Deus Mwijuke interviewing Muzeyi (old man) Bwankanda on the history of Engari.
As written by Deus, whose third language is English.
Engari sub-county is found in Kiruhura district. It’s 360 km, with a population of 59,500 people. It’s occupied by many tribes like Banyankore, Banyarwanda, Bafumbira. And Bahima who are prominent with property more than the rest of the people, there are cattle-keepers, and known for their unique appearances of tallness and having long noses.
Founders of Engari
Muzeyi Bwankanda with other few settled in Engari way back 1962 & he is currently 90 years of age. It’s said that the first people to settle in Engari came way back 1912 from areas of Rwanda and were joined by others from Rukungiri, Ruhinda, Buhwezu. According to muzeyi Bwankanda Engari looked a lonely place, savana in nature with few short thorned trees and with a number of wild animals like Lions, Giraffe to mention but a few. It actually looked like a national park but with time as people started increasing, these wild animals started disappearing and most were killed especially by people using Enkoni (stick used for herding cattle). The people were strong that one would use Enkoni to hit a lion and it dies.
Those who occupied Engari by then, some old people are still living by now, and their families are still significant in the area. Like the family of Muzeyi Bwankanda, the late Muzeyi Kigane this is the father of late Solomon, Muzeyi Karingiri and many others.
It was named Engari which means an open place whereby there was no forest cover. Just a place with few short trees. They saw that it was clean as a craft called Orugari, this is used in Africa for winnowing of crop seeds after harvesting. Orugrii is singular and Engari is plural.
This is how Orugali looks like:
Miss Kankunda a local woman using orugari to clean Beans seeds
After many years, the Banyarwanda who are the occupants of Engari, came to be called Bahima, this came after many intermarriages with different tribes that occupied the place such as Banyankole, Banyoro. None Bahima were regarded as Abairu, meaning slaves to Bahima.
Culture of Bahima
Walking with the stick and putting on the cup.
Among the Bahima, milk & eshabwe (cow’s ghee and salt sauce, tastes like gorgonzola) is the cultural food and mostly used during village parties. If one visits a Hima family, one is given milk (Amakamo) in ekyanzi (a traditional container where Bahima drink milk from) to Bahima, milk is never taken using a cup or a glass. The good time of stay in Engari community can never fade away from one’s mind. The other group of people are agriculturalist, they grow a number of crops and food stuffs.
The language used is basically Orunyankore, however some like Rufumbira, Runyarwanda. Runyankore is basic which twisted a bit to be Ruhima.
Bahima used to share each and every thing with friends, neighbours & among the family members. Things like food, milk were at each one’s disposal if one availed him/herself.
During marriage, a boy would identify a girl from any family mostly among the Bahima (fellow tribe mates). It’s a bit difficult for a non- Bahima to marry among the Bahima. After the boy’s family was expected to pay dowry in form of cows, these cows are not considered in numbers but the girls family would be asked to get a strong man within the family, this man would be hold a spear and throw it where cows would be lined up. Where the spear would fall, all the cows behind will be given as bride wealth to the girl’s family. This way of giving bride wealth, encouraged Bahima to marry among themselves (family members) such that cows can remain within their tribe. On the side of a Bairu (non-Bahima) during marriage the dowry paid is in form of little money.
Joy of Community Foundation team member Owen and his wife Anita at their wedding ceremony, January 2017
There were a lot of wild animals like lions, such that many of our cows would be eaten and most people were killed by lions. Also because initially Bahima never have permanent homes to live in, as pastoralists, since Engari & Kuruhura as a whole has a problem of water, Bahima moved from place to place looking for grass & water for their cows.
The means of transport in the area, is by Boda bodas (motorcycle taxi) & few vehicle taxis which are meant for 4 passengers but instead it takes more than 8.
Land in Engari & Kiruhura as a whole belongs to families in Bahima, then in a Bairu its owned by individuals. No omuhima is expected to sell land, if you did you will be regarded scandalous to the community and one will be ex-communicated from the clan.
Due to the present modern way of life, their cows can now receive treatment. Churches started and many of the people in Engari are Christians, few schools are in place, and some have put up permanent homes compared to the Bairu who are not doing well.
Due to the growing world, Engari through people of good will, started organisations to assist the community to move forward with the world. Organisations like Compassion, Bishozi women’s organisation, and many others. These organisations have assisted to somehow (somewhat) improve people’s life both health ways & economically.
A case in point Life Child Initiative got some volunteers, many would be supposed to stay for two years & above, however no one apart from one volunteer under Life Child Initiative. This is none other than Mr Jesse Coker from USA, he came as a volunteer and accomplished his mission of volunteering for two years whereby he assisted the community by building them rain harvesting water tanks after realising the suffering of people with water issues. Jesse had a dog called Alva, we loved him so much & we felt bad when he died due to lack of facilities in that area. Jesse was followed by Kendra Smith, another volunteer who followed the footsteps of Jesse to and managed the lifestyle of Engari.
Jesse Coker and local villagers
Jesse is a person we admire most, he had mustered the Ruhima language in the shortest time possible, helped people, encouraged & taught life skills to young people at Bright future school Engari. This went an extra mile to take two groups of boys & girls for camping at SMARK in Kampala & St. Maria Gorreti Girls Secondary School in Fort Portal respectively. All this was to get himself involved in the lifestyle of the people.
Actually Jesse is the first person that drew the first draft map of Engari Sub county, it’s this that even the authorities took up and still use as the authentic map of the area. He did this using a boda boda to move around & draw the map.
Map of the Engari Sub-County Region
While living in Engari, and seeing the financial status of the local community, as a way to help them Jesse came up and initiated village loans saving association where by few people got helped to support their kids to go to school but since his main intention to volunteer was to give a hand on improving people’s health, Jesse encouraged & started HIV post-test a club, where by people would join after testing whether positive or negative. This reduced stigma from those found positive & realised that they are of value like others.
Few have attained education, due to financial constraints children have remained uneducated. We are very grateful for some international organisation that are coming up with the mission to educate the world through supporting our children in school. We thank Joy of Community Foundation for the good plans they have for us, God bless abundantly.
Engari community has friendly people, however most have failed to go to school because of lack of school fees & resorted to cattle keeping, digging, & hunting small ruminants lire hare (wild rabbits).
HIV/AIDS is still a major threat to the community, which has led to increased numbers of orphans in the area.
Those organisations have tried to sensitise and help people in many different fields, such as
- Health where by diseases like malaria are common, this is because these organisations put much efforts on treatment than prevention. The community still needs a lot of sensitisation in relation to health education.
- Education whereby some few schools have been initiated however lacking infrastructures, teachers etc this is because the income situation is still low