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A Letter From Fort Portal, Kabarole, Tooro, Uganda

A Letter From Fort Portal, Kabarole, Tooro, Uganda


For a Tanzanian, or a Kenyan for that matter, being in Uganda is like bearing witness to time rolling back to the time we were taught the geography of East Africa in school many a decade ago. The economic links among the three East African countries, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are now a century old. For the links started in 1917 when the colonial regimes of Kenya and Uganda established a customs union, to be joined by Tanganyika in 1927. The Customs Union made way for the East African High Commission in 1948. With the advent of the independence of Tanganyika, it was agreed that common services which until then had been provided by the East African High Commission, should continue to be provided by the East African Common Services Organization (EACSO). The three independent states; Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda decided to refine the nature of cooperation by forming the East African Community (EAC) in 1967.

In a move aimed at placing equity as a basis of cooperation, it was decided that member states should all be host to the headquarters of the major common infrastructure and services organizations. Up until then these were hosted by Kenya. Under this arrangement, the Headquarters of the East African Posts and Telecommunications Corporation would be in Kampala. Kampala also hosted the East African Statistics Office and the East African Development Bank. The East African Fisheries Research Organization was based in Jinja, and Soroti hosted the East African Flight Training Institute. The headquarters of the East African Airways Corporation was in Nairobi, as was that of the East African Railways Corporation. The East African Cargo Handling Services was based in Mombasa. Tanzania hosted the East African Harbours Corporation and the East African Statistics College in Dar es Salaam, and the East African Community Headquarters in Arusha. Research and other training institutes would be located in all the member states depending on the nature and objective of the research challenge.

The East African Community established in 1967 did not last long. It was formally and unceremoniously broken-up in 1977. The reasons and circumstances that led to the break-up are beyond the scope of my Letter from Fort Portal. Subsequent to the break-up, which was rather acrimonious, deep misunderstandings and suspicions arose among these neighbouring states, misunderstandings which had a far-reaching and negative impacts to their economies, and to the people of East Africa who had not experienced animosity and had lived as one people over centuries. On the advice of the World Bank, the leaders of the three states; Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania, and Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, were finally persuaded to appoint an arbitrator in the name of Victor Umbritch, a lawyer and diplomat, a Swiss national. Victor Umbritch had the difficult and an unenviable but ultimately successful task of apportioning to each of the three states, assets and liabilities of the defunct EAC. This assignment was completed in 1984.

The success of the Umbritch Mission heralded a new era of peace, understanding and reflection among the people and leadership of East Africa. This opportunity was seized upon by the leaders; Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya, Benjamin William Mkapa of Tanzania, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, who, on behalf of the people of East Africa decided to revive the spirit of East African cooperation. The defunct EAC was based on common infrastructure and services. It was decided that the new era of cooperation would result from the formation an East African Community (EAC) founded on the basis of economic cooperation underpinned by a robust private sector. The East African Community Treaty was signed by the three leaders in Arusha on 30 November 1999 and became effective on 7 July 2000 following ratification by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The East African Community Treaty envisages a unity of the East African states based on the following stages; a Customs Union, a Common Market; Monetary Union, and finally political union in the form of an East African Federation. The East African Community whose headquarters are in Arusha has since expanded to include Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Uganda though land-locked, is geographically well positioned. The Equator crosses Uganda and as such the climate is mild and the weather is conducive to agriculture almost all year round. Almost ninety percent of the country is in the River Nile Basin, and it is the land of the East African Great Lakes; Victoria, Albert, and Edward. Its history is full of remarkable events: It is the African country with the largest number of Catholic Saints in Africa who attained sainthood after being killed in defense of their faith; Early in the 20th century, as Jews were looking for a homeland, Uganda was offered by the British as a homeland for them. The offer was rejected by the Zionist Movement; and last but not least, Makerere College, now Makerere University was, together with Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, one of the pioneers of higher education in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In August 1972 Idi Amin Dada expelled Ugandans of Asian origin. They were given 90 days to find alternative countries to which they could settle. Almost 80,000 of them left and were settled mainly in the UK and Canada. Idi Amin was the first, and hopefully the last, East African leader to start a war against its neighbor. For, in 1978 Idi Amin invaded the Kagera Salient of Tanzania. War erupted which he lost in 1979.  Thereafter he took refuge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia where he lived until his demise in on 16 August 2003.
The foregoing places the raison d’etre for this Letter from Fort Portal, Tooro, Uganda. For, peace, security, good neighbourliness, and cooperation among East African Countries has over ages enabled the people of this region to trade, intermarry, live together and to travel without barriers.

The Tooro Kingdom

Fort Portal is the capital of the Kingdom of Tooro. This Kingdom is one of the traditional kingdoms of Uganda which included; Buganda, Bunyoro, Tooro, Ankole, Busoga, and Acholi. The kingdom of Tooro has now been divided into three Kingdoms; Tooro, led by the Omukama, with its base in Fort Portal; Rwenzururu, whose king is referred to as the Omusinga, with its headquarters in Kasese; and Bwamba, led by the Omudingiya, whose headquarters are in Bundibugyo.

Historically Tooro was part of the Kingdom of Bunyoro- Kitara, an ancient kingdom of which; Western Uganda, Southern Uganda, Rwanda, North-Western Tanzania (Kagera), the entire Lake Victoria region of Tanzania, and the North-Eastern part of present-day Democratic Republic of Congo (east and north of the Semuliki River), were part between the 16th and 18th century. At one time the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara included: Bunyoro, Tooro, Ankole, Kiziba and Bukoba. The king of Bunyoro-Kitara also ruled Busoga, Lango, Teso, Acholi Madi, Arua and Bukonjo.

In 1830, the elder son of the Omukama (King) Nyamutukura Kyebambe III of Bunyoro-Kitara decided to move to and settle in Tooro, which was part of his father’s empire. He rebelled against his father and decided to establish his own Kingdom of Tooro. He crowned himself Rukirabasaija Omuhundwa Kasusunkwanzi Kaboyo Olimi I, The Omukama of Tooro. When his father, the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara died, he was summoned to return to Bunyoro to take over the reign of Bunyoro-Kitara. He refused. After the death of Kaboyo Olimi I, his son Omubiito Kazaana Ruhaga, inherited the throne of the Tooro Kingdom. He did not last long. For, he was overthrown by his brother who crowned himself Omukama Nyaika Kasunga. His reign too was cut short after his overthrow by his brother Omubiito Kato Rukidi. In overthrowing Nyaika Kasunga, Kato Rukidi was assisted by a contingent of soldiers sent by the Kabaka of Uganda. Nyaika Kasunga subsequently settled in exile in Mboga. Upon getting information to the effect that the Baganda soldiers had returned to Buganda, Nyaika Kasunga returned to Tooro and overthrew Kato Rukidi and crowned himself Omukama of Tooro, again. Upon the demise of Nyaika Kasunga, his son was elevated to that position as Omukama Mukabirere Olimi II. His reign was not without trouble. For example, his brother Mukarusa rebelled and took over the Busongora area of his Kingdom. His weakness was so great such that Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro-Kitara invaded Tooro and defeated Omukama Olimi II in a battle and took him back to Bunyoro as a prisoner of war.

In 1876 the Tooro was returned to the fold of Bunyoro-Kitara. Fifteen years later, in August 1891 the Kingdom of Tooro was restored after the defeat of Omukama Kabalega by a contingent of Tooro fighters assisted by Lieutenant Lugard and a small contingent of Nubi soldiers. Daudi Kyebambe Kasagama became the Omukama of Tooro. The Nubi colony in Fort Portal today is made up largely of the descendants of the Nubi contingent which fought the war against Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro, under the command of Lieutenant Lugard. After the death of Omukama Kyebambe Kasagama, his son was crowned as Rukirabasaija Sir George David Matthew Karamusi Rukidi III, Omukama of Tooro in January 1929.

