Batagwenda People

Batagwenda & Banyaruguru

Batagwenda & Banyaruguru

The Banyaruguru and Batagwenda are a closely related ethnic group (sometimes considered a subgroup) to the Batutsi, Banyankole, Bahima, Bahororo and Banyamulenge living in northern Rwanda and parts of Uganda.



The Banyaruguru live in the west to present day Kitagwenda in Kamwenge District, in the Kingdom of Toro others are in the hills and mountains of Northern Ankole which is Rubirizi District commonly known as Bunyaruguru.
The Banyaruguru speak fluent Luganda and Runyankole and other languages. Their dialect of Runyankole is similar to the dialect of Rutooro called Rutagwenda. They maintain their faithfulness to the Baganda clans from which they carne from and also those who fled carne from Baganda clans. The Banyaruguru also kept many of the Baganda customs for example the culture of maintaining the family cemeteries called Ebiggya in Luganda which many of the communities around them did not traditionally maintain family burial sites until recently. But you can see family cemeteries going back several generations in Bunyaruguru. Most of their traditions and cultures are Kitooro cultures, they ñame petty ñames called empaako and they pay much respect to the Toro kingdom traditions.



The Banyaruguru's history was derived from the Buganda's where the two Kings of Buganda fought against each other and one died in the field which led to the existence of the Banyaruguru. It was told that in 1797 the king (Kabaka) Junju Sendegeya who was the 27th king reigning Buganda at Magonga and his brother Semakookiro Wasajja Nabbunga rose up to fight against him.
Thereafter, Semakokiro sent soldiers to capture Junju with an instruction of "don't leave him behind". Junju sent a message that he will fight for his reign from the aggressors and he went ahead and participated in the Battle as it had to be done in the past where he didn't survive the fight and he got killed.
After the killing of Junju, Semakokiro's men went to Bamunaanika to report that they had Killed Junju and Semakookiro was angered because he had instructed then to capture his brother and bring him not to kill him. He therefore ordered those who participated in the battle with their followers and families the leave Buganda or they would face the same fate like the brother faced.

Economic Activities

Because of the heavy presence of lakes, fishing is the main economic activity among local banyaruguru but of late the banyaruguru are beginning to tap into and embrace community tourism. Other economic activities include agriculture and stone quarrying.


Food and Beverages

The staple food of the Banyaruguru is cassava bread(Obwita) which is in most cases eaten with fish(Enffe).Matooke is also widely grown and eaten alongside other foods like cassava, beans and maize; and in the valleys they grow cabbage, tomatoes, sugarcane and eggplants. They are very hard working people, often up and in the gardens by six in the morning. The rich, fertile, volcanic soils have not been extensively utilized until very recently, so yields are impressive, without the help of fertilizer or pesticides. Their most popular beverage is Tonto locally brewed in homes for consumption and some taken to the bars for sale. Waragi is also distilled in many parts of Bunyaruguru. It is also common to find omuramba in most banyaruguru homes.


Religion and Worship

Many Banyaruguru have since been converted to Christianity, Islam and other modern day religions. The statistics show that the Banyaruguru are predominantly Román Catholic. It is little wonder that Rugazi parish located in Bunyaruguru is the second oldest parish in Mbarara Arch-diocese after Nyamitanga.The more conservative Banyaruguru still believe in traditional African spiritual beliefs.


Naming and giving Birth

Among the Bunyaruguru, twins are considered to be a very special set of children that elevate the parents to a special status or title of Ssalongo for the father and Nnalongo for the mother. The birth of twins also requires that special rituals be performed. Specific ñames are given for twins. For female twins, the older one in Nyamukuru while the younger one is Nyakato. In case of boys, Kakuru is the older one and Kato the younger.
Twins also impact on the sibling that is born after them regarding the ñame. A female child that comes after the female twins is Nyamwiza while a male child that follows male twins is called Kiiza.


