How to marry in busoga: A land of submissive women in Uganda

Busoga kingdom is found in Eastern Uganda. The kingdom is the home of the source of River Nile and is sorounded by Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga and River Nile.

Uganda’s modern civilization started in Busoga making it today the East Africa’s Adventure capital due to it’s development in tourism and a wealth of history. Busoga is where the first Asian and Arab traders started before they spread to other parts of Uganda. A footprint of this economic and industrial history ramains as a tourism attraction in the kingdom. You can’t say you have visited Uganda until you visit Busoga or Jinja to be precise.

Busoga is admired for it’s highly hospitable people who are so caring and always happy. Although the poverty levels are higher in the region compared to other regions of Uganda , it has remained a secret on what has kept these people to be the happiest amidst the high poverty levels.

It had become a trend in Uganda for men to marry in Busoga making basoga girls to be on high demand. Basoga women are respected for being too submissive to their husbands, one of the rarest cultural practices among Ugandan women. There is a belief among the basoga women that the decision of the man is a family decision which is evidenced in the saying, “omusadha ky’akoba….”

Before we look at how to marry in Busoga, let us first understand the origin of these people.

Origin of Basoga.

What is today called Busoga was originally dominated by Itesot and bagisu. Busoga was created by Prince Mukama Namutukula of Bunyooro in the 16th century who wanted to expand Bunyooro- Kirara kingdom.

When he was going back, he left his 5 sons as the legitimate rulers over their respective areas by ‎virtue of their family origin (Babiito). This was the advent of the ‎‎Baisengobi clan, who bear their historical ‎descendancy from Bunyoro.

Today the five lineages of Baise Ngobi (Ababiito) hereditary ‎rulers from which the Kyabazingaship rotates are traditionally believed to have been the five sons of Omukama of Bunyoro ‎who immigrated to Busoga from Bunyoro. The title of Isebantu Kyabazinga (King) was created in 1918-9 one of the chiefs from the five clans is elected on a rotational basis.

How to marry in Busoga.

To marry a girl in Busoga, According to elders, traditionally a man identifies a girl he want to marry and subsequently send an advance team of male family or clan members to the girls family.

Quiin Abenakyo, Miss World Africa is a Musoga.

This team would be charged with getting in contact with the girl’s family and gathering information about her to avoid marriages between members of the same clan.

In Ugandan tribes, people from the same clan consider themselves as siblings.

The team of emissaries would table a formal request to introduce their son and ask for the girl’s hand in marriage.

Today, the letter can be hand delivered by the girl herself and the father will read it to his sisters and brothers.

The letter always suggests a specific date on which the man intends to present himself for proper introduction. If inconvenient for the girl’s family, an alternative date is chosen and communicated to the man’s family in the reply.

Why Basoga have an introduction ceremony.

The significance of the introduction ritual is enhanced by the fact that the Basoga always have a particular interest in knowing and vetting their prospective in-laws.

This ritual, therefore, is a way of creating a bond that unites both families. For a mysterious man to declare himself part of the girl’s family without official recognition was considered a taboo and was severely punishable.

The bride communicates to her parents the progress of the eminent visit from their prospective son-in-law and her parents respond positively by providing a list of possible gifts to be brought by the man on the big day.

Gifts like kanzu (tunics) for the girl’s father, busuuti for her mother, paternal auntie and one for the grandmother and any others as may be seen fit are bought by the groom before the introduction ceremony.

Envelopes containing money may be prepared, each meant for a specific branch of the bride’s family.

As preparations for the introduction ceremony move into high gear, the girl stays in closer touch with her family and advises her prospective husband on which gifts to buy.

If financial relief is needed by the girl’s family to prepare for the big day, her parents will, again through their daughter, request for the same.

Basoga wives are generally known to be submissive to their husbands.

Contrary to what is practiced by most other ethnic groups in Uganda, the Basoga do not hold ceremonies for setting the amount of bride price to be paid for their daughter, as this is communicated through their daughter, specifying their expectations and interests.

The girl, who always has good knowledge of what her parents prefer, guides the groom on what kind of gifts to buy.

Traditionally, the girl’s parents were always keen on exploiting the opportunity of getting bride price by demanding a big amount of either cattle or money.

The fortune accumulated from the girl’s bride price was always saved to pay for her brothers’ bride price when it was their turn to pay for someone else’s daughters.

How the introduction ceremony is conducted in Busoga.

The boy’s side should endeavor to keep time. If they arrive later than the agreed time, the entrance to the enganguu (reception venue) will certainly be closed to them. It may take skillful negotiations oiled by paying a ‘fine’ to convince the gatekeeper to let them through.

Once received and allowed to take their seats, the entourage must stay still and remain silent, unless greeted by groups of the girl’s family, after which they are requested to introduce themselves. Their spokesman then introduces them, one by one, as they stand up briefly for recognition.

That accomplished, their hosts will ignore the entourage until they pay ekivumbula mumwa (mouth opener), a token that may come in the form of money given to the spokesman of the hosts. Unless the token is impressive, the visitors will continue to be ignored.

The hosting side always dominates this session, asking the questions with the visitors making sure they answer carefully.

The hosting spokesman inquires from the girl if she knows the visitors and obtains her views about the visiting spokesman’s carefully crafted proposals.

After getting familiar with the visitors, the hosting spokesman mentions a set of conditions and expectations upon which the issue of bride price can be discussed.

The girl’s paternal auntie takes the floor and kneels in front of her prospective son-in-law, handing him a handkerchief containing some money.

The groom is expected to add double this amount of money and even exceed it by at least 10% before handing it back to the senga, or else she does not introduce him.

If impressed, she will take the floor again and say good things about the groom, after which the girl’s father, if convinced, will show approval. Nice things about the girl’s background will be mentioned and so will her father’s expectations of a privileged new life for her if the groom marries her.

If the cultural conditions are also met, she is handed over to her suitor by her trusted brother and farewell bid to her.

With negotiations finished and dowry payments made or referred to a future date (which some affluent families use as a test of readiness by the man to marry their daughter), a typical Christian father is always keen to know about the plans for a church wedding or alternative ways of cementing the relationship.

That resolved, the traditional marriage ceremony is considered done and the couple will be separated for a while and the girl coached by her senga on her marital duties.

After this, the couple is now free to live together. Most families end the reception with a party until dawn.

Traditionally, weddings were conducted by an elder who administered a concoction of herbs and blessed the couple. At such ceremonies, animals were sacrificed to pay respect to and ask for the blessings of the ancestors, followed with a cultural dance and songs while congratulatory gifts were offered to the newly wed couple.

However, with the Basoga now being one of the most religiously influenced tribes in Uganda, contemporary marriages are predominantly religious, with couples seeking God’s blessings in houses of worship, in the presence of chosen witnesses and religious leaders.

Families in Busoga were (and still are) very patriarchal in setting, with men undertaking most of the family’s financial obligations through fishing and agriculture, while the women concentrate on domestic chores with the help of their female offspring.

Divorce was usually always in favor of the males. However, only in extreme cases of adultery or barrenness was it enforced.

The fulfillment of procreation and a life, not of solitude but of unity, has always been a remarkable ideal of the Basoga and for this, they have a motto; Busoga etebenkele ni Kyabazinga afunvuwaale! (Long live Busoga and long live our King!)

2 comments

  1. Nana

    October 18, 2022

    How about men men how strong are they in bed

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