Dhaadha Budhagali Nabamba aka Donozio Namunkanga Mukembo Zirabamuzale, the famous traditional healer who looked after the spirits and ancestors of Bujagali Falls on the mighty River Nile in the great kingdom of Busoga, Eastern Uganda, passed away last week in Jinja. He had been ailing from diabetes and high blood pressure. Budhagali was chief Oracle of the spirits who resided at Bujagali Falls and the 39th successor to submit to the spirits of the falls, which were said to protect the community through Budhagali the spirit medium.
Godfrey Kabagambe, a spiritualist from Luuka district who doubles as the head of the “Baise Muvu” clan to which the deceased belonged, said that Budhagali was the oldest surviving traditionalist who thrived from a small shrine to fame.
Rituals were performed in accordance with tradition upon his death. This comprised of sacrificing domestic animals as a requirement of awarding him a decent burial befitting his hierarchy in spiritualism. He was clad in bark cloth, and traditional healers pitched camp at the fallen Budhagali’s home since his passing, performing rituals in his honor.
Budhagali was buried at his home in Budhagali village, Jinja district, where a mini library with selected historical texts shall be set up to promote both local and international tourism of their traditional faith.
Muyiiri Waiswa, a traditional healer from the Kamuli district described Budhagali as the only spiritualist who was diligently observing all the traditional norms of the spirits ranging from rock worshipping and animal sacrifice irrespective of his advanced age.
Safina Kauma, the Deputy Cultural Affairs Minister in the Butembe chiefdom, said that the deceased was a fountain of wisdom in the whole kingdom. Kauma instituted a committee of 22 people to plan and ensure a befitting send off.
In the beginning
Budhagali Nabamba was born to Thomas Nume in Kilimwa village, Bukooma sub-county, Luuka district, in 1914. He studied his elementary education in a missionary school up to primary 4 but dropped out to serve as an attendant in his father’s shrine. He is later believed to have acquired the title of Budhagali Nabamba in 1961 after the overseer of the said spirits, abandoned them in the mid-1950s and fled to Bunyoro kingdom where he later passed away.
The longest river on the planet at 6,400 kilometers in length, the Nile has courted mystery, romanticism, and controversy alike from the times of ancient Egypt when it burst its banks annually, on to the treatise by Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemy who in the 1st to 2nd Century AD sketched the source of the Nile to be the fabled mountains of the moon “lunae montes” to the 19th century “Scramble and partition of Africa: which played out in rivalries between the axis powers and the alliance powers culminating in World War I.
In contemporary times, since Speke finally solved the mystery of the source of the Nile in Uganda 1862, several countries have laid claim to the source including Ethiopia, Rwanda, and now even Burundi.
Budhagali is said to occasionally have visited the underworld. Uganda Safari Guides Association member Isaac Tugume swears that while on a visit to the falls in his primary school, he saw the oracle sit and disappear underwater next to the rapids.
Budhagali famously opposed the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Nile in alliance with the International Rivers Network (IRN), an International environmental organization based in Berkeley, California, arguing that at an astronomical cost of USD500 million, it would increase the debt burden on Ugandans. In the end, Budhagali had to compromise.
Only after rituals were performed did he transfer his shrine. The construction of the dam has since submerged the falls and the cost of electricity has not reduced as projected.
The falls which was the original starting point for white water rafting since it was launched in 1996 has been submerged, and rafting has shifted downstream. And now, the Oracle has given up the ghost.
Budhagali was laid to rest on Sunday, November 3, 2019. He survived by one wife, Mastula Lukowe, and several children. A successor is yet to be named.
By Tony Ofungi