actual crops standing on it, and it will be abandoned after one
or two seasons. The system allows for the resting of land in the village fields
and, under more modern conditions, has proved of great value when communal
planting to prevent famine or intensive cultivation of economic crops has been
called for. It is the basis on which mechanical cultivation and co-operative
farming are now beginning to develop.
There are certain subsidiary features of the Acholi system of land holding
which should be mentioned to complete the picture, and the first of these ought
to be those connected with hunting, a pastime of the utmost importance in the
life of the people. The land of the consociation is divided into a number of
hunting manors, the hunting rights over which are owned individually, and the
owner, whose position is inherited, is known as Won Dwar or Won Tim-
Father of the Hunt or Father of the Bush. It is not easy to ascertain the exact
rules of this inheritance and I have not succeeded in doing so, but clearly the
office, vital to the social life of the people, is independent of that of Rwot as
well as that of the lesser heads of the individual communities. Tradition
inflicted stern penalties on poachers and those who interfered with the hunting
grounds or with the grass burning which used to be done systematically under
control of the owners of the individual hunting manors. No land was ever
reserved entirely for hunting, so that no-one could be prevented by the Hunt
LAND AND CHIEFTAINSHIP AMONG THE ACHOLI 55
Master's whim from living or cultivating as he wished or as the clan system
Grass burning was thus controlled in the uninhabited areas; near the village
fields land for future cultivation or grass for thatching could be marked out
before burning took place, and so preserved from the general conflagration.
This is known as Aker, and the rights of Aker are strictly respected; anyone
who indiscriminately sets fire to grass reserved in this way will have to pay
compensation. The right to use grazing or water holes is general and uncon-
trolled within the limits of the consociation.
That completes the picture of Acholi land tenure, with absolute rights for
the individual and, whilst the tribal system holds sway, complete safeguards.
There are no tenancy rights and, fortunately, no demand that they should be
established. The traditional rights of the hereditary chief are gradually passing
to the official office holders, who hold the ultimate power through their judicial
position on the rare occasions when disputes are brought to court. At present
the two systems work well in combination, as official permission is normally
needed before new land is put under occupation. The position of the lower
councils in land matters is as yet undefined, but it is probable that as they
develop they will gain an increasing responsibility, particularly as land is
needed for permanent buildings or mechanical cultivation. These councils are
already, of course, consulted when alienation, the granting of land for public
works or missions, or reservation for forestry or other purposes, is under
There is no land shortage in Acholi and with a population still below a
quarter of a million and a land area of over eleven thousand square miles, the
future appears well safeguarded. Even if areas unsuitable or unavailable for
occupation are deducted from the total, the population density is still no more
than thirty to the square mile, and there must be more than enough space for
any foreseeable development or increase in population. The population is on
the whole evenly distributed and, omitting quite small localities, local variations
are not marked to a degree which changes the general picture. The traditional
system of land holding is eminently sound and for the great mass of the people
is unlikely to be improved upon by anything which we can devise to take its
place for, though security may not be acknowledged by British law, it is
absolute (except when public need demands otherwise) under the customary
common law of the people which seems to cover almost every possible
Some more secure title may be needed in some few instances which are
entirely the result of modern conditions. The most obvious of these is the
occasion of building a permanent house or shop, although even here customary
law in fact gives absolute security. More complicated are the rights over the
communal Kitara plantations and it will clearly be necessary for the groups of
people who cultivate in this way to establish permanent claim over the land,
as well as the crops upon it, if they are to establish modern farms with proper
crop rotation. In practice, there is likely to be little difficulty in this regard
for customary law will change as the need for it to do so arises and no
difficulty has yet presented itself. I foresee this matter coming within the
56 UGANDA JOURNAL
province of the Local Councils. The man who wishes to indulge in mechanized
farming on a large scale may find himself less favourably placed, for his
activities are further removed from tradition, although as one interprets the
customary system of land holding, demarcation for the purpose of cultivation
establishes ownership. It is likely to become necessary, for the group or the
co-operative society as well as for the individual, for the rights of demarcation
to be defined and limited. Some form of fencing may become a necessary
pre-requisite of demarcation and it is probable that the Local Councils will
demand the right to approve any such act of enclosure before it is carried out.
Formal security of tenure would thus be very easily assured.
I have attempted to trace the manner in which the traditional rules of land
tenure amongst the Acholi spring from an old fable which tells how the owner
of land came also to be the ruler of the people. The clan head developed his
rights over the land, not by force or by conquest, but by the popular will, and
thus became a chief as we understand the term. The rules which we have been
considering have been transformed by gradually changing circumstances and
by the slow development of a settled domestic economy. They have on the
whole withstood the change from a subsistence system of agriculture based on
shifting cultivation, to a more settled way of life and improved methods of
farming, which have developed chiefly as a result of the introduction of
economic crops. There seems no reason to doubt that they will be capable
of further adjustment to meet the demands of those new ideas that are only
now beginning to make themselves felt--co-operative farming, mechanical
cultivation and the greatly increased agricultural effort of certain advanced
individuals. In land matters, as in much else, the power of the old traditional
chiefs is inevitably passing to the councils which, by their constitution, bring
old and new ideas into combination.
In conclusion, therefore, we may safely say that the Acholi people are the
fortunate possessors of a land system which is essentially sound and healthy
and one which, moreover, should encourage rather than retard progress. That
there is capacity for change in the indigenous system has already been noted,
and this appears to mean that there is little need for legislation or the estab-
lishment of a system of tenure recognizable by British law. This, in fact, could
have wholly unfortunate results if it were to be imposed in advance of public
demand and could lead to abuses at present unheard of without producing any
comparable benefits to the people. Whilst others may come to different con-
clusions, I find that the more closely one studies such a system and its origins,
the more clearly does one appreciate the African's inherent capacity to look
after his own basic social wants. In land administration, albeit by unwritten
law (though not, alas, in land usage) he is not a child but frequently very
mature. Lest there are those who think otherwise, I would quote the proverb
which is the Acholi way of telling one not to interfere:
Latong pa latek, latek aye omo-Unless you yourself are very strong, do not
try to take away the strong man's axe.
LAND TENURE IN ACHOLI'
By D. 0. OCHENG
T HE first that we hear of individual claims over land in the tribal history
of the Acholi is through the following legend which has been handed down
from generation to generation.
Very many years ago there were ten brothers who went to hunt far away
from their home, and were in the wilderness for several days. During this hunt,
they crossed over a ridge on the other side of which was a beautiful land such
as they had never seen before. The land was a rolling plain with short grass
and a few trees dotted here and there, stretching for miles and miles until it
embraced the sky in a dead straight line over the horizon. It appeared desolate
of human beings though full of bird and animal life. They liked it better than
the country whence they had come.
As they kept admiring the scenery and the beauty of the land, one of them
suddenly saw a herd of wild animals at a distance grazing serenely, and,
although the wind was blowing in the direction of this herd, the animals
appeared not to be disturbed. This seemed strange to the brothers, because
normally wild animals would run away at the slightest scent of humans.
Quickly they desired to capture some alive-at least the young ones-for
domesticating. So down the ridge they rushed, each trying to run faster than
the others so as to get to the herd first and capture as many as possible. One
of them however, probably the eldest, could not run as fast, and, abandoning
all hopes of capturing even a single animal, stopped by an ant-hill and climbed
to the top to watch his nine brothers scramble for the animals, which to their
great surprise behaved as though tame. Without much difficulty each cordoned
off his share of the capture.
Then, as they drove their beasts in the direction of the unfortunate brother
on the ant-hill, boasting of their wonderful captures and wondering what he
would have as his share of the splendid hunt, he stopped them and with even
greater pomp, announced to them that:
"In this new land to which the Jok (Gods) have led us, each of you has
captured for himself several animals. Although we together found the herd,
you have indicated your unwillingness to share your capture with me. I there-
fore, as my share of this gift, capture the whole of this land, as far as one's eye
can see in all directions. The land and all it contains other than your beasts,
belong to me. Any of you who chooses to stay in it and graze his animals on
my land, is obliged to pay me from time to time for doing so. Furthermore, of
any other animal that is killed by any of you who stay, I shall be entitled to
have a joint, and of any crop harvested from my land I shall have my share."
Seeing there was no other alternative, the brothers accepted their brother's
claim, and later decided that since the fine gifts of tame animals and the
beautiful land had been given to them by their Jok, it was fit that they should
I From the Uganda Government Essay Competition, 1953.
58 UGANDA JOURNAL
elect their eldest brother, who by his wit had seized the land in which they had
agreed to live, to be, from then on, their Rwot (Ruler) whose office should
always be hereditary. From that day, the Rwot was the rightful and sole owner
of the land, and one of his office titles was Won Ngom (Owner of land).
Those who re-told the legend added that this episode marked the foundation
of the present Acholi tribe, which later split into several clans under different
Rwodi (Rulers) whose ancestor was the first Rwot chosen by the nine brothers.
Whether or not this legend, told by all the clans, is true, is of little impor-
tance. But it is important that the concept of land being owned by one person
-the Rwot-has been held until recently, with the establishment of the Pro-
tectorate Government, the abolition of hereditary chieftainship and the resulting
breakdown of tribal customs. Proof of this individual ownership of land by the
Rwot can be illustrated by numerous customs, all of which go to confirm that
the legend is to some extent a true historical account of what happened at the
foundation of the Acholi tribe. Some of these are:
1. The position of Rwot has always been hereditary. His powers (originally
over the tribe and later of each Rwot over his clan) were as great as those
of any medieval ruler; he had absolute power over all who dwelt in his land.
2. One of his official titles was Won Ngom-Owner of land.
3. All his people were free to occupy and use any vacant portion of his land
but, in return, they were obliged:
(a) to give free labour at the Kal (Palace), in turn;
(b) to come to cultivate the Rwot's fields at the outbreak of the rains
(c) to give a little of every crop harvested to the Rwot;
(d) if possessing livestock, to give something out of their herds to the
Rwot from time to time.
4. All the forests belonged to the Rwot; in them he instituted game reserves
known as Tim, under the charge of game-wardens Won Tim, nominated by
him (these also were hereditary offices). Hunting in these reserves was
strictly prohibited. Once a year the Won Tim sought permission from the
Rwot for the people to join in a big hunt. The Rwot was entitled to a
specified joint from all carcasses of big animals killed, an obligation from
the people known as Tyer; the nearest English word is 'donation'.
These tribal customs afid many others pertaining to the office of the Rwot
are proofs of his ownership of the tribal land.
This may be taken as the first phase of the history of land tenure among
the Acholi, a phase when all the land, as known to the people at the time,
belonged to one person-the Rwot.
As time went on the population gradually increased and disagreements
among the people grew more frequent. But what caused the split of the original
tribe to different clans is uncertain.. Usually these splits took place at the death
LAND TENURE IN ACHOLI 59'
of a Rwot, when there was division of opinion as to which of his sons should
succeed him as Rwot. When agreement could not be reached, the people
usually agreed to disagree, so that each party stuck to its selected Rwot, and
whichever group or groups had the minority of people migrated to a different
region as far away from the other as possible, and there founded a new clan.
The newly founded clan functioned on the same lines as the original tribe. The
Rwot was again recognized as the sole owner of the clan land, since as a direct
descendant of the first Rwot, he was by custom entitled to inherit his father's
property-although this time the land had been split between two or more
brothers, by mutual agreement between all parties.
Each clan in its new region was a separate sovereignty. Each kept strictly
secluded from the others and guarded its region jealously. Fortunately each
clan group had abundant land within its region so that there was no cause for
inter-clan wars in search of land. With these divisions there developed for the
first time a sense of ownership of the respective regions by the clan rather than
by an individual-the Rwot.
This change came about gradually because each Rwot understood quite well
that he had to maintain the love and support of his particular clan if he was
to stand firm in any violent disagreement with the other clans, as well as to
be able to beat off aggression from neighboring tribes. Furthermore the
gradual increase in population meant more families living at a distance from
the Kal, and it was necessary for the Rwot to appoint groups of clan elders on
the spot, to supervise and enforce the clan laws.
This meant his relying more and more on the clan elders for decisions.
When his powers were bit by bit delegated to a group of clan elders, so also
the Rwot began to lose the control he had hitherto exercised over what was, by
custom, his land, while the people began to have more and more say. His other
rights, however, continued to be respected by the people.
As years went by, more clans were formed, movement became more and
more restricted and each clan kept together as a family group within its par-
ticular region. With small populations and spacious land, each clan was able
to shift its settlement quite comfortably within its bounds. This semi-settled life
gradually made each clan cherish its region, especially when it had been blessed
with a healthy climate, plenty of water and abundant grass for their herds and
for game. This was the period when the people began to talk about land as
'our land', and clan disputes over boundaries became frequent. It is interesting
to note that although the Rwot was still regarded as Won Ngom, yet any
boundary dispute between clans was always settled as if the land belonged to
the clans and not to the respective Rwodi (Heads).