Omukama Rukidi III was the father of Omubiito Patrick Kaboyo, who, after the demise of his father on 21 December 1965, became Omukama  Patrick Matthew Kaboyo Olimi VII. His coronation took place on 2 March 1966 at St John’s Anglican Cathedral in Fort Portal. The reign of Kaboyo Olimi VII did not last long. For, on 8 September 1967 Apollo Milton Obote abolished all kingdoms in Uganda and the Constitution was changed in order to make Uganda a Republic. In March 1971 Idi Amin Dada, the then head of the armed forces, staged a coup in the absence of President Apollo Milton Obote who was then in Singapore attending the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting.  In 1979 Idi Amin made a fatal mistake of invading the Kagera salient of Tanzania and declaring it as part of Uganda. War erupted and the armed forces of Tanzania reclaimed the salient pursued and defeated Idi Amin forces. Idi Amin was later to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia where he died in Jeddah on 16 August 2003.

After the war disagreements arose among the many factions of the political scene in Uganda such that the following leaders became Presidents in rapid succession: Prof. Yusuf Kironde Lule, 13 April 1979 to 20 June 1079; Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, 20 June 1979 to 12 May 1980; Paulo Muwanga, 12 May 1980 to 22 May 1980; Presidential Commission, 22 may 1980 to 15 December 1980; Apollo Milton Obote, 17 December 1980 to 27 July 1985; Bazilio Olara-Okello, 27 July 1985 to 29 July 1985; and Tito Okello, 29 July 1985 to 26 January 1986.

A number of leaders were not satisfied with the way the country was being run, especially during the second phase of Obote’s leadership of the country. Led by the youthful commander Yoweri Kaguta Museveni they started a guerilla war in 1981 under the banner of the National Resistance Movement (NRM). On 26 January 1986 NRM finally managed to remove General Tito Lutwa Okello from power and NRM has since then been elected to lead Uganda with Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as President.

In a move to foster national unity, in 1993 Museveni re-established Traditional Kingdoms which had been abolished by Milton Obote, with emphasis being placed on their oversight of traditional values, culture and customs. With the exception of Ankole, Kingdoms of Buganda, Tooro, Bunyoro, and Busoga were reinstated. Rukirabasaija Patrick Kaboyo Olimi VII, who had, under the NRM regime been Uganda High Commissioner to Tanzania (1987-1990), and Uganda Ambassador to Cuba (1990-1993), was recalled to become Omukama of Tooro once again.

Omukama Patrick Matthew Kaboyo Olimi VII (RIP)

The grandfather and the father of Kaboyo Olimi were blessed with a high quality of leadership and a clear vision. They placed a high value in the education of their people, and that of their families too. For example, Kaboyo Olimi VII went to Buddo, Nyakasura, Sherborne, and Makerere. His sister Princess Elizabeth Bagaya went to Kyebambe, Gayaza, Sherborne and was one of the first girl students of African origin to be enrolled at Cambridge University. She later became a Barrister-at-Law.

From right: Ambassador Kaboyo Olimi; Ambassador George Magombe; and Best Kemigisa, wife of Ambassador Olimi; at the residence of Lucy Akiiki and Mark Mwandosya, Ada Estate, Dar es Salaam

During his term as High Commissioner of Uganda to Tanzania Ambassador Kaboyo Olimi and his family became friends with the Writer of this Letter and the family, visiting one another over weekends and spending time discussing politics and other societal matters. For a man of his background, he was extraordinarily humble. His friendship crossed educational, social and generational barriers. He had a good sense of humour. He was a man of the people, a first-class human being. His reign did not last long. For he passed away on 26 August 1995. May his soul continue to rest in eternal tranquility. Kaboyo Olimi was succeeded by his three and a half years old son, Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV, who at that time was the youngest reigning monarch in the world. In view of his age, a three-man group of regents was chosen to rule on his behalf until he attained the age of 18. The following were chosen to be his guardians: President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni; Omubiito James Mugenyi, his uncle; Omubiitokati Elizabeth Bagaya, his aunt; and other Uganda reigning monarchs.

From Kampala to Fort Portal

Muyenga is one of the beautiful suburbs of the City of Kampala. As is true of many other suburbs it is situated on one of the many hills that characterize Kampala. Just like the City of Rome, originally Kampala was originally built on seven hills. If well planned, cities that are built on hills are beautiful. Such was Kampala in its heydays. Kampala comprises now of suburbs built on more than 10 hills. the settler population has outpaced planners, like any developing country metropolis.
In order to get to Fort Portal from Kampala, one must manoeuvre one’s way out to Busega which is on the road leading to Mityana. From Muyenga where the writer and his family stayed, one can take either of the two routes: Muyenga-Kabalagala-Nsambya-Makindye-Kibuye-Ndeeba-Nateete-Busega. The alternative route is: Muyenga-Kabalagala-Nsambya-Clock Tower-Kibuye-Ndeeba-Nateete-Busega. The first route to Busega is long and winding. The second route through Clock Tower is short and more direct. However, with the later route, you hit the legendary Kampala traffic jams. In Kampala, just as is true of Dar es Salaam, the length of the route one chooses to a destination has nothing to do with time. A one-kilometer journey can easily take two hours. Traffic jams rule.

Kampala Traffic Jam

The road from Busega to Mityana passes through the following towns/trading centres: Bulenga-Buloba-Bujuuko-Zagoti up to Mityana. Mubende is the next main stop after Mityana. From Mityana, the Kampala-Mubende Road passes through: Myanzi-Kawungera-Kitenga up to Mubende. From Mubende the Mubende-FortPortal Road passes though the following trading centres: Nabingora-Kyegegwa-Kakabara-Humura up to Kenjojo, originally under Kabarole district but now a district in its own right.

Kyenjojo is the junction to Hoima, the capital of Bunyoro, soon to be the oil capital of Uganda, after the discovery of commercial quantities of crude oil in the Lake Albert Graben. The pipeline to deliver Uganda’s oil to the Indian Ocean coast for export is to be built from Hoima to the port of Tanga in Tanzania.

The climate of Uganda is a blessing from God. The weather is mild throughout the year. It receives more than sufficient rains and its soils are rich. The journey from Kampala to Fort Portal reminds the traveler of Mbeya in Tanzania in terms of geophysical characteristics and climate. From Kyenjojo to Fort Portal, a visitor would be forgiven, as I was, to think he or she was in Rungwe District in Tanzania. Whenever I travel outside I have always been full of praise about the beauty and captivating nature of Rungwe and Busokelo. People get amused and ask “What sort of places are Rungwe and Busokelo?” My standard response has been: We learn from the Book of Genesis that God made the earth in six days. On ending the work he had made, he rested on the seventh day. It is not far-fetched to assume that after His rest, on the eighth day, he had all the time to make Rungwe and Busokelo. That is why Rungwe/Busokeko is well endowed in terms of climate, weather, soil fertility, water, mountains, crater lakes, and the generosity of its inhabitants. When I arrived in Tooro for the first time in 1985 I was struck by the beauty of the place and the generosity of its people. I could only surmise thus: Perhaps Tooro was also made on the eighth day!

Banana Market, Fort Portal


Five kilometers from Kyegegwa on the road to Fort Portal there is a small trading centre, Kakabara. Early in the 20th Century this centre and its environs were part of Kyaka County, administered by Chief Noah Bwabashaija on behalf of the Omukama of Tooro. Chief Noah was the father of Susana Bonabana Adyeri (RIP). Adyeri was the mother of Nesta Kabajuma Abwooli; Emmanuel Kahigwa Apuuli(RIP); Bessie Adyeri; Margaret Mbabazi Amooti; and Lucy Akiiki Mwandosya, wife of the Writer of this Letter from Fort Portal. Susana Adyeri was born in Kakabara on 18 November 1911. She died on 5 November 2006 at the age of 95 (RIP).

