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Nabongo Wanga: King who rules beyond the grave

By Alex Wakhisi and John Shilitsa | November 2nd 2016
Mose Wesonga shows a place where Wanga leaders are taken to communicate with their dead king for them to win elections. Decades after the death of Nabongo Wanga he is still living among his people. (PHOTO: BENJAMIN SAKWA/ STANDARD)

Decades after the death of Nabongo Wanga, founder of the Wanga clan in Kakamega County, he is still living among his people.

Clan members believe that Wanga, who died in the early 1800s, manifests himself through darkness and sometimes emerges in form of a huge harmless snake to offer warm greetings to his people.

According to Moses Wesonga, Nabongo is still living in the kingdom and members of the community still seek his indulgence and advice on some matters.

“Whenever we have meetings as a community he usually presents himself through darkness to greet his people. We still feel protected under his watch,” Wesonga said.

He also revealed that for a member of the Wangas to win an elective seat, he has to visit the Eshikulu shrine in South Wanga which serves as the original home of the clan.

During the visit, the member is allowed to sleep at the banks of River Lusumu where it is said that Nabongo Wanga visits him at night - in the form of a huge snake - then proceeds to lick him overnight as a way to grant him blessings and success.

At Eshikulu village in Mumias West, believed to Nabongo Wanga’s first homestead in the region, locals have built a grass thatched house to symbolise his home.

“We built this hut following specific instructions from Nabongo himself,” Wesonga says.

He continues: “Earlier attempts to build the structure had failed miserably until a darkness came upon all of us and we fell asleep for 15 minutes. One elder then told us Wanga had asked him to place the hut at its present site”.

The clan members have now set aside the 17 acre land, believed to be the territory of their king, and they want to turn the land into a tourism attraction site.

According to Prof Preston Chitere, Mzee Elekiah Sheunda and John Chitechi, it is time the world knew how their kingdom operated and that is why they want to start construction of the site to showcase some of the artifacts of their kingdom.

“We want to preserve the kingdom. Our intention is to construct a tourist hotel, library and resource center for our people to generate income and also to preserve our culture,” Prof Chitere said.

According to Prof Chitere, the snake which manifests the presence of their fallen king does not bite. Neither does it appear to anyone unless it has a special message to pass across. In addition to the snake, there is an eagle that will always chase away those who trespass into the shrine.

“The bird is feared and does not allow strangers beyond the shrine’s entrance unless they are accompanied by Wanga descendants,” he said.

Chitere traced the origin of Nabongo Wanga from Egypt (Matasa kingdom) where he was of the lineage of Mwima who had many children.

Wrangles among the children forced one of his sons to leave his home and seek refuge in Uganda where he settled around Lake Albert. One of his sons, Chesse, later left Uganda and moved to Kisumu where he settled at Rusinga Island and became father to Abasuba and Abatende.

Abatende left the island and moved to Etende, currently Kaimosi in Vihiga County, where he settled and fathered Mwanga III who is the father of Nabongo Wanga among other children who now represent other Luhya sub-tribes like Tiriki, Abanyore and Abakhisa.

After his father’s death, Nabongo Wanga was installed as king.

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