Thus later on in the tribal history, after the establishment of the Protectorate
Government, we come across numerous examples of clans claiming ownership
over regions they once occupied. A ready example is that of the Panyira clan
who, because of sleeping sickness, were evacuated from Anaka to Aswa County
by the Protectorate Government, and later, when Anaka was cleared of the
disease, demanded to .go back to what they called 'the land of our fathers',
despite the fact that there was land enough and to spare in Aswa. Those among
them who had lived in Anaka recalled how that land was very suitable for
60 UGANDA JOURNAL
agriculture, had very good grazing and the abundant game which they needed
to supplement their meat supply.
This could be called a second phase in the history of land tenure among the
Acholi, a phase when the tribal land was divided among several clans, whose
respective Rwodi gradually lost the paramount power once exercised by their
With the establishment of law and order under the Uganda Protectorate
Government a third phase of land tenure was entered. It will be recalled that
tribal land had at one time been the property of one person, the Rwot, and that
later the family of the ruling Rwot split into several clans each headed by a
royal son, each with full claims of ownership of the region occupied by his
followers; finally, the paramount power over land gradually slipped from the
hands of the various Rwodi into the hands of their clan elders-the tribal
At this stage, which coincided with the establishment of the Protectorate
Government, the question of who was the owner of the tribal or for that
matter the clan lands, could not be easily answered. The obligations which the
people had towards their Rwot had become part of their tribal custom, so that
people carried them out, not because they were aware that he was the owner
of all the land, but because it was their custom. There had been no necessity
for owning land; therefore people did not even think of doing so. Even the
Rwodi were not sure what 'private ownership of land' meant, apart from the
fact that by custom and hereditary rights they were 'owners' of the land. What
they wanted from the new government was respect for their rights as Rwodi,
and they were satisfied living together with their people provided those rights
were not violated.
To the new government therefore, it was clear that land was not privately
owned by the inhabitants, but that it belonged to the tribe, subdivided under
the various clans and administered by clan elders under a Rwot. Consequently
under the new government all became Crown land.
The new title of 'Crown land' and the taking over of responsibility for
administering it did not in any way change or violate tribal land tenure rights,
neither did it mean that the land no longer belonged to the Acholi but to the
Crown in England, as some people feared it did. The rights of occupation were
upheld and the clan elders or councils retained their powers of administering
land problems. People were still free to occupy and cultivate anywhere they
liked provided it was vacant and the clan elders or councils were aware of it.
The government did however, set aside forest lands as Crown forests and
game reserves, to preserve trees and animals as well as bird life. Even these
reservations were in accordance with the tribal customs which recognized the
need for a game sanctuary.
What is significant however, is that during this phase, individuals began to
claim ownership over plots which they occupied, when circumstances taught
them the necessity for doing so. At this stage, however, the hereditary Rwodi
LAND TENURE IN ACHOLI 61
had been abolished, who perhaps might have re-stated their claims to be
The most important factor which influenced individual claims was the estab-
lishment of town and religious centres which encouraged stable societies. The
people who settled around these places gradually utilized the available land in
the neighbourhood for house sites and for cultivation. Their plots, although
dotted about some miles apart, are recognized by the people themselves. There
are already cases where such pieces of land have been handed from father to son,
with every intention of retaining them as family land, and people now refer to
their sites as 'my area' or 'plot'. These claims are also respected by the govern-
ment, although it has the power to remove anybody from land which is required
for public purposes.
Under the old native customs, the people were obliged to give free labour to
the Rwot and, as duty, a little of whatever crop was produced on 'his land'.
The new government substituted Poll and Local Government Taxes, apart from
which no rent is paid by the people for their use of the land.
Land has always been given freely to the people and this was to continue;
therefore no one was allowed to sell any site to another when vacating it,
although there is nothing to prevent one from selling crops in the field,
buildings and other items on the land.
Lastly, every aspect of land tenure has been left as of old. No laws, either
customary or otherwise, were written down to safeguard individual rights of
occupation. The plot boundaries remained unsurveyed, neither were titles
issued to the owners. In other words, all was based on mutual understanding
and trust which, happily, are still respected by every tribesman, and will
perhaps so continue as long as there is still vacant land.
GORDON'S FORT AT MRULI
By SIR JOHN MILNER GRAY
IN 1876 Charles Gordon, who was then Governor of the Equatorial Province
of the Sudan, embarked upon an ambitious scheme for giving the Khedive
of Egypt access to Lake Victoria by establishing a chain of military posts
between the shores of that lake and Foweira on the Victoria Nile. One of these
posts was to be placed at Mruli, another in Bulondoganyi and another near the
Ripon Falls. The first of these posts was to be established near the confluence
of the Kafu and the Nile close to where Speke, Grant and the Bakers had met
Kamurasi in 1862 and 1864.(1) After Kamurasi's death his son Kabarega had
removed his orubuga (capital) to the vicinity of the modern Masindi. At the
time of Gordon's first visit to Mruli there was no vestige of any town on the site
of Kamurasi's former orubuga, not even a cluster of huts. (2)
From the very start of his reign Kabarega had shown his determined hostility
to all Khedive Ismail's plans for the aggrandizement of Egypt in the lake region
of central Africa. That hostility had been manifested in his attack on Sir Samuel
.Baker shortly after the latter, in pursuance of the Khedive's instructions, had
proclaimed the annexation of Bunyoro to Egypt. In 1874 it was again mani-
fested, close to Mruli, by an attack by a flotilla of canoes on Chailld-Long, an
American in the Egyptian service, as he was returning by way of Lake Kyoga
from Buganda to Lado. A year later, a Frenchman in the Egyptian service,
Linant de I)ellefonds, was attacked on land as he was crossing the Kafu close
to Mruli on his return journey from Buganda to Rejaf. Obviously therefore
Mruli was a weak spot in Gordon's proposed lines of communication and a
military post was needed in order to prevent the interruption of free passage
between the countries lying to the north and south thereof.
Another reason for establishing a post in this locality was because it would
probably lend support to Kabarega's rival, Ruyonga, who had first unsuccess-
fully tried to claim the throne of Bunyoro at the time of Kamurasi's succession
in about 1851. On that occasion he had been forced to flee and to take refuge,
first of all, on an island in the Victoria Nile and latterly in Lango. After their
rupture Baker had proclaimed that Kabarega was deposed and that Ruyonga
was king in his place. As Ruyonga had but a scanty following and was unable
to stand up unaided against his 'deposed' kinsman, Kabarega still remained
Mukama de facto of Bunyoro. (3)
Gordon reached Patiko in Acholiland early in January 1876. On 21 January
he reached the banks of the Kafu to find that the local chief had set fire to his
house and fled with his people to Kabarega at Masindi. Next day he crossed
the Kafu without opposition and made his way to a spot on the banks of the
Nile about six hundred yards to the east of the confluence of that river and the
Kafu. He decided to establish his post at this spot. After giving the necessary
instructions for this purpose, he returned by canoe to Foweira on 24 January.
He had found Mruli to be "a miserable country, full of mosquitoes". These
insects, and a hot sun accompanied by a cold east wind, which had forced him
to put on a great coat on the last day of his stay at Mruli, had evidently brought
on a bout of fever, which came to a head after he reached Foweira. Later
GORDON'S FORT AT MRULI 63
European visitors to Mruli paint similar pictures of the general unhealthiness
of the place.(4)
On 17 February 1876, Gordon wrote (5) from Dufile to General Mervyn
Drake giving the following account of his journey to Mruli:
"I had then to go south to Mruli which we took from Kaba Rega (never saw
the enemy who fled) I have now vide sketch map posts up to Victoria Lake.
I have the steamer about one half finished, two large life boats completed, and
the latter go to lake Albert next week. I am not going. I came down here from
Mruli in 7 days (Mruli is 130 miles North of Victoria Lake). Such a wilderness
of a country all the way from here to Mruli, scrub forest tearing you into
ribands, swamps, jungle grass 9 ft. high. Elephants' footholes like pitfalls in
path, for they dislike the high grass as well as we do. I did not meet a single
human all this route except in the vicinity of the stations. Only saw a few deer
and killed only one. There are lots of lions, elephant, etc.. if you can judge
from their marks. The Victoria River sluggish and wide with marshy banks,
musquitoes ad libitum and a heavy atmosphere of malaria, at night the moment
the sun goes down, a deadly cold humid air comes up from the river but it
does not check the Musquitoes who pierce you in all directions. On my arrival
at Foweila, Kaba Rega left Masindi, and I sent troops to it with a Chief Askari
who will now govern these black treasures. Rionga has Mruli, Kaba Rega has
gone South, they say.
I staid (sic) at Mruli till I could see I could be of no further service, and
indeed as it was I did very little service; it was only my presence which was
required for the troops are not lions by any means, so having installed them,
I came down in order to send up supplies of all sorts. You see as long as I am
with the troops, they know I will look after them and therefore at all new
stations, go I must."
Gordon left it to Nuehr Aga, an Egyptian officer, whom he placed in charge
at Mruli, to establish the two remaining posts further to the south. It was
known that the proposed sites lay either within or else close to the boundaries
of Buganda. Nuehr Aga had accordingly been instructed to handle the
business carefully and on no account to establish a station at Bulondoganyi if
Mutesa of Buganda raised any objection. Mutesa invited Nuehr Aga and his
men to Rubaga, where he induced the Egyptian commander to send back his
Acholi porters. The Egyptian garrison was thus immobilized. For several
months they remained virtually prisoners in Buganda until Emin Bey, who had
been sent by Gordon on a political mission to Rubaga, managed to persuade
Mutesa to allow them to return to Mruli.
It so chanced that, in ignorance of the true state of affairs in Buganda,
Gordon had planned to proceed to Lake Victoria, to hoist the Khedive's flag
on the lake and then on his return journey to map the Nile from the Ripon
Falls to Mruli. When he reached Foweira on 13 August 1876, he first learnt
of the critical situation in which the Egyptian troops were. He had at once to
alter his plans. He abandoned all idea of proceeding to Lake Victoria and
decided to limit his survey to plotting the Nile between Mruli and Bulondo-
ganyi. Even this amended plan had later to be curtailed. He stayed at Mruli
from 18 August until 9 September, when the Egyptian troops arrived from
64 UGANDA JOURNAL
Rubaga. Two days later he set out eastwards to survey the river. In the course
of that and the four following days he made his way close to the shores of the
Nile and Lake Kyoga to a spot in northern Bugerere near to where the Nile
flows into Lake Kyoga and where some twenty years later Kakunguru erected
the fort which he called Galiraya (Galilee). Gordon's caravan had to make its
way through difficult jungle country and was waylaid on two occasions by
hostile spearmen. His porters had immediately thrown down their loads and
tried to run away. Feeling little or no confidence either in the members of the
caravan or the officer in charge of the escort, and thinking that there was little
to be gained from any further survey of the river, Gordon returned by canoe
to Mruli, whence, on 20 September, he proceeded towards Masindi-only to
discover that his subordinate had not complied with his instructions to erect a
fort there but had instead settled at Kerota, nearly 25 miles to the north.
Leaving Kerota he crossed the Nile and in due course proceeded to Khartoum,
whither he was called by urgent public affairs. From Khartoum he returned to
England, having abandoned any further idea of establishing any military posts
to the south of Mruli. (6)
Though Emin Pasha, Carlo Piaggia and more than one missionary of the
Church Missionary Society visited Mruli between 1876 and 1879, for the most
part these visitors give us very little information regarding the station. As
Emin's meeting with Gordon at Mruli on 7 September 1876 shows, the station
at that date was merely a zeriba, that is to say, a small military post surrounded
by a stockade consisting of cactus or some other kind of thorny plant.(7)
On 27 January 1879, Dr. R. W. Felkin of the C.M.S. reached Mruli on his
way from Khartoum to Buganda. He stayed there until 3 February, waiting for
porters and an escort which had been promised by Mutesa. He returned to
Mruli on 1 June and learnt that during his absence the garrison had had their
troubles. He was told that "some of the soldiers had been killed by the Langos,
who live on the east bank of the Nile, and had to be avenged. The offenders
were severely punished, and eight hundred head of cattle had been taken from
them, so that food was abundant now".(8)
Neither Gordon's nor Emin Pasha's letters and diaries give us any informa-
tion about this fight with the Lango or the subsequent measures of reprisal.
