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Museveni, Kenyatta to grace Imbalu fete in Mbale

MBALE- Preparations are in high gear at Mutoto Cultural Grounds in Mbale town ahead of the official launch of Imbalu festival on Saturday.

Imbalu, a ritual of circumcision among the Bamasaba (Bagisu) society, is rooted in a revered culture that relishes the rite of passage to manhood. For generations, Inyembe, the knife used in circumcision has separated men from boys.

President Yoweri Museveni and his Kenyan counterpart, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta are expected to attend the 2018 Imbalu inaugural   ceremony, where boys dare the knife to become men.

Mr Mathias Nabutele, the co-ordinator of the celebrations told Daily Monitor on Monday that all is set for the ceremony and confirmed the attendance of the two heads of state.

“The two heads of state will attend the ceremony. This makes it unique from the previous ceremonies but just like I have emphasised preparations are in high gear and all is set,” he said.

Mr Nabutele said President Kenyatta will for the first time lead the Bamasaba from Kenya, (Bungoma, Trans-Nzoia and Bukusu) to Mutoto, a sacred place where the first Mumasaba (Mugisu) was reportedly circumcised.

Imbalu, a ritual of circumcision among the Bamasaba (Bagisu) society, is rooted in a revered culture that relishes the rite of passage to manhood. For generations, Inyembe, the knife used in circumcision has separated men from boys.

Circumcision, known as Imbalu among the Bamasaba, is an age-old tradition, which defines and unites the people in Bugisu region. The region comprises Mbale, Manafwa, Bulambuli, Sironko and Bududa districts.

“We have expanded the grounds because we expect a big number of people this time,” Mr Nabutele  said.

Mr Moses Kutoyi, the chairperson of Imbalu organising committee said the institution will use the event to commission a multi-cultural centre; which will, among other things, house a cultural village, a zoo and recreational centre.

He said twelve candidates will be blessed by the cultural leader of Inzu Ya Masaba, Mr Bob Mushikori and later be circumcised.

He said the Imbalu is a symbol of pride among the Bamasaba.

“Uncircumcised men have no place in our culture and its total shame to manhood if you never faced a knife to you call yourself, a Mumasaba,” Mr Kutoyi, said.

Although the Inzu Ya Masaba, the legitimate cultural institution of Bamasaba has scheduled its inauguration on Saturday, the Babukusu ‘kingdom’, a breakaway faction from Bamasaba Cultural Institution in Bugisu sub-region on last week launched a parallel Imbalu inauguration ceremony.

The breakaway group is led by a man who calls himself Babukusu king (Umukhungu Bukusu), Mr Wash Joseph Kanyanya.

In 2016, the Bamasaba Cultural Institution in partnership with Uganda Tourism Board unveiled a plan to upgrade Mutoto Cultural Site to boost tourism.

The board also announced that the circumcision fete had been elevated to a carnival and added to Uganda’s tourism products.

Daily Monitor

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