Kabaka MwangaFrom as early as April every year, Christians from around the world start planning for their pilgrimage to Namugongo, Uganda for the annual famous Martyrs Day every 3rd June. The pilgrimage is a commemoration of over 40 believers that were hacked using machetes, and speared to death while others were tied and burnt to death by the kingdom’s Royal Chief Executioner, Mukajanga following the orders of his master Kabaka Mwanga II. These are the eminent Uganda Martyrs who were also canonized as saints in 1964 by Pope John Paul VI. Pilgrims for this day come from as far as Europe. Most interesting are those that make their way to the celebrations on foot from as far as Zambia, Tanzania, Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya.The number of Pilgrim is said to grow year after year with the highest numbers reported in the recent past one of 3rd June 2016.

Looking at who Kabaka Mwanga was, one can easily relate him to Saul in the Holy Bible who sinned and repented when he turned into Paul. After the martyrs Holocaust in 1890s Kabaka Mwanga, is believed to have been baptized and attained the name Daniel (meaning Judgement of God; God my Judge).

Kabaka Mwanga, also known as Basammula Ekkere Daniel, was the 31st Kabaka of Buganda who reigned (1884-1888; 1889-1897).He was son to Kabaka WALUGEMBE MUKABYA MUTEESA I, who wrote a letter to the queen of England to send teachers to his kingdom to teach Christianity to his subjects. This suddenly led to the opening of gates into the then virtually inaccessible Kingdom to foreigners. Mwanga ascended to the throne at the age of sixteen years after his father’s death in 1884.Due to Mwanga’s very tender age the foreigners (missionaries) thought he would carry on from where his dad had ended but were surprised when he took a different approach towards Christianity.

When Mwanga received news of Bishop Hannington coming from the East in 1885 during the period when the Germans were converting areas south of Nalubaale (Lake Victoria),he felt this act, had caused a threat to the security of his kingdom. He then ordered the capture and later killing of the Bishop to demonstrate his mighty to any invader. Contrary to what other African leaders had done when the foreigners got to their regions, When he suspected some of the -Pages-of his Court as being part of a plot to destroy his kingdom from within by allaying with the missionaries; he took drastic action by having them killed just as the Bishop. The killings were due to the threat of foreign domination and colonization seemed increasingly possible and the fear that his kingdom was steadily getting into the hands of the foreigners from different directions. Afro-Arabs further up north, British Europeans to the East and West, and Germans to the South.However, these killings in the name of protecting his kingdom and the desire to kick all the other missionaries out of his Kingdom, were interpreted as acts of intolerance to the foreigners the church missionary society used this act to gunner support from the British to protect their motives and activities.

During this time of Bishop Hannington killing, the Europeans had not yet advanced on the Ugandan region militarily, but had been laying the groundwork for European military forces through sending missionaries to demonize the traditional African belief and replace it with theirs, affirming the notion that the Gun followed the Cross. Three years into his reign, he was forced from his throne by the allied forces of Christians and Muslims who opted for his elder brother Kiweewa who then acted as a -puppet- hence a weak link for the Foreign powers to establish themselves in the kingdom and the areas around i.e. from the coast to the inland lake Victoria.

Mwanga never rested he allied with the Anglican Christians and within 4 years, he had regained his throne but with less power and authority as a king because of this, he continued to secretly strategize to kick the foreigners out of his land for good. Five years down, he attempted to drive the intruders out but never succeeded he was driven out of his kingdom again to Tanganyika where he continued agitating and mobilizing the armies to attack which they did but failed and for this the foreigners were determined to even send him further off the main land into the Seychelles where he was latter baptized into Daniel and later died at the age of 35 years. Mwangas expulsion and death looked like the end of foreign resistance but it had opened up the eyes of a number of Africans who continued to revolt the foreign rule hence the struggle for independence which emerged in the years that followed.

