Bugona tree (Ekiti Kyomugabe/Eky’Omugabe)
The Bugona Tree in Kashenyi
The tree is found in Bugona I village, Kashenyi parish in Ngoma Sub County 20km east of Rubaare Township. The tree of the ficus species that is locally known as Omukunyu was planted by the king of Rwanda (Mwami as the title) after he had defeated the Omugabe of Ankole kingdom as a sign of marking the territories. The existence of this tree can be evidenced by the existence of the extensive root system some which stretch as far as 100m away from the tree. It was planted with other trees; one in Kyamugaashe (Ntungamo district) and another one in Masaka district when he had come from Entebbe. These trees were to represent that the Mwami had conquered the areas of Buganda, Ankole and Mpororo. The king also conquered other areas like Kigezi and in Congo in the area occupied by the people called the Banyamurenge.
The king used one of his servants called Nyindo wa Kagyezi from Ruhaama who brought the plant from there before the soil could dry and it’s believed that the king put there the leaf of the plant and it started growing. After the death of the king, the funeral rites were headed by queen who was known as Muhumuza and among other places the rites were performed from this tree.
Among the people who came for the funeral rites, it is only the family of Rwabugiri that survived but the rest disappeared from there and even the white cow they had brought and even the ones that remained were covered by something on their faces that could not enable them see. They took back what they brought and went to Rwanda. Since then, the tree has been regarded as the one with the healing powers and boys and girls always go there before they get married for consultations and blessings and this has been maintained up to today.
But because the king had many wives, Muhumuza and her son (Biregyeya) were persecuted by Musinga and his mother (Kanjogyera) and they came and settled in the place known as Rutobo in Ngoma. There were the hot springs that are believed that it is where Muhumuza used to heal the people and the healing water that comes from the stone is still there up to today.
She also planted another tree called Rugomero
that also has the healing powers. Mr
Karamba, who is the caretaker, asserts that because they are holy places, the sinners are not supposed to go there as he says that if you pick the money or milk that is offered, you can become mad. Nobody can fetch firewood from that tree apart from him as he has to first perform some things and that firewood he fetches can only be used for lighting the fire there but not for taking home. He adds that if it happens that a person unknowingly picks firewood from there, he/ she can be beaten by the things you can not see or touch.
The site is an active shrine of a religious cult known as the Balangi who like the Bachwezi cult gather around the tree on Saturdays for day and night prayers. The lemon grass is spread at the roots of the tree and the fire place is there where the divine worshipers make fire because sometimes they spend nights there.
The other interesting features at the place is the Omukunyu tree itself that forms a good canopy which is all around the place forming a good shade for the worshipers as some of its branches touch the ground.
The stories on how the tree came into existence are told by Mr. Karamba who is acting as the current caretaker of the Bugona Tree and the cultural importance of the tree. The instructions are also given by the divine worshipers like not harvesting firewood from the tree as he can help them light the fire.
When the people come at the site for worshiping, different rituals are performed and offerings given in terms of milk, different harvests and even money.
The values Bugona tree
Traditional healing is the main cultural importance of the site because people from different places from the surrounding communities and others from Rwanda come to the tree for the blessings and healing as it is believed to be having the powers that were left by Muhumuza (the wife of Umwami).
The tree has existed up to now because of the cultural importance or value that is attached to it and the respect given to is by the surrounding communities as it is taken to be sacred. Because of this, the tree has managed to survive the destruction by the cattle keepers and even firewood collectors.
The site has a remarkable research value as little information has been collected about it and little research done about the existence and the cultural values of the place as well as the ownership and caretaking of the place.