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HomeHistoryKing Nabongo Mumia Shitawa...

King Nabongo Mumia Shitawa from the Abawanga Kingdom

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This is King Nabongo Mumia Shitawa from the Abawanga Kingdom, during his tenure he ruled from some parts of Ebuganda to Naivasha and the entire Nyanza. Having 90 wives his kingdom had more servants from all over East Africa. The king usual walked or travelled with a group of men called Abhenyambi incase he would fart the Abhenyambi would take the blame and claim they are the ones who did it.

The King lived at a place called Itokho which means Palace.

Now you know..

The Origins of the Wanga Kingdom

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The origins of the Wanga Kingdom, as its entire history, belong to the migration and

settlement of the ancestors of Abashitsetse. The standard version of the migrations

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and final settlement of Abashitsetse at Imanga begins near Kaimosi in Tiriki.

Abashitsetse travelled and lived together with the Abalubakha clan of the Abatirichi.

They may have wandered together with the other Luhya people from Egypt or West

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Africa into Buganda and Busoga; the Lake Victoria area in Kenya and as far as

Naivasha and Kapsabet, before settling near Kaimosi by the middle of the 16th

century. Muwanga later died and the generations of his sons Wamoyi and Muwanga II

lived near Kaimosi for twenty years.

Muwanga II succeeded his father as the Nabongo. When he died, his younger son

Wanga succeeded him, but the eldest son, Khabiakala, and half-brothers Wamoyi II

and Mutende opposed it. This made Wanga migrate to Imanga in South Wanga

Location between Mumias and Musanda The area was inhabited by Abamuima and

Abamulembwa. Mumia Liyai ruled the two clans. The story goes that Wanga lived

and worked for Muima, and that he disguised himself in order to hide his royalty

because it was taboo for a royal member to work for another as a commoner.

However, Wanga’s royal status was discovered and while the crime was being

cleansed in traditional ceremonies, five members of Abashikawa, Abakalibo,

Ababuka, Abakhami and Abachero arrived at Muima’s court from Tiriki to collect

their Nabongo Wanga. The request was granted. Back at Kaimosi, the family feud

broke out afresh, It forced Wanga, his family and supporters (e.g. the five clans

above) to migrate to Imanga where they settled permanent1y. The two brothers,

Khabiakala and Wamoyi II remained at Kaimosi while Mutende migrated to South

Nyanza. Other half-brothers went to Nandi.

Wanga and his people settled at Imanga in the middle of the 16th century. Nabongo

Muima allowed them to settle in uninhabited areas such as Eshikulu near River

Lusamia, Ebuchirinya, Tingale, Ebutende, Indangalasia and Elusibo in South Wanga

and Ekonjero in Buholo. The places were many, suggesting that Wanga and his

people were many. This view is further illustrated by the fact that Wanga searched for

and settled in other areas. He settled at Kimatuni in South Bukusu and Siaya. He later

retreated and settled first at Elureko (Mumias) and then at Matungu in North Wanga.

At Matungu, Wanga died. He had many sons who became the founders of the sub-

clans of the Abashitsetse.

There were two important consequences of the migration and settlement of

Abashitsetse in Wanga. The first consequence was that the Wanga area was settled.

The second consequence was the rise of Abashitsetse Dynasty to the position of

power and authority. This historical development was gradual and almost

unnoticeable. It has been suggested by some writers that Wanga conquered the Muima

state. This interpretation is not convincing, in view of the reception and settlement of

Wanga and his people in the area. In any case Wanga and his people were few and

were without military power to undertake conquest. It is most likely that through

intrigue and collaboration with Abamuima, Wanga gained popularity and was elected

to succeed Muima. The process of conquest, if it happened at all, might have been

inflicted on the Abamuima sub-cans which opposed Wanga’s succession.

It will be recalled that both Muima and Wanga were kings. Two kings cannot rule one

kingdom, but the kingdom developed from a clandom or a confederation of clandom.

The clan was the basis of political, social and economic organisation in pre-colonial

Africa. The clans co-existed because of blood relationship (i.e kinship) or what was

called blood- brotherhood through intermarriage, trade, diplomatic relationship and

the need for security and peace. The clans were equal and sovereign.

In Wanga, as it was all over Buluhyia, the clan was organised by Liguru assisted by a

Council of Elders. (Abakofu bakali or Abakali be Lizokho). The Liguru was a

consultative and advisory leader. He had omukasa (copper bracelet) and a dress made

from the skin of a colobus monkey. The regalia is still kept today. In view of the

claims that Wanga was a king before settling with his people in what became Wanga

Location, it can be argued that what is known as the Wanga Kingdom was a

confederation of co-equal clans ruled by Muima and Wanga. It is the centralisation of

power, as well as its systematisation, that the Wanga Kingdom began. Most kingdoms

began through intrigue, collaboration and conquest. The rise of the Wanga Kingdom

followed the same pattern.