Never the less the Name Mwanga kept and still rings in the ears of masses both Africans and worldwide from all walks of life from Christians who celebrate the martyrs. This has paved way for the coming of three popes to the country, Pope Francis being the most recent one and the growing numbers of pilgrims who come very year to the country.On the historical side of the country, a number monuments still stand tall but below them, one cant fail to mention the Name Mwanga. These include; Kasubi Mausoleum where his remains were laid after repatriation, the numerous churches erected where the martyrs were killed, born or lived, the Kabaka’s Lake, the Royal mile -“Kabakanjagala”-

We can literary say that, had it not been for Kabaka Mwanga controversial turn against the foreigners and religion, the eminent Uganda Martyrs wouldn’t have been celebrated or even existent.


Article imageJune 2016, marked the end of the JICA volunteer, Kenta Hirose, with BHETA in Lutembe village at the shores of Lake Victoria. Kenta arrived in Uganda September 2015, had a 2 week-orientation which prepared Kenta for cultural shocks most people experience in totally new societies and well as familiarising him to local food and simple Luganda words.

Kenta’s work agenda entailed enhancing BHETA capacity to sustainably conservation the Lutembe wetland through development. During his term at Lutembe Kenta accomplished the following;

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION EDUCATION was provided to the people living in areas surrounding the Lutembe wetland on the shores of Lake Victoria and Dewe trading centre. With assistance of a community counterpart, the volunteer collaborated with various head teachers to carry out similar environmental education sessions in six schools, both primary and secondary schools in the area. Kenta used the environment conservation 4R (Reject, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) model to conduct the sessions.

Using visual aids and practical sessions, the Kenta demonstrated several ways hazardous waste like plastics and polythene could be rejected, Reduced, Reused and recycled. Home waste management and communal cleanup locally referred to as _“Bulungibwansi”_are other aspects the community got engaged in as a result. Bulungibwansi was embraced by the area local leaders who broadened the participation beyond BHETA group members.

ECO TOURISM is another activity Kenta got involve in. Complementing Nature Uganda and UCOTA efforts, Kenta assisted by a fellow JICA volunteer and Nature specialist, Nakasika who was on a 2-year placement with National Forest Authority trained old and new guides in to enhance the standard of guiding service provided by the group. In a spate to have the BHETA tourism product gain more market, Kenta created various marketing avenues; facebook, developed and printed product brochure and together with his counterpart negotiated for the brochure placement at various accommodation facilities in Entebbe, Kajjansi and other surrounding areas

HAND CRAFTS WORKSHOP; with an aim to enhance community socio-economic benefits through conservation, Kenta run handcraft workshops that targeted recycle and reuse of collected waste material especially polythene bags from which the women made and sold various items like money purses, placemats, laptop cushion-bags and small handbags. Other handcraft activities Kenta got involved in were making jewelry from beads and basket weaving using palm leaves.

ORGANIZATIONAL MANAGEMENT, Kenta worked with the group to establish better group governance. Different committees were established, leaders elected and leadership roles streamlined.

Mushroom growing and cultural music performance were some of the other activities Kenta participated in to assist the group uplift.


Cow watering at RwenjeruRwenjeru campsite is located in Rwenjeru village, near Lake Mburo National Park on the road heading to Katengyeto gate of Lake Mburo National Park.The campsite offers a camp ground, guest house with three self-contained rooms and other village tours. The location is surrounded with a fertile farmland made up of gentle hills and shallow valleys where the domestic and wild animals access water. The activities and experience at the site are based on Ankole traditional culture and the long horned cattle inherited from the Bachwezi from 1520 AD.


  • Herdsman setting a fire and calling the cows for water
  • participate in building a clay trough
  • Fetching the water from the pond/dam with wooden trough
  • Scenic walk to the watering area
  • Listening to the traditional stories and flute of the Bachwezi as the cows are drinking
  • Insights of the cattle keeper related living styles
  • A relaxed lunch at Igongo cultural center.


