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Some Baganda chauvinists believe and think Kakungulu was a great philanthropist who took religion and education in that area. They sometimes go as far as saying he took civilization in the area. In a distance of 2-3 miles away is a primary and secondary school that was put in memory of Kakungulu. Steve says these are community initiatives to keep the name of the great statesman far high. I passed by the school to see if I can meet anyone who had an idea of what their school name was and whether they could have had an idea to see the man whose banner shines on each corner of their school, they replied me with a big no. From the head teacher to the gateman, they had all studied him in history just like me. At the school you can enjoy drama and plays about Kakungulu if you came at the right time.

Besides being a country home and natures’ hidden paradise, it’s a unique experience of its own. Camping in the middle of the bush with birds singing for you has never been enchanting more than that. To be honest it was my first time to pitch my own tent and I lost a finger nail while pinning screws to hold it. But its worth an experience you should never miss on top of Gangama hill. I cannot forget when heavy rain came at night and my cameraman kept joking Semei Kakungulu has come to visit us. Am not a fun of such jokes but well it scared the hell out of me and have since loved camping even the more. For a photogenic like my friend Mark Metternich, I guess it’s a perfect place for natural photography environments. Sunrises are things to hold onto. When you are seated right in the gardens early morning with all sounds of nature making melodies, you will still see across MT Elgon highest point saying hello handsome.

On the other hand close to Kakungulu’s old home you can view the whole of Mbale town and the whole of Wanale ridge peeping like a beautiful Bamasaba cow.

In March 1899 Kakungulu joined Major Avatt in the operations that captured Kabalega and Mwanga in Lango. Kakungulu himself was responsible for capturing them as they tried escape from the village of Oyam in current Dokolo County. Kabalega had been so wounded that his arm had to be amputated. Kabalega’s three sons were with him. That was Jasi who died of bullet wounds, Andereya Duhaga who later became the Omukama of Bunyoro. Before Kakungulu and Mwanga were handed over to Major Avatt they were incarcerated on this this stone and later went into Exile. Mwanga died in Exile and Kabalega died in Uganda after Omukama requested for his release.

Am not doubting that you can have a full package filled with learning and adventure at Gangama hill in Mbale. I highly recommend you take a trip and you will come back with your own story.

Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners.
Feel free to share this and follow us on social media for more insights of Darius travel experience.

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In my previous episode https://bit.ly/2RerFfu I narrated how I had stepped my foot on Gangama hill. It’s on this hill that Mwanga and Kabalega were incarcerated, it’s on this hill that Semei Lwakirenzi Kakungulu finally settled, it’s on this hill that he died and was buried. In this episode I take you straight to what to see on this hill in the Semei Kakungulu Heritage Experience with Kakunguru Safaris a local company that has taken time to develop the itinerary.


Semei Kakungulu grave at Gangama Hill in Mbale.

Kakungulu died on 24th November 1928of Tetanus. Kakungulu is buried in a short distance from the main Abayudaya synagogue behind the unpretentious home which he lived during his last years of his life. He was buried inside a house. I asked Steve my guide why he was buried inside a house. “He built this house before he died and instructed his relatives to be buried there” Says Steve the soft spoken man with a lot of simplicity. We were allowed in by the care taker of Kakungulu’s grave and old house Mr. Hamis Nambale who looks like he is in his old 60s. As you enter, the immediate site is a front stone on the grave with words……..

“SEMEI LWAKIRENZI KAKUNGULU A victorious General, Saza Chief in Buganda, Administrator of Eastern province 1899 – 1905, President of Busoga 1906 -1913. Died 24th 11 1928”

His grave is surrounded by his tools of work that include spears that he used to take on his battle fronts. Each spear or tool there has its own meaning according to Steve.


Darius – Show Host and Steve – Kakungulu Safaris standing infront of Semei Kakungulu House


Under pressure from the British who wished to limit his holdings, in 1917 moved his residence a short distance further from Mbale town into a short distance in the foothills of MT elgon to a place called Gangama. It was there that he started a separatist sect initially called Ekibiina Kya Abayudaya abesiga Katonda (the community of Jews who trust in omnipotent God) which is made up of mostly Kakungulu’s Baganda following as told to us by Steve. When I visited the site, I could easily tell the difference with rest of the community.