Father Tarantino makes no mention of any fighting between the Lango and
the Egyptian garrison either in his 'Lango Wars' (Uganda J., 13, 230-235) or in
his more recent vernacular history of the Lango. One is ready to believe that
the Egyptian commander at Mruli may have had good reasons for not reporting
to higher authority an episode which may not have redounded to the credit
either of himself or of the men under his command, but one is surprised that
there appears to be no mention thereof in the tribal traditions collected by
Father Tarantino. The incident undoubtedly took ploce. There is not only
Felkin's authority for the fact, but there is also information given twenty years
later by Sudanese soldiers to Captain (afterwards Lieutenant-General Sir)
William Pulteney. According to this later information a Bimbashi, known as
'Kukakka', was killed during the fighting. It was further stated that "all his
effects (which are stated to have been considerable)" fell into the hands of the
enemy and were eventually delivered over to Kabarega of Bunyoro.(9)
GORDON'S FORT AT MRULI 65
Lango District lies on the east bank of the Nile opposite to Gordon's Mruli,
from which it is separated by about one thousand yards of open water and
papyrus swamp. About three hundred yards of this latter separate the fort
from the open water. The fort stands upon a bank which rises only about
fifteen feet above the papyrus swamp. As the Rev. C. T. Wilson of the C.M.S.
tells us, the landing place was about five to six hundred yards to the west of
the fort on the bank of the river Kafu, a few hundred yards above its con-
fluence with the Nile.
Strategically, therefore, the fort was far from impregnable. Given a combina-
tion of certain favourable circumstances, there would seem to be no reason
why an attack on the zeriba by a large body of Lango spearmen should not
have met with a considerable measure of initial success. In particular if the
attack was made on a dark night and if an inefficient look out was being kept
by the garrison, the attackers may well have been able to effect an entry into
the zeriba. To judge from the somewhat meagre information which is available,
this is what I believe to have happened. The fact that shortly after the fight
the Egyptian commander converted the zeriba into a more substantial en-
trenched earthwork would appear to confirm this view. In the circumstances,
therefore, I think the alternative theory that the Bimbashi was killed whilst
on a foraging expedition into the Lango country may be ruled out, though-to
judge from what Felkin says-a very successful raid was undertaken after the
Bimbashi's death as a measure of reprisal.
As Father Tarantino tells us, the Lango more than once gave useful military
aid to Kabarega of Bunyoro in his wars against the Baganda and the Batoro. (10)
As Kabarega strongly resented the establishment of Egyptian military posts at
Mruli and elsewhere in his territory, it is by no means improbable that he
instigated the Lango attack on Mruli. As already said, it would appear as if
an element of surprise enabled- the attackers to penetrate inside the zeriba, but
it is evident that they must eventually have been driven out. But the initial
success had deeply wounded Egyptian amour propre and in retaliation the
garrison at Mruli crossed over into the Lango country and came back with a
large number of cattle.
Felkin tells us that at the time of his second visit in June 1879, "the station
had also been threatened by Kabarega, and the old stockade not being as strong
as was desirable, Farag Aga, the commander of the soldiers, was busily engaged
in constructing a substantial earthwork. This Farag Aga Ajok is the young
soldier whom Sir Samuel Baker was going to shoot at Tewfikieh, and of whom
he makes frequent mention in 'Ismailia".(l 1)
The reconstructed fort was surrounded on three sides by a trench, which at
the time of a survey in 1937 was still five to six feet deep. There are at the
present time no traces of any trench on the north side next to the river, but this
may be explained by the fact the river may have reached as far as the fort.
The fort was more or less, but not quite, rectangular in shape. The trenches on
the east and west flanks were each of them about 750 feet long; that on the
south side was about 500 feet long. There were bastions covering the various
lines of approach. As Felkin mentions Egyptian artillerymen as forming part
of the garrison, it would appear probable that some small calibre pieces of
66 UGANDA JOURNAL
artillery were mounted on these bastions. A number of buildings were con-
structed inside the fort. Some of these were still visible when Bishop Tucker
visited the place in February 1899, but not a trace or sign of them remained at
the time of the survey in 1937.(12)
Farag Aga's fort had a very brief life. On 6 November 1879, Gordon wrote
to inform Sir Samuel Baker that he had decided to abandon Mruli and other
stations to the south of the Nile because "they are not worth keeping".(13) On
27 December in that year Pere Barbot of the White Fathers' Mission left
Rubaga in company with Pere Girault with the object of seeking medical
treatment from Emin Pasha at Lado. When the Fathers arrived at the frontier of
Buganda, they learned of Gordon's plans for evacuation and so returned to
Rubaga. Early in January 1880 a messenger reached Rubaga with letters from
Gordon informing Mutesa of his intention and suggesting to him that he should
send soldiers to occupy Mruli and thus keep open communication between
Buganda and Egypt. The letter was written in Arabic and the Arab, who was
called on to interpret it, omitted Gordon's proposal because he feared that the
maintenance of this trade route might ruin trade with Zanzibar. As Alexander
Mackay of the C.M.S. had also received a letter from Gordon urging him to
advise Mutesa to occupy Mruli, the omission did not pass undetected. Both
Pere Lourdel and the Rev. C. W. Pearson informed Mutesa of what Gordon
had written. The idea appealed to Mutesa. First of all he decided to send eight
hundred men to man the post as well as a deputation to take presents to Gordon
at Khartoum. But there were a number of delays and eventually both expedi-
tions were called off.
Mutesa procrastinated, but not so Kabarega. On 22 February 1880, Pere
Barbot, this time in company with the Rev. G. Litchfield of the C.M.S., set out
once more for Lado. When the two reached the frontier, they discovered that
Mruli had been occupied by Kabarega. Once more Barbot together with his
companion had to make his way back to Rubaga. Like Barbot, Litchfield was
a sick man and had wanted to obtain Emin's medical advice. He had now to
undertake a six-hundred-mile journey to the nearest accessible doctor, Dr.
Baxter of the C.M.S. at Mpwapwa in what is now Tanganyika.(14) On 5 October
1882, on the strength of information which had reached him from Buganda,
Emin Pasha recorded in his diary that "Mruli is now entirely in the possession
of his (sc. Kabarega's) people, who have built all over the land, and converted
our zeriba into a large village. (15)
When, in 1894, Kabarega was finally driven across the Nile, a chain of forts
was established along the banks of that river in order to guard the more
important crossings. One of these forts was built at Mruli on the left bank of
the Kafu, that is to say, on the opposite bank to the site of Gordon's fort.
Though Mruli was once or twice used as a base for large-scale operations
against Kabarega, this new fort was little more than a blockhouse and was
usually manned by a sergeant's guard. In 1898 it fell for a short time into the
hands of the Sudanese mutineers.
In 1896 a curious incident recalled the days when Egyptian and Sudanese
troops had garrisoned Gordon's fort. On 15 September Captain Pulteney
reported to the Officer Commanding the Uganda Rifles (Major Trevor Ternan)
GORDON'S FORT AT MRULI 67
that a boy had been stopped while carrying a sword from Kitanwa to Masindi.
When questioned as to how it came into his possession, he first of all stated
that it was the property of Rwabadongo, to whom it had been given by
Mwanga. Rwabadongo had at one time been one of Kabarega's staunchest
supporters. He had recently made his peace with the British Government, but
his new-found loyalty was viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. Further
interrogation of the boy led to his admission that the sword had been sent
three days previously by Kabarega to Rwabandongo, who, when questioned,
said it had been sent to him for the purpose of buying hoes, a statement which
at once aroused suspicion. Pulteney gathered that the sword was being passed
from chief to chief, but with what object he was unable to say. As, after inter-
cepting the sword, Pulteney sent it to his Commanding Officer, Kabarega's
purpose whatever it may have been, was never disclosed. Before despatching
the sword to Ternan, Pulteney showed it to some members of the Sudanese
garrison at Masindi. They at once recognized it as the sword of "Bimbashi
Kukakka", whom the Lango had killed in Gordon's time.(8)
(1) K.W. (1937). The Kings of Bunyoro-Kitara. Part III. (Uganda J., 5, 63) tells us
that in Speke's time Kamurasi's orubaga was at Kihaguzi, Buruli,
and in Baker's time at Kayera, Buruli.
(2) Hill, G. B. (1881). Colonel Gordon in Central Africa, 1874-1879. p. 153.
(3) K.W. Op. cit., p. 62.
(4) Hill, G. B. Op. cit., pp. 153-4.
(5) Letter now penes the Sudan Government Antiquities Service, Khartoum;
quoted by kind permission of the Commissioner for Archaeology.
(6) Thomas, H. B. (1938). Gordon's farthest south in Uganda in 1876. Uganda J.,
(7) Schweitzer, G. (1898). Emin Pasha, his life and work. Vol. 1, p. 38. London.
(8) Wilson, C. T. and Felkin, R. W. (1882). Uganda and the Egyptian Soudan.
Vol. 1, p. 333; vol. 2, pp. 38-9. London.
(9) Captain W. Pulteney to the O.C., Uganda Rifles, 15 September 1896. Secretariat
(10) Tarantino, A. (1949). Lango Wars. Uganda J., 13, 230-5.
(11) Wilson, C. T., and Felkin, R. W. Op. cit., vol. 2, p. 39.
(12) Tucker, A. R. (1908). Eighteen years in Uganda and East Africa. Vol. 2, p. 179.
(13) Murray, T. D,, and White, A. S. (1895). Sir Samuel Baker; a memoir. Pp. 243,
(14) Nicq, Abbe. (1895). Le Pare Simdon Lourdel. Pp. 187-8. Algiers; and Mackay
of Uganda, by his sister. (1890). Pp. 151-2. London.
(15) Emin Pasha (1919). Die Tagebiicher von Dr. Emin Pascha. Vol. 2, p. 131.
THE INDIAN ORIGINS OF SOME AFRICAN
CULTIVATED PLANTS AND AFRICAN CATTLE
By IVAN R. DALE
M LLE. HOMBURGER, late Professor of Bantu Languages, University of
Paris, has discovered the basic similarity of the Bantu languages to those
of the Dravidian peoples who were among the earliest inhabitants of India
(private communication). The early history of the Bantu is extremely obscure
and their origin in India is possible. It is thought that cultivated plants may
give corroborative evidence and also indicate the migratory routes.
It is well known that a number of cultivated plants in Bantu Africa have
come from India, but all the well known introductions have probably been by
sea within the Christian era. They were brought by ship, though there is the
possibility that seeds of the Bastard Almond (Terminalia catappa L.) and of
the Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) were floated in by sea currents. Of these
introductions Greenway (1944-5) records the following:
Colocasia antiquorum Schott-Taro or Eddoes.
Syzygium cumini (L.) Skeels-Jambolan.
Mangifera indica L.-Mango.
Jambosa jambos (L.) Millsp.-Rose Apple.
Solanum melongena L.-Brinjal or Egg Plant.
Phaseolus mungo L.-Black Gram.
Phaseolus aureus Roxb.-Green or Yellow Gram.
Oryza sativa L.-Rice.
Some plants common to Africa and India have been known so long that their
origins can only be guessed at. The Tamarind (Tamarindus indica L.) and the
Palmyra or Borassus Palm (Borassus aethiopicum Mart.) are examples.
Evidence that other African cultivated plants have derived from India is due
to a considerable extent to the researches of Professor N. I. Vavilov who after
the 1914-18 War directed for the U.S.S.R. a world-wide survey of cultivated and
cultivable plants. He applied to cultivated plants the hypothesis of Willis-that
in comparing wild species with similar modes of dispersal those with the wider
distribution are the older, and that the longer a species has been in an area
the more diverse will be the derived species and subspecies found there.
Vavilov's investigations led him to define seven original main centres of distri-
bution of cultivated plants; the Punjab, north-west India, Afghanistan and
Persia were part of one centre, Assam and Burma part of another; the rest of
India and highland East Africa, composed chiefly of Abyssinia, were others.
Vavilov's method of determining centres was to mark on a map the cultigens
(domesticated species and subspecies) of importance and to locate the centre
of origin where the cultigens were thickest. In explanation of the fact that these
centres of origin were largely mountainous, Vavilov considered that these were
the most likely places for original plant domestication, and that civilizations
based on the cultivation of plains country were secondary. I. H. Burkill (1953)
AFRICAN CULTIVATED PLANTS AND AFRICAN CATTLE 69
criticizes these findings and considers Vavilov was in error in taking the whole
of his evidence from plants and disregarding the cultivator. He is of the opinion
that mountain areas with their variety of climates are places where a diversity
of species is likely, and as such, good fields for a skilful plant-breeder to
explore for new forms, but that they are not a sure source of the world's
cultigens, the ennoblement of which was more likely to occur in areas adjacent
to the mountains. Whatever the final judgment may be I find no difficulty in
accepting India with its early civilizations and great variety of climatic condi-
tions as one of the major centres of origin of domesticated plants, probably far
older than the African ones.
