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Budhagali Nabamba 39

History and influence

Born Donozio Namunkanga Mukembo Zirabamuzale to Thomas Nume in 1914, Ddada Budhagali rose to national prominence sometime before the construction of the 250MW Bujagali Hydro Power Dam at Bujagali Falls. The Oracle insisted the falls and its environs were his spirits’ abode. If the government wanted to go through with its construction plans, they had to compensate him. His clout was later questioned when he failed to showcase his powers by sailing across the falls on goatskin to an audience that had travelled from far and wide.

Ddada Budhagali’s early childhood saw him study in a missionary school. He later dropped out in Primary Four to serve as an attendant in his father’s shrine. It is believed he became the Budhagali Nabamba in 1961 after the previous caretaker absconded from duty in the mid-1950s and was the 39th Oracle to pay allegiance to the spirits of Bujagali Falls.

Brought by the Spirits, 1939

Nabamba the oracle was not in control of himself when in the presence of the spirits, and just like his predecessors, he was chosen by the spirts that blow speed in the falls. He walked from wherever he was unconsciously and found himself at Bujagali from where he sailed on a mat across the river.

In 1939. he was crowned Mandwa Nabamba Budhagali, meaning the one on whose head the spirits rest to drive violence in the waters, passing judgment on mankind and riding out disease. The spirits came with so many powers, some only heard of from stories of those that have also heard from others, while many of them were realistic and the very basis he was a very sought after traditionalist.

Budhagali’s powers thrust him in the limelight, he was known from the end of the Nile to the farthest point in Europe.  A sight of him steered a strange fear amongst the toddlers, for he was viewed as the peak of spirits’ cocktail, and not that his physical look made it any less.

Nabamba Budhagali 39th

Nabamba enjoyed the limelight as it came and he was by default, the only Ugandan traditional spiritual leader that gathered people from every nook and cranny in his shrine-filled compound in Budondo Village in Jinja District- the source of his other title- Dada (grandfather).

In contemporary times, since Speke finally solved the mystery of the source of the Nile in Uganda 1862, several countries have laid claim to the source including Ethiopia, Rwanda, and now even Burundi.

Budhagali is said to occasionally have visited the underworld. Uganda Safari Guides Association member Isaac Tugume swears that while on a visit to the falls in his primary school, he saw the oracle sit and disappear underwater next to the rapids.

Budhagali famously opposed the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Nile in alliance with the International Rivers Network (IRN), an International environmental organization based in Berkeley, California, arguing that at an astronomical cost of USD500 million, it would increase the debt burden on Ugandans. In the end, Budhagali had to compromise. Only after rituals were performed did he transfer his shrine. The construction of the dam has since submerged the falls and the cost of electricity has not reduced as projected.

The falls which was the original starting point for white water rafting since it was launched in 1996 has been submerged, and rafting has shifted downstream. And now, the Oracle has given up the ghost.

Budhagali was laid to rest on Sunday, November 3, 2019. He  survived by one wife, Mastula Lukowe, and several children. His successor is Hasan Kirunda, the Budhagali Nabamba 40