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Overview of Busoga

Busoga is a traditional Bantu kingdom and one of five constitutional monarchies in present-day Uganda

The kingdom is a cultural institution which promotes popular participation and unity among the people of the region through development programs to improve their standard of living. Busoga strives for a united people who have economic, social and cultural prosperity and assists the Kyabazinga.

Busoga means "Land of the Soga", and is the kingdom of the 11 principalities of the Basoga or Soga (singular Musoga) people. Its capital is Bugembe, near Jinja (Uganda's second-largest city, after Kampala). Busoga comprises eight districts: Kamuli, Iganga, Bugiri, Mayuge, Jinja, Luuka and the new districts of Kaliro and Busiki. Each district is headed by an elected chairperson or a Local Council Five, and municipalities are headed by an elected mayor. Jinja is the industrial and economic hub of Busoga. Busoga is bordered on the north by shallow Lake Kyoga (separating it from Lango), on the west by the Victoria Nile (separating it from Buganda), on the south by Lake Victoria (separating it from Tanzania and Kenya) and on the east by the Mpologoma River (separating it from smaller tribal groups such as the Adhola, Bugwere and Bugisu). It also includes several islands in Lake Victoria, such as Buvuma Island.

A Short History of Basoga / Busoga Over the Decades.

This analysis traces the history of Busoga over the last 200 years from a socio-ethnic, economic and political viewpoint:

Socio-Ethnic Perspective:

The Busoga region and Basoga people are more complex than people think:

Culturally - |The Basoga originated from Bunyoro Kingdom - But they also have close cultural and linguistic links to Buganda. The diversity of Busoga culture has more recently been greatly influenced by the influx of Nilotics, the British, the Indians, Uganda from western region and East Africans to manage the industries of Jinja.

19th century - Busoga was on the trade route used by Europeans from the East African coast to Buganda via southern Busoga; Busoga was noted by early explorers for having plentiful food and for being densely populated.

1898-1901 - Sleeping sickness illness reported.

1906-1910 - The sleeping sickness epidemic continued despite orders by the British colonial government to evacuate the region.

1910 - Southern Busoga, most densely populated part of Busoga (pop. 200,000) was depopulated in an attempt to contain sleeping sickness.

1940-1956 - There were still sporadic outbreaks of sleeping sickness; The illness was finally curbed and resettlement resumed;

1898-1944 – During this period there was also sporadic famine in northeastern Busoga also leading to depopulation; End Result – The Busoga population growth was in central and peri-urban Busoga (& depopulation of southern and northeastern Busoga).

1920s-1960s - Busoga became a major Agricultural centre (growing cotton, coffee, cocoa, sugar etc) and Industrial Centre (as a result of new industries in Jinja). As a result, Busoga became a jobs magnet for people from all over Uganda, East Africa and beyond.

1960’s - Jinja / Busoga - Became a Melting Pot of Cultures / Races - The British were the Administrators; The Indian were the Traders; Skilled Factory Workers came from all over Uganda; Foreign labourers from region for cane farming, following the fishing & trade route from Kenya / Tanzania to the East African E.A. Interior

1970’s-1990’s - During this period of the rule of President Idi Amin and subsequent liberation wars, there was a Mass Exodus into Exile / Decline of Industry - Exile - Huge brain drain as best educated, professional Basoga (and Ugandans) fled into exile and closure of industries from the expulsion of Asians, resulting in rising unemployment / poverty.

2000+’s - There has been a slow resurgence in Jinja / Busoga but as a Hospitality / Tourism Centre

Today Busoga / Basoga - Is Still a Melting Pot - Old ethnicities (Locals / regionals / Indians / Europeans) & now religions (rise of Islam?)

Question: All this has led to the question about Who/ What is a True Musoga? Does Busoga / the Basoga have an Identity Crisis?

Economics Perspective:

Pre-Independence - Traditional Uganda lands and structures disappeared; Clans and chiefdoms were decimated by epidemics and famine, and people migrated to Busoga with other cultures/ beliefs; Need for security resulted in urban and peri-urban areas - Jinja,Iganga, Kamuli and Kaliro.

1920s-1970s - There was rapid growth in Jinja / Busoga due to cotton growing and completion of Uganda railway and Owen Falls Dam.

Jinja became a key agri-industrial centre - with factories, cottage industries and well-developed infrastructure (roads, electricity, schools, hospitals).

Busoga became a key National Cash Crop Producer (cotton, coffee, sugar, cocoa etc); Farm prices and produce markets were assured so people grew cash and food crops; Busoga Kingdom became wealthier and invested in agriculture; There was a decline in subsistence farming and rise in economic production demanded by Europeans.

As a result Busoga became a Net Uganda / External Government Contributor - Busoga Kingdom once £133,000lent by to the Australia Government.

1960s - Jinja became the Industrial Centre of East Africa, following the construction of the Owen Falls Dam; Rapid Industrialisation (Nytil, BAT, Grain Milling, Nile Breweries); Busoga Co-operatives Union (Became the most successful co-operative with record harvest of cotton, coffee etc).

Busoga was one of most prosperous regions in Uganda (and contributed 70% of Uganda’s industry).

1970/1980s - Decline in Industry - After expulsion of Indians, the Idi Amin Economic War and subsequent Liberation Wars.

1980/ 1990s - Continued Decline in Jinja Industry - Following the relocation of Industries to Kampala; Effects of Global recession / IMF Economic liberalisation.

1990 / 2000s - Start of New Tourism Industry - Led by Adrift (pioneering white water rafting at Bujagali Falls, the 2nd most popular site in Africa).