The road from Kakabala to Fort Portal leads a visitor to Humura, another trading centre, then Kyenjojo, the capital of Kyenjojo District. From Kyenjojo one passes through Bitiiti, Rugombe before arriving at a trading centre, Kagorogoro, in Mwenge. Mzee Sepiriya Kahigwa Abooki settled in Mwenge after moving away from Ibonde near the Rwenzori Mountain Ranges in order to look for better pastures for livestock. He was later to become, among the indigenous people during colonial times, a highly successful trader and farmer, competing in stature with Asian traders of that era. Mzee Kahigwa Abooki (RIP) was: father to Emmanuel Kahigwa, Bessie, Margaret, and Lucy Mwandosya; father-in-law to the Writer of this Letter; and grandfather to Max, Sekela, and Emmanuel. From the records left by Mzee Sepiriya Kahigwa, his great-grandfather was a close friend of Kaboyo Olimi I, the son of the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara who founded the Kingdom of Tooro.  He was one of those who accompanied Kaboyo Olimi I when he left Busoga in order to settle in Tooro, in Ibonde area.

Five kilometers from Kagorogoro on the way to Fort Portal one encounters the Kibale Forest which is part of the Kibale National Parks. For those of us with a fascination for nature it is like entering a garden of sorts. You want to stop and admire the preservation of nature at its best. The road passes through the northern end of the Kibale Forest. The Forest stretches from north to south. It covers an area of approximately 766 square km. The canopy is thick and the forest is perennially wet and green. It is home to elephants which roam in herds. It is also home to a variety of primates including the red colobus, black-and-white colobus and other varieties of monkeys, chimpanzees, and hippos. To the south, the Kibale Forest joins the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The road through the forest stretches about 6km.

Kibale Forest

As you leave the forest on the way to Fort Portal you are confronted in Sebitoli area by yet another spectacle in the form of uniformly trimmed and well-kept tea plantations. Admittedly they are better kept than our tea plantations in Rungwe. After Idi Amin expelled Ugandans of Asian origin tea growing was among the sector that suffered most. I remember visiting Fort Portal in the early eighties and all one could observe the bush and trees had replaced the once flourishing industry. Upon the coming to power of the NRM in 1986, entrepreneurs of Ugandan origin, irrespective of race, were invited back to Uganda to develop agriculture, industries and commerce. One of such people was Alykhan Karmali and his family, whose company Mukwano Group has invested in agriculture, industries, commerce, and banking. Most of the tea plantations in Fort Portal area are owned by Mukwano.

Mukwano Group Tea Estates, Kabarole

From Sebitoli one passes through Kyakatimba, Mukaswa, Buzira Sagama, Busoro, Kitumba, and Hakabale before reaching Fort Portal.

Originally Fort Portal was planned to be built along the Fort Portal-Kasese Road.  Streets were planned as off-shoots of the main artery, the Kasese Road. The town has grown from a small provincial centre into a municipality. Major tarmac trunk roads have been constructed to link Fort Portal and Bundibugyo, and Fort Portal, starting from the Regional Referral Hospital, and Mbarara through Kamwenge. Credit should be given where it is due; the Government of Uganda has done remarkably well in opening up the country through the construction of tarmac roads.
Another spectacular site which catches the eye of a visitor in Fort Portal is an edifice on top a hill which can be seen from wherever one is in Fort

The Palace of the Omukama of Tooro. From left: Ngusa Izengo, Dr. Mpapalika, Christine Mwandosya Masika, Mzee Agen Mwandosya, Meck Mwakipunga, Bupe Kamugisha, and Dan Rubombora; on the occasion of their visit to Tooro,  August 2013

Portal. This is the Palace of the Omukama of Tooro. It serves as the official residence and headquarters of the Kingdom. Its sprawling garden area caters for all traditional activities and ceremonies. Sometime ago the Palace was destroyed by an earthquake. It was rebuilt by the people of Tooro with the help of the then Libyan Leader, Muammar Gadaffi.

Lugard Road, Fort Portal

    Rukidi III Street, Fort Portal

Former Kahigwa & Son Building, Kasese/Bwamba Road Junction, Fort Portal

Chinese Herbal Medicine Shop, Bwamba Road, Fort Portal

Kasiisi, a Trading Centre along the Fort- Portal Kamwenge Road. The maternal grandmother of Lucy Akiiki hailed from Kasiisi

Fort-Portal-Kamwenge Road (66km) constructed by the China Railway Seventh Group Company


What strikes a visitor to Fort Portal and Tooro in general, is the question you are asked first: “What is your Empaako”. Dumbfounded you wonder what you are being asked about. That question will be posed to you by every Mutooro you met, the generation gap notwithstanding. In the course of time, one appreciates she or he is being asked what her or his pet-name is. The entire Tooro society has only twelve pet-names. Upon birth, every Mutooro is given one of the 12 names. It is a custom which has traditionally been handed over from generation to generation from time immemorial. It is custom that signifies, respect, love and admiration, understanding, unity and solidarity among the people. A child meeting an elder will invariably sit down with one shoulder nearer to the elder and the elder will ask “Empaako Yawe?’’ If the answer is “Araali”, the elder will place his hand on the shoulder and greet the child thus; “Oraire ota Araari? Araali being one of the 12 praise or pet-names used by the Abatooro.

Empaako as a pet-name or praise-name is used by the Batooro, Banyoro, Banyamwenge, Banyakyaka, Batagwenda, Batuku, and the Banyabindi. All twelve names, except one, start with the vowel A and one only starts with the letter O. These names are: Abala; Abooki; Atwoki; Araali; Ateenyi; Akiiki; Apuuli; Acaali; Adyeri; Amooti; Abwooli; and Okaali.

The custom requires that an empaako is given to a girl three days after her birth, and to a boy, four days after birth. Soon after the birth of a child news is delivered to close relatives including, among others, the grandmother, grandfather, aunts, and uncles. An empaako ceremony (kuhaka omuntu) is then arranged for close relatives to be in attendance. After delivering, the mother is confined to a room in her house for a duration until the performance of the empaako ceremony. She is then escorted out (kwarura), and the child is formally introduced to the attendees (kutonda). Paternal aunts examine the child closely. Should features of the baby resemble a relative, then the empaako of that relative is given to the child, this being one of the criteria for the choice of an empaako. Thereafter the child is given an empaako and prayers will be given for her or him. A meal specially prepared for the occasion (omukaro) is thereafter served. After the meal, members of the family and invitees present gifts to the baby, and the mother is presented with a banana plant which she is required to plant in her compound if the child is a girl. Alternately the father plants a type of cactus (omutoma), if the child is a boy. That act marks the end of an empaako ceremony.

Four names; Araali, Acaali, Apuuli and Abala are reserved for men. Okaali is reserved for the Omukama who is greeted “ Zoona Okaali”. The rest of the names can be used by both genders. Abala is the one who shows affection. Abooki is the one who respects parents. Abwooli is one who is knowledgeable about customs and protocol. Acaali literally means “the one we resemble’’. Adyeri is the one loves people and has a ‘big heart’. Akiiki is always ready to help the community. Amooti respects others. Ateenyi is an arbitrator. Atwooki is humble and highly disciplined. Apuuli is a man of the people. Araali is the one who is capable of coming to the rescue of others.

The empaako as pet or praise-names have their origin in northern Uganda and South Sudan. That these names bear great similarity to words in Luo is an indication of the common ancestry and history among the peoples of north-eastern Africa.

Empaako are also given to visitors to Tooro or people with special relationship to the Batooro. Araali is the empaako of the Writer of the Letter from Fort Portal. Max is Amooti, Sekela is Abwooli; and Emmanuel is Apuuli.  Akiiki is the empaako of Lucy Marunga, their mother, my wife.

If you ask a mutooro about the origin of empaako, you will in all likelihood be told “empaako were delivered from heaven’’. Many African traditional customs have disappeared or are on the verge of disappearing under the guise of modernity or religion. Among the societies that use empaako this important and useful tradition is slowly on the decline. Mindful of the importance of this unique tradition, and aware of its responsibilities with respect to the preservation of culture, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has resolved to make the preservation of empaako as a matter of importance in the implementation of its mandate. This has been done through the Decision of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee: 8.COM 7.a.12 of 2013. The implementation of the Decision is a collaborative endeavor among UNESCO, the Government of Uganda, and a not-for-profit organization “Engabu za Tooro”(Tooro Shields).