In 1922, at Gangama, Kakungulu published a 90-page book of rules and prayers as a guide book for his Jewish community. “The book set fourth Jewish laws and practices as Kakungulu found them in the old testament as well” Says Rabbi Garshom Wambede who is the current Mbale Jewish community leader or teacher. I found out that despite this interest in Jewish practices, there does not appear to have any contact between Kakungulu and the Jewish practices before 1925.

According to Steve, many European engineers and mechanics who were employed by the British had a chance of meeting the Christian-Jewish community in Mbale in what appears to be chance encounters and then out of this Kakungulu was told about Orthodox Judaism. As a result his other Cristian values and customs were dropped and he adopted Judaism including practices of baptism.

From these encounters the community learned of citing Hebrew prayers, observing Sabbath on Saturday, slaughter meet in Kosher manner and also speak some Hebrew.

After Kakungulu death local sources say, the Abayudaya community was divided into those wishing to retain a toehold within Christianity and those wanting to break it completely. The Bayudaya remained a mixture of both Christianity and Judaism, with faith in Christ remaining in Kakungulu’s faith and beliefs.

Some of the young Abayudaya community members performing local dance for Darius


Just few meters Steve leads me through a maize plantation walking through a small footpath with visible stones across on the same hill. “This man was ambitious, both in wars and establishing his dynasty” Says Steve as he looks at me firmly on the face. I nodded in agreement. I tasked Steve if he knew some of Semei daughters or sisters surviving and he told me there is one sister who stays near former president of Uganda Amin’s ware house in Lunguja, Rubaga Division, Kampala but they seem to have lost touch. If one of his children were still alive probably he would have finished this palace and ascend on the throne of Bamasaba, Steve re-affirmed me.


A kid traverses through Semei Kakungulu road that goes to the community school.

Some Baganda chauvinists believe and think Kakungulu was a great philanthropist who took religion and education in that area. They sometimes go as far as saying he took civilization in the area…………………. To be continued in the next episode


Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners.

Feel free to share this and follow us on social media for more insights of Darius travel experience.

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There are some things we take for granted when we are still in college or high school only to find it’s actually where our career and passion belongs. Little did I know at one particular moment, I will pack my bags, fuel the car and take a long trek to the land of Bamasaba and Sebei.
After close to 4 hours of a busy highway drive, am ushered into the old historical town of Mbale. By look of things this ancient majorly inhabited by Indians and people of Asian origin, is getting back on its feet in terms of hygiene. Clean and new roads can be seen everywhere with new paintings on buildings and so on. I called Steve who will be my guide on the Semei Kakungulu Heritage trip. From now onwards you will hear more of this name coming back.

Who is Steve?

Steve Posses for a picture with Darius.

Steve as I prefer to call him is a soft spoken young man in his early 40’s or late 30’s by my eyes judgment. Apart from being the proprietor of Semei Kakungulu country lodge he is also married to the great granddaughter of the Mighty Kakungulu, Rachael Kakungulu who also double as co-shareholder of all Kakungulu establishments including the famous Kakungulu Safaris and Semei Kakungulu Country lodge.

Rachael Kakungungulu. The grand grand daughter of Semei Kakungulu


It’s hard to talk about the history of British imperialism and imposition in East Africa without the mention of Kakungulu. He was a mercenary that the British used to impose their rule in major parts of Uganda but especially in what was referred to as Bukedi (East and North East Uganda). From my early years in primary, his collaboration with the British is not contestable but his role as a person is something am yet to know.

Who is Semei Lwakirenzi Kakungulu?

Semei Kakungulu. Internet Picture


Semei Lwakirenzi, who was later awarded the honorary tittle Kakungulu, was a son of a muganda called Semuwamba who was originally from Kazinga village near Seguku in current Busiro County. At an early age Semuwamba left Busiro for the Kingdom of Koki. There he joined the service of the Omukama of Koki, rising to the high post of katikiro. He had seven children one of whom Semei Lwakirenzi. Semuwamba later fell in disfavor and was executed together with his wife.

How did Semei rise to fame?

Kakungulu fled to Buddu in Buganda where he became friend with, and became blood brother of Yusuf Bijakuno, the son of the Pokino (county chief of Buddu). It was around this time that Semei on his old career of elephant hunting. Then early in kabaka Mwanga’s reign he became the mutongole chief of Kirumba in Buddu.
In 1893, when Colonel Henry Colville made a punitive attack on Bunyoro, Kakungulu commanded a force of 1,500 Baganda men who went with Colville and this enhanced Kakungulu’s reputation. In April 1895 Kakungulu was sent to capture two Kings in Lango sub region, this mission failed but he managed to get a lot of booty for himself and other 500 men. He was a man of missions and winning says Steve the proprietor of Semei Kakungulu country lodge and doubles as a guide for the Semei Kakungulu tour.

