Bakenyi People


Bakenyi / Kenye / Bakenye

The Bakenyi of Uganda are a Bantu ethnic group of people. It is believed that they migrated from the Buganda central region and moved eastward and settled in eastern part of Uganda around Lake Kyoga basin in the Buyende district in sub counties like Kidera, Nkondo, Kagulu and others.

Some Bakenyi crossed Lake Kyoga and settled in the Teso region in areas of the Kadungulu sub county around Kagwara and Namulemuka. Many Bakenyi are settled around the northern part of Lake Victoria in the Bwonda landing site in Mayuge and the district landing site in Jinja District.

Bakenyi people
The Bakenyi, being Bantu, are not related to the Sabiny, who are Nilo Hamites (ibid.; Enter Uganda 11 Dec. 2001).



The Baganda tribe have about 33 clans ,whereas the Bakenye tribe about 20 clans namely: Bakoma,Baseregwe,Bawengere,Babango,Bagulu,Bandije,Bajwana,Batembe,Basagule,Babira,Bakabire,Bamuyaga,Balinda, Bamaghanda,among others,all these clans have animals or plants that symbolizes these clans as totems and its a taboo to eat or use these animals or plants because they are regarded to be sacred,for example the Buffalo, Hippotami, Lion, Leopard, Water buck, Porcupine, Wild peas, Yams, the Long tailed bird (the African pied wagtailed bird), these are forms of totems that belong to different Bakenye clans.

The Bakenyi are governed in a clan system.They have around 20 clans like:



The Bakenyi are a tribe in eastern Uganda, on shores of Lake Kyoga. There are 99,913 Bakenyi (2014 census) in Uganda. The Bakenyi are mainly found in Kayunga, Buyende, Pallisa, and Serere districts.



The Bakenyi language is called "Lukenyi". The Bakenyi's existence among eastern Uganda tribes caused them to adopt a slightly different dialect from Luganda, their former language, and also adopted those tribes' languages. They continued further north settling on the shores of Lake Kyoga.



They originated from the Baganda who occupy central Uganda and Lake Victoria. In 1780, a Buganda king called Kabaka (King) Kyabaggu Kabinuli passed on and was succeeded by his son, Princejjunju Sendegeya who became the new Kabaka of the Baganda (Buganda Kingdom). After Kabaka Jjunju's ascensiĆ³n to kingship, his brother, Prince Semakookiro Wasajja, rebelled against him causing a succession war between the two brothers. This war ended up with the death of Kabaka Jjunju, making Prince Semakookiro Wasajja, the Kabaka. It is said that after the death of Kabaka Jjunju, a group of Baganda, as a way of escaping what was to happen next, sought refuge in eastern Uganda, western Uganda, and others moved to Kenya, and Tanzania. Those that sought refuge in eastern Uganda became the Bakenyi; from the Luganda word "Bagenyi", which means - visitors, while those that moved to western Uganda became the Batagwenda, and the Banyaruguru. At the time of their movement to eastern Uganda, the Bakenyi had been inhabitants of Buvuma Islands which are located north of Lake Victoria. From the Islands, they moved north to the northern shores of Lake Victoria where they settled among eastern Uganda tribes which include the Basamia, Basoga, and Iteso.



They believe in small gods such as Lubale, Katigo, Isiranya and others.

They are polygamist and practice widow inheritance. This means a widow is forced to marry the brother of her deceased husband. Furthermore, a woman refusing to participate in widow inheritance would be shunned, and would face significant legal hurdles (i.e. exorbitant legal fees) in attempting to safeguard inheritance of property or custody of her children (ibid.). A woman attempting to oppose widow inheritance would have no state protection, as the practice is considered a domestic matter, similar to domestic violence (ibid.).

According to the Chair of the organization Empowering Widows in Development, widow inheritance - where a woman is forced to marry her deceased husband's brother - is widely practised in Africa, and the Bakenyi "are therefore quite likely to do so" (8 Dec. 2001). The source also stated that, although Uganda had a "reasonably woman friendly constitution, [ ...] the main problem would probably be the cost of the court case to her. And of course the social cost of being repudiated by her husband's kin can be very severe - they might try to insist in taking her children if she has any." (ibid.).



The Bakenyi are fishing people. They obtain agricultural food by trading it with fish. This food includes millet, sorghum, simsim, sweet potatoes, cassava, maize, and vegetables, farmed by the tribes where they live.

The Bakenyi, together with the Banyala, Basoga, Iteso, Langi, and Kumam, are the guardians and custodians of the shores of Lake Kyoga, a large fresh water lake in central Uganda whose lake, river and swamp systems are home to fish only found in Uganda. This fish is called Haplochromis latifasciatus.
Lake Kyoga's shores, swamps and lake systems are also home to a number of birds including the Fox's weaver which is only found in Uganda, the Shoebill stork, and other water loving birds, making these areas great spots for birding, fishing and canoeing.