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Abawanga are named after the tribal ancestor, Wanga, a descendant of interlacustrine dynasties of the Great Lakes region.  Although Wanga country is populated by many clans, historicisation of the polity was influenced by Abashitsetse, the clan of nabongos (kings).  Abashitsetse trace their roots to Mutesa who had three sons - Muwanga (Mwanga, Wanga), Mukoya, and Kamaanya (Kamwanyi).  The eldest, Muwanga, settled in Buganda while Mukoya went to Busoga and the youngest, Kamaanya, went to Ibanda on the shores of Lake Victoria.  He left Ibanda and trekked through Bunyala and Samia almost unnoticed circa AD 1500 and settled around Lake Gangu (Anyuoka) in Alego.  From here his descendants went to Tiriki and subsequently Wanga.  The geophysical location of Abawanga is Ebuwanga, and they speak Oluwanga, widely considered standard Luyia.  The Wanga neighbor the Bukusu, Batsotso, Marama, and Marachi.  Their organized system of government historicized the Wanga much more than any other Luyia subnation.  Some of the historical writs are, however, either contradictory or conflicting.

Abamuhima, descendants of the interlacustrine Chwezi, were the original founders of what later became Wanga Kingdom.  Abamuhima kingdom collapsed or was subsumed by the arrival of Wanga from Tiriki accompanied by his Abashitsetse clansmen.  Since then, Abashitsetse became the royal and dominant clan upon whom power, authority, and privilege oscillated.  Clans outside the royal orbit consider Abashitsetse arrogant but nonetheless acknowledge the role played by obunabongo in putting the Wanga polity into the international spotlight.  However, the origin of Abashitsetse while widely acknowledged to be in Uganda via Tiriki was a subject of intense intellectual debate.   Early anthropologists like A. T. Matson suggested that Abashitsetse may have been of Kalenjin origin as its members claimed to have been descendants of a pastoral culture. 

A Luo scholar, Shadrack Malo first advanced the theory that Abashitsetse were Luo in his 1953 book entitled Dhoudi Mag Central Nyanza (Clans of Central Nyanza), a theory that was robustly defended by a preeminent Luo historian, Prof. Bethuel Ogot (1967).  Citing cultural traits like royal insignia (copper bracelet), leopard skin cloak, ritual killing of nabongo, and burial of kings in a shroud of fresh bull’s hide and bushbuck (imbongo) totem, Prof. Ogot concluded that Abashitsetse are of Luo origin.  He even mistakenly linked a Luo clan, Jouyoma to Bayuma of Wanga.  Bayuma was first used by Mr. Matson and most likely, he was referring to Abamuhima (Abamuima) as there is no evidence of a clan in Wanga known by that name.  These theories about the true identity of Abashitsetse were dismissed as having no basis by Prof. Gideon Were (1967).

To begin with, Abawanga travelled through Bunyoro, Buganda and Busoga before arriving in Tiriki, and if they were not aristocratic then, possibly picked up royal habits from these places.  For instance, the ruling clan of Basoga also hold the bushbuck in high esteem as an item of totemic symbolism.  Moreover, several clans in Bunyoro, Ankole, and Buganda hold bushbuck in reverence.  Secondly, the burial in a shroud of skin was necessitated by absence of barkcloth which Baganda, Banyoro, and Basoga used to inter their kings.  The bushbuck is not known to be one of Luo sacred animals or totem.  Finally, no one could become king or handle royal insignia if they were not circumcised, a requirement that expressly rules out the Luo who traditionally did not observe this custom.  Nor is the presence of pockets of Wanga people at a place called Sakwa in Luoland an indication of a direct royal link with Nabongo Sakwa of Wanga Mukulu.  The Nyapambo clan in Sakwa performs sacrifices using Luyia words, a clear indication of their ancestry.

Clan pride among Abawanga is a serious matter denoted by how close a particular clandom is to the tribal ancestor.  Only twelve clans consider themselves direct descendants of Muwanga with the rest being later arrivals who submitted themselves to the political leadership of Wanga. These are Abashitsetse, Abamurono, Abatende, Abamuniafu, Abanamangwa, Abayundo (also found among Abanyala ba Ndombi and Bukusu), Abambatsa, Abamushechere, Abamukalano, Abambwoli, Abasereme (also found among Abanyole of Uganda), and Abachitechi.   Abatobo are descendant from the Nandi .   With the exception of Abamurono and Abambatsa, the other ten clans consider themselves too closely related to intermarry.  Clans closely related to Abashitsetse which observe rules of exogamy include Ababala, Abasereme, Abamuniafu, Abamusechere, Abamukalala, Abatende, Abanamakwa and Abambwoli.

For detailed information, read Luyia Nation: Origins, Clans and Taboos by Shadrack Amakoye Bulimo (2013)