Search Site

web abeingo

Traditional system of government

By Prof Gideon Were

Abanyala who lived in Wanga Mukulu were ruled by Sakwa but those who came to Navakholo were ruled by Kisauri and his descendants. Succession to the throne proceeded in the following manner: Kisauri son of Mahero was succeeded by his son Ngao who, in turn, was succeeded by his son Manyuru. Manyuru was succeeded by Ndombi wa Namusia who was succeeded by Paulo Butoto.

Abanyala were ruled by an omwami (ruler) who protected the people, judged cases and maintained peace in the country. He never went to war but gave consent to his abasesia (war leaders) to go to battle. The omwami could not be dismissed; he wore a big copper bracelet on his hand, a cowry-shell head-dress and “ikutusi” and leopard cloak.

He received all the fines paid by criminals, meat, beer and a cow in the event of a successful cattle raid. The rest of the raided cattle were distributed among the raiders themselves; the leading raider getting the lion’s share. The omwami was neither a rain-maker nor a medicine man nor a sacrificial priest. He had special elders who performed these functions. The ordinary people were not allowed to wear omwami’s regalia. Whenever a person killed a leopard he took its skin to omwami. The omwami bought all the insignia himself apart from the copper bracelet which he inherited from a deceased omwami, usually his father.

The successor was usually named by the ruling omwami before his death. Alternatively, he could be nominated by the elders should the father die before making his will. The successor then speared the cow in whose skin the late ruler was buried.

The omwami’s chief wife was called omukhaye (a respectable term meaning: lady). Her duties were to prepare food for the guests and to take care of the royal insignia. Before the old ruler died, the mother of the successor to the throne took charge of the royal insignia, the cowry-shell head-dress, the copper bracelet, the cloak and the spear. The old ruler usually chose any of his sons who could rule the people well to succeed him. The successor was then installed by his elder brother or a respectable clan elder.