Copper Plaque inscribed with Empaako, donated by UNESCO to the Municipality of Fort Portal

Social Services

Most towns and municipalities in East Africa resemble the way they were originally planned way back during colonial. Visiting such a town and if one is observant, you are taken back in time almost 100 years and in the process one learns the development of a town since then. The most important part of any town then was what was referred to as the Boma. The word Boma is widely used in Eastern and Southern Africa. To an individual homestead it refers to a livestock enclosure. Generally though it refers to the seat of Government. No wonder BOMA is variously defined by some as British Overseas Military Administration or British Officers Mess Area although this is not accurate as the word predates the arrival of the British.  Boma used to be an area exclusively allocated for administration, defense and security. For security reasons, Boma was also a residential area initially for colonial officers, later on for post-independence senior civil servants. In Mbeya, the equivalent of the Boma area in Fort Portal is what was known as Uzunguni (European Area). It was illegal for an African to be seen in Uzunguni area beyond 6pm unless one was a domestic worker. These early administrators had day to day requirements such as food, drinks, clothing, cinema, etc, which had to be met. As such, trading posts were established, initially by families of Asian origin, in order to cater for those needs. In Mbeya, and indeed in many towns, such an area was known as Uhindini (Asian Area). The equivalent of such an area in Fort Portal is the present day municipal centre along Lugard and Kasese Roads. High density were areas allocated to Africans, the equivalent of Mjini and Majengo areas in Mbeya. Luckily Fort Portal and Tukuyu for that matter were spared from the scourge of high-density development because of intensive agriculture. We blame the Boer regimes in South Africa without answering the question “who invented apartheid?’’

Travelers who are friends of the environment and he built environment are attracted to old buildings and prayer buildings in a town they visit. For, the environment and such buildings embody the history and traditions of a town. Such a visitor, arriving in Fort Portal will definitely be impressed by the architecture and imposing nature of mosques and cathedrals. When one approaches Mpanga River as you enter the municipal centre along Lugard Road one cannot fail to appreciate the spectacular view of the hill with the Shia Ismailia Jamat Khana on the left, and the Main Mosque belonging to the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council on the

Shia-Ismailia Mosque, Fort Portal

Grand Mosque of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Fort Portal

right. Another big mosque, Masjid Jaamiah is being built along the Fort Portal- Bundibugyo Road in Mugumu Kisenyi area.

Construction of the Masjid Jaamiah, Bwamba Road, Mugumu Kisenyi, Fort Portal

Half a kilometer from where Lugard Road terminates and Kasese Road starts, opposite the Omukama Palace, is the area allocated to the former Anglican Church of Uganda (Church Missionary Society-CMS), now Church of Uganda. Visiting the area reminded me of my late parents (RIP) when my father, a Post Officer was transferred to Dodoma in 1961. The only protestant mission in Dodoma then was the CMS. It did not matter that we were Lutherans. We fitted in very well. The Church of Uganda owns and manages the Kabarole Hospital, which during our visit was undergoing a major renovation.

Kabarole Hospital, Church of Uganda, Fort Portal

Another attraction in the same area is the Cathedral. Construction of this imposing structure was completed in 1939.

St. John’s Cathedral, Church of Uganda, Fort Portal

Another must-visit place for us in the same area was Kyebambe School. Started by the CMS as a girls’ primary school, it is now a Government Girls’ Secondary School. Lucy Akiiki studied at Kyebambe in primary 7 and primary 8 before going on to Gayaza, Kampala. Margaret Amooti, my sister-in-law also went to Kyebambe earlier than Akiiki. Other alumni of Kyebambe include Norah Abwooli, Getrude Amooti; and Betty Abooki. Princess Elizabeth Bagaya is another famous alumna of Kyebambe. The girl's school started in 1910. One of the much earlier alumni of Kyebambe was my mother-in-law Susana Adyeri (1911-2006)(RIP), grandmother to Max, Sekela, and Emmanuel.

Main Gate to Kyebambe Girls’Secondary Secondary School, Fort Portal 

The Church also owns a bookshop along Kasese Road. In the gardens in front of the bookshop, there is an imposing statue of Aberi Kakomya Balya.  Aberi was born in 1877 in Kyaka County, present-day Kyenjojo District, Tooro. His parents were originally from Ntungamo, Ankole. Aberi spent almost his entire life in Tooro. At the age of 30 he received a call to serve God. The Church was to discover that Aberi had special talents that made him a good preacher and an evangelist. He was sent to preach the word of God to areas like Ankole and the eastern part of the then Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He later studied theology and rose in the church hierarchy from Deacon to

Statue of the Late Bishop Aberi Kakomya Balya

 Priest at the St Paul Church in Fort Portal, Kabarole.

The idea of constructing a cathedral came from Aberi Kakomya. Once accepted, he personally supervised its construction until the completion of the Cathedral in 1939. He was late on to be ordained as the Bishop of Southern Sudan and later became Assistant Bishop of Uganda with oversight over the provinces of Kigezi, Ankole, Tooro, and Bunyoro. During his lifetime Aberi Balya was also Acting Archbishop of the Church of Uganda. He was also involved in the translation of the English Bible and the liturgy into Runyoro/Rotooro. His contribution to social services including education and water supply is immeasurable.

Truly Paul the Apostle must have had Balya in mind when in his Second Epistle to Timothy he remarked: (2 Timothy 4:7-8) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on the day of His return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.  Bishop Aberi Balya died on 26 November 1979 at the age of 102 (RIP).

A kilometer from the Palace of the Omukama of Tooro on the way to Kasese one cannot miss the site of a number of sign posts at the junction to the Roman Catholic Church complex. They all indicate what the complex offers. You will excuse a visitor from Tanzania who gets surprised why the sign posts are not marked X, even if the expansion of the road will involve children of our grandchildren!

 Sign-posts to the Virika Roman Catholic Church Complex, Fort Portal

Virika is one of the important suburbs of Fort Portal. For, the Province of Kabarole of the Roman Catholic Church has its headquarters there. The hub of the complex is the Virika Cathedral of our Lady of Snows. Whoever designed the spectacular, sided building must be a very good architect. The utility of the space has been maximized while keeping the building attractive from all sides. Mathew Kasanga Amooti and Norah Abwooli our good family friends, gave their marriage vows in this Cathedral. Amooti and Abwooli are the parents of  Chriven Apuuli, Dereck Adyeri, Edwin Amooti, Harriet Abwooli (RIP), Isaac Apuuli, and Lucy Ateenyi.

Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Snows, Virika, Fort Portal

The church is surrounded  by offices, a building hosting Nuns of the Order of St. Teresa of Calcutta (Banyatereza), St. John Mary Vianney’s Commercial Secondary School, St. Mary’s Minor Seminary, St. Maria Goretti Girls’ Secondary School, Virika College for Nursing, and the Holy Family Virika Hospital.

  Towards St. Maria Goretti Girls’ Secondary School, Fort Portal


The Roman Catholic Holy Family Virika Hospital, Fort Portal

The Church also owns the Virika Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which is involved in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products. Upon death, the church does not leave believers in a limbo. It has established a funeral company in the name of Uganda Funerals Ltd.
There are many other houses of worship involved in a number of community development activities in and around Fort Portal. However, for the short duration we were there it was not possible to visit all of them.