What do you see in the Semei Kakungulu Heritage Experience?

Me and Steve drove in Kakungulu Safaris Jeep for Just a 10 minutes or less from Mbale town rolling in the lower slopes of Mt. Elgon that ushered us into the home of the great statesman. A man who came from Buganda and conquered the East is none other than Semei Lwakirenzi Kakungulu. What welcomes you is a natural green acacia trees before you enter the magnificent eco-touristic country lodge . Reaching on top of Gangama hill, my soul had already been crippled not to wait for what to feed my eyes and camera on the hill.

Story continues in episode……. 2

Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners.
Feel free to share this and follow us on social media for more insights of Darius travel experience.

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So What Do You Put On A Family Camping Packing List For An Ordinary Camping In Rwanda

In reality the answer is LOTS of clothes and as little other stuff as possible!  You basically have to pack for a whole fashion house in one weekend or the longer you will stay on the road the more items you will need which means it includes wellies, flip flops, trainers, rain coats and sun hats, but you can’t park your car next to your tent like you can do on an ordinary camping trip so it means carrying everything (sometimes quite a long distance) from the car to the tent!!. On my recent visit to Musanze in Northern Rwanda I met a couple on a road trip camping at Red Rocks Campsite and they taught me a lesson..

Here are some of the lessons I learnt from them:

  • Camping trolley to transport everything to your tent, bedding etc. However depending on the place you are going to, this can be more of a hindrance, particularly if it’s muddy.
  • Large back packs work better for us with clothes in, leaving hands free for other items!
  • Walking and Hiking Shoes – Northern Rwanda is a mountainous place and best place for hiking and all other community walks. Some of the village community walks are muddy so you may need good soled shoes. Others are rocky so you may need good rubber shoes comfortable to walk in the sharp volcanic dry lava stones
  • Trainers – If I can fit them in (and I usually do) I like to take trainers for us all to wear when we get back to the tent and are chilling out.  I hate wearing wellies for longer than I have to and I also detest wearing wet shoes. Extra socks and dry trainers are a luxury for me.
  • Sleeping Bags – worth investing in good quality ones as they pack down small and keep you actually warm.  Musanze has a lot of cold nights and it may be tricky if you land on a very cold night. Some hotels will always give you an extra blanket but then for camping its quiet challenging to rely on their provision
  • Picnic rug – We favour a tent carpet when camping for longer periods of time but a waterproof backed picnic rug is multipurpose for a camping trip as you can take it into the picnic  I still love small and light when am packing.
  • Spare Bag!  – However organised I think I am, I always find myself carrying more things around at every trip, whether it is near or far but I have always found myself with extra luggage. Try an extra small pack pack bag that can save your day.
  • Raincoats for all the family!
  • Sun cream – I’m a black or dark-skinned man as you call it. That means I absorb a lot of sun rays than anyone. One of the things I don’t forget is my sun cream to protect me from the too much sun heat.
  • ID bands with your child’s name and your emergency contact details on them, or you can write your phone number. Children are very funny, they can jump in the neighbourhood while you are away
  • Sun Hats and Sunglasses- I mean you never know.
  • Tent – However don’t let the lack of a tent put you off camping as most camping sites now have ones that are already erected that you can hire for the weekend. If you are going to buy one make sure you buy one for more people than you think, as a tent for 4 is not comfortable for 4 people!
  • Water and Snacks – Once you’ve reached on the site you and you kids will ALWAYS want a drink and will inevitably be be hungry. We take a large box of cereal that they like to eat dry too.
  • Clothes – Basically lots of layers.  They will get mucky, likely to get wet and they will want fresh clothes to change into!
  • Footless Onesies – Thick and warm to put on before bed, but without the feet means they won’t get damp feet.
  • Potty for children if you have – Regardless of the age of your children, I might* have used it myself in the past too.
  • Self inflating sleep mats – much easier to transport than air beds and pretty much as comfortable.
  • Toilet Paper – Essential – enough said.
  • Wet wipes and Hand Sanitiser – Lots. In Africa disease causing germs are many and you will always want to greet people by shaking hands. If you even white its more worse because children touching mzungu-White person.
  • Mini First Aid Kit – Although most camping sites will have this it’s good to have plasters, antiseptic wipes, and aspirin etc with you.