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Traditional System of Government

Like the Wanga, Abamarachi called their ruler Nabongo. On the burial day of the dead Nabongo a cow was speared to death. The man who held the cow by the rope, usually the elder son of the deceased monarch became the new Nabongo and it was considered particularly auspicious for the community and the new ruler if the beast urinated while holding it. He was usually nominated by the dying Nabongo subject to formal concurrence of the council of elders. If Nabongo died without nominating anyone, the task of appointing the new ruler was handled by a council of elders. who also had the power to reject Nabongo's nominee if they felt the person was not of impeccable character. The Nabongo was buried in a cow-hide shroud when he died.

Marachi Nabongo
Marachi Nabongo's tools of authority, the traditional stool and leopard skin.

The ruler had a copper bracelet, a leopard skin, and the “ikutusi” or cloak. He also had a head-dress, decorated with cowry shells and the “isimbishira” (whydah bird) feathers, a spear, a stool, and copper coils in the ears. These items of atraditional authority were inherited from one Nabongo to the next. The clan of Abafofoyo produced the ruler who appointed his ruling council of elders from all the clans of Marachi as his assistants. The council of elders were responsible for the adminstration of the judicial process although more serious cases were referred to Nabongo. Nabongo never went to war but was responsible for ordering his men to the battlefield. Nabongo was neither a sacrificial priest nor a medicine man but was usually a rain-maker (omukimba).


Dog-eating ceremony

The traditional way of ending hostilities and fighting with other clans was the "cutting and eating of a dog" by the warring parties (okhulia imbwa). The 'eating' was not literal as the Luhya do not eat dogs but a symbolic gesture in which those partaking of the ritual solemnly pledged to keep the peace. It was understood that the first party to violate the pledge not only absolved the other from the obligations of the pledge, but also risked losing any consequent wars.