Accepted paper:

Mfecane and inventing new identities in Great Lakes Africa: emergence of the Bagina clan in Burundi out of Ngoni migrations and its significance in the socio-cultural history of the Burundi people.


Denis Bukuru (University of Burundi)

Paper short abstract:

Through their long migrations from South Africa, a group of Ngoni warriors settled in Burundi in the 1880s with a new identity, known as the Bagina clan. However, their settlement in Burundi posed problems for their integration in the Burundi society based on Hutu and Tutsi dichotomy.

Paper long