Roman Catholic Virika Pharmaceutical Industries, Fort Portal

The Mountains of the Moon University (MMU)       

In essence, teaching is not a profession. It is a vocation. One needs an inner call to be a teacher. One of the characteristics of being a teacher is that of being attracted to anything scholarly. For those of us who have taught and continue to have an interest in higher education, what could be a better place to visit than a university. This is how the Writer, during his stay in Fort Portal, decided to visit the University of the Mountains of the Moon at the invitation of Prof. Edward Rugumayo Amooti, the University Chancellor. Prof. Rugumayo is an eminent African, a

Prof. Edward Rugumayo (left) and Prof. Mark Mwandosya on a tour of MMU

renowned educationist and a retired politician. He has previously worked at Makerere, he has been Minister for Education, and a professor at the University of Zambia, and Ambassador. He is also Chancellor of Kampala University and a regular independent monitor of a number of elections.
Upon retirement from public life Prof. Rugumayo returned to Tooro to, as he puts, it: “repay the debt owed to the People of Tooro for the investment into my education”. He has since been involved in community development activities including education. The idea of founding the Mountains of the Moon University was mooted by him and his friend Hon.Justice (Retired) Seth Manyindo with the objective of increasing the number of graduates from the western part and Uganda in general, and a university which would be steeped in education,

Prof. Edward Rugumayo (right) and Prof. Mark Mwandosya on a tour of the MMU Library

research and the solution of challenges facing the Rift Valley and the highlands and western mountains.

The District Councils of Kabarole, Ntoroko, and Kasese bought the idea and agreed to assist in its establishment. The University was founded in 2005 and was registered as a not-for-profit entity as a Company Limited by Guarantee. The University started in somewhat very modest surroundings not far from the centre of the municipality. Later on the Kabarole District donated 75 acres of land for the construction of a new University campus in the Saaka Crater Lake area. An additional and adjacent 85 acres of land was donated by the Prisons Department. The new campus is under development.
As is the set-up of Commonwealth Universities, the day today activities are managed by the Vice Chancellor, presently Prof. Kasenene, assisted by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Faculty Deans, Heads of Department, and the Administration staff. Academic matters are under the purview of the

Prof. Edward Rugumayo (fourth left) and Prof. Mark Mwandosya (fifth left) with senior management staff of MMU

Senate and oversight of the University is the mandate of the Council. As a registered company, the University is legally under a Board of Directors. The Board is made up of the founders of the University. Members of the Board include the following: Hon.Justice (Retired) Seth Manyindo, Chairman; Prof. Osward Ndoleriire; Col. (Retired) Tom Butiime; Prof. Edward Rugumayo; Justice Percy Night Tuhaise; Mr. Joseph Katto; Mr. Yusuf Karmali; Dr. Jockey Nyakaana; Dr. Charlotte Karungi; and Prof. (Emeritus) Dr. Semana Arseni. The Government of Uganda has shown willingness to acquire MMU so that it becomes a public university.

As a university MMU has a triple mission of providing education, conducting research and solving current problems through consultancy. One of its flagship projects is the collection, collation and digitization of records of historical importance in western Uganda, dating from 1850 until independence. It is a treasure trove of information on the

Prof. Edward Rugumayo (centre) and Prof. Mark Mwandosya (left) listening to Moses Akugizibwe, Coordinator of the MMU Archives Project

understanding of the relationship between the colonial administration and Kingdoms of Uganda, conflicts among societies, and developments in the natural resources, agriculture, livestock, education and defense and security sectors, and the refugee problem.

Another project of interest is the Radio. MMU has a radio station (MMU Radio). The Radio provides distant learning education and is also an important link between the University and society.
After visiting the University, the Writer of this Letter has undertaken a mission to promote cooperation between MMU and Mbeya University of Science and Technology (MUST) of which  he is Chancellor, as a prelude to wider cooperation among Rift Valley universities in Eastern Africa. They could promote cooperative research in such fields as; vulcanicity, volcanology, seismology, geology and geo-physics, crater lakes, and agriculture.

Prof. Mark Mwandosya (left) being briefed about the MMU Radio

Tooro Botanical Gardens

Tooro Botanical Gardens

Almighty God has gifted humankind with the intelligence that surpasses the ability of all other living things. This special gift is not without responsibility. It is meant to make human kind rule supreme over all other biodiversity. Ruling in this case means to manage and preserve biodiversity including flora and fauna, for the benefit of the present generation but importantly for the benefit of generations to come. Natural vegetation is being plundered at a rate that far surpasses its ability to regenerate. This behavior is an antithesis to the whole concept of sustainable development as succinctly defined in the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development Report “Our Common Future”, famously referred to as the Brundtland Report.

Natural vegetation is the source of soil fertility and soil conservation, rainfall, traditional and modern medicines, food, and shelter for animals, birds, insects, among other uses. Developed nations, mindful of the importance, and the rapid decline of biodiversity, have been stocking tropical seeds of different varieties in banks reserved for that purpose. It is also not unusual to find trees and seedlings growing in greenhouses in developed countries. The alarming rate at which natural flora is disappearing in the tropics is such that a time will come when tropical zone nations will be beholden to northern countries for the supply of our own seeds and plants.

Credit must be given where it is due. Colonial administrations were responsible for the establishment of botanical gardens. Apart from providing leisure, botanical gardens were meant to preserve natural and other trees for the preservation of genes for the benefit of future generations. They were also reserves for study research of plant species.

Note the tense I have used. This is in respect of Tanzania. At the dawn of independence, one of the useful legacies the pre-independence administration left were botanical gardens in almost all major towns. Tukuyu had a splendid botanical garden. Dar es Salaam too had a botanical garden. Amani, in Tanga, had a botanical garden of regional renown. These are just a few examples. A housing estate has replaced the Tukuyu Botanical Gardens. When I visited Amani in 2009 as Minister responsible for water I enquired about the famous Botanical Gardens. I was shown residences for staff of the Amani Health Centre. That is where the famous botanical garden used to be.

The foregoing is meant to place in a proper perspective the importance of the Tooro Botanical Gardens (TBG) which I have had the benefit of visiting twice. TBG was established in 2001 following a request from its founders, who included Prof. Edward Rugumayo, to the Uganda Forestry Commission for land to establish botanical gardens. The UFC obliged and donated 100 acres of its eucalyptus forest in Fort Portal to TBG.

TBG has been established with the following objectives:

To establish a conservatory for natural plants of Eastern Africa; to conserve plants, including trees, which are native to East Africa; to be a repository of knowledge about natural trees, shrubs, thickets, bushes, and seeds; to store and widely disseminate information about preservation of natural vegetation and the environment; to disseminate knowledge concerning the medicinal value of natural vegetation; and to promote conservation of natural plants for food and industrial use.

To implement an educational programme on the biodiversity of western Uganda; to prepare and run seminar, workshops, and symposia on local biodiversity; to corroborate with academic and other institutions with similar objectives and mandates; to arrange educational tours; and to be a centre of leaning and research on natural biodiversity.

Manufacture of plant products:
To manufacture plant products including medicines; to pass on knowledge about the manufacture of these products to interested parties; and to sell and distribute seeds and seedlings.
The Writer visited TBG for the second time in November 2017. He was impressed by a new project being undertaken by TBG. The initiative involves the collection and planting of different varieties of the Cycad species with the aim of preserving this tropical plant. Biodiversity experts have declared the cycad as a plant that is in danger of extinction.

The cycad is a family of palm-like plants which grows in wetlands, along rivers, and around ponds, dams, and lakes. I remember that during the art period at Chunya Middle School in the early 60s we used to fetch and  sun dry cycad leafs for use in making  mats, hats, bags, and other items.
The TBG Cycad Project involves the collection of different varieties of the plant from Tooro and from all over East Africa, Africa, and elsewhere in

 The Cycad Project Area, Tooro Botanical Gardens, Fort Portal

order for TBG to be a centre of excellence in the study and preservation of the Cycad. Thus far 12 different varieties of the cycad have been planted at TBG. It is a ten year project and TBG hopes to partner with the Montgomery Botanical Centre of Florida, USA in the implementation of the Project. Presently TBG is led by an active and dedicated ethnobotanist, Godfrey Ruyonga.

Volcanic Crater Lakes of Tooro (Ebiijongo bya Tooro)

Before visiting Tooro I was under the illusion that Rungwe had the largest number of volcanic crater lakes in East Africa. The fact is, Rungwe has no more than 20 crater lakes, perhaps less than that number. Tooro has in excess of 80 crater lakes of volcanic origin. They range from large to medium and small lakes. In certain parts like Rutete, which is approximately 15km from Fort Portal, the latter are in the middle of farms.