Burkill's conclusions on dispersion routes between India and northern Africa
are of great interest. The obvious route is via Mesopotamia to Syria and thence
to Egypt. The Indus civilization-exemplified by Mohenjo Daro and Harappa
-which arose around 3250-2750 B.c. and finally collapsed under the Aryan
invasion about 1500 B.c., is known to have been in contact with the civilization
at the head of the Persian Gulf. Burkill rather discounts the importance of the
Nile valley as a dispersal route for cultivated plants between the Sudan and
Egypt because of the increasing desiccation, and points out that the sea route
from Kosseir, the port of Thebes on the Red Sea, was a more likely one. The
Red Sea route would have joined with the way across southern Arabia, the
so-called 'Sabaean Lane', which was the main trade route to Abyssinia from
the east. Wainwright (1952), with reference to plantains, points out that there
was a practical route to the south-west from Aksum in Abyssinia. Cosmas (see
McCrindle (1897)) records that in the sixth century A.D large caravans travelled
from Aksum through the country of the Agau to the gold workings in the
valleys of the Rivers Toumat and Yabous, which join the Blue Nile in the
neighbourhood of Fazoqli. One of the main ports of Abyssinia at that time was
Adulis near Massawa.
As a migration route for man and animals the Sabaean Lane, Baluchistan
and the Indus valley would need to have enjoyed a better climate than they
do today. Stuart Piggott in his Prehistoric India gives archaeological evidence
of more clement conditions in southern Baluchistan and in north west India.
Records of Alexander the Great's campaign suggests that in the fourth century
B.C. Sind was still fertile, but conditions in southern Baluchistan at the time of
Alexander's retreat in 323 B.c. were certainly as arid as today. When Aelius
Gallus invaded Arabia in the first century B.C. he found the country a desert
with prosperous oases-as it is at present. Seeds may have passed along the
route in the normal course of trade. It has been said that the civilization of
southern Arabia was given its death blow when the Greek navigator Hippalus
discovered the changes in the monsoon in A.D. 45; the incense trade thence-
forward went by sea. In the absence of contrary proof one may accept the
Sabaean Lane as a possible migration route for many centuries for people
moving in small numbers. The migrations would of necessity have been in small
groups owing to the crossings of.the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.
Some plants of major importance in India and Africa may well have travelled
by the Sabaean Lane. The Pigeon Pea (Cajanus cajan Millsp.) is, according to
Vavilov, of Indian origin, but it has never been found in the wild state there
70 UGANDA JOURNAL
and may be African. It was cultivated in Egypt before 2000 B.c. The Bulrush
Millet (Pennisetum typhoides (L. C. Rich.) Stapf. and Hubbard), according to
Greenway, is believed to be of African origin though it extends into India. The
Finger Millet (Eleusine coracana Gaertn.), though of remote antiquity in Africa
and India, may well have been derived from the wild Indian form, E. indica
Gaertn. and have been cultivated in India before the Aryans came in 1500 B.C.
The sorghums (Sorghum vulgare Pers.) are undoubtedly African and have
spread to India, which has become a secondary centre for cultivated forms.
G. A. Wainwright (1952) records that plantains (Musa paradisiaca L.), which
are generally considered to be of Malaysian origin, were cultivated in Egypt in
the early centuries of the Christian era and considers that they would have
arrived at the Red Sea coast of Abyssinia well before that date. Cosmas saw
them at Adulis not far from Massawa about A.D. 525. Their possible journey
up the Nile valley to Uganda may be contemporaneous with the earliest Bantu
migrations. Greenway considers that the Kaffir Potatoes (Coleus barbatus
Benth., C. dysentericus Baker, C. edulis Vatke, and C. esculentus (N.E. Br.)
G. Taylor) are of African origin, but there is a possibility of the purely African
species having evolved from one common ancestor such as C. barbatus, which
occurs in Arabia, India and Ceylon. The cultivated Horse Radish Tree
(Moringa oleifera Lam.) is indigenous in northern India and is widespread in
the warmer parts of East Africa, but wild forms occur, e.g. M. peregrina
(Forssk.) Fiori, which are so closely allied to M. oleifera as to make their
Quail Grass (Celosia argentea L.) and Cockscomb Grass (C. argentea var.
cristata Kuntze) are of Indian origin though their dates of introduction into
East Africa are unknown. The Calabash Gourd (Lagenaria vulgaris Seringe)
is regarded by Burkill as African and as having travelled to India by the
Sabaean Lane. It was in early use by the Aryans. As the species is also found
in America its original home is doubtful. It is found wild in India and may
have been dispersed by sea currents to America from Africa or India. The
Loofah (Luffa cylindrica (Lour. Roem.) ) has also been cultivated for so long
that it is impossible to say if it is originally African or Indian; L. acutangula
(L.) Roxb. grows wild in India.
The Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata Walp.-syn. V. sinensis Endl.) is thought
by Vavilov to be of Indian origin. Some wild races occur in Africa and Burkill
considers it to be originally an African plant. The Hyacinth Bean (Dolichos
lablab L.) may be African as there is a wild perennial race but it is regarded by
Greenway and Vavilov as Asiatic. The plant reached Egypt 'long ago', but it
may not have arrived in East Africa until much later; the eighth century has
J. B. Hutchinson (1952) regards the Tree Cotton (Gossypium arboreum L.)
as an Asiatic plant; Vavilov also states that the cultigen originated in India.
The race soudanense occurs in Egypt, the Sudan, Somaliland and West Africa.
It was first recorded in Africa at Meroe in the northern Sudan about 500 B.C.
The race indicum occurs on the East African coast and was probably intro-
duced by sea. It is of interest to learn that when Xerxes invaded Greece in
480 B.c. nearly all his army was clothed in skins, except the Indians who were
AFRICAN CULTIVATED PLANTS AND AFRICAN CATTLE 71
in cotton and Assyrians who were in linen, in spite of Sennacherib having
brought the cotton plant into Assyria in 694 B.C.
The origins of African cattle postulated by Curson and Thornton (1936) and
based on unpublished material of Dr. H. Epstein, are also enlightening in
respect of Bantu origins. They consider the first African cattle to have been
domesticated from the great-horned wild oxen of the Nile Valley about 4000
to 3000 B.c.; the domestication resulted in the Hamitic Longhorn. They con-
sider the Brachyceros or Shorthorn Cattle were brought to Egypt by invaders
of Mediterranean stock in the third millennium B.c. One result of the intro-
duction was the dispersion of the Hamitic Longhorn, mainly westwards to
Morocco and thence northwards to Spain and southwards to French West
Africa and Nigeria.
A later introduction, also from Asia, was the Lateral-Horned Zebu or
Afrikander. This caused dispersion of the Shorthorn Cattle which followed the
routes of the Hamitic Longhorn and spread as far afield as France and the
Channel Islands. Epstein appears to date the advent of the Afrikander at about
2000 B.C., but Curson and Thornton map the route across Arabia and the
southern end of the Red Sea to Abyssinia and date its arrival about 1000 B.C.
Incidentally they record the present day occurrence in Nepal of a breed with
skulls of Afrikander type, but doubtless the Afrikander was once widely
spread. The presence of the pure Afrikander type in South Africa is explained
by the theory that the Hottentots obtained the breed somewhere in the neigh-
bourhood of Abyssinia before being driven south via the Great Lakes and
south-west Africa to arrive in the present Cape Province about A.D. 1500.
Curson and Thornton consider the Lateral-Horned Zebu to have been
extensively crossed with the Hamitic Longhorn to produce the Sanga type of
cattle, "the most common type today in Africa, south of the Sahara". They
opine that these cattle were spread by the movements of the Bantu peoples,
not only southwards into East Africa, the Rhodesias and the eastern parts of
the Union of South Africa, but also westwards via the southern Sudan into
the Chad region of West Africa.
The Short-Horned Zebu, common in East Africa and closely related to the
Thar Parkar breed in India, is thought to have been brought to the East Coast
by sea and land early in the Christian era. The introduction may have been
intensified, when the Arabs settled along the coast. This type of cattle has
spread westwards through the latitudes of northern Kenya and the southern
Sudan toward Lake Chad.
Burkill, I. H. (1953). Habits of man and the origins of the cultivated plants of the
Old World. Proc. Linn. Soc., Lond., 164, 12-42.
Curson, H. H., and Thornton, R. W. (1936). A contribution to the study of African
native cattle. Onderstepoort J. vet. Sci., 7, 613-719.
Greenway, P. J. (1944-5). Origins of some East African food plants. E. Afric. agric.,
J., 10, 34-9, 115-9, 177-80, 251-6 and 11, 56-63.
Huntingford, G. W. B. (1952). African History-14. Tazama, 9 July 1952, 5.
72 UGANDA JOURNAL
Hutchinson, J. B. (1952). The dissemination of cotton in Africa. Uganda J., 16, 1-14.
McCrindle, J. W. (1897). The Christian topography of Cosmas, an Egyptian monk.
London: Hakluyt Society.
Philby, H. St. J. (1938). Arabia. London: Benn.
Piggott, S. (1950). Prehistoric India. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books
Vavilov, N. I. (1932). Sur l'origine de l'agriculture mondiale d'apres les recherches
recentes. Rev. Bot. appl. agric. trop., 12, 302-8, 399-403.
-- (1949-50). The origin, variation, immunity and breeding of cultivated plants.
Chron. bot., 13, 1-6.
Wainwright, G. A. (1952). The coming of the banana to Uganda. Uganda J., 16,
- (1953). Bananas in Uganda. Uganda 1., 17, 85.
CATTLE BREEDING PROBLEMS IN UGANDA
By M. H. FRENCH
Head of the Joint Animal Industry Division of the East African Agriculture
and Forestry Research Organization and the East African Veterinary Research
THE history of mankind is intimately associated with the development of
farming and, among man's earlier efforts towards achieving a settled com-
munal life were the domestication of livestock and the tillage of land. While it
is impossible to state categorically that animal domestication always preceded
land cultivation, contemporary evidence from existing primitive communities
suggests that the taming and subsequent domestication of animals generally
preceded soil cultivation and the anchoring of human populations by crop
husbandry. Reference to historical records, as well as investigations into the
habits of contemporary primitive peoples, suggest an absence of deliberate
attempts to conserve natural fodders or to grow food for livestock. Instead, as
primitive man developed (to a nomadic existence), his flocks and herds were
driven slowly over the available natural pasturage in search of food and it is
probable that, like many Africans today, these early human ancestors did not
clear weeds, shrubs and trees from land nor crop it, until they were fairly
certain they could reap adequate returns for their labours.1
The progression from timid pygmies to arrogant pastoralists, to placid indi-
vidual cultivators and to vociferous, commercial farmers has occurred at different
times in different environments and the continued existence of these earlier
populations, within relatively small distances of the more advanced agricul-
turists, indicates the slowness and unevenness of farming evolution and its
dependence on climatic factors. In Uganda, all stages are encountered from the
western forest pygmies, to Karamoja and Ankole pastoralists, the intensive
subsistence agriculturists of Kigezi, the extensive mixed agriculturists of the
Eastern Province and the intensive mixed farmers of Buganda while various
intermixtures of these types are more widely but less specifically distributed.
The association of specific livestock types with environment is recognized
by their nomenclature, the implication being that selection has resulted in
distinct types or breeds adapted to varying local conditions and that the differ-
ent farm livestocks have developed to their existing levels where environmental
conditions are equilibrated with or optimal for their growth, reproductive and
productive levels. In general, this productive adaptation applies to Uganda
where the complex inter-relationships of climatic, biological, geological, social
and economic factors vary appreciably within narrow geographical limits. In
the Protectorate, primitive standards of wealth are concerned more with stock
numbers than with the quality or the productive ability of the animals but,
whereas this tendency is generally applicable, in the environs of Kampala and
other centres with high population densities animal productive capacity is now
being recognized by the owners as an important and commercially desirable
74 UGANDA JOURNAL
In Uganda, as in other parts of the world, commercial farming dependent on
available transport facilities is a gradual but continuous development in which
the needs of town-dwellers and the labour forces of other productive units will
contribute increasingly towards the breakdown of the older self-sufficient agri-
cultural organizations and their replacement by larger-scale producing systems
for organized markets. This tendency, already well-advanced for cotton and
coffee, will extend to the main human foods and is already apparent in maize
Just as environment can never be static so is the adaptability of livestock a
continuous process whose full exploitation involves the incorporation of modern
ideas and progressive husbandry methods. In livestock development it is often
impossible to separate improvements caused by genetic influences from those
due to husbandry practices. Whereas suitable environmental conditions are
necessary if the full expression of a desirable genotype is to be achieved, any
further amelioration of the environment becomes uneconomic once the particu-
lar genotype has reached its physiological limits.
