Bamasaaba in Kenya are traditional inhabitants of Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties located at the slopes of Mount Elgon bordering Uganda in western Kenya.
Oral history has it that the name Bungoma came from the word “engoma” – the Bukusu word for drums. That the place was a meeting venue for Bukusu elders. That the sound of drums would emanate from the area leading to its eventual naming as Bungoma.
Trans-Nzoia County is a county in the former Rift Valley Province, Kenya, located between the Nzoia River and Mount Elgon. At its centre is the town of Kitale which is the capital and largest town. Other towns are Kiminini, Maili Saba and Endebess. The county borders Bungoma to the west, Uasin Gishu and Kakamega to the south, Elgeyo Marakwet to the east, West Pokot to the north and the republic of Uganda to the Northwest.
Bamasaaba in Kenya are called Babukusu because they migrated from Bukusu Hill in southern part of Bugisu subregion in Uganda. They are part of Inda ya Mubuuya, one of the three sons of Masaaba; the other sons being Mwambu and Wanaale. Babukusu speak Bukusu dialect thatcan be understood by Bamasaaba across borders.
Babukusu share the same culture as their counterparts in Uganda, who occupy the districts of Mbale, Sironko, Manafwa, Bududa, Bulambuli and Namisindwa. They practice imbalu (traditional male circumcision) as the way of initiating their boys to manhood, parenthood societal responsibility.
Common among Babukusu is the traditional seven-stringed lyre known as the litungu and the siyilili that were introduced by Elijah Masinde, the founding father of Dini ya Msambwa – a traditional faith that resisted colonialism and extermination of Babukusu’s way of life.
Some of the sub-clans of Babukusu include Bakibeti, Bakibumbi, Batilu, Bameme, Baloncha, Bayundo, Bakimweyi, Bakongolo, Babhichachi, Baengele, Batukuika, Batecho, Bachemai, Bakoi, the Basekese and Balunda.
Babukusu subscribe to Inzu ya Masaaba, the cultural institution for all Bamasaaba in Uganda, Kenya and Diaspora. They share leadership positions in Inzu Ya Masaaba. For instance, Rt. Hon. Omar Busaule Njofu is the Chairman Culture Council and First Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Norbert Manyasi Sungura is the Deputy Prime Minister of Bungoma County while Prof. Nixon Sifuna is the Deputy Prime Minister of Trans Nzoia County under the present cabinet of Inzu Ya Masaaba. Hon. Alice Nafula is the Chairperson Governing Board. Hon. Dominic Wetangula is a former Minister of Culture, Elderly & Pensioners and now a Special Advisor on Diplomatic Affairs.
Farming is the main economic activity for Bungoma and Trans Nzoia populace. They have are the biggest producers of sugar and maize to the county. Sugar factories include Mumias Sugar Company, Nzoia Sugar Factory, Butali Sugar Mills and Transmara Sugar Company.
Maize is also grown for subsistence and commercial purposes. They also produce tea, coffee, horticulture pearl millet and sorghum. Kenya Seed Company, Elgon Tea Factory and Western Seed Company are some of the ago-based firms that are found here. Dairy farming is widely practiced and so is poultry keeping.
There is booming tourism, owing to an array of touring sites and touristic activities within the Bungoma and Trans Nzoia.