The extent of the Wanga Kingdom

There are two versions regarding the extent of the Wanga Kingdom. The first version

is that the Wanga Kingdom extended as far west as Buganda; as far south as Samia; as

far north as Mount Elgon and as far east as Naivasha. This version was advanced by

Abawanga, and the British imperialists supported it in order to get allies in the

imposition of colonial rule. The second version is that the Wanga Kingdom coincided

in size with North Kavirondo, later called North Nyanza, i.e the present Western


Thus, the Wanga Kingdom was synonymous with Buluhya. Since some Luo e.g.,

Abaholo and Jo-Ugenya were at one time claimed to be ruled by the Wanga or were

in North Kavirondo, they were supposed to be in the Wanga Kingdom. This version

was popularised by Abawanga during the years 1902-.-1933 when they played a

dominant role as the colonial chiefs. The British supported the claim in order to justify

the idea of indirect rule i.e, the use of local rulers. But what was being practised was

direct rule; the imposition of Wanga agents as chiefs.

The probable extent of the Wanga Kingdom was restricted to the areas inhabited by

the Abawanga. It ended on the borders of the present Busia District in the west; the

Babukusu in the north; the Banyala in the east; the Batsotso in the southwest; and

Marama and Buholo in the south.

The first version of the extent of the Wanga Kingdom reflects the areas which the

Abawanga might have passed through or lived in only for a while. It makes it clear

that the Wanga Kingdom was one of the interlacustrine kingdoms, a fact that raises

the controversy of its origins. The interlacustrine kingdoms in eastern Uganda. e.g.

Buganda and Ankole, were probably founded by the Babito Dynasty of the Luo. B.A.

Ogot concluded from this view that the Abashitsetse Dynasty might be related to the

Babito. This view is not convincing. The origins and growth of the Wanga Kingdom

can be understood in the context of migrations and settlements.

The first people to settle in Western Kenya were, the Nandi, Kony, Bok and

Bongomek, and Uasin Gishu Maasai (Kwavi) The Luhya clans were the second

settlers. Most of them had evacuated the area around Lake Victoria as the southern

Luo or Kenya Luo settled The Luhya in turn occupied the areas which the Nandi and

Uasin Gishu Maasai had occupied. The Kony, Bok and Bongomek, settled in the area

around Mount Elgon. They are also known as the Elgon Maasai. Some of the Kwavi

lived in Wanga and they acted as mercenaries of the Nabongo. They were joined by

the refugees from Maasailand during the 1 840s due to civil wars and natural

calamities such as drought, rinderpest, smallpox and malaria.

The clans of the Abaluhya share a lot in their stories of migrations, and this shows the

assimilation and adaptation which took place. For example, Abalogoli are related to

Abanyole; Abawanga to Abatirichi; Abakisa to Abedakho, Abamarama to Abatsotso

and Abatsotso to Abakabras The Luo also settled in areas once occupied by the

Abaluhya. For example, Abachero in Wanga came from Alego. There was

considerable assimilation between Nandi, Maasai and Luhya people. Many clans in

Kabras, for example are of Nandi origin.

The migrations and settlements in Buluhyia were intensive from 1870 to 1915. Clans

such as Abebere from Marachi, -Abamutiru from Bugisu, Abashiemi from Busoga

and their cousins Abalaku (of Nandi origin) and Abanatsiri settled in Wanga in the

1800s. Abasamia, Abakhayo, Abamarachi, Abanyala, lived in Butsotso from the

1850s to about 1915 when they settled in their present homelands. It was reported in

1911 by colonial authorities that Abesukha and Abedakho were settling in Kabras

and Butsotso. The migration and settlement in Western Kenya continued during the

colonial period.

The Idea of the Wanga Empire

There were mainly two consequences of migration and settlement. The first

consequence was territorial expansion. Territorial expansion occurred in two ways.

Firstly, the new corners needed urgent settlement and they used force. The pioneers

found it unnecessary to defend the areas they had known or lived in. The pioneers

were fewer than the immigrants and so they would be overpowered if they attempted

to defend their land. Furthermore, there was plenty of land to occupy. Secondly,

pioneers voluntarily accepted new immigrants. Trade and intermarriage followed. As

the population expanded, conflict arose, leading to clan warfare. The territorial

expansion of the Luhya and Luo in the general region took these two forms. On the

southern borderland, conflict continued up to 1895.

The second consequence was that centralisation of power and authority did not

develop. It was only the Wanga who succeeded in forming a state. The formation of

the Wànga Kingdom led to territorial and political expansion in the last years of the

18th century, during the reign of Nabongo Wamukoya Netia. Nabongo Netia used the

Uasin Gishu Maasai to raid neighbours for cattle and his successors did the same. The

Maasai became a factor in the history of Abashitsetse, and they controlled the events

at court. We know this from the activities of Nabongo Netia. Netia can be called a

trickster who enjoyed killing people. He was called a dictator.