  • Insect repellant
  • Drinking water can be bought in the community
  • Walking shoes
  • A hut since you will be walking around midmorning when the sun may be hotest
  • Sun cream
  • Camera

Rwenjeru campsite is named after the white traditional cow of the Bachwezi, -“enjeru”- meaning white in Runyankole language.  This white cow was treasured in every Ankole family for special milk used for traditional duties.  The main attraction at the site is the traditional cow watering experience-“Okweshera”- in the local language. The Cow watering experience takes less than an hour and it is better done around the mid-morning. The activity is a routine carried out by the cattle keepers, normally done two or three times a day to serve water to the cows. At the site, you will meet a guide, dressed in the true Bachwezi attire carrying the walking stick, -“Enkoni”- and wooden bucket, -“Eicuba”- . As you start the walk, a hoe and other tools will be carried for mining the anthill soil to be smeared in the drinking trough that is normally dug in the ground on the side of the water pond where the water is fetched. The purpose of smearing the anthill soil is to add the aroma and minerals to the water being given to the animals.

You will observe the great skill and logic while the animals are being divided into small groups to enable them fit on the trough.  You will be invited to participate in, fetching the water, setting a gentle smoky fire for the animals while the other member fetches the animals by calling their names. The guide will take you through the watering process while explaining every step. Mean while, the animals that have finished drinking will walk aside as they enjoy the herder playing for them a traditional flute with feint tunes.

Besides, Rwenjeru camp site has a camping ground, organic gardens, a beekeeping project, bike hire, women tailoring projects and a youth carpentry project. Other additions to this experience, is a visit to the Igongo museum for a perfect lunch and a traditional museum tour that can be done after the cow watering experience.

For those planning to visit can CONTACT Charles/ Manager on +256 782301201 or the UCOTA office in Kampala on +256 414501866/ 772657700 Email:info@perlsofuganda.org website: www.ucota.or.ug


RUMURI HOMASTAY HOUSE FinalleeJudith Rutaro homestead is located along the Mbarara-Kasese road on your way to queen Elizabeth National Park If you use a taxi from Mbarara/ Ishaka or Bushenyi ask the conductor to drop you at Hakitoma stage. You will then walk for about 500 meters on the left into the village from the highway. The home seats on a small farm of bananas, coffee, fruit trees and other food crops. The family rears animals such as pigs, goats, ducks and chicken. This team of hard working people will show you how they accomplish their daily activities and the local hand tools used. Some of the home activities include feeding of animals, gardening, and coffee harvesting, processing, grinding and packaging for distribution to the market. The homestay offers 2-4 people a place to spend a night in the home. Visitors dine with the family and those interested can get engrossed in home daily chores mentioned above. Besides, Douglas can take you around the village to get an extra experience of the community and astonishing scenery of the multiple craters, the fascinating Great Western Rift Valley escarpment and panoramic view of Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National park surrounding areas.

Madam Judith Rutaro, the home owner is a skilled mother, retired from working both in the public and private sectors of Uganda. During the visit, she will share with you the background and culture of the Bunyaruguru area and beyond. Douglas, her son will show you the local trade of farming and processing the produce from the farm. The family processes coffee (Arabica) and packs it for sale to the local markets and homestay visitors. While you visit, you have an opportunity to experience a full coffee tour from farming, harvesting and processing to add value to the produce. You will end the coffee tour with fixing for yourself a cup freshly ground organic coffee just roasted and blended straight from the farm.

The home offers accommodation in the two spared bedrooms accommodating up to two couples or two single tourists on full board basis. When you spend a night, you will be offered local meals and tea/ coffee. The home uses Hydroelectricity has flash toilet and a hot shower. The visit will allow you to experience a true African life as you mingle in the household chores of this family while listening to the local life stories.

For directions, contact Douglas Santana, one of the family members on 0702823889. You can place your booking through Uganda Community Tourism Association or Pearls of Uganda on ucota@ucota.or.ug.

Hope to see you there!!!

NSHENYI CULTURAL CENTRE “Sense of culture never lost.”