In most areas of Uganda which are unaffected by tsetse infestation the live-
stock population has reached, or exceeded, the numerical equilibrium justifiable
under prevailing agricultural and pastoral conditions and has reached a stable,
though relatively low, level of performance under those conditions. In other
words it is both saturated and mature.2 The introduction of improved standards
of husbandry and fodder conservation, the eradication of tsetse, or the wide-
spread adoption of improved tick-control measures may, however, so alter
environmental conditions that the productive capacity or the numbers of stock
or both could be appreciably raised. If this were done, the existing saturated
and mature herds could become both unsaturated and immature.
While certain factors in the environmental complex can be altered, others,
such as the geology, climate, altitude and topography, are fixed. Just as the
environmental factors vary with locality so may the physiological reactions of
animals, and many workers have reported on animal responses to various
climatic factors. In fact, as a result of work done during the last 25 years, much
is now known of the reactions of different breeds to various climatic effects
and of the restrictive limitations automatically imposed when stock from one
climatic zone (such as the higher producing mature temperate types) are
introduced to an entirely different tropical or sub-tropical environment.3 to 7
This work has also helped to clarify ideas on the possibilities of developing
the productivities of unimproved local types which at least have the significant
advantage of being in harmony with indigenous climatic conditions. It has
emphasized the desirability of a stratification of local types to fit the improve-
ments which are possible practically and to cater for the variable developments
in population demands.
Before leaving this general introduction, it is well to realize that the intro-
duction of the turnip into British farming, not only avoided the expense of the
previous practice of maintaining a third of the land in bare fallow but provided
a new foodstuff which revolutionized the wintering of stock. This crop, together
with the earlier introduction of clovers and grass leys, made possible the 18th
century advances in British livestock improvement by providing farmers, for
CATTLE BREEDING PROBLEMS IN UGANDA 75
the first time, with means for avoiding either the winter losses in condition or
the autumn slaughtering of surplus animals. Prior to this means of successfully
wintering stock, British animals, like many existing African-owned stock today,
possessed no general standards for shape, size and colour and similarly no
efforts had been made to develop milk or beef strains. As applies in East Africa
today, milk yields and qualities were the first to receive attention but it is
instructive to note how the first improver, Bakewell, deliberately sacrificed some
milking ability in order to improve the fattening capacities of his longhorned
cattle. Once a means had been achieved for keeping animals above the annual
winter maintenance or subsistence level, the famous early livestock improvers
could devote their attention to raising stock productivity. Their greatest
successes were achieved by inbreeding, instead of employing the prevailing
out-breeding system, and the mating of only the best individuals chosen at first
by personal judgment but subsequently by means of crude progeny tests. The
successes which followed their efforts is an inspiration for African livestock
owners because British stock, which previously had been poor in quality,
quickly achieved the premier place in the world's breeding markets.
It is not suggested, however, that the same improvement methods could be
applied in Uganda but, quite obviously, any comparable fodder preservation
by haymaking or ensilage would enable the first improvement measures to be
taken, namely, the avoidance of the dry seasonal weight losses and the conse-
quent selection of stock on a productive and not a survival ability. To maintain
livestock at existing Uganda levels, some 30-40,000 young bulls must be
annually introduced into its herds and there is obvious scope and incentive for
many existing livestock owners to extend and apply the efforts which have been
inaugurated by the Veterinary and Agricultural Departments at their livestock
centres. The task of improving Uganda cattle is prodigious but possible, pro-
vided African owners exploit the lead being given by these Government Depart-
ments. It must also be remembered that, in establishing these improvement
centres, the officers involved have had to make the best use of the animals they
could purchase and their culling records indicate the difficulties they have
encountered. Naturally, an African owner of a good animal wishes to retain it
but it is in the overall interests of the Protectorate and its peoples that these
early livestock centres are able to secure some of the better animals for their
work and subsequently obtain adequate records of the success or otherwise of
Control of type and environment must be properly integrated if progress is
to be made and the more certain factors are controlled, the greater must be the
attention given to genetic as opposed to environmental improvements. The
amelioration of environmental conditions, the improvement of management,
feeding and breeding, will yield marked advances in productivity but as the
advance continues so will its rate diminish. Where genetically more complex
factors such as economic production and performance are concerned, achieve-
ment results from a balancing of genetics and environment. Better environments
permit better gene combinations to be detected and the object in selection is to
evaluate the animals when living in an environment only slightly above that into
which they will be distributed, so as to make each breed as productive as
76 UGANDA JOURNAL
possible in the conditions under which it will live. Certain characters run in
families and the aim is always to improve each succeeding generation. It is far
more important to know the quality of the progeny than the genes possessed
by the parents and this information can only be acquired by persistent study.
Superiority in an animal is a reflection of the way it fits the conditions under
which it lives and should be measured in yield/acre and not yield/beast. Small
.size can be of distinct advantage in conditions of sparse grazing as two mouths
on two small animals can then be in two places at once and thereby have a
better opportunity of securing requirements than would a single mouth on a
,correspondingly larger animal. Rapid maturation can also be a disadvantage
under seasonal grazing conditions and the existing slow rate of maturation of
indigenous Uganda stock partially enables them to overcome the serious conse-
quences of markedly different seasonal food supplies. In any improvement
schemes it is essential to preserve the advantages of local cattle, particularly
their heat tolerance, slower maturation and small size, otherwise their produc-
tive ability will outstrip the improvements possible economically in their
natural grazings and environments. Also, animal breeding and improvement
:schemes amongst backward and somewhat suspicious people must be conducted
tactfully especially since their natural conservatism and ignorance must be
.overcome without the lengthy explanations so necessary for their more educated
Before considering improvement of cattle, it is desirable to appreciate some-
thing of their origin and ancestry. In Uganda, there are two sharply contrasted
indigenous types-the shorthorned Zebu and the Ankole (Sanga)-and a
certain number of more variable and incompleted fixed crosses (Nganda cattle)
between the two basic types. It is believed20 that all indigenous African cattle
have been derived from four parental types, namely, the Hamitic Longhorn,
the shorthorned Brachyceros, the longhorned or lateral-horned Zebu and the
:shorthorned Zebu. It is thought that the first were domesticated from wild
giant-horned cattle along the lower Nile before or during the Neolithic era,
while, towards the end of that period, human migrations brought with them the
very different shorthorned Brachyceros cattle from Asia. These displaced the
Hamitic Longhorns from the lower Nile and forced them to migrate westwards
along the Mediterranean littoral and southwards to the region of Abyssinia.
This southern group of Hamitic Longhorns later came into contact, roughly
towards the end of the third pre-Christian millennium, with lateral, longhorned
Zebus entering Africa from Asia via Southern Arabia. Interbreeding between
these two longhorned types produced the various Sanga cattle which have since
migrated to most regions south of the Sahara. Cattle movements naturally
accompanied human migrations and the latter, following the great Lakes, left
in Uganda the Sanga progenitors of the present Ankole cattle.
In the van of this human migration stream were the progenitors of the people
now known as the Hottentots who took southwards some of the original long-
horned or lateral-horned Zebus and the remnants of this parental type have
subsequently developed into the South African Afrikander.
CATTLE BREEDING PROBLEMS IN UGANDA 77
The last cattle to invade East Africa entered from Asia at the time of Islamic
expansion and, although they have penetrated and dominated large areas, they
have not spread so diffusely from their point of entry. These were the short-
horned Zebus which today form 85-90 per cent of the East African cattle
population. They originated from the crossing in Asia, of Brachyceros cattle
with lateral-horned Zebus and so both basic Uganda cattle types can lay claims
to the old longhorned Zebu as a common ancestor. Local crossing in Uganda
of the Ankole and shorthorned Zebu has given rise to the, as yet, incompletely
fixed Nganda type.
Since the basic Uganda cattle can both lay claim to longhorned Zebu
ancestry, albeit far removed, it is speculative to contemplate the possible useful-
ness for improving Uganda cattle of the only pure descendant in Africa of this
early Zebu type, viz. the Afrikander. It would be essential, however, for anyone
considering this possibility to consider only the more developed strains of this
breed from the Union and to familiarize himself with the reasons underlying
the failures reported with this breed in the neighboring territory of
The only chance of raising the productivity of the average indigenous cattle
in Uganda is by the adoption of more intensive management practices. Already
milk productivity has been raised in the more densely populated areas of
Buganda near the larger urban centres by better husbandry practices, including
the provision of concentrated foods and the stall feeding of the cows, improved
disease control measures and the ranching of surplus animals on a communal
co-operative basis. In the mixed farming and semi-intensive Teso and Lango
districts, improvement objectives encourage the ranging of calves with their
mothers in the daytime, their segregation at night and the milking of the cows
in the morning. Such methods of management33 produce healthy calves, which
mature more quickly and with lower losses from East Coast fever, especially
when they are linked with the more intelligent control of natural and swamp
grazings. Much progress has been made in the construction of dams in the
extensive Karamoja and Ankole Districts to avoid unnecessary walking in
search of water. The general dry-season grazing conditions in these areas
restrict productivity so that highly productive meat or milk producing cattle
are unlikely to survive without supplementary feeding. On the other hand, the
Veterinary Department has successfully established range herds of local cattle
in Ankole and demonstrated their enhanced beef potentialities and the feasi-
bility of employing improved disease control and husbandry methods, in spite
of age-old customs and superstition which lead to the widespread but unjustified
Bahima custom of slaughtering unwanted males at an early age.33, 34 The social
and economic development of Uganda is rapidly proceeding and it is unlikely
that the demands for slaughter stock and other animal products will be met for
some time so that the current schemes, for raising the beef output by using local
breeds under the improved management practices advocated in the livestock
improvement areas, are amply justified. In these ranching schemes, it has been
shown that the local cattle reach 170 lb. liveweight when 6 months old and
that, in achieving this satisfactory growth rate without supplementary feeding,
the milk production for human needs has been reduced by only about 30 per
78 UGANDA JOURNAL
cent.35 36 Costing returns suggest an annual 15 per cent return on capital in-
vested and the ranged herds are attracting considerable attention from African
stockowners. The system has already been adopted by a number of the more
progressive owners and there would seem to be little doubt but that existing
semi-nomadic Bahima customs will develop towards a more settled system
involving range management and the use of water conserved in dams.
Any attempt to introduce highly productive cattle into these areas is unlikely
to succeed until there has been a corresponding improvement in natural
grazing conditions and the adoption of conservational measures for preserving
nutritious wet season fodders for use in the dry season.16' 17 The first general
improvement must depend on the better management of indigenous types and
it is surprising how among the indigenous Ankole and Zebu stock of Uganda,
and in spite of the low nutritional planes on which many now subsist, individual
animals exist which are genetically capable of higher productivity. The successes
achieved at the Serere and Entebbe Livestock Centres have demonstrated how
such individuals respond to improved environmental conditions.22,23.36 Equally,
experience at these centres has shown how other apparently identical animals
cannot be encouraged to higher production in spite. of better feeding and
management. This proves the inadvisability of encouraging Africans to en-
vironmental improvements with firm promises of better yields but clearly
demonstrates that selection for economic characters cannot be made until the
environmental plane has been satisfactorily raised. It is in achieving the latter
that the greatest obstacle to preliminary essential livestock improvement will
be encountered because it is upon the general nutritional level that all attempts
to improve breeding and management will depend.
The climatic conditions are relatively permanent and determine the type of
animal which can usefully be bred and, in this respect, the temperature,
humidity and solar radiation factors combine against the probability of success-
fully using European temperate breeds except possibly in a few of the higher
altitude areas such as Kabale and even there, as reference to Fig. I indicates,
the temperature and humidity relationships exhibit a different sequence from
those in the areas where these breeds have been developed and to which they
are basically acclimatized. The reason is that work in the U.S.A.,6 7 14
Australia,12 South Africa,s-10 and Tanganyika17 has shown that the temperature
and humidity relationships of tropical and sub-tropical areas, to which Zebu
cattle types are fundamentally adapted, are physiologically incompatible with
the maintenance of body temperatures, respiration and pulse rates and the
high nutritional levels necessary for the higher productivity of temperate breeds.