One of the volcanic crater lakes we visited is  Lake Kyaninga, situated 10km from Fort Portal. We were accompanied by Mzee Agen Mwandosya and Meck Mwakipunga from Lufilyo, Busokelo, Tanzania. At the time of the visit, the latter was the Chairman of the Busokelo District Council. One area at the edge of the lake has been leased to an investor who had built a hotel whose buildings are environmentally friendly.

 Nyabikere Crater Lake, Kabarole

We also visited Lake Nyabikere, 21km along the Fort Portal-Kamwenge Road in the Kibale Forest. The investor, C.V.K. Lakeside Resort has leased an area along the edge of the lake near the main road. An open restaurant has been built as well as a rest house. The structures have been built to conform with the environment while offering an excellent view of the lake. Nyabikere is a Tooro word for “of many frogs’’.

While in Fort Portal we had an opportunity to discuss with Dan Rubombora Ateenyi regarding the best option for developing crater lakes for eco-tourism. During this discussion we were informed about a case which had been determined at High Court level. Through their lawyer a number of people living in the vicinity of a number of crater lakes had petitioned the High Court to prevent an investor and the Kabarole District Council from implementing an agreement that gave the investor

Nyabikere Crater Lake Restaurant Area

the exclusive right to develop 23 crater lakes for fisheries and other purposes. The inhabitants claimed that they were being prevented by security personnel of the investor from using water from the lake, a right they had exercised from time immemorial. They also claimed that no consultations had taken place between the affected communities, and the Council and the investor. They further submitted before Honourable Judge Antony Ojok Oyuko that the agreement between the investor, M/s Ferdsult Engineering Services, dated 27 May 2015 contravened the Constitution of Uganda and the Water Act.

In its defense, the Kabarole District Council pleaded with the Court that the Agreement with the investor had been lawfully entered into. Furthermore the Council submitted that the project, once implemented, would lead to an increase in the revenues of the Council and the Government. Besides, the fisheries project would mitigate the spread of bilharzia (schistosomiasis). The project would also lead to employment generation.

In his judgment delivered on 7 June 2017 Honourable Judge Oyuko concurred with the petitioners. He observed that the Kabarole District Council had not convinced the Court that M/S Ferdsult was a bona-fide investor and that the investor had been legally registered. Further, no environmental impact assessment had been done by the respondents as required by law. The Judge ruled in favour of the petitioners and ordered the respondents to refrain from preventing the people from accessing the lakes and using the water. No doubt Case Number HCT-01-MC-0062 of 2016 shall form a precedent in future cases that will relate to the ownership, use, and development of crater lakes in East Africa.

The Western Rift Valley – Natural Attractions

The East Africa Rift System is part of the Great Rift Valley which stretches 6000km from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon to Mozambique. The East African Rift is what experts call an active continental rift that has resulted from splitting the continent of Africa into two. The East African Rift has two branches: the Eastern Rift Valley; and the Western Rift Valley. The Western Rift Valley, otherwise referred to as the Albertine Rift starts north in Sudan, stretches through South Sudan , Lake Albert, Lake Edward, Lake Kivu, Lake Tanganyika, joining the Eastern Rift Valley in Mbeya and as one system through Lake Nyasa into Mozambique. A large part of Tooro is in the uplifted part of the Western Rift Valley, as is Rungwe in the south western part of Tanzania, resulting from volcanic activity in geologic times, but now extinct.

Bukuuku (Bukuku) Village on the Fort Portal- Bundibugyo Road, overlooking the Rwenzori Mountain Ranges

As one travels north from Fort Portal towards the rift valley you witness a spectacle of amazing natural beauty of the Rwenzori Mountain Ranges on one side, the highlands of Toro, and the Rift Valley ahead of you, very much like one were in Rungwe with the western escarpment of the Ileje Mountains, the Livingstone Ranges in the East and the Rungwe Mountain.
From Fort Portal to Bundibugyo in the Rift Valley, one passes through the following settlements: Rwengoma; Butebe; and Nyakasura/Ibonde. The area around Bukuuku, Ibonde and Nyakasura is famous for having a

Sign-posts to important educational and cultural centres in Nyakasura

number of educational and cultural centres. These institutions include training and vocational centres founded by the Church of Uganda during the tenure of Bishop Aberi Balya. Princess Elizabeth Bagaya, sister to the Late Omukama Kaboyo Olimi VII has established a cultural Centre of the Batebe Foundation, Batebe being the title of Sister to the Omukama.

Cultural Centre of the Batebe of Tooro Foundation

One of the old and famous institution in Tooro, and Uganda, is the Nyakasura Secondary School, a Government secondary school. The School was founded in 1926 by one Ernest Ebohard Carwell, a Scot, and a retired army officer. It started as a private school. Carwell had previously taught at King’s College Buddo but fell out with the Headmaster over administrative matters. Two students at Buddo, from Tooro, known by the names of Komwiswa and Balya, persuaded Carwell to start a school in Tooro. Convinced that it would be a worthwhile venture, Carwell presented a request to start a school to the Omukama of Tooro. The request was well received and Rukirabasaija Daudi Kasagama Kyebambe III, the Omukama of Tooro then, donated land for the project.

Nyakasura School Uniform (photo courtesy of P. Mugamba)

Nyakasura was the first school in Uganda to be electrified, with the source being a mini-hydro installed at the Nyakasura River in the 1930s. Apart from education and scholarship, Nyakasura is famous for sports and its distinct uniform in form of the Scottish kilt, which is a knee-length skirt-type dress traditionally worn in the highlands of Scotland.

For many decades Nyakasura was one of the leading schools in academic performance in Uganda. It was in the same league as: King’s College Buddo; Kisubi; Ntare (the alma mater of President Museveni, President Paul Kagame, and Arthur Isoke); Nabumali; Namilyango; and St. Leo’s; and famous girls’ schools such as Gayaza (the alma mater of Lucy Akiiki and Princess Elizabeth Bagaya); Maryhill; St. Mary’s College Namagunga; Nabusinsa; and Nabingo. Nyakasura, we were told has faced many challenges which have led to the decline in academic performance. However, under the dynamic leadership of the present Headmaster, Enock Manyindo, himself an alma mater of Nyakasura, the school is improving fast.

Former students of Nyakasura have formed an association. They meet once a year to deliberate on how they could be of assistance to their old school. In 2017, for example, they managed to collect 138 million Uganda shillings in order to assist in the improvement of the school water system.

Main Entrance to Nyakasura School

The list of some few alumni of Nyakasura is quite impressive. It includes such names as: Edward Rugumayo, Chancellor of MMU, and Chancellor of Kampala University; Crispus Kiyonga, a Doctor and Minister; Patrick Bitature, a prominent businessman; Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, a businessman and politician; Hon. Justice Paul Mugamba, Justice of the Supreme Court; Aston Kajara, lawyer and politician; Prof. William Banage, a renowned zoologist; Beatrice Kiraso, former Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community; Hon.Justice(Retired) Seth Manyindo; and Hon.Justice Richard Buteera, Justice of the Supreme Court.

After passing the Ibonde/Bukuuku/Nakasura area, the road From Fort Portal to Bundibugyo passes through the following trading centres and settlements: Karagwe; Kitarasa; Kihondwe; Kichwamba (at the boundary of Kabarole and Bundibugyo Districts); Kisina, Karugutu (which is at the junction of the road to Rwabisengo up to Ntoroko, a port at Lake Albert); Kibuku; Burondo; Sempaya Hot Springs; Ntandi; Bubukwanga; Humya; Bundubugyo Township; Busaru; Kirindi Nyahukya/Lamya at the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Semuliki River forms the border between Uganda and DRC.

Bundibugyo is in the Albetine Rift with the Rwenzori Mountains forming the western escarpment. Bundibugyo is the headquarters of the Bwamba Kingdom, under the present reign of Martin Ayongi Kamya, Omudingiya of Bwamba. Before separating, the Kingdoms of Rwenzururu and Bwamba were part of the Tooro, under the Omukama of Tooro.  Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy and employment in Bwamba. Cocoa is the main cash crop. The weather is hot. It reminds one of Kyela District in Mbeya, Tanzania, where cocoa is also the main crop.

