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Wachiye wa Naumbwa

By John Osogo
Wachiye lived in Bukusu and he was of the Bakitwika clan (Bakwanga sub clan). There are many stories told about him. He is supposed to have worked many miraculous deeds, such as walking on water, lighting a fire on top of water and cooking on it, lighting a fire on a grass roof without burning the house, and so on. His leadership was recognized throughout Bukusu and there were regular meetings at his home. During the meetings he used to sit on a spear point instead of a stool.

He was very brave in battle and often fought a battle single-handed, without needing any helpers. It is said that through the years he did not get old. Further, the Babukusu say he did not die; he simply disappeared with his wife and is still living somewhere in hiding. He will one day come back!


Nakhabuka was a girl of the Abamakhia clan in Bunyala. She lived in the 19th century and was believed to be the most beautiful girl in the country. The fame of her beauty went far and wide. She is also said to have been a girl of very clean habits and a virgin. A group of the Abasamia (of the Abakhokho clan) heard about her and organised to abduct and marry her. They found her at a place called Burungasi near present-day Makunda School. She was bathing on the banks of River Nzoia. She refused their approaches and one of them shot her with an arrow; then they ran away. She struggled home with the arrow in her body and the blood dripping. When she reached near her home, she fell down and died.

Fig tree legend:
It is said that a fig tree grew in every place where her blood dropped; and very many fig trees grew near the place where she fell and died. They are still there to the present day. And in the nearby plain of Bukhwanga an annual festival has been held with wrestling, dancing and feasting etc. (identical with the Sumba Festival) up to the present day.

wrestling contest
Sumba Festival: The Banyala observed an annual festival in memory of Sumba, a man said to have performed miracles. Wrestling was part of the activities which explains why the Banyala mean are good wrestlers. Photo: Black Mystory


Otieno did not perform miracles like the three people above. He fought against slave traders and freed the captured slaves. He lived at Bumaba near the mouth of River Nzoia. He was a tall, brave man who smoked opium to make him fearless. He organized a large group of brave men to capture the canoes of slave traders coming from Uganda to collect slaves and ferry them back to Busoga in Uganda. The slave traders used to row their canoes to a convenient landing and, when curious and unsuspecting villagers came to look at them, the slavers jumped at them and captured them. Then they tied them and took them away in their boats. When the practice began to increase, Otieno organized his group. He got together many large canoes to be used for chasing the slave traders. He made special spears, each with a long string attached to it, so that after spearing an enemy the spear could be pulled back, and also because the pulling could rock the boat of the enemy and overturn it. Otieno had a sentry who sat in a tall tree which still stands alone near the mouth of River Nzoia. As soon as the sentry noticed the enemies' canoes approaching from a long distance, he alerted Otieno's men and they put away their opium pipes and got into their special canoes. Then they dashed openly for the enemy. As soon as they got within a reasonable distance, they released their spears towards the nearest enemy canoe. The spears which did not strike anything were quickly pulled back. If any of the spears stuck into a person or the canoe, it was pulled in such a way as to overturn the enemy canoe. In this way Otieno killed many slave traders, and in the end succeeded in discouraging others from coming. In this way he helped to bring that evil trade to an end. He lived in the second half of 19th century.


Sumba lived many years ago on the two islands of Sigulu and Sumba in Berkeley Bay (Lake Victoria). The full story of his life is kept secret by those of his clan (Abakhabotsa), but he is believed to have performed miracles, and when be died, a religious festival which consisted of dancing, wrestling, sacrifices and feasting was observed annually. This used to be held on Sumbá Island and people came from long distances to attend.

Then some generations later a girl of his family got married to a boy of the Abakhoone clan in western Bunyala near Port Victoria. After some years of marriage, it is said that the spirit of Sumba followed her and entered her. It told her that the Sumba Annual Festival should henceforth be organized by her offspring.

That is how the Sumba festival was moved from the islands and from its organisers, the Abakhabotsa, to western Bunyala among the Abákhoone, who still organise it to the present day. The festival used to be a great occasion, and people used to come from as far away as Samia and Alego to attend it. It lasted several days during which the special festival drums were beaten continuously, with women dancing to them. During the day there was a wrestling contest which made the Abanyala very famous wrestlers.

There were many important restrictions during the Sumba Festival. For instance, immorality of any kind or fighting was punishable by death unless purified by special sacrifice. Heavy fines were imposed. The food and beer required at the festival was collected from the whole of Bunyala as a matter of custom. No one could refuse to contribute and if he did it was believed there would be no rain, and no one wanted to be blamed for this. So about two months before the festival the organisers went round the country beating their drum and collecting chickens. The early missionaries thought the practice was evil and forbade Christians from going to  the festival or contributing to it. Later they found that there was nothing wrong with attending the day ceremonies.


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