Different breeds, as well as individuals within a breed, vary in their heat
adaptability and it is generally accepted that temperate breeds can function
efficiently only where the maximum temperature does not exceed 65-75 F.
and where seasonal variations offer at least a temporary escape from these high
temperatures.24 When this climatic unsuitability of temperate breeds is added
to their higher nutritional requirements and their lower tolerance to tick-borne
diseases, the net conclusion for Uganda must be that indigenous Zebu and
Ankole cattle offer better material for increasing productive levels. The experi-
ence at Government breeding stations,22' 23, 36 has shown that selection in im-
CATTLE BREEDING PROBLEMS IN UGANDA 79
proved environments will raise milk yields to the 200 gallon lactation level
fairly quickly. It is also fairly certain, from experience on Departmental stations,
that the meat producing ability of local types can also be rapidly improved by
proper management and nutrition.
In most tropical countries, immigrant Europeans have been forcibly im-
pressed by the low productivity of indigenous cattle and have attempted
improvements by crossing the local with an improved exotic breed. Experience
generally has shown that the heterosis and conformational uniformity in
half-bred animals are very marked and though the development of half-bred
herds in certain parts of Uganda could raise productivity appreciably, the
problem would quickly arise as what to do with the half-breds. Back-crossing
with indigenous breeds will result in productive levels more in line with the
indigenous stock, while top-crossing to further European sires will quickly lead
to over-graded animals incompatible with local nutritional and disease condi-
tions.24 The other possible solution, the inter-breeding of half-breds with the
objective of developing a new half-breed is a possibility involving considerable
risk and demanding a high knowledge of genetics. Elsewhere25 new breeds such
as the Santa Gertrudis, Philamin and Montgomery Jerseys have been developed
by the judicious mixing of different amounts of Zebu and European blood and
interbreeding the particular cross-breds but, under present Uganda conditions,
all efforts to improve local cattle should involve the breeding up of the distinct
local Zebu and Sanga breeds and their Nganda crosses. It may ultimately be
possible to use improved Indian Zebu types for the former stock but this will
not need detailed consideration unless the present Veterinary and Agricul-
ture Department experiments demonstrate that local selective improvement
measures are unable to meet commercial developmental needs.
For the improvement of Uganda cattle therefore one falls back on the long
term selection of indigenous breeds as the soundest policy for overcoming
natural environmental factors such as climate, soil, vegetation, topography and
enzootic diseases and for meeting economic and social requirements. Both the
Ankole and the Zebu possess characters which fit them for selection within
the practical and foreseeable environmental and husbandry management im-
provements. Superior milk producers occur in both breeds and, if a sufficient
concentration of these superior genetic types can be accomplished on Govern-
ment farms, improved nuclei of superior but locally adapted animals could be
achieved within a reasonable time interval. Continuity of policy is a funda-
mental necessity for this work as must be certain basic environmental improve-
ments in the African areas to which the improved stock are distributed.
In both Zebu and Ankole breeds, selection and breeding for higher milk
productions must be rigorously associated with the elimination of any
unwillingness to 'let-down' milk. In the Ankole breed, attention must also be
directed to the substitution of polled cattle instead of animals possessing the
enormous horn growth which has been, and probably still is, a feature of
Butterfat estimations in milk are easy to make and, whilst the fat content of
milk has an important financial bearing in developed dairying and butter
industries, there is a danger of their importance being over-emphasized in
80 UGANDA JOURNAL
African areas. Considerable attention has been devoted in certain East African
Territories to the commercial production of ghee19 but when, as is so often
stated, milk yields are to be increased to meet the needs of calves and the
requirements of the owner's family, the nutritional contributions of milk
proteins, minerals and Vitamins assume a greater significance than fat. In any
case, the normal milk'of African cattle is rich in fat but the total volume
available for human consumption is so small that, in the interests of supplying
the larger quantities of proteins, minerals and vitamins to the latter, some
sacrifice of fat could be contemplated with equanimity.
Emphasis has been laid deliberately on the need to improve the Ankole and
Zebu types as separate entities and this should be the general objective. Large
numbers of crosses between these basic types already exist and the Entebbe
Centre is attempting to produce an improved type of these Nganda cattle. This
experimental work must obviously continue because of the possibility that a
superior type will be produced by the interbreeding of the two indigenous
strains. It is, however, extremely desirable that further indiscriminate mating
of these two basic types should not be encouraged until the longer-term
experimental data are available and the possibilities and the limitations of inter-
breeding have been definitely established.
Since milk yields are easier to measure than the potentialities for beef produc-
tion, the tendency has been to select more for dairy than for beef or dual-
purpose animals. In spite of this, definite 'beefy' types have been encountered
and it will probably be found that, whereas dairy types are an outstanding
need in near-urban areas and beef types are better suited to the drier and more
distant regions, many intermediate zones will develop a demand for dual-
purpose beasts in which the females can be relied upon for a reasonable milk
yield but the surplus males will be expected to yield more and better meat.
Each breeding centre will therefore have to decide, after a suitable preliminary
and exploratory breeding policy, whether it is not more desirable to select for
milk or beef alone or whether to attempt the more difficult problem of com-
bining two rather antagonistic quantitative characters in a single breed, when
neither character is desired at the maximum or optimal level. The decisions
will have to be made to suit the areas to be served and the economic factors
involved. Overseas, and with more highly productive European breeds, the
opinion is frequently expressed that high milk outputs are incompatible with
high levels of beef production in a single early maturing breed. The Uganda
breeds do not possess, and should not yet be encouraged towards, early
maturity; and overseas ideas on desirable levels of milk or beef production
differ fundamentally from those which are economically possible under the
systems of management which can be foreseen in African areas. At the lower
levels aimed at locally, both beef and milk potentialities can be raised in the
same animals without serious effects on maturation rates.
In the existing experimental stations the numbers of foundation animals is
comparatively low because of their expense, lack of facilities or sufficiently
large areas, or the impossibility of securing suitable foundation stock. The
intensity of the selection which can be applied at a breeding centre can be
measured by the difference in the performance of the average of all animals
CATTLE BREEDING PROBLEMS IN UGANDA 81
and that of the animals selected for the breeding of future generations. This
differential is appreciably influenced by the numbers of animals which must
be kept to replace normal wastage, and its intensity is considerably reduced
whenever the replacement rate in the herd exceeds the number of animals
which should be retained for their own merit. To facilitate a more rigid culling
on a performance basis it is most desirable that the original herd should be at
least twice that ultimately desired, because Entebbe experience26 suggests that
some 55 per cent of available animals should be culled within a year of calving.
If proper progress is to be achieved in these breeding centres, the early culling
must be entirely ruthless; the need for sufficient foundation stock cannot be
stressed too often; while money must be available to replace sold culls with
It is not easy, nor entirely desirable, to state the minimum size of herds for
breeding investigations but United Kingdom experience27 28 suggests a herd of
2,000 cows are needed to secure the maximum genetic improvement by the
progeny testing of closed herds. This is beyond the scope of any single centre
or group of territorial centres without additional staff. With herds of 100-120
cows the rate of genetic improvement is approximately half the theoretically
possible value and with herds of this size it would be possible to progeny test
only one young bull per year.
It would be an obvious advantage if the chances of success of a given breed
in a specified environment could be predicted without the expense of an actual
test. The most promising prediction method is that of Wright29 which is based
on climographs constructed by plotting mean monthly air temperatures against
mean relative humidities. The enclosed areas depict climatic conditions in
terms of the two variables and, from a study of the climographs in areas where
different breeds are known (a) to do well (b) to adapt themselves with difficulty
and (c) to fail, it is possible to predict the chances of a breed succeeding in
another known climatic environment. Admittedly, borderline cases will be
encountered and the method omits such factors as solar radiation, wind
cooling, the range of daily variations, etc. but the possibilities of the method
can be deduced from the accompanying charts. In the diagrams, the tempera-
tures and relative humidity figures are for 14-30 hours instead of for the usual
mean monthly values (the averages for 8-30 and 14-30 hours) but this has been
done because drier, hotter daytime atmospheres exert appreciable influences
on cattle adaptability.
The accompanying climographs (Figs. 1 and 2), which could be combined,
but are separated here only for clarity, depict the climatic conditions of a
number of Uganda centres.30 The figures also include a selection of climo-
graphs from European, South and East African, Indian and New Zealand
recording centres, based on information received from the Director of Meteoro-
logical Services, Nairobi. The Uganda figures lie within the 60-80F. and the
29-74 per cent relative humidity boundaries while the climographs for areas
where European breeds do well are largely outside these ranges.
82 UGANDA JOURNAL
oF SCORCHING HUM
,0 Ma- TORORO rNTRa
70 MBARARA g
60 L ONDO.N
40 STOCK OLM
30 KEEN ___
20 30 40 so50 60 76' 80 ,'
F SCORCHING HUM
0 O HYDERABAD
S.,:: ..... ..ZANZIBAR
so ,- .
q.- U F-- R- ORT PORTAL
30 KEEN, R
CATTLE BREEDING PROBLEMS IN UGANDA 83
An interesting feature brought out by these climographs is the long narrow
shape, roughly parallel to the humidity axis, of the majority of Uganda
climates and the more restricted and less obviously defined patterns of lacus-
trine and coastal regions. In sharp contrast with the main Uganda pattern,
the climographs for localities where European breeds are successful are less
circumscribed, possess far greater temperature but less humidity variations and
their general direction, almost parallel to the temperature axis, is nearly at
right angles to the normal inland Uganda climographs. By using Wright's
nomenclature, the climographs for areas suitable for European breeds fall
largely in the 'raw' segment of Figs. 1 and 2 whereas the Uganda units, with
the exception of Kabale, lie either across the 'scorching' and 'humid' quadrants
or fall entirely in the latter.
Much has been written of the possibilities of using Indian and Pakistani
improved Zebu strains for speeding up the improvement of East African Zebu
breeds and strains. This aspect of cattle improvement in Uganda has been
omitted from the earlier part of this paper because the use of improved Indian
bulls has not yet been adopted in Uganda. Usually Sahiwal or Red Sindhi bulls
have been used in other countries for raising the milking capacity of local
Zebus.31, 32 Reasonably accelerated improvement of milking ability has resulted
from the use of these breeds and the charts contain climographs for Hyderabad
and Karachi where the Red Sindhi breed has been developed. The climograph
for Montgomery district, the home of the Sahiwals, is similar to that for
Hyderabad although slightly drier. These Indian Zebus are thus adapted to hotter
conditions than are encountered in the majority of Uganda stations and
normally are adjusted to a considerably greater temperature range. It is
probable, particularly in view of the Red Sindhi adaptability to the wetter
Karachi climate, that these breeds could be used in Uganda but their use would
prevent information being obtained on the selective breeding of Uganda cattle
per se and interfere with the collection of basic information on the productive
capacity of existing Uganda stock.
1 Orwin, C. S., and Orwin, C. S. (1938). The open fields. London: Oxford University
2 Nichols, J. E. (1945). Livestock improvement. London.
3 Rhoad, A. 0. (1938). Some observations on the response of purebred Bos taurus and
Bos indicus cattle and their crossbred types to certain conditions of the environment.
Amer. Soc. Anim. Prod., Proceedings, 284.
4 Rhoad, A. 0. (1944). The Iberia heat tolerance test for cattle. Trop. Agriculture,
Trin., 21, 162.
5 Rhoad, A. 0. (1940). Absorption and reflection of solar radiation in relation to coat
colour in cattle. Amer. Soc. Anim. Prod., Proceedings, 291.
6 Seath, D. M., and Miller, G. D. (1947). Heat tolerance comparisons between Jersey
and Holstein cows. J. Anim. Sci., 6, 24.
7 Regan, W. M., and Richardson, G. A. (1938). Reactions of the dairy cow to changes
in environmental temperature. J. Dairy Sci., 21, 73.
8 Bonsma, J. C., and Pretorius, A. J. (1943). Influence of colour and coat cover on
adaptability in cattle. Fmg. S. Afr., 18, 101.
9 Bonsma, J. C. (1949). Breeding cattle for increased adaptability to tropical and sub-
tropical environments. J. agric. Sci., 39, 204.
10 Bonsma, J. C. (1940). Dept. Agric. & For., S. Africa, pamphlet 223.
84 UGANDA JOURNAL
11 Riemerschmid, G., and Elder, J. S. (1945). The absorptivity for solar radiation of
different coloured hairy coats of cattle. Onderstepoort J. vet. Sci., 20, 223.
12 Kelly, R. B. (1943). Zebu-cross cattle in Northern Australia. An ecological experi-
ment. Bull. Counc. sci., industry. Res., Aust., 172.
13 Findlay, J. D. (1950). The effects of temperature, humidity, air movement and solar
radiation on the behaviour and physiology of cattle and other farm animals. A review
of existing knowledge, Hannah Dairy Res. Inst. Bull. 9.