He strangled the Maasai. He invited them to beer drinking parties. A killer sat outside

the house where the party was going on and he held the tail of a long rope which had a

loop in the house. The loop was hung round the neck of a drunk Maasai and when

Netia signalled, the killer pulled the rope. The Maasai later discovered the trick and at

one beer party, they did not get drunk. They pretended, however, that they were

drunk. Nabongo Netia and his killer set to work and they were discovered. The

Maasai revolted and overthrew Netia, who was later killed. Henceforth, they

continued to determine and even control political development in the kingdom up to

the l840s.

The trickery of Nabongo Netia was perhaps designed to eliminate the Maasai at his

court. It may also have been designed to strengthen his personal power. The

Abashitsetse Dynasty was prone to feuds, which led to the disintegration of the

kingdom between 1814 and 1841. The sons of Nabongo Osundwa Netia rivalled each

other over the throne. The elder son, Kweyu was tricked by the younger one called

Wamukoya, who then succeeded Osundwa.

In protest, Kweyu seceded and founded Wanga Mukulu (Upper Wanga). Wamukoya

ruled Wanga Elureko (Lower Wanga). The two states co-existed but Wanga Elureko

was prominent. Nabongo Shiundu Wamukoya (1841—1882) established effective and

respectable authority and it was during his reign that the Wanga Kingdom reached its

greatest extent and was known beyond Buluhyia.

The kingdom was visited by Arab and Swahili slave traders. They operated from

Elureko (future Mumias) against the Babukusu in the north from 1878. The most

notorious slave-raiders were Sudi of Pangani and Abdulla bin Hamid of Mombasa. It

seems that Nabongo Shiundu told the slavers to go into Bukusuland which means that

the Babukusu were the main Luhya enemies in the north. Instead of solving the threat,

the Babukusu deepened the hatred and developed military defence under Makite wa

Nameme. Sudi indigenised himself and became a centre of political power.

Namajanja rivalled him.

The sub-ethnic societies in Buluhyia had their own leaders. Nganyi,

a rain-maker was the recognised leader in Bunyore. Dindi and Ndombi

Were leaders of Bakhayo and Banyala of Nabakholo, respectively. Odero

Malo was recognised in Gem. Thus, there were many centres of power

and authority. The claim by the Wanga, the British imperialists and John

Osogo that the Nabongo exercised power over a wider region is unconvincing.

There was a mutual alliance between Wanga Elureko, Buholo, Kisa and

Marama, to safeguard border security. The southern neighbours, the Jo-

Ugenya or Kager Luo and Jo-Gem had the habit of demanding or fighting

for land. Wanga Mukulu similarly had co-existence with Butsotso and

Kabras in the east. The idea of a Wanga Empire is therefore a myth.

Osogo used three examples to support the view that the Wanga Empire

was a.reality. The first example was that people paid tribute to the Nabongo

through his agents, appointed locally. The tribute was in the form of iron

implements and food. The second example was that the Nabongo, had a

large army composed of Wanga, other Luhya and the Kwavi. He estimated

the army at 10,000. The army raided for cattle and it “constantly reminded

subjects of the over lordship of the Nabongo”. The third and final example

which Osogo used to support the idea of an empire was that the Nabongo

married from Busoga, Bugisu, Teso, Maasailand, Gem, Ugenya and all

over Buluhyia. These examples, however, do not show that the Wanga

Empire existed.

The Wanga kings had no tributary satellites. Osogo was confusing

pre-colonial Wanga and colonial Wanga. It was only during the colonial

period that Wanga agents were notorious tax-collectors. Secondly, the

existence of a large army does not mean that the Nabongo exercised

authority far and wide. The army was not used for territorial expansion.

Furthermore, marrying from many different places did not mean the exercise

of authority in those places. Intermarriage was a diplomatic approach in

cementing cordial relations and co-existence. Intermarriage was also practised

by ordinary men.

Thus, the Wanga Empire is a myth. Osogo himself used the expression

Wanga Kingdom and Wanga Empire interchangeably. Of the Wanga Empire,

there would have been emperors; it would thus mean that kings were

subject to them. The Wanga Kingdom itself was shaky and divided. Before

the British came, Wanga influence among the allies had declined. Nabongo

Mumia was assisted by the British to stabilise the political situation in

Wanga. The Wanga colonial agents did not exercise power for Mumia. It

was the power of the British that they exercised.

Source: Makers of Kenyan History; Nabongo Mumia, Heinemann Kenya, ISBN 9966-46-808-0

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