Just over ten years after it was set up, Nshenyi cultural centre is an exhibition of unity between a unique cultures with modernization. This is what the founder of the centre Anna Kabateraine had always dreamed of. She says, our homes should help us preserve our rich culture and way of life amidst modernization and fast cultural interaction

The moment you approach this centre that is located in the middle of adulating hills in Nshenyi village, Ruborogota  Sub county, Isingiro district, it’s easy to see the roots of a rich Ankole culture in amidst of modern and cozy environment. Here you are welcomed by beaming people giving you hugs as a Kinyankole way, as you start a memorable journey into this culture in western Uganda whose existence has been long dominated by the cow.

Activities at the cultural centre.

The centre has spread its vision to other areas within the district through partnerships with community groups, households, social and cultural groups and traditional music and handicrafts groups and more recently the famous pottery making Batwa tribe.

There is a cultural park at the centre with two home steads, on one side is a cattle keeping Hima home and on the other a homestead for the agriculturalists and hunters. In each of these homes there is a variety of household tools and items ranging from cooking items to dress and hunting or farming equipment. Both homesteads also exhibit a range of musical instruments and dance attire.

Guests learn how local Ankole food is prepared. Right from grinding millet on a special stone (Orubengo) to making ghee using large milk gourds, there is more one experiences at the cultural centre or in many of the partner homesteads.

One of the activities anyone would not want to miss is milking a long horned Ankole cow known here as Okukama. In the Ankole culture, milking a cow creates a unique connection between the person and the cow. It starts with cuddling a cow known as okwagaga. This has to be done expertly in order to win over the cow and make it ready for milking while the calf has to wait for her turn.

Traditional instruments and handicrafts:

At the centre, the guests learn about the Ankole handicrafts and instruments. They learn how to make items like mats, cloths, and container lids. The guests also have an opportunity to use some instruments like drumming, throwing spears and making fire using ancient method with sticks(okuguha Omuriro)

Community visits:

Nshenyi cultural centre arranges visits for its visitors to tour communities within the district and this will be to community meetings, market visits , school visits, homestead s and occasionally to homesteads and work sites of the Batwa tribe and learn how these people make pottery items and also enjoy some of their traditional songs and stories.

Nature walks and the Kagera fishing community.

The cultural centre is located near River Kagera and has been promoting ecotourism in the area. Here one will enjoy nature walks having beautiful sights and sounds of the river falls locally known as Bururuma. During nature walks one will definitely see very many species of birds and may luckily see some hippos, crocs and buffalos from the near Ibanda game reserve in Tanzania. Many primates such as baboons are easy to see any time of the day.

If you love fishing, you will certainly catch more and rare fish than you ever imagined; it’s a fisher’s paradise.

Camping, Campfire and storytelling at a Paradise in the West.

The centre has extensive and secure camping grounds for guests who enjoy camping. Before you go to sleep, you are treated to a memorable campfire where locals tell some of their history and the rich Ankole culture (Okugana) and the famous riddles (Okushakuza) camping facilities are cozy with nice flushing bathrooms and showers.

Nshenyi cultural center remains a place of cultural immersion, natural beauty and as Gaetano Kaggwa, Uganda celebrity rightly once said “No one should die before visiting Nshenyi”  Read more

By Emma

Nyanzibiiri Homestay

Nyanzibiiri (1).JPG

Nyanziibiri homestay is a perfect home that offers affordable accommodation for adventurists, volunteers, researchers and of course holiday goers. It is located only 2 hours away from Mbarara town in Western Uganda along the Mbarara- Kasese highway. Nyanziibiri Homestay is within the Western Tourism circuit amidst the numerous crater lakes at the boundaries of QENP off the highway at Nyakasharu trading Centre in Rubirizi district. The homestay accommodates a maximum of 4 people per night with a provision of the extra accommodation of 8 in the spacious bandas at the nearby Nyanziibiri lodge owned and run by the same proprietor. While at the homestay one will be over whelmed by the family hospitality, have the privilege to interact and experience the fabulous Banyaruguru culture and legend story tales by the family head and children.  Experience may in addition include traditional cuisines enriched with colourful freshly grown organic vegetables, village and wetland walks, canoe rides and traditional fishing in the neighbouring crater lakes, learning traditional games, bird watching, traditional farming and visit to the local museum and schools. Interested visitors are given a chance to participate in food preparation and local handcraft making.