Empaako ceremony

This is a naming ceremony that is practiced by the Batagwenda, Banyabindi, Batuku, Batooro, and Banyoro. On this ceremony children are given pet ñames which are shared among the people added to their family and baptized ñames. In these cultures when you address the person with their empaako i.e. the pet ñames is a supportive agreement to social ties.
Empaako can also be used as a declaration for respect, love, affection among others and it can also defuse the tensión and sends a strong message about social identity and unity, peace and reunión.
The pet ñame is given at the ceremony of naming performed in the home and conducted by the clan head. Before the naming the paternal aunts get the baby and examine the baby's features and resemblance to existing relatives and it creates the basis of the choice ñame where after the clan head declares the ñame to the child. Gifts are presented to the Baby and a tree is planted in its honor and also a meal of millet and smoked beef is shared though lately there is a decline in appreciation of traditional culture and the use of the language associated with the element.


Courtship and marriage

Marriage among the Banyaruguru is still done the ganda way. One identifies a partner of their choice and then informs his parents about her and after that the customary investigations about each other begin.


First the bridegroom accompanied by his brother and sister will have to pay a visit - 'Okukyala' - to the paternal aunt of the bride with a letter stating his intentions. Here they are served lunch and they also bring some goodies for the aunt. During this visit to the bride's paternal aunt, the groom and companions have to be open about their clans and totems and often also their family trees to make sure that incest does not occur. She will then hand over the letter the groom brought to her brother and also tell him about their visit and intention. The father of the bride will reply to the letter informing the groom of a convenient date for their visit to the family.

Kwanjula (Introduction)

After the groom receives his reply from the bride's family, he prepares his entourage for the marriage ceremony or Kwajula (introduction) as it's commonly known. On that day, they carry big gourds of a local brew called Mwenge Muganda which is a compulsory present to the bride's father and his family.
On the day of the introduction, the bride's family will gather friends and in-laws as they wait to receive their guests, while at the gate of the bride's home, the spokesperson from the groom's entourage calis on the bride's side to allow them into the compound, because they have come in peace and brought with them good tidings. When they are allowed entrance, a man carrying a gourd of local brew on his head enters first and gives it to their hosts.
There is usually a place prepared for the groom and his entourage where they are ushered to sit. When the groom's entourage is seated, the bride's family will ask who they are and what they want from their family. That is the time they will tell the bride's family their intentions.
Then the paternal aunt (Ssenga owensonga) who welcomed them in her home during their first visit is called to come and introduce the 'strangers' (that is what they are still considered at that time) once more to the family to explain their intentions. After the grooms intentions are put on the table, they are asked if they have brought whatever they were asked to bring which includes a gift to the bride's father commonly known as Omutwalo. This one is compulsory and if the groom does not bring it, he may fail to get the bride.
At this point the groom's entourage which consists of his aunt, sister, brothers, sit on a round table in the bride's family house together with the bride's family and they exchange coffee beans which they eat and drink water, as a covenant between the two families. After this ritual, the bride's mother will come to greet the groom and that is the only time she is seen throughout the whole ceremony.
When this is done, that is a sign that the groom has been accepted in the bride's family as an in-law and son and it's the time the father gives him his daughter's hand in marriage.
After this, the groom's side must present everything that is required of them from the bride's side.


Dress Code

The Banyaruguru dress mostly like Banyankole and Baganda. The kanzu and gomesi are still widely in Use. Whereas Banyaruguru men may dress simply in Kanzus, their women also dress more elaborately like the banyankole women. Dry season or rainy season, they are ever attired in elegant clothes that consist mainly of ekitambi, eshuka and omwenda.



The majority of banyaruguru homesteads are characterized by simple mud and wattle houses thatched with either straw or banana leaves. Many other houses are built with a soft kind or volcanic grayish stone regularly chipped and shaped into bricks manually. And of late a few wealthy banyanruguru have built very luxurious bungalows in well planned environments.


Music, dance and drama

Kinyaruguru dance is very similar to the ganda dance. The dance mainly involves shaking the waist coupled with busy footwork for both male and female dancers. The intensity of the dancer is controlled by the beats and tempo of the instruments. Music is created using a percussion of musical instruments with the drum most prominent in most cases.


Death ad Burial

The Banyaruguru have maintained most of their Buganda customs; for example the culture of maintaining the family cemeteries called Ebiggya in Luganda. Many of the communities around them did not traditionally maintain family burial sites until recently. But you can see family cemeteries going back several generations in Bunyaruguru.