Vira people


Vira / Bavira / Bida

The Vira people or Bavira (in the plural) are one of the most numerous ethnic groups in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. These people are located in the region of Uvira in the East of the country, on the northeast coast of Lake Tanganyika at the border with Burundi. The Bavira are also known in the name of Benembuga in Kivira (Bavira language) which means "authentic Uvira citizens."

The current king of the Bavira is Lwegeleza III (Edmond). He succeeded his father Mwami Lenghe Rugaza, who was assassinated in 1997 in the violent disorder which took place after the liberation of the DRC by Laurent-Désiré Kabila.

The Vira constitute a small chefferie that extends along Lake Tanganyika between Makobola and Kavimvira villages and in the mountainous hinterland. Their neighbors are Bembe, Fulero, Rundi and there are Banyarwanda immigrant groups with cattle (from Rwanda) in the highland areas. They are agriculturalist and fishermen on the lake, and have cattle in the highlands.

Vira People

Cultural identity

To be a Muvira (the singular of Bavira), one must belong by birth to one of the fifty families (clans) founder of the ethnic group. No other consideration is valid in this traditional society. And as Bavira are patriarchal, the lineage of the father determines membership in the group.

Anyone whose family, to say the clan is part of many of these clans is Muvira, regardless of where they live now. And anyone whose clan is not this number of clans is not a Muvira whatever number of years that his family lives in the chiefdom of Bavira. The list of 51 clans that make up the people Bavira is just below.



According to their tradition, nine clans migrated from Lwindi (in Mwenga territory). The Banyalenge clan traditionally produced the Mwami; the heads of the eight other clans are Bazyoga; they select the chief, enthrone him and are important ritual and socio-political figures.

The eight clans are represented by Muhinga (guardian of ancestors, of the chief’s cemetery); he enthrones the chief, Mufumu (health of chief; divination on his behalf), Nabaganda (guards the insignia of the chief: kilandwe spear, kahamba knife, mugushu billhook, sungwe crown made of shell and eagle claws, forked staff placed in front of chief; kesho pipe).

Nakabaka, Naziba, Nalukanga Nakasinga (cares for shungwe and for kasinga spirit in mountains; annually, he goes with a black goat and with Muhinga to kasinga and gets some honey there. On their return, the chief eats honey to absorb kasinga, and Nabuhalu (Nabuholo), guards the war drum; the other dignitaries are helpers of Muhinga and Nabaganda.

Other groups in Viraland without special functions are Bahala, Baheta, Batala, Bagazya, Babumba, Balambo, Babondo, Bahamba.

The villages comprise an heterogeneous clan population. The extended patrilineal family (bunda lyetu) is a key group and their heads “freely select residence with this or that one of Bazyoga and Banyambala.”



The ancestral cult is practiced in small shrines erected near the houses, in which hey place two quartz stones adorned with red lines (red obtained from red stone). Among the other cults:


About the Balabwe clan

The case of Balabwe deserves explanation. Because there is the Balabwe the ancient strain and Balabwe the recent strain. The history of the Balabwe ancient strain is very long. It starts with the great king of kingdom theocratic of Bupemba known name Ilunga Kiluwe, also known in the name of Sango Wa Mpemba. This is the one that gave birth to the emperors of the second dynasty of the Luba Empire by his son, Prince Mdidi Kiluwe as tradition often recognized the name hunter.

This great king Bupemba (territory was transformed into Upemba National Park by the colonizers Belgium) was from the clan of Balabwe term meaning those who have received the anointing of God to reign. Mbidi his son, he also had descendants who continued to rule the kingdom of Bupemba, whose last king Mbuti Ilunga will be forced, because of the cruelty of his brothers emperors Empire Baluba it made war to flee his country Bupemba with his people. The decades that followed, some of his people adopt the name of Bavira when it is reflected both in the current country that give the name of Uvira, saying countries Bavira. < Br/>

In terms of the Balabwe recent strain she began in 1840 by Prince Namango brother of King Muluta 2. The king, having adopted the Muslim religion, he lent strong hands to Arab slave to slavery in his country and in neighboring countries at the time. He also had disputes with its big brother the king about slavery. He was fiercely opposed to the king to have a covenant with the Arabs in the trade of human beings. The King refused to give up its alliances with Arabas, whereupon her little brothers decided to opt out of his clan BeneLenghe Balabwe to return to the old clan of his ancestor.

After this fight, in 1840, left Namango Katala up and move to another land that the people giving the name of Muhungu, that is to say, a place of refuge. These Balabwe of recent strain BeneLenghe share with the country of Katala, height Rugenge (Kanvinvira). The village Rutemba them also belongs. Muhungu of his son Mushaba Mbuti "Mulyama" from base to another location in the city Kitija, which today is in the Chiefdom of Bafuliru.

