Baruuli People


Baruuli / Baluuli

The Baruuli or Baluuli (ethnonym: Baluuli; singular Muruuli), are a Bantu ethnic group native to Bunyoro, a subnational kingdom within Uganda. They stay in an area called Buruuli. They share a common ancestry with the Banyala.

The Baruuli-Banyala are a people of Central Uganda who generally live near the Nile River-Lake Kyoga basin. The people first settled in the northern part of Uganda, but later migrated to the western parts of Uganda to the Bunyoro kingdom as the king’s guards.
Though the names of the two groups (Baruuli and Banyala) appear somewhat different, they see themselves as the same people and attribute the difference in names to the body of water (the Sezibwa River) that separates them.
The Baruuli-Banyala culture has acquired cultural aspects of the surrounding Baganda and Banyoro. But despite being assimilated into these dominating cultures, the Baruuli-Banyala still continue to maintain their language and cultural identity.

Baruuli people Map

Some distinguishing characteristics of Baruuli-Banyala culture are their cultural leader – the Isaabaruuli – and their methods of naming around totems and giving names after circumstances. They have 120 clans but, unlike many other cultures, power is not hereditary.

The Baruuli are cattle keepers, goat-herders, fishermen and cultivators. Most live in mud houses with iron or thatched grass roofs. Transportation is difficult and people either walk or use bicycles for traveling, often for very long distances.



The Baluuli came to be part of Buganda after their county was incorporated in Buganda, following Buganda's victory over Bunyoro in 1896, after it aided the British to spread colonialism. Their lands were distributed to Baganda families. They migrated to the North of Lake Kyoga to the county of the Langi. But they were forced to return to their lands in the 1980s. They lived in Luweero District, but a separate Nakasongola District was established in 1997 after the establishment of the Old Buluuli county which existed before 1990.



They speak a language known as Luruuli or Ruuli.



The Baruuli are found in Central part of Uganda, west of Lake Kyoga, in Nakasongola District and Masindi District; some in Amolatar District and Luweero District. Transportation is difficult and people either walk or use bicycles for travelling, often for very long distances.

Today's two Buruuli counties are separated by River Kafo. One Buruuli in Masindi District of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom is north of River Kafo. While Buruuli, “the lost county”, is south. It is present day Nakasongola District. It stretched to Lukomera in the south. The boundary was River Kanganda.

Geographically, administratively and politically, Buruuli, consisted of the two Buruuli counties one in Masindi District and the other one in Buganda. It extended up to Lake Kyoga to the boundaries of the district of Apac. It included present day Kibanda county and Bugungu.



The Baruuli people are herdsmen, farmers, fishermen and charcoal burners. They too carry out trade with the neighborhood in fish, charcoal and food. Their staple food is sweet potatoes and Matooke. They too grow millet, g-nuts, yams, cassava, and other kinds of vegetables. Their land is very dry almost all months but they do farming near the shores of Lake Kyoga.

The Baruuli culture has acquired cultural aspects of the surrounding Baganda and Banyoro. But they still maintain their language and cultural identity. Some distinguishing characteristics of Baruuli is their cultural leader - the Isaabaruuli, and their methods of naming around totems and giving names after circumstances. They have 120 clans but, unlike many other cultures, power is not hereditary.



The Baruuli named their children according to an event in a household, weather conditions and circumstances. If a family got a visitor who was a Muganda and a child was born during that visit, that child was named Muganda. If a family was prosperous and is now facing misfortunes, a child born now would be named Gawera to reflect the circumstances.



Marriage among tha Baruuli was of two types. The main marriage was called "Kuswera". The parents looked for the bride for their son. Once a son reached a marrying age, the parents went around asking whether there were girls of a marrying age. Once they confirmed that the girls were there, they informed the parents of the girls about their motives. The parents would then reach an agreement. If they agreed to the marriage, the girl's father would set a bride price. The boy's father would bring the items and then a day would be set for him to take the girl.

In the second type of marriage that was opted for by mostly those who were unable to pay bride price, the boys seduced the girls from their grand mothers dwellings from where girls were groomed. Once a girl gave in to the boy's advances and allowed to be married to him, the boy would leave four shillings in the girl's bed and then take her. If the grandmother failed to find the girl and then discovered the money, she would go to the girl's parents and inform them that the girl had been taken. The boy's father would then visit the girl's family and inform them that the girl was in his family. Bride price would be set and paid. failure to pay bride price would bring shame to the boy's family. The items of bride price included malwa (beer), goats and money.



During burial, the body would be rested in a deep pit, lying on the side, facing the power seat of Bunyoro, to show allegiance. No one was allowed to pour soil on a dead person's heart and forehead. If the head of a household died, a bull and a cock were slaughtered the following day for the mourners to eat. The widow did not bathe or shave their heads until an heir was instated. This period was long since people had to travel to attend the ceremony. The widow spent all of it without bathing. The orphans would walk with no clothes from the waist up, especially the girls.



The Baruuli worshipped spirits and gods. They worshipped Nabuzana, Katigo, Irungu and kibubu, among others. They worshipped from shrines they called Birooro, and on hills.

Today Christianity has spread. The Roman Catholic and the Church of Uganda (or Anglican Church) are the two largest denominations among the Baruuli. A very small percentage of the people are Muslim. Many still follow the traditional religions, and there is a high level of syncretism among those who go to church.



The Baruuli lived in grass-thatched houses. The thatch made the walls and the roof. They moved to mud walled houses with grass thatched roofed. Because of modernity, many of them now live in brick house that have tiled roof or those with iron sheets.



The Baruuli's staple food is akaita (millet paste) known as akalo in Luganda. Sweet potatoes and cassava are other main foods. The main source of protein is fish.