Imbalu(The Rite to Manhood)

By Wanambwa M. Rogers


Considering the fact that I wrote about my maternal side’s proverbs the other day, it is only befitting that I go paternal today.
280km from where I have grown up and where I am writing from now, is Mbale district my ancestral home which unfortunately, I have only been a few times in my life. But that’s not the discussion for today.

Today, I am going to talk about something that is so exciting for whoever comes across its procession. That all the males of this tribe have to go through to prove their manhood, something I too went through a decade ago.

Earlier than the recommended age(and gloriously which made me sit at the elders’ table before 18years of age).

The Imbalu procession

I will first put a disclaimer that this norm is not unique to the Bamasaba(by that is my middle name, the M you always see) and if you read ‘African Child’, you will see that even in West Africa, it is there. After all, the Bantu tribes in Eastern and Southern Africa, have an origin from Cameroon in West Africa. We are all brothers and sisters.

The Imbalu is a procession that always happens once every two years, meaning this year, it was supposed to happen. In the Bamasaba and I must add Bakusu(another tribe in the East), in order for one to be considered a man, they have to go through this procession. It is basically the removal of the foreskin on the man’s organ.

I must add another disclaimer that there’s no female genital mutilation in these tribes. Imbalu(which is literally male circumcision) only happens to men.

The procession

A candidate being circumcised

Traditionally, imbalu happens in August and the men(boys really) are expected to stand firm and not twitch through the whole process. This shows courage and boldness. It happens before 10am or is normally the case.

Although the procession is a must, a boy is expected to ‘voluntarily’ go to his relatives and proclaim his need to go through it.

Now comes the fun part. Kadodi
Kadodi is a dance of the Bagisu and it has been made so famous because of its affiliation with imbalu. It has an alluring beat that brings scores of people into it as the boys are taken around.

Cultural songs are sang, local brew, malwa, which is made from millet, is in supply and everyone wears plantain leaves onto of their clothes as they go dancing around.

Ash or flour is put onto the faces of the boys to be circumcised and this adds to the dramatic flare of the whole procession.

Ikinyi, a local herb is given to the boys to decrease the pain of the process when it comes. But anyway, by the time they get to it, the sheer exhaustion from the running around, for quite a number of kilometers too and fro, it is hard to feel said pain.

Candidates of circumcision/imbalu seek the approval and connection of their relatives and friends who are expected to escorts them through the procession. It is laborious to say the least and hence some cheerleading is always welcome.

On the D-day, the candidates parade in a prepared ground, naked and experts in the circumcision process do the removing of foreskin. The candidates who already have their hands raised, show off their bloodied member for the crowd to see and they all ululate them.

Crying during the process would mean cowardice, thus, is forbidden!

A whistle is blown to mark the end of the ritual and the boy, now a man, is taken to a quiet place, where the wound is dressed, then he is taken to his father’s house.

There, he is hand fed for three days and after, a ritual bath is provided for him. After this, the ritual is finally over.

In other African areas, circumcision is a private affair but in the Bagisu, it was made a public celebration and so everyone is allowed to come watch. This also is where people are expected to give the candidates gifts.

That’s why the candidates(the boys to be circumcised) garner relatives and friends to come. These are expected to bring the boy gifts at home after the procession.


1. Circumcision has become a health and religious aspect nowadays and in Uganda, Safe Male Circumcision is done in hospitals for every male that wants to. Sometimes, is even recommended. It is considered that circumcision reduces the risk of getting HIV/AIDs by 60% but still that doesn’t mean one cannot get HIV because they’re circumcised.

2. Muslims circumcise their male babies when they are still young too.

3. In the Jewish culture, male babies are circumcised on the eighth day after their birth.

4. Although the writer is a Mugisu, he was circumcised privately because he took himself to the procession before the right age. It was an honor given to him because of his boldness by the elders. Also, I think it was because I went with my Rwandese mother and her vivacious Rwandese relative who refused to let me be paraded, haha.

Who I would like to meet: Sudhir Rupaleria


To live in Uganda and not know of Mr. Sudhir Rupaleria is unheard of. The man is simply involved in everything and that’s probably an understatement.

Brief History

Born in 1956 in Uganda, Sudhir has gone on to become the country’s wealthest man with a networth of $1.2 billion according to Forbes.

Sudhir studied his primary in Uganda and part of his secondary in the UK after Idi Amin, the then president of Uganda expelled Asians from Uganda in the 1970’s. He would go on to study his O’ and A’levels and Accountancy from there.

He also went to work in the UK as a taxi driver, among other jobs. While doing this, he would meet his wife Jyotsna and marry her in 1977. They now have three children.

Why I am interested in meeting him?

Well, who wouldn’t want to meet the richest man in their country? But on a serious note, here are my reasons:

His wealth of knowledge
Sudhir’s Rupaleria Group that was founded in 1985 is invested in quite a number of things including banking, horticulture, insurance, schools, real estate, hotels & resorts, broadcasting etc and these are owned under several subsidiaries.

These include among others, Crane Management Services Limited, Dehli Public International School, Goldstar Insurance Company Limited, Kabira Country Club, Kampala International School, Kampala Parents’ School, Kampala Speke Hotel, Meera Investments Limited, Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, Premier Roses Limited, Rosebud Limited, Sanyu FM 88.2, Speke Apartments Limited, Speke Resort and Conference CenterTourist Hotel (Kampala) ,Victoria University Uganda.

Considering the fact that over 90% of Ugandans don’t know anything about how to run a company, this man’s knowledge should be tapped if given a chance.

Would he consider writing an autobiography about him? All this should be documented and with his input, don’t you think?
Another reason I would like to meet him is to ask him how he has managed to balance family life and work life. Obviously, with all these businesses to run, this guy’s life is a ludicrously busy one.