There's still traces its banana plantation, called "Kigundu kya Mulyama" (the banana plantation of Mulyama). This name Mulyama (who drinks until morning) was given to him in connection with his inclinations exaggerated consumption of the drink. When he landed in a village, he could not proceed without having finished all the drink that it contained two glasses at his own expense, all the villagers. Mulyama built several other cities in this part of the country including Katala (near Namirye) Mujaga (around Lemera) Ndegu (Katobo), etc. where he was installing his brothers Balabwe.

In the land of Katala, areas likely descendants of Namango include: Shora and Rutemba. But, most of their fields lie in what is today the Chiefdom of Bufuliru, as we have just seen. And in the Rusizi Plain Chiefdom, there is the whole country Kagando and Kagozi. Luhindiza's son Mushaba Mbuti Mulyama, refused to live in the cities which his father had founded, whose popular culture was essentially based on drunkenness unabated. He still lived with his grandfather in the land of Namango Muhungu. Then he returned to Katala their city of origin. Time after it based very close to Katala, his own city named Rutemba.

Note on Bahinga or Balama. Their original name Balama was given to them by other members of the tribe that the clan members lived a long time before dying. They were the praetorian guard of the king of Bavira since the flight of the people of the Luba empire . And later, when Mubila Munanila (Munana), son of King Ilungha Lenghe first moved the capital of Sanga ( current Nundu ) to Lugongo on the mountain that bears his name (Mt. Munanira overlooking the town of Uvira), the balama also moved to his side, in the same city as him. But then they got into the habit of going down the mountain to beg fry among clans fishermen settled on the shores of lake from Kilomoni up Kilibula: Bafumu, Bafunda, Bagaja, Bagungu, Balizi, Bakono, Balembwe, Batanga, Batimbu etc.


Vira Village and Clans

  • Baanza, village: Kasenga
  • Babenga, village : Kigongo
  • Babinda, village: Kigongo
  • Babogwe, village: Kashombe
  • Babondo, village: Kibombo
  • Babugu, village: Kabimba
  • Babulwa, village: Kabimba
  • Babumba, villages: Bumba et Kamba
  • Babunda, villages: Kabunda et Kabindula
  • Bafumu, villages: Kasenga, Kilomoni et Kanvira
  • Bafunda, village: Kimanga
  • Bagaja, villages: Uvira-Centre et Mujaga
  • Baganda, village: Lugongo
  • Bagela, village: Kabimba
  • Bagendo, village: Katala
  • Bagezi, village: Kabimba
  • Bagotwe, village: Kigongo
  • Bagungu, villages: Kanvira et Kilomoni
  • Bahagwe, village: Kigongo
  • Bahala, village: Makobola
  • Bahalu, villages: Makobola et Natutwa
  • Bahanga, village: Gomba
  • Bahinga, de leur ancien nom de Balama, villages: Kabimba, Lugongo et Ngaja
  • Bahonga, village: Kigongo
  • Bahofu, village: Kabimba
  • Bajombo, villages: Bijombo et Kitundu
  • Bajumbi, villages: Kitundu, Kiku et Mbigo
  • Bakali, village: Kabimba
  • Bakanga, villages: Mugea et Lugongo
  • Bakono, villages: Uvira-Centre, Kirungu, Kayaja et Makobola.
  • Balambo, villages: Kigongo, Kihala, Kitundu, Katala et Bugizi
  • Balega, village: Muheta
  • Balembwe, villages: Rugembe et Kalundu
  • Balibu, village: Katongo
  • Balila, village: Kabimba
  • Balinzi, village: Kigongo
  • Balunguti, village: Kigongo
  • Bangala (ou Bahangala), villages: Makobola et Kabone
  • Banone, villages: Kabimba et Kitala
  • Bashambi (not to be confused with Bashimbi that they are from the Bafuliru), villages: Kalundu et Kala
  • Basinga, village: Kasinga
  • Basingwe, village: Musingwe
  • Batanga, village: Kasenga
  • Batala, village: Kitala
  • Batende, village: Kabimba
  • Batimbu, villages: Kilibula et Ruzozi (Kalundu port)
  • Bavumi, village: Kishembwe
  • Baziba, villages: Kifuta et Kagozi
  • Bakabaga, villages: Kabimba et Kigongo
  • Benelenghe (Clan origins from the mwami ) villages : Munanira, Lugongo, kabindula, kitundu, katala, Kala
  • Balabwe (clan proche du clan Benelenghe ) villages: Labwe sur le Munanira.