The Bakonzo people and the Rwenzori Mountains

The Bakonzo are Bantu-speaking people. This tribe is one of the 54 tribes of Uganda. They live on the Rwenzori Mountains and are until now, known as the indigenous tribe of this mountain. The Bakonzo people originally traveled from the Congo and settled here about 300 years ago.  There are about 800 000 Bakonzo people in Uganda today.  

Iceberg on Rwenzori mountain peak
Iceberg on Rwenzori mountain peak

The Rwenzori Mountains are central to the life of the Bakonzo people who live on the lower slopes, and it is the home of their central spirit Kitasamba, king of the Mountains. In the local language (Lukonzo), Rwenzori means Rainmaker, and they are called Mountains of The Moon as during the day they are covered by cloud, but are often clear at night and visible by moonlight. These mountains are shared by Uganda and Congo. The mountains provide an important source of water as they supply water to the surrounding communities and to Lakes George, Edward, and Albert, which support an important fishing industry

The Bakonzo people are reliant on subsistence agriculture and despite poverty and economic problems; they are blessed with a plentiful supply of clean, fresh water and fertile soil.  Traditional crops include millet, yams, beans, potatoes, and bananas.  More recently new crops such as cassava, maize, and coffee are also grown.

The Bakonzo are distinctive from all other tribes of Uganda. They also stand out from the other Bantu tribes of Uganda in many ways. Their language dialect is not easily adopted by any other tribes of Uganda, including the closely living tribes such as the Batooro who live in Kabarole located on the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. Many other ways of life stand out from all other Ugandan ethnic tribes, such as the way they carry their luggage, the naming of children, the clans, their diet, and the dressing code.

Because it is the most unique tribe of Uganda, you probably don’t know Uganda well, until you have met the Bakonzo people. To learn more about the Bakonzo tribe and culture, visit Ruboni community camp, in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains.