MBALE, UGANDA — The Bamasaba cultural institution in partnership with Uganda Tourism Board has unveiled a plan to upgrade Mutoto cultural site, where biennial circumcision rituals are held, into a tourism centre.

Mutoto cultural ground is believed to be the place where circumcision, a ritual among the Bamasaba that initiates boys into men, was first conducted by the Gisu in Elgon region that covers five districts.

The Bamasaba, found mainly in Manafwa, Bududa, Mbale, Sironko, and Bulambuli districts of Eastern Uganda, on the slopes of Mountain Elgon, are believed to be descendants of Masaba.

During the official launch of this year's Imbalu fete at Mutoto grounds outside Mbale Town on Saturday, Inzu Ya Masaba cultural leaders, said the cultural centre will help boost tourism.

"We have cherished this ritual for more than 200 years. It's unique and marketable and developing this site into a tourism centre is of great importance," Mr Omar Njofu, the chairperson of the cultural council, said.

Mr Njofu said the institution has taken long to develop the circumcision ritual into a tourism attraction because of lack of resources.

Artistic impression of the Imbalu Cultural Center

An artitistic impression of the proposed Imbalu Cultural Centre in Mbale, Eastern Uganda.

Circumcision elevated

Recently, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) disclosed that circumcision has been elevated into a carnival and added to Uganda's tourism products.

The cultural leader of Inzu Ya Musaba, Mr Bob Mushikori, while launching the Imbalu ceremony, said the Bamasaba have a rich cultural heritage.

"I am happy government has started realising that the region is a centre for tourism in East Africa," Mr Mushkori, said.

The Bamasaba cultural leaders also appealed to government to consolidate more effort in addressing critical sectors like health, infrastructure and education. He said roads, including the Mbale-Lwakhakha, Mbale-Budadiri need to be fixed as a matter of urgency.

President Yoweri Museveni, who was represented by the 2nd Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs, Mr Kirunda Kivejinji, said his government is committed to promoting and protecting the nation's cultural heritage.

"Our cultures and customs should be protected from extinction. Capture your language and customs, write and propagate them," the President's speech read.

This year's circumcision fete was held under the theme: " Circumcision for development."

Kenyan Bamasaba urge surgeons to abandon herbs

The Bamasaba delegates from Kenya have asked their Ugandan counterparts to abandon using herbs after circumcision as medicine to stop bleeding, saying it's crude and unhygienic.

Dr Mutoro Wambasi, a member of the delegation from Bungoma County in Kenya, told the Bamasaba cultural leader, Mr Bob Mushikori, during a brief meeting at his home, that they should embrace modern treatment methods.

Source: Fred Wambede and Yahudu Kitunzi,