The day we traveled to Bundibugyo, while on the way, we were amazed at the large number of people who turn up and lined both sides of the road, carrying tree branches and singing. Upon enquiring, we were informed that they were waiting to welcome back home the Omudingiya who had been to Kampala on a mission. Sure enough, when the Omudingiya arrived, the clouds were ecstatic, singing songs of praise to their King, some lying prostrate as this motorcade passed.

Bundibugyo Township, the Capital of the Kingdom of Bwamba

One must-go area in the Rift Valley is Lake Albert. Another activity we propose to the reader of this Letter is a visit to the Sempaya Hot Springs, in the Semuliki National Park.
The Sempaya Hot Springs, Semuliki National Park

The Sempaya Hot Springs are in the Semuliki National Park, hardly 200 meters from the Fort Portal-Bundibugyo Road. The springs are under the protection of the National Park. Our guide Ms Prossy Bigabirwe,

Prossy Bigabirwe (right), Lucy Akiiki (left) and Mark Mwandosya at the Sempaya Hot Springs

conservator, was able to guide us to the springs. She gave us an eloquent, succinct, interesting and scientific explanation of the underground formation of the hot water. According to Prossy, although springs exist in the same area, inhabitants of the area, the Bamaga, a subset of the Bamba, divide the springs into two; Male Hot Springs, and Female Hot Springs.

Legend has it that once upon a time a group of women had gone to fetch wood in the forest. They encountered a male stranger, rather odd in appearance and who could not speak or understand the local dialect. Terrified, they aborted their mission and ran back to inform the village about the stranger in the forest. A contingent of men was gathered to go and find out what the women had seen. True, they found this complete stranger who appeared deaf. He was taken to the village. After a very long time, he was able to communicate ad learn the local language. He was assimilated into the community. He later got married. One day he bade his wife farewell, saying that he was going to the forest to hunt, and he would be back later in the day. That day he did not return to the village. The following day fellow men gathered for a search in the forest. After an extensive search they finally spotted his clothes and his spear near one of the hot springs. They concluded that he had thrown himself into the hot spring in an area comprising of very hot mud.

As such his body was neither seen nor retrieved. They named that area the Male Hot Springs. Upon their return to the village they informed the wife, Nyasimbi about the loss of her husband and handed over to her his spear and his clothes. Nyasimbi mourned the demise of her husband. Distraught, one day she left the village alone and unannounced to go to the forest.  She did not return to the village. As usual, men gathered themselves and left for the forest in search of Nyasimbi. As had happened during the search for his husband they finally located her clothing near another set of springs. They arrived at the same conclusion; Nyasimbi had taken her own life by throwing herself into the hot springs. They named the area Female Hot Springs or Nyasimbi. Every year during the month of November the Bamaga visit the springs to offer sacrifice to their ancestors, with male inhabitants doing to the area near the Male Hot springs, and women performing the ceremony near the Female Hot Springs.

According to Prossy, the Semuliki National Park has three of the Big Five animals of the tropical forests. These are; elephants, hippos, and leopards. The missing ones are lions and rhinos. It has 11 types of primates, two types of which can only be seen at night (nocturnal primates). The Park has 415 bird species, out of which 35 are endemic to Semuliki National Park. Tourists, ordinary visitors, students and researchers visit the Park to study and observe nature, including wild animals, birds, natural flora, the springs, and butterflies.

Another area of interest to a visitor in the Western Rift Valley is Lake Albert. The Lake is 50km from Karugutu, the junction at the main road to Bundibugyo from Fort Portal. An important observation about Rift Valley lakes is that they have many rivers flowing into them but they have only one outlet. The only outlet from Lake Albert is the Albert Nile which is also referred to as the White Nile. The weather in Lake Albert area is very hot. It reminds one of the weather in Usangu plains in the southern part of the Eastern Rift Valley in Tanzania. From Karugutu one passes through the range-land of the Batuku cattle herders. The area towards the Lake and around the Lake is an extension of the Semuliki National Park. The port of Ntoroko at Lake Albert mainly serves the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with half of the Lake being part of DRC. This part of the Lake is famous for fishing while the central part is an active petroleum exploration and production province.

Ntoroko Port, Lake Albert

Kugikwatako – Togikwatako

It is not easy for a visitor, or a tourist for that matter to be completely oblivious to what goes on in the host country. This is what happened during our stay in Tooro in October and November 2017. A reader who is an avid follower of world news and the current affairs of East Africa will most likely not forget the events which took place in the Parliament of Uganda on 27 September 2017. The whole world watched live and in consternation the commotion that erupted during the discussions on the private-member’s bill regarding presidential age limits. Hon. Raphael Magyezi, the Member of Parliament for Igara West, had moved a private member’s bill to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda in order to remove the age limits enshrined therein. As the Constitution provided then, no person above 75 years of age or below 35 years could contest for Presidency of Uganda. The spirited debate on the matter inside the House and outside on whether there should be an amendment to the constitution was captured in two Luganda words: Kugikwatako (touch), and Togikwatako (don’t touch), or  Kugikwataho and Otagikwataho in Rutooro.

Proponents of the motion submitted that it was the basic right of any Ugandan to serve his or her country irrespective of age as long as he or she had the ability to do so. They also stated that removing the upper age limit of 75 years would bring the Constitution of Uganda in line with other Constitutions in East Africa. They also reminded the Nation that the famous “Arab Spring” was spearheaded by the youth. However, after political chaos broken out in the aftermath of the Spring Revolution, it took an 88 years old President to calm the situation. Convincing as the reasons were, I have doubts if one of Tanzania’s retired leaders (name withheld) would have bought the arguments. For he believes the age limit should be 65 years. Why 65, and not 62 0r 67 or 70? I for one do not have a scientific answer.

Opponents of the motion submitted that the constitution of a country is somewhat sacrosanct. As such it cannot be subjected to amendments every now and then. They also were of the opinion that the motion was being introduced for the benefit the incumbent President in order to make him eligible to run for another term. They also believe that Article 1029(b) of the Constitution was drafted in order to prevent a former President from running for the high office.

During our stay in Tooro that was the big news. Discussions were heard in radio and TV stations, in the public transport, at wedding ceremonies, at funerals, in churches and mosques, and in public and private meetings. Members of Parliament were urged to go back to their constituencies to consult the people. The Government extended support to the MPs to the tune of 29 million Uganda shillings to facilitate the exercise. Some opposition members of Parliament did not want to be facilitated. Proponents of the motion among the public wore yellow headbands and opponents wore red headbands. It seemed, to an outsider at least, an interesting exercise in democracy and transparency.
From experience, the Writer of this Letter as a former Member of Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania, and as a long-serving Minister is of the opinion that it is impossible for a private member’s motion to pass through Parliament without the prior tacit approval of the Government in power and the Ruling Party. Parliament has, by a large majority passed the amendments which include the re-introduction of Presidential term limits and the President of Uganda has given his assent.

Concluding Remarks

A journey, a tour, or an excursion can only be of benefit if the experience gained is shared with others through narration by the traveler. Such an exercise becomes even more useful if the traveler has kept notes or has a clear memory of the experience to share. An important question has to be responded to: “What lessons has one gained or what knowledge has one acquired in the process?” This Letter represents the reflections by the Writer and his family, on their trip to Fort Portal, Kabarole, Tooro, Uganda.
Generosity, as a virtue, is deeply ingrained in an African. It is part of our psyche, a habit passed on from generation to generation. What Africans differ is the degree of generosity.  Abatooro are an extremely generous people. They make a complete stranger feel home away from home. No wonder once in Tooro, Kaboyo Olimi I did not want to go back to Bunyoro. The generosity extended to the Writer was even greater once they realized he had an empaako, and that the wife hails from Tooro. Empaako is a tradition that fosters respect, understanding, unity, and a sense of belonging. It is a tradition worthwhile to be proud of and to keep for generations to come. Many African customs and traditions were discarded simply because they did not fit into the straight jacket of modernity or religion. Now is the time for us to re-discover our soul through promoting African traditions and customs through folklore, stories, art, writing, and maintaining a sense of pride as a people.