To-date - There is a steady return of industry to Jinja - Increased Sugar Mills; New Steel Mills but there is a new drive to reposition Jinja as East Africa’s Sports Adventure Capital; However in the meantime, Busoga is mired in abject poverty with no end in sight, having never fully recovered from the industrial and agricultural decline of the 1970s/1990s. In the past drought and famine were unheard of in Busoga); Following in line with the declining economic fortunes has been a declining education, infrastructure and services (education, health).

Political Perspective:

16th century - The Baise Ngobi clan of Bunyoro Kingdom family gained power - Mukama Namutukula of royal Babiito family left Bunyoro and traveled across Lake Kyoga and settled in northern Busoga (Kamuli).

The Mukama returned to Bunyoro and left his 5 sons to oversee the land - Wakooli (received Bukhooli), Zibondo (Bulamogi), Ngobi (Kigulu), Tabingwa (Luuka) and Kitimbo (Bugabula). Mukama never returned so sons governed Busoga according to Bunyoro customs etc.

19th century - The British colonists created a federation of the Busoga chiefs governed by a Lukiiko (Parliament).

1906 -Busoga was a kingdom, some parts ruled by Baganda chiefs, others Basoga land owning families; British appointed Semei Kakungulu as 1st President (Busoga’s leader).

1906-1913 - Bugabula leader Yosia Nadiope groomed as 1st permanent ruler of Busoga but died in 1913 so Ezekiel Tenywa Wako was elected president of Busoga.

1919 - Title of Isebantu Kyabazinga was created & Waako took the throne.

1925 - Wako became part of Uganda Kings Council together with Kabaka of Buganda, Omukamas of Bunyoro and Toro and Omugabe of Ankole.

1939-1949 - Ezekiel Tenywa Wako (father of late Kyabazinga Henry Wako Muloki) became 1st Kyabazinga of Busoga until he retired in 1949.

1949 - System changed - Busoga Lukiiko agreed that Kyabazinga will be a rotation from the lineages of the 5 Abaise Ngobi (Ababiito) sons of Mukama - 2 terms of 3 years each.

1957 - Title of Inebantu was Busoga (wife of Isebantu Kyabazinga) was created.

1966 - Monarchies abolished by President Milton Obote; 1972- Asians expelled by President Idi Amin resulting in decline of Jinja politically and economically.

Pre-Independence - Influenced / Under shadow of Buganda politics

1960s - Skillful negotiation with Uganda People Congress (UPC) - Resulted in 1st Vice President, Kyabazinga Wilberforce Nadiope & key Ministers.

1980 – Busoga became Opposition Democratic Party (DP) - DP swept Busoga with key UPC leaders (including UPC Secretary General Luwuliza Kirunda) losing but still made Ministers – Probably as a backlash to never forgiving Obote for previously abolishing monarchies and imprisoning Vice President and Kyabazinga Nadiope.

1980-1985 (NRA War) - Busoga progressively turned UPC - with revival of Indian business / industries; Busoga region was largely not participatory in the NRA war (which concentrated in western and central Uganda); 1987 - Effect of Alice Lakwena invasion.

1995 - Restoration of Kingdoms with Henry Wako Muloki as Kyabazinga wa Busoga.

1990s - Decline of Busoga in National Political Clout - This came as a result of Busoga brain drain, self-doubt and economic decline with industries shut / relocated to especially to Kampala.

1996 - To date - Busoga has benefitted politically from strong loyalty to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) - Rewarded with 1st Female Vice President & 1st Female Speaker and good Ministerial representation.

Today - Busoga Politics is Plagued by Divisions / Rivalries; Sept. 2014 - Enthroned unifying new Kyabazinga (after 6 year vacuum); But still open division and rivalry with Prince Columbus Wambuzi (son of late Kyanbazinga Henry Wako Muloki); Busoga local politics / leadership gaps has shaped the national perception / thinking of Basoga/Busoga especially when perceived political clout has not transpired into economic and social development back in Busoga.


Result - The Basoga appear to be a weak, compromised people lacking in self-belief, ideas and energy (despite rich past, diverse and talented people and bright future);

Indeed the once proud Basoga have become the laughing stock of Uganda (jokes with all things bad / stupid are done by Basoga with apparently declining moral / social standards).

The once most prosperous region in Uganda that regularly contributed to national / international coffers has descended into abject poverty.

The Busoga Leadership (Intellectuals / businessmen / politicians) have failed to harness / exploit the inclusiveness of ‘Being a Musoga’ (cultural melting pot).

Busoga has failed to forge a successful partnership between the Basoga (Region / Kampala / Diaspora) and many Busoga Well-Wishers ‘Friends of Busoga’ to rebuild and transform Busoga in the 21st Century.

Busoga Current Situation

SWOT Analysis

Busoga was once one of the leading educational and economic regions of Uganda but fallen into steep decline and now being revived.



Strong Cultural Heritage & Melting Pot Mix Industrial Decline
Many Basoga ‘1sts’ - Contributed to Kingdom, National & International Development Services Decline (Education / Medical / Infrastructure)



Reviving Industry e.g. Steel, Sugar Milling Mbarara Overtakes Jinja as Uganda’s 2nd City
Repositioning as EA’s ‘Adventure Capital’ Becoming Nationally Irrelevant?
New Services (Education, Medical, Transport, Energy) Long Term Moral Decline?
Source of the Nile High population growth and density
Bunyole Leveraging Basoga / ‘Friends of Busoga

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