The Gwere people, or Bagwere, are a Bantu ethnic group in Uganda. The Bagwere constitute an estimated 4% of Uganda’s population. The language of the Bagwere is Lugwere
The Bagwere can be traced to Pallisa districts of Budaka, Pallisa and Kibuku, where they make up over 80% of the population. They are neighboring Bagisu, the Basoga, the Balamogi and the Iteso, the Banyole and the Jopadhola (Badama). The city of Mbale, one time reputed to be the cleanest city in Uganda is home to some Bagwere. Bagwere are also found in the following towns in Eastern Uganda; Kagumu, Kamonkoli, Kadama, Iki-Iki, Bulangira, Kaderuna, Tirinyi, Butebo and Kakoro.
The history or the Bagwere
The Bagwere are said to have emigrated to their present area from Bunyoro and Toro, and travelled along Lake Kyoga, crossing River Mpologoma. For this reason all the tribes that settled along the shores Kyoga like; Baluli, Bakenye, Balamogi have a similar language to Lugwere. Their initial area of settlement has shrunk considerably as the Iteso and the Bagisu have pushed the Bagwere’s frontiers inwards.
Their traditions say that they moved from Bunyoro following the disintegration that accompanied the arrival of the Luo and the collapse of the Bachwezi dynasty. There language and their supposed connection with Bunyoro presuppose that the Bagwere are a Bantu group. Their area of origin may thus be Katanga region of Central Africa like other Bantu.
The Bagwere have many clans including the following:
Bagema Clan, Bakaduka clan, Baloki Clan, Balalaka Clan, Baikomba Clan, Bakomolo Clan, Balangira Clan, Baganza Clan, Badaka Clan, Baumo Clan, Banaminto Clan, Bapalama Clan, Banyekero Clan, Batoloyi Clan, Bambirwe Clan
The main economic activity of the Bagwere is subsistence crop agriculture and animal husbandry. To a lesser extent, fishing, fish farming and bee keeping are increasingly practiced in Pallisa District. The major crops include:
Cassava, Millet, Sorghum, Maize, Groundnuts, Beans, Peas, Sweet potatoes, Rice, Cotton, Sunflower, Soybeans, Bananas, Matooke
Cattle, goats, sheep, poultry, pigs, are some of the animals raised in the district. The district is further blessed with nine (9) minor lakes that comprise part of the Lake Kyoga system. The following are the nine lakes: Lake Lemwa, Lake Kawi, Lake Nakwa, Lake Meito, Lake Geme, Lake Omunuo, Lake Nyanzala, Lake Nyaguo
There are nine (9) stocked fish farms in the district. Fish farming offers a big potential to increase the supply of fish for the population and hence improve on the nutrition of the population. Fish species include:
Whenever a woman was pregnant, she was not supposed to look at the nest of a bird called Nansungi. It was believed that if the woman looked at the nest she would miscarry. After giving birth, the woman was not supposed to leave the home. She was given banana leaves to sleep on. Custom demanded that she could not eat form her husband’s clans until her days of confinement were over. During this time, she could eat form neighbors or in her parents’ home. She was required to eat bananas that were cooked unpeeled and if the piece of banana broke in the process of peeling or eating, she was not supposed to eat it. Besides the woman was not supposed to look at the sky before the umbilical cord broke off.
If one died, people would weep and wail loudly. If some one did not cry or cried lightly, he could be easily suspected of having had a hand in the death. If the deceased man was an old man, the people could move singing and mourning and tour the immediate neighbors and on to the well, to take away the spirit of the dead. Normally, the body could not spend two days in the house before being buried. Corpses used to be buried with a needle or mweroko, a small stone used for grinding, to fortify the corpse against body hunters. It was believed that if the body hunters called upon the corpse to come out of the grave it would reply that it was busy either sewing or grinding, whatever the case may be.
Intermarriage among members of the same clan is prohibited, as is the custom in most Bantu cultures.
In the very early times, parents arranged marriages for their children. However, later, it became customary for a boy to look for a girl. Upon consent, the girl would introduce the boy to her parents. On being introduced, the boy would pay some thing to the girl’s parents not as part of bride wealth, but as a gift. This practice was known as okutona. The process that followed involved the boy inviting the girl’s parents to come to his family to assess the bride wealth. They would normally go and assess his wealthy but they could not leave with the cows. This occasion involved a lot of feasting and dancing. The boy’s parents would arrange to deliver the bride wealth to the girl’s family. The occasion of delivering the bride wealth was another joyous one accompanied, as it was, wit feasting, dancing and merry making.
After this was completed, the boy’s mother often accompanied by another person would go to fetch the girl form her parents. She would go singing all the way and reach the girl’s family round about 8.00pm. She would accordingly be given the girl and she would return home singing all the way. On reaching the groom’s home, the girl was not supposed to sleep with the husband before being washed in the ritual ceremony of okunabbya omugole. The girl and the boy being married would stand under a tree and bathe in the same water furnished with appropriate herbs. Then singing, they would prepare to come to the courtyard. The girl was mad to stand before the mother-in laws door. The mother –in law would bring a basin of water and pour on the girls back. The girl would spread her fingernails out as custom demanded and older men would inspect he r for any sign s of pregnancy. Thereafter, the girl’s brother would officially hand over the girl to her husband and the girl and her husband would move to their house. The woman could not eat form her husband’s family until she had first eaten food sent form her parents.