Seed banks have been established in developed countries as a way to preserve tropical disappearing biodiversity. Tropical natural vegetation is a source of traditional and modern medicines. This tropical resource is being extracted at a rate faster than it can replenish itself. Put simply, loss of tropical biodiversity is loss of independence. The importance of coming up with strategies to document and preserve that biodiversity cannot be over-emphasized. The establishment botanical gardens is one way of achieving the objective of preservation of natural flora. I humbly submit that the existence of a botanical garden or a concrete plan to establish one, should be one among the criteria for upgrading the status of urban settlements.

Volcanic crater lakes are a common feature of highlands in the East Africa Rift. The water level in most crater lakes is constant throughout the year. Most crater lakes are subjects of beliefs of communities passed on through stories through generations. With the advent of investment policies, crater lakes are becoming attractive candidates for eco-tourism and fishing. Conflicts of interest regarding water-use will arise between investors and surrounding communities who have lived around crater lakes for ages. The challenge facing Administrators in crater-lake areas is how to reconcile investment requirements and the needs of surrounding communities such that the situation does not become a zero-sum game. The experience and the lessons gained from the High Court Case in Uganda referred to above should be of benefit to District Councils elsewhere in East Africa.


This Letter is the result of the contributions made by various families and individuals who opened their doors, thoughts, and hearts to my family and I during our recent visit to Tooro, Uganda. They listened to us attentively as we sought information and assistance from them. Their humility is beyond measure. In particular we would like to thank Honourable Justice Paul Mugamba Amooti, Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda, His wife Grace Mugamba Atwooki, Edward Mugamba Adyeri and Mcgyver Mugamba Adyeri. They have always been gracious hosts to us in Kampala. The two brothers; Dan Rubombora Ateenyi, and Fred Karamagi and their respective families have readily provided assistance to us whenever it was sought. In the presence of my in-laws Nesta Abwooli, Bessie Adyeri, and Margaret Amooti we have always felt home away from Lufilyo and Matema. We have been regular visitors to Kanyambeho to see Arthur Isoke Abooki and Alice Isoke Adyeri. They have always made us feel at home. Prof. Edward Rugumayo Amooti and his wife Phoebe Rugumayo Amooti, have enriched our understanding of what it means to be part of the community, and the imperative to contribute to community development. The Mountains of the Moon University and the Tooro Botanical Gardens are examples of their contribution to Tooro and Uganda. They have set a high bar that needs emulation. Prof. J.M.Kasenene, Vice Chancellor of MMU; Dr.Edmond Kabagambe, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, MMU; Mukundane Vincent, Director of Human Resources, MMU; Grace Nyakahuma, Academic Registrar; Kakukulu Yunus, Registrar of Finance; Nkrumah Jimmy, Registrar, Administration; Angozebwe Robinah, Administrative Assistant; and Moses Akugizibwe, Coordinator of Archives.They availed to me an opportunity to interact with them at a meeting convened by the Chancellor. We discussed, among other things, the possibility of cooperation and collaboration between the Mbeya University of Science and Technology and MMU. Mr Godfrey Ruyonga, Executive Director of the Tooro Botanical Gardens gave us an overview of the origin, development, status and the future of the Botanical Gardens. Ms Prossy Bigabirwe, conservator at the Semuliki National Park was eloquent in her brief on the Sempaya Hot Springs and the biodiversity of the Park. We thank them all most sincerely.

Last, but not by any measure of importance, is a message of thanks to the Kagorogoro and Kasenyi communities. For, Lucy Akiiki was born and grew up in the area.  On Sunday 4 August 2013 we had the occasion to join them at a thanks-giving mass at the Church of Uganda, Kasenyi Parish, in order thank Almighty God for the blessings showered upon our family, and in particular for my continued healing, and to thank the congregation for their unending prayers for us. We were accompanied by the following friends and relatives from Tanzania: Mzee Agen Mwandosya; Meck Mwakipunga; Christine Mwandosya Masika; Bupe Kamugisha; His Excellency Dr. Ladslaus Komba, Ambassador and High Commissioner and Mrs Komba; Asa Mwaipopo; Brigitha Faustin; Ngusa Izengo; and Dr Mpapalika. We thank them all. To the congregation, I had the following word of thanks:

Waitu Omwahule na Bebembezi  Abediini Abandi,
Na Bantu ba Ruhanga, inywena mubitinisa byanyu,
Batooro na Batoorokati.

Kubanza mwibara lyomukyara wange Lucy Marunga, neeka yange yoona, nitusiima Ruhanga habwomugisa gunu kuteranira hanu   Kasenyi. Nkoku murukumanya ekanisa enu nkuru habwaitu habwokuba maazaara Adyeri yagigonzaga muno kandi akahereza hanyuma ekanisa, yayorora Marunga nuwe aije abe mukyara  wange.

Emyaka ebiri enyuma etuberiire ngumu muno muka yaitu. Nyowe nkarwara najanjabwa mu Tanzania na India. Nkoku murukumanya kuba kurungi kwawe nikusigikira ha bintu bisatu: iwe nkomurwaire nabantu orukwikara nabo; abafumu, abakozi abandi mwirwarro, nemibazi; hanyuma ekirukukirayo byona embabazi za Mukama. Embabazi za Mukama niruga mukugonzakwe nesaara mwansabiire. Abantu ba Tooro nimbasiima muno ha bwengonzi zanyu enyingi.

Kumalirra, nsoboire   kwemerra mumaiso ganyu kiro kinu habwe mbabazi za Mukama, kandi nengonzi nokurolererwa okurungi kwa Marunga. Kinu ninkigumya kusigikirra ebyomukitabu ekirukwera Enfumo Esuura Asatu nemu(31) Orukarra rwa  Ikumi(10):
"Omukazi omwerinzi nooha asobora kumuzoora? Omuhendogwe nigukirra kimu ogwezaabu."(Proverbs 31:10   Mithali 31:10)

Hati kinu kya Marunga wenka Enfumo Esuura Asatu nemu(31) Orukarra rwa Abiri na mwenda(29): "Abaisiki baingi bakozire ebyokwerinda baitu iwe nobakira boona". (Proverbs 31:29   Mithali 31:29)
Mukama abalinde kuhikya obutuli tangatangana owaitu Tanzania. Mwebale muno kumpuliriza. Mukama Asiimwe Muno.

Mwebale Muno
Asante Sana
Thank you

Mark Mwandosya
Fort Portal, Uganda
December 2017

Copyright© 2017 Mark Mwandosya. All rights reserved


  1. [28/01, 09:50] Meki Voda Tabb: I shared this in Tooro WgatsApp group. Some comments from members. . .
    [28/01, 09:50] Meki Voda Tabb: [27/01, 11:05] KARAMAGI Frederick A:
    [28/01, 02:56] ‪+256 780 257507‬: Invaluable!!!
    [28/01, 02:58] ‪+256 780 257507‬: It's material like this that should be posted on a website advertising Tooro lands (and Fort Portal) as tourism attractions.
    [28/01, 08:29] ‪+256 772 988120‬: I agree! This is very very important to preserve. How I wish this would be printed in a small booklet to be kept by schools and families in Tooro

  2. Oh jamani!! What a great writting!! Kweli you have really impressed me! Sasa will that be published as a book? You have called it a letter!!
    Congratulations!! Akili mingi sana.
    Louise Lawrence

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


  4. Interesting story and enjoyed reading it especially on conservation and botanical gardens. Now that you spend most of your time in Rungwe, I’m looking forward to seeing your contribution in the re-establishment of the Tukuyu Botanical Garden!

    Also, please do write more about Uganda on issues like the equator, Jinja, the source of Nile, natural forests, etc and their contribution to the livelihood and economic development of the country.

    Thanks for challenging us (indirectly) to write a story or something about the places we visit. 2018 is the Learning year for me, so will try my best to read and write.

    Beti Abigael

    Sent from my iPad


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