14 Ragsdale, A. C., Brody, S., Thompson, H. J., and Worstell, D. M. (1948). Environ-
mental physiology with special reference to domestic animals. II-Influence of tempera-
ture, 50' to 105 F., on milk production and feed consumption in dairy cattle. Missouri
Agric. Exp. Station, Res. Bull., 425.
15 French, M. H. (1941). The failure of pure and high grade European cattle in hot
climates. E. Afr. agric. J., 6, 189.
16 French, M. H. (1940). The comparative digestive powers of zebu and high grade
European cattle. J. agric. Sci., 30, 503.
17 French, M. H. (1940). Cattle breeding in Tanganyika Territory and some develop-
mental problems relating thereto. Emp. J. exp. Agric., 8, 11.
18 French, M. H. (1951). Factors affecting animal nutrition in Tanganyika. E. Afr.
agric. J., 16, 198.
19 French, M. H. (1939). Bull. imp. Inst., Lond., 36, 349.
20 Curson, H. H., and Thornton, R. W. (1936). A contribution to the study of African
native cattle. Onderstepoort J. ver. Sci., 7, 613.
21 Tanganyika Government. (1932). Ann Rep. Dept. Vet. Sci. & Anim. Husb., p. 72.
22 Uganda Government. (1952). Ann. Rep. Dept. Agric., p. 49.
23 Williams, E., and Bunge, V. A. (1952). Development of the zebu herd of Bukedi
cattle at Serere, Uganda. Emp. J. exp. Agric., 20, 142.
24 Phillips, R. W. (1948). Breeding livestock adapted to unfavourable environments.
F. A. 0. Agric. Stud. (Wash.), No. 1, p. 70.
25 Maule, J. P. (1951). New breeds of cattle. Anim. Breed. Abstr., 19, 141.
26 Faulkner, D. E., and Brown, J. D. (1953). The improvement of cattle in British
Colonial Territories in Africa. (p. 39) London: H.M.S.O.
27 Rendel, J. M., and Robertson, A. (1950). Estimation of genetic gain in milk yield
by selection in a closed herd of dairy cattle. J. Genet., 50, 1.
28 Robertson, A., and Rendel, J. M. (1950). The use of progeny testing with artificial
insemination in dairy cattle, J. Genet., 50, 21.
19 Wright, N. C. (1946). Report on the development of cattle breeding and milk produc-
tion in Ceylon. (p. 15) Eastern N. 179. Sessional paper XX. Ceylon Govt. Press.
30 E. Afr. Met. Dept. (1951). Collected Climatological Statistics for East African
31 Kenya Government. (1950). Ann. Rep. Vet. Dept., p. 44.
32 Tanganyika Government. (1952). Ann. Rep. Dept. Vet. Sci. Anim. Ind., p. 35.
33 Uganda Government. (1949). Ann. Rep. Vet. Dept.
34 Uganda Government. (1952). Ann. Rep. Vet. Dept.
35 Uganda Government. (1951). Ann. Rep. Vet. Dept.
36 Uganda Government. (1952). Ann. Rep. Vet. Dept.
THE FOOD OF TILAPIA IN EAST AFRICA
By G. R. FISH, B.Sc.
O NE of the more important inland fisheries in East Africa is the Tilapia
fishery. These fish are not only sold for local consumption but, dried or
salted, they are exported in large numbers. Their popularity as a fish easily
cultivated in ponds is growing, but the natural population in the inland waters
of East Africa produces by far the largest contribution to the industry. The
value of these fish to the economy of the country has led to a considerable
amount of research being done on them by the East African Fisheries Research
Organization and others. Amongst the many factors influencing the growth of
the fish, its food is of the greatest importance. Much remains to be done before
a complete understanding is reached of the food requirements of the species of
Tilapia, but the data already collected show some rather unusual features. It
is well known that they are herbivorous and, as in all herbivores, relatively
large quantities of material have to be eaten because a large proportion of the
food is indigestible. It is important to know what part of the ingested material
is digested by the fish; this can be determined by comparing, under the micro-
scope, the contents of the stomach with that of the rectum or by making
chemical analyses of the gut contents.
THE SELECTIVE DIGESTION OF PLANKTON
The best known species of Tilapia is the 'ngege', Tilapia esculenta Graham
which feeds on suspended plankton in the water (Fish, 1952). The mechanism
used to collect the suspended material from the water has been described
(Greenwood, 1953). The plankton adheres to mucus produced in the mouth
and the mucus is then passed into the stomach. Other species of Tilapia, e.g.
T. variabilis Blgr. and T. nilotica (L.), feed on the plankton but also on algae
growing on rocks and on aquatic plants. The stomach contains a mass of mucus
in which the algae are embedded. These algae, in most lakes, consist mainly of
diatoms together with members of two other main groups, the green (Chloro-
phyceae) and blue-green (Cyanophyceae) algae. When the fish have been brow-
sing on the epiphytic flora, filaments of green and blue-green algae, fragments of
plant epidermis and epiphytic diatoms are also found in the stomachs. The con-
tents of the rectum are similar to those of the stomach except that the diatoms
have been digested (Figs. 1, 2). The other algae pass through the alimentary canal
apparently unharmed, unless the cell wall has been damaged, in which case the
contents of the cells are digested. Vaas and Hofstede (1952), in Indonesia, have
successfully cultured green algae obtained from the faeces of T. mossambica
Peters, a species with feeding habits similar to those of T. nilotica, and thus
confirm our observations. Any small crustacea which are occasionally eaten
are also digested but, according to the data collected at present, form only a
very small proportion of the plankton ingested by the fish.
:86 UGANDA JOURNAL
The conclusion to be drawn from these observations is that these species of
Tilapia normally depend on diatoms in their food for their nutrition. This
-conclusion is supported by data collected from certain areas where the water
.supports an abundant algal population which lacks diatoms. Such areas have
been found in the Lake Albert region where there are lagoons, originally
forming part of the main lake but now isolated owing to a fall in lake level.
The chemical composition of the water in these lagoons has been altered as a
result of evaporation, and, although a large algal plankton is found in them,
it is made up almost entirely of blue-green algae and contains very few diatoms.
Certain dams which have been examined contain plankton composed mainly
of green algae. The plankton-feeding fish in these waters show definite signs
,of malnutrition. On the other hand, certain habitats unusually rich in diatoms
have produced unusually high catches of fish. An officer of the Lake Victoria
Fishery Service obtained up to 100 Tilapia variabilis per 4-inch gill net near
Butera Island in the south-west of Lake Victoria; a sample of water taken at
the same time was examined and found to contain over 6,000 diatoms per
,cubic centimetre. These figures of fish caught and of diatom population are
both high as compared with other parts of Lake Victoria.
The results of the selective action of the digestive enzymes of these fish can
be clearly seen under the microscope, but as yet no adequate explanation can
be offered. It is likely that a fundamental difference in cell-wall structure
between the diatoms and other algae is the main factor involved. Diatoms have
an extremely resistant cell-wall composed of silica. Nevertheless there is direct
*connexion between the protoplasm and the surrounding water because the cell-
wall is pierced by pores or a raphe according to the species. The silica shells
remain clearly identifiable after passing through the gut, but are empty. All
other algae have a cell-wall of cellulose, or a derivative of cellulose, which is
continuous and impervious to the digestive enzymes.
THE DIGESTION OF CERTAIN SPECIES OF BLUE-GREEN ALGAE
Fish from Lake Rudolf, one of the very alkaline lakes in Kenya, were
exceptional in that they were found to be digesting blue-green algae. Tilapia
nilotica in the Ferguson Gulf region of this lake grows to an extraordinary size
and fish of ten pounds weight are frequently caught. The plankton of the Gulf
is very rich, colouring the water green, but it is composed almost entirely of
species of Spirulina and Anabaenopsis. These are both blue-green algae and
are freely ingested by the larger Tilapia. They are readily digested (Figs. 3, 4)
and no doubt the very large size attained by the fish is related to the abundance
of this food. These algae, belonging to a group not usually digested by Tilapia,
are limited in East Africa to the highly alkaline waters of lakes such as Rudolf
and Elmenteita. There is no visible difference in cell-wall structure between
these and other blue-green algae, but it is possibly significant that water with a
high sodium-to-calcium ratio (as found in these alkaline lakes) does seem to
affect the cell-walls of some blue-green algae when they are cultured in the
laboratory. Anabaena cylindrica (Lyngb.) when grown in such a medium,
develops thick gelatinous walls causing the filaments to clump together.
Nevertheless diatoms may still be important to the nutrition of the Tilapia
THE FOOD OF TILAPIA IN EAST AFRICA 87
in Lake Rudolf. All specimens below 40 centimetres in length contained large
numbers of epiphytic diatoms and only those above this size were feeding on
the blue-green algae. A migration of the fish from the inshore to the offshore
waters of the gulf at a length of about forty centimetres is indicated by these
data, which were collected during a visit in January 1953. The observations
need confirmation by further collections at other times of the year.
It is of interest that these blue-green algae which are digested by Tilapia
in Lake Rudolf also on occasion form an important source of food for the
Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor (Geoffrey) ) (Rich, 1931; Ridley and
Percy, 1953). Samples of gut contents of these birds from Lakes Elmenteita,
Naivasha, Magadi and Hannington have been examined and it is clear that
these algae are selectively collected and eaten in large quantities.
THE DIET OF WEED-EATING FISH
Submerged water plants, e.g. Ceratophyllum and Utricularia, form a major
source of food for some species of Tilapia such as T. zillii (Gervais) and
T. melanopleura Dum6ril. In these fish the stomach is usually filled with
macerated plant remains together with the associated algal flora of epiphytic
diatoms and filamentous and epiphytic members of other groups. An examina-
tion of the contents of the rectum shows that when phanerogam cells are
ruptured, the contents are digested. However, the maceration is often not
sufficiently vigorous to break more than a relatively small proportion of the
cells, and, where the cell-wall is undamaged, there appears to be no digestion
of the contents. The amount of digestible food that these fish obtain from
flowering plants therefore varies according to the degree of maceration prior
to passing into the stomach. Apart from these plants, filaments of green and
blue-green algae are often present in great numbers and pass through the
alimentary canal unchanged. The diatom flora is digested. The fish are some-
what selective in their choice of plants for food and no fragments of water lilies
or of other plants growing on or above the water surface have been found in
THE VALUE OF DECAYING MATTER AND BACTERIA IN THE DIET OF TILAPIA
On one occasion, Tilapia zillii collected from a pond was found to have been
feeding on a blue-green alga, Oscillatoria, which had previously been growing
vigorously in the pond but was then beginning to die off. It was noticed that
some of the filaments of these algae had changed colour from green to yellow
during their passage through the gut of the fish and therefore were probably
partially digested. While it is not likely that senescent filaments of Oscillatoria
are an important source of food for Tilapia, this observation serves to illustrate
the inadvisability of drawing hard and fast distinctions between digestible and
indigestible matter. In fact, all the material classed above as indigestible may
be of value to the fish after a certain amount of autolysis or decay has set in.
Bacterial action breaks down the cellulose cell-walls and the contents are
decomposed. In addition, bacteria themselves may be digested; high popula-
tions of bacteria are found on fertile mud surfaces. In addition there is an
associated fauna of protozoa. Data are available showing that Tilapia nilotica
88 UGANDA JOURNAL
in Lake Kivu subsist largely on a large planktonic spirillum (Private communi-
cation; Chef de Mission des Lacs, Goma, Kivu). The flourishing fishery for
Tilapia in this lake shows that these are a suitable food for the fish.
Usually it is not possible by ordinary microscopical methods to determine
whether there is a, significant contribution made by bacteria to the nutrition
of the fish, but the habit of eating bottom debris is widespread in the genus and
there is no doubt that bottom deposits do often contain a certain amount of
food material. An example of the value of bottom debris to the nutrition of the
fish was found during a survey of the Malagarasi Swamps in Tanganyika made
by the East African Fisheries Research Organization in 1952. These swamps,
about 700 square miles in area, are largely covered by water lilies and other
water weeds and support a dense population of fish (including Tilapia nilotica
and Tilapia karomo Poll) which forms the basis of an African fishing industry.
