Categories History

The Origin/ Myths of Won Nyaci


By Dr. Eng Wana Etyem

Around 1830, the first born of Omukama Kyebambe III of Bunyoro rebelled against him by declaring the southern portion of the Kingdom his own. The Prince became Omukama Kaboyo Olimi I of Tooro. An uneasy truce existed between Bunyoro and the new kid in Tooro Kingdom. Kyebambe III died and was succeeded by his son Kabalega.

In 1871 Omukama Nyaika Kasunga of Tooro, the son of Olimi I, who had overthrown and succeeded his brother, attempted to raid Omukama Kabalega’s territory in search of wealth. The episode brought out the warrior in Kabalega. Kabalega lost on two occasions as the Tooro Kings enlisted the support of Buganda! The luck of the Tooro King, Namuyonjo Kakende ran out in 1879. Kabalega had enlisted the support of his allies from Lango who was led by Ogwal Abura of the Oki me Bura clan. They fought up to Tooro and returned to Lango victorious. Bunyoro regained rule over Tooro in 1880 and lost it in 1890.

For the Langi warriors, apart from material gifts that they carried back home were young men and women (Moo) who would eventually be absorbed into their respective clans that formed the army. A young boy called Wana was allocated to a soldier called Okot Curomoi, the brother of Ogwal Abura. His story is for another day.

The Lango society was based on clan system. The bravest man who showed valor in war was often elected as the leader. Clans formed allies to tackle a common enemy or cause. Thus when war was over, the alliance was dissolved.

In 1890, the exiled Tooro Prince called Kasagama enlisted the support of the Europeans from his hideout in Buganda and waged fierce battle to retake his Kingdom. Kabalega naturally called upon his allies from Lango for support. Ogwal Abura was aging and he convinced his other allies to elect Agoro Abwango of Palamyek clan to lead the expedition. They fought on the side of Kabalega for many years but the British fire power had an upper hand. Kabalega became a fugitive and was caught in Kangai together with Kabaka Mwanga in 1899.
Meanwhile the Lango troops had to find their way back home under the leadership of Agoro Abwango. On their way a misunderstanding ensued and he was killed/speared by one of his men. My forefathers told me the man who killed Agoro Abwango was called Idule (I know the name of his clan but will for now not reveal it to keep peace).

The senior warriors had to decide on a new leader. A man called Okello Ikit Won Nyaci was appointed to lead the troops back to Lango. The Won Nyaci was simply a reference to his hair style with a line like the one Apollo Milton Obote had. That is why you never heard of any Won Nyaci until after independence when the Langi, in fulfillment of the Independence constitution, appointed Yokosafati Engur as the Lango Traditional Leader. Some elders remembered the General Okello Ikit Won Nyaci who led the Langi back and convinced the Lango District Council as the befitting name. Hence Won Nyaci as the Lango Traditional Leader. Yokosafati Engur was succeeded by Ben Otim Etura of Kyoga until 1967 when we became a Republic.

That’s what my elders told me.

Thanks to Dr. Eng Charles Wana Etyem(Chairperson Makerere University Council) for this history.


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