After your stay at Nyanziibiri homestay, one can undertake the following activities in Western tourism circuit: Game drives in QENP, Rwenzori Mountain climbing & hiking, community forest walks at RCCDP, Tea tours in Fort portal, the spectacular KAFRED wetland board walk and chimp tracking in Kibale NP.

Thinking of organizing a group getaway or retreat involving less than 15 people in a private yet quiet location, Nyanziibiri homestay and lodge has something that everyone will enjoy.

UCOTA staff experience at exchange in Kenya

KAMBA DanceIt seems like yesterday when I left for a year to Kenya on the FK staff exchange program to work with Kenya Community Based Tourism Network (KECOBAT). The exchange is managed by Freds Korpset (fk) and funded by the Norwegian government Ministry of Foreign Affairs the exchange program UCOTA has benefited from for over 4 years. The program was originally between the two countries, Kenya and Uganda and this time round, the exchange partnership has been enriched with a new partner, Tanzania Association of Cultural Tourism Organizers (TACTO), a similar organization from Tanzania .

During my placement in Kenya, I got the opportunity to visit, share my experience and also learn from the different people and tourism destinations in the country. I got numerous opportunities to participate in the Kenya tourism development and planning activities at community, bigger private sector and ministry levels. With the KECOBAT team, I had chances of interacting with the staff of the different tourism public and civil society institutions in Kenya. The rich culture of Kenya was a great highlight and learning experience of the time. The different tribes have learnt to appreciate and preserve their unique cultures which they use to leverage both government and private investment in tourism in the different areas. The different tribes with facilitation by the ministry of tourism are given the avenue to select cultural ambassadors used to promote Kenya tourism both locally and internationally.

While at a cultural function of the Kamba tribe in which men and women clad in colorful fabric and bead around their necks, wrists, waists and ankles, danced vigorous shaking their waists and limbs on the traditional music rhythms, I learnt that some of the cultural practices of the Kamba people were similar to those of Bantu tribes in Uganda especially the Bakonzo justifying the fact that the Kamba tribe belongs to the Bantu ethnicity.

I also learnt that besides the cultural functions, the government established a facility, the Bomas of Kenya to specifically promote the different cultures. It is at this facility where all tribes are represented in an exhibition of the traditional homestead and domestic cultural activities showcasing very colorful and inspiring traditions.

The Kenya government has endorsed the establishment and supported different institutions such as the Tourism finance cooperation and Tourism trust fund that supplement its efforts to fund the development and promotion of Kenya tourism. To the strong crafts industry, government investment in tourism marketing and leveraging private tourism investment coupled with the commitment of the Kenyan artisans has greatly boosted the industry creating scores of employment for the people of Kenya especially the youth.  I discovered that the model of supporting communities to establish and manage wildlife conservancies is the best way to trickle down tourism benefits to the grassroot levels. Lastly, the homestays.; with the massive urban migration due to employment, most people who construct houses at their rural homes rarely use them and these await full use at retirement. Most of these homes lie on massive chunks of land with numerous farm activities and forest pocket in some instances. Owners have realized the potential of the facilities and tendered them in for homestays to tap the opportunity to offer tourism activities to visitors in addition to accommodation.

With all this knowledge acquired, I am looking forward to practically share it with the government staff and other stakeholders to; 1) enhance government support to cause tangible sector growth, develop more tourism products with the local communities and cause more tourism benefits at the grassroot levels; and 2) establishment of homestays in the different areas and more will follow. I look forward for everyone’s support in this endevour to actualize my plans.

Fk new fellows 2016/17 to UCOTA are;


Joan from Kenya and Hamza from Tanzania