There is no plankton to be found in the water and the Tilapia feed on the soft
flocculent bottom deposits. These deposits consist of finely divided plant frag-
ments together with many protozoa and bacteria. The water-lily plants in this
region are eaten by two species of fish, Alestes macrophthalmus Giinther and
Distichodus sp. and, after passing through their gut, the partially-digested plant-
remains form part of the bottom deposits. It has yet to be established whether
this material is then directly digestible by the Tilapia or whether the rich
growths of protozoa and bacteria supported by these remains are the food for
Crude protein in any material can be estimated by the chemical analysis of
organic nitrogen; this method has been used to evaluate bottom deposits as
possible fish food in Lake George. The lake supports a large fish population
which is exploited by the Uganda Fish Marketing Corporation. The waters of
this very shallow lake are bright green owing to the enormous quantities of
phytoplankton in them. Although diatoms are present, the greater part of this
phytoplankton is composed of green and blue-green algae which are not
digested by the fish. The stomach contents of the Tilapia species (T. nilotica
and T. leucosticta Trewavas) from this lake show that the very soft bottom
deposits are their principal food. This is confirmed by the chemical analyses.
The amount of crude protein in these deposits was found to be equal to that
found in the plankton itself in Lake Victoria. Samples of the contents of the
rectum and stomach of the Tilapia from Lake George were analysed in the
same way. The figures obtained show that the crude protein in the stomach
contents is reduced to 60 per cent of its value by the time it reaches the rectum.
These data indicate that bottom deposits are a source of food for Tilapia. They
do not however show whether the food is mainly in the form of bacteria and
protozoa which are decomposing the debris or whether this decomposition
renders previously indigestible material available as food. More detailed
chemical analysis of the deposits and gut contents of the fish feeding on them
are necessary before this problem can be completely solved.
The study of the food relationships of the Tilapia species is of considerable
importance, not only in order to help to understand the distribution of these
Photomicrograph of the stomach contents of Tilapia esculenta caught
in Lake Victoria at Jinja. This fish was feeding on phytoplankton. The
large mass of small round cells is a colony of Microcystis flos-aquae
(Wittr.) Kirchn. (blue-green alga), the star-shaped colony is Pediastrum
sp. (green alga) and the long straight filaments are cells of Melosira spp.
01 m.m. |
Photomicrograph of the contents of the rectum of the same fish as in
Fig. 1, showing the empty shells of the diatom Melosira. Pediastrum
(green alga) and Microcystis (blue-green alga) are not digested.
Photomicrograph of the stomach contents of Tilapia nilotica caught in the
Ferguson Gulf, Lake Rudolf. This fish was feeding on blue-green algae
(Spirulina and Anabaenopsis).
i." '" ,
t- -y /,
,1 m I '%i5
at. S" i'
I ^^A 'I
t' a >.
Photomicrograph of the contents of the rectum of the same fish as in Fig. 3.
The blue-green algae are showing obvious signs of digestion.
THE FOOD OF TILAPIA IN EAST AFRICA 89
fish, but also to estimate the productivity of natural waters in East Africa.
Recommendations encouraging or limiting Tilapia fisheries so that maximum
advantage is taken of this valuable natural resource will depend on knowledge
of the food available for the fish as well as on other factors. The first step in
estimating the food available for the fish is to know what plants the various
species digest. The data above shows that these plants are diatoms, blue-green
algae in Lake Rudolf, or aquatic weeds in many of the smaller bodies of water.
The problem is more complex when bottom deposits, or the organisms associ-
ated with their decomposition are utilized as sources of food, but chemical
analyses may be of great assistance in such cases.
These data could not have been collected without the assistance of Mrs. R. B.
McConnell (nde Miss R. H. Lowe) who not only provided all the samples from
the Malagarasi Swamps and Lake Rudolf, but also identified the fish examined.
Her interest and encouragement, and that of the Director and Staff of the East
African Fisheries Research Organization are gratefully acknowledged. Thanks
are due also to Lord Richard Percy who sent samples of flamingo gut-contents;
to the Game and Fisheries Department of the Uganda Government for the
many samples of fish; and to the Agricultural Research Station at Kawanda
who performed the nitrogen estimations.
Fish, G. R. (1952). Digestion in Tilapia esculenta. Nature, 167, 900.
Greenwood, P. H. (1953). Feeding mechanism of the cichlid fish Tilapia esculenta
Graham. Nature, 172, 207.
Vaas, F. K. and Hofstede, A. E. (1952). Studies on Tilapia mossambica Peters in
Indonesia. Contr. Inl. Fish. Res. St. No. 1, 1-88. Bogor, Indonesia.
Ridley, H. W. and Percy, R. C. (1953). Notes on the Birds of Lake Elmenteita,
Kenya Colony. Proc. Univ. Durham. Phil. Soc., 12, 103-118.
Rich, F. (1931). Notes on Arthrospira platensis. Rev. Algol., Paris, 6, 75-9.
ROCK PAINTINGS IN TESO
By J. C. D. LAWRANCE
I HAD often heard stories of light-skinned men of short stature, who used to
live in caves in the rocks at Achuloi on the main road from Soroti to Lira
and at Asuret on the Mbale Road near Soroti. A search in the Achuloi rocks
revealed only one rock shelter and no paintings; but at Asuret I was more
Obwin Rock stands about 100 feet above the surrounding countryside about
four miles from Soroti in Asuret sub-county. The name means in Ateso 'the
place of hyenas' and the rock is truly named for it is full of caves and deep
shelters in which hyenas lurk. The rock is also the home of porcupines and
the same glossy polish as was observed at the Nyero rock shelter' may indicate
the presence of hyrax, though I saw none. The rock is visited regularly by the
local people, to collect porcupine quills which they believe ensure fertility in
the millet crop if mixed with the seed when planting. Nevertheless, all persons
questioned at the beginning of the expedition denied most emphatically the
existence of any paintings.
Although I explored numerous caves and shelters, I found only one painting.
It is on a ledge of overhanging rock about 30 feet above the surrounding fields.
Nearby is a cave which gives good shelter, but the overhanging rock on which
the painting is executed affords no shelter; it is necessary to creep under it to
see the painting.
The design consists of six concentric rings drawn with remarkable symmetry
(Fig. 1). The outside circle is adorned with small, evenly-spaced rectangles and
at the base is a symbol resembling two hockey sticks. The top part of the
painting has been lost through flaking of the rock, and faint traces of designs
nearby show that once there were more paintings. The outside circle is about
1 ft. 3 in. in diameter. The colour of the paint is reddish-brown and the tech-
nique appears in all respects to resemble that employed at Nyero and Ngora.1
The deposit on the floor in the nearby cave yielded a number of potsherds
and quartz fragments.
1 Lawrance, J. C. D. (1953). Rock paintings in Teso. Uganda J., 17, 8-13.
NSIMBI AND HIS PIPE
By SIR JOHN MILNER GRAY
IN her Tribal Crafts of Uganda (p. 130) Mrs. Trowell refers to the pipe of a
bygone Ganda warior named Nsimbi and gives a representation of it (p. 132).
It has three bowls and a flat base and is ornamented with moulded decorations.
apparently resembling cowrie shells and drums. As Mrs. Trowell says "this,
together with a rosette cylinder recently dug up at Ntusi and the Luzira figure,
are the only specimens of moulded decoration on pottery yet recorded in
Uganda". The pipe bears some slight resemblance to a pipe with five bowls
which is depicted on the same plate and which was removed about 1910 from
Kintu's tomb at Magonga. Both pipes are now in the Uganda Museum. It is
evident that neither of them was intended as a practical pipe for every day use
by an ordinary smoker; each must have been designed for some ceremonial
Here I propose to give the tradition, or possibly only one of several traditions,.
regarding Nsimbi and the circumstances in which he apparently came to lose his
pipe. As will be seen, this tradition differs from the information given by Mrs.
Trowell regarding this man but, if she and I differ, it is a difference over a
relatively minor detail which in no way detracts from the value of her very
informing and attractive book.
The tradition which I am about to give is printed in Sir Apolo Kagwa's
Basekabaka be Buganda na be Bunyoro na be Koki na be Toro na be Nkole-
(pp. 90-1) but before I set it out, I should like to state what appear to be his
sources of information on the subject. Sir Apolo was born in 1863 or 1864 and
died in 1927. Though much of his early life was spent in the midst of wars,
tumults and other tribulations, nevertheless he began at a very early date to
collect and put on record all that he could learn regarding the history, traditions,
legends and customs of his native land. By 1894 he had written a book called
Entalo za Baganda (The Wars of the Baganda), to which Robert Ashe expresses
his indebtedness in the preface to his Chronicles of Uganda. The Entalo is no-
longer extant but I understand that its contents were incorporated in the Base-
kabaka which was published in 1901. In his preface to this last mentioned book
Sir Apolo says: "I have written this book after I had questioned many people
belonging to past times, who had lived for many years and knew these things
in their hearts and had not forgotten them." He then proceeds to give the names
of some of his informants; these include Tajuba, 'the princess, daughter of
Kamanya', and Malyamu Gwoise 'who had been wife of Sebowa'. Of these,
Malyamu Gwoise was Sir Apolo's grandmother. Her husband Sebowa was a
maternal uncle of Kamanya. During his nephew's reign he held the post of
Sabaganzi and thereby acquired the almost unique privilege of being allowed
to greet his liege lord standing up. Malyamu Gwoise married Sebowa during
Kamanya's reign. She outlived her husband by many years and died in 1904
at a very advanced age. (Uganda J., 16, 156-7.)
Regarding Tajuba Sir Apolo tells us in his Ekitabo kye mpisa za Baganda
(p. 68) that she "was held in very great respect: she lived longer than all the
earlier children of her father Kamanya who were born at the same time as she
92 UGANDA JOURNAL
was. Moreover, before she died, this Tajuba told me many things about the
old times, which have been written in this book regarding her kindred".
Yet another daughter of Kamanya, who lived to a great age, was Katalina
Mpalikitenda. She outlived all her numerous half-brothers and half-sisters,
dying in 1907 at the reputed age of ninety-three (Uganda J., 16, p. 157; Ekitabo,
kye mpisa, p. 69). Though Sir Apolo does not actually say so, it is possible that he
obtained from her a certain amount of information about her father's times.
Sir Apolo Kagwa was therefore in a position to gain information from more
than one person who was closely related to, or well acquainted with, people
who had played a leading part in the events which resulted in Nsimbi's
death. Consequently his account of those events may be accepted as being
reliable. This is what he has to say regarding Nsimbi: "When Semakokiro died,
Kamanya and Mutebi, sons of Semakokiro came and fought for the kingdom.
The following were the chiefs on each side: Nkali Kago, Sekibobo, Kine-
nenyumba, who was keeper of the king's umbilical cord (sc., Kimbugwe),
Nsimbi Namutwe, Namukwaya Sengoba and many others: these were on the
side of Mutebi. Kamanya had the following, Luwalira, Mukwenda Nakato
and Sebuda Omunaka: these Kamanya had (on his side) as well as many others.
Kamanya set out from Mutundwe and Mutebi set out from Nakasero. Mutebi
drew up his forces here at Mengo as far as Kibuye and at Namirembe. Kamanya
drew up his forces at Kabowa and Masaja and then at Rubaga and Rugala.
They met in the plain of Nsike. There was no water there and no reeds, but only
tall grass with spikes (mbubu). Where King Mwanga dug his lake is where they
fought and they fought very hard indeed. At length Kamanya defeated Mutebi;
and from amongst Mutebi's chiefs they killed Kinenenyumba and Nsimbi. They
slew him (sc., Nsimbi) in the brushwood (kabira) at Mengo; and hence came the
song: 'Who prophesied to Nsimbi did not prophesy.' He fell in the brushwood
at Mengo. Mutebi fled and went to Bukoba Nakiwate and hid himself there.
When the war ended, Kamanya became king."
Many of the place names mentioned will be familiar to a number of the
readers of the Uganda Journal, but the face of the countryside has changed
considerably since the day when Mutebi sallied forth from Nakasero to give
battle to Kamanya in the valley between Rubaga and Mengo. It is clear that,
when he saw the day was lost, Nsimbi fled up the hill to Mengo, where he was
overtaken by his pursuers and slain. For reasons given by me previously (see
Mayanja, A.M.K. (1952). Chronology of Buganda 1800-1907, from Kagwa's
Ebika. Uganda J., 16, p. 149), I think it is probable that Kamanya came to the
throne in about 1814. This would seem therefore, to have been the approximate
date of Nsimbi's death. He was not so important a chief as his companions in
arms, Kago, Sekibobo and Kimbugwe, but the circumstances in which he was
killed appear to have attracted attention at the time and consequently to have
bestowed upon him greater posthumous fame than was ever bestowed upon his
superiors in rank.
I think Nsimbi must have dropped his pipe during his flight, and not on the
field of battle. It must have owed its preservation to the fact that it was con-
cealed in thick brushwood or else in equally thick grass. Mrs. Trowell says it
was discovered during the reign of Mwanga, who had given orders for the