“They are only telling us to conduct the activity “scientifically”, which is impossible in our setting.”

Bamasaba seek guidelines on Imbalu

Police patrolling after dispersing a crowd that had gathered to conduct imbalu cultural ceremony at Mutoto recently

“They are only telling us to conduct the activity “scientifically”, which is impossible in our setting.”


The prime minister in charge protocol Inzu Ya Masaba, Maithias Nabutele, has urged the COVID-19 national task force to engage leaders in Busgisu sub-region on how to conduct safe imbalu ceremonies to avert the spread of coronavirus.

“The Government teams have not bothered to meet us, yet we made several requests. They are only telling us to conduct the activity “scientifically”, which is impossible in our setting because our boys move around to collect money and gifts, which they use to treat themselves after the ceremony,” he said.

Every even year, the Bamasaba conduct the imbalu ritual, during which teenage boys are circumcised as a rite of passage into manhood.

The ceremony runs from clan to clan across the region and attracts hundreds of thousands of people in Uganda and Kenya.

Nabutele’s concern followed a near-violent incident recently, when the Police in the Mbale city had running battles with residents who wanted to officially open the imbalu ceremony at Mutoto cultural site.

About 100 resident from the Mutoto clan arrived at the cultural site and prepared their meat, alcohol, drums and the candidate to circumcise, to launch the opening of the ceremony in the region.

“We are prepared and determined to officially open the ceremony at 2:00pm all the candidates have been prepared and we are confident that no  one will stop us,” said Moses Shibuya, one of the residents at the cultural site.

No sooner had he finished speaking, than the Police, under the command of the Mbale district Police commander, Fred Ahimbisibwe, stormed the cultural site, firing teargas and live bullets in the air to disperse the crowd that was armed with machetes and bottles containing alcohol.

“Our source tipped us about people who were conducting imbalu activities without observing the presidential directives on COVID-19 which forced us to swing into action to protect the general population from being put at risk of COVID-19, considering that we recently had a COVID-19 death in the region, which has caused fear among the public,”Ahimbisibwe said.

Even though the Police succeeded in stopping the activity, one of the charged residents (name withheld) said their community wouldcontinue to conduct the imbalu stealthily.

Commenting about the incident, Nabutele said: “If we want people to always hold this ceremony from their homes, the Government needs to come up with a package to support these boys because most of them rely on the gifts given to them to sustain themselves.”

He noted: “Unless the COVID-19 national task force is willing to agree with us on some principle, I think this battle will continue because the people have seen all signs that communicate to them that they are supposed to conduct the ritual.”

COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, President issued a directive that prohibits people from engaging in activities that attract crowds.

The directive has not spared the imbalu ceremonies.

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