With the ever growing functionality in families and increased divorce rates, how has he managed to keep his family in tact? And with no scandals mind you!

I am interested in knowing about his spiritual life too. Considering how more and more people are professing to be atheists and so on, how does such a person continue to be spiritual? You know, there’s a weird conception that “the rich don’t need God.”

How does such a person remain down to earth? Sudhir is known to meet anyone do simply give them audience! Many rich people wouldn’t. But maybe that is why there are wealthy people and rich people.

Sudhir was sighted last year on a bodaboda beating traffic jam

And so that my friends is the person I would like to meet.

I really wanted to talk about Bishop T.D Jakes but does he count? And yes, I know it is ironic that I instead chose Sudhir!

The Year

By Wanambwa M. Rogers


We were told that we would not go to school on that day, in fact, most people did not work that day. The excitement could be felt in the air all around the country, this day had been anticipated for the whole year.

Preparations had been going on for several years. (I’ll not talk the embezzlement of funds which would later marr this day to the point that it’s all that is almost remembered of it but instead I’ll show you what 12-year old remembers of it).

As residents of Entebbe, where Entebbe International Airport is, we were afforded a unique opportunity. If you could be on the road at the exact time, you could see her, or at least a glimpse of the brand new Range Rover Sport, 2007 model, that was selected to be her mode of transportation.

Okay, where is he going with this? You may ask. I am talking about the day the Queen of England, Her Majesty Elizabeth II came to Uganda.

I actually love this Lady’s sense of style!

Again, you may wonder why of all days, I have decided to talk about this one. To me, it is significant because of so many reasons. But let me expound on these:

First of all, today is my 25th birthday and this is the 11th year since my father died. It is in such moments that you ponder on life and wonder with so many ‘what ifs’ and ‘how it would have been likes.’ But to be honest, that is not how I remember my father, me being the only child of his that actually remembers him for him.

The rest where either too young or never grew up with him(a story for another day).

On the day the Queen came to Uganda, my father said something so profound to my mom that till date I still remember it. When we were all hurrying to go wait for the Queen on the road, he was seated drinking his favourite drink(which I’ll leave to your imagination). When my mom asked him why he wasn’t going, he replied, “You’re going to see a Queen but mine is already with me. I live with a Queen in my house, why would I want to go see another?”

I was present when he told her that and it has never left me.

Very romantic, right? Especially from a man that was well known for having very few words that most people around him never got to talk to him.

See, I told you that day is memorable. I bet not in the way you thought.

Another reason that day is memorable is because even after all those years of Independence, we all still tripped over ourselves becaues “the Queen was coming.” To my young mind, this was profound! So many questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’ would float through my mind todate.

I saw something during the period to the D-day. We as Africans normally want foreigners to do things for us. That ‘they’re the experts in this or that.” But, and I say this delicately considering many circumstances and factors, that we should give ourselves some credit and give ourselves a chance to prove our worth and expertise. We’ll surprise ourselves.

By the way, in the end, we didn’t get to see the Queen. We reached the road when her convoy was taking a corner and disappeared from our sight. We went back home deflated. Our dad in his usual calm self, went and bought us soda and some eats to cheer us up. It worked. This he did without saying a word, as was his usual MO.

We saw her on TV like the rest of the world.

You had to stand on the road to see her

The wisdom of Ancient Rwandese

By Wanambwa M. Rogers


Muraho bite!! (Generally ‘hello’ in Rwandese)

Isn’t it amazing how these weeks are flying by? It alludes to time and how fickle it is, wouldn’t you say? That one day you’re a babe and the next you’re an old woman telling your grandchildren of the tales of old! Of the tales of old Rwanda.

The one that is a distant past only remembered by you and others who now lie in the forever resting places, scattered across this vast land that is called Earth.

Just as you, now sitting on a mat surrounded by grandchildren who are from a mixture all kinds of tribe.

It is here, in a foreign land that has become more home to you than your motherand ever was, here in Uganda, that you tell them some stories that maybe a few of them will remember; and God willing, one of them will tell others so that they are not lost in time, that fickle ally.

Welcome to my grandmother’s tales from that land that she only vaguely remembers now. Gather around:

The night might be long, but whether you want it or not, the day will announce itself.

It is does not matter how long a situation seems to take, it will surely end. Be it good or bad. However, this particular saying is used to encourage those going through bad times to remind them that no situation is permanent.

You hide the fact you hate me; I hide the fact I know.

Isn’t it funny how much we hide from ourselves? This is how things said in confidence are told to others and so on. But when you know that your enemy is the one next to you, you’re forced to be more vigilant, never letting your guard down. I think this is why the Bible emphasizes not trusting anyone explicitly?
This saying reminds me of the English one, “your friends close, and your enemies even closer.”

When water tells you, “don’t bathe me!” You reply to it, “I’m not dirty.”

This particular one is hilarious when told! Because how can water tell you not to bathe it? But of course there’s always hidden meanings to these words. Whenever you are faced with provocation, instead of cowering away, face it boldly.

And whenever someone dumps you, dump them. It is of no use really, crying for spoilt milk. I think this one also talks about failed relationships. Move on.

Pregnancy and fire cannot be kept secret

Self explanatory, right? Although you may try to hide either, sooner or later, people will know about it. Sometimes I find it funny that some young women try to hide pregnancies! Unless you are going to abort or terminate the pregnancy, which I don’t necessarily support, the pregnancy will grow and everyone will know about it.
But this saying, also is there to tell you that inevitably, all secrets will be known. It is just a matter of time.

Nobody hates others more than he who hates himself

When people have self esteem issues or self hate, many will project that to others. It is a sad fact. Which is why you shouldn’t be quick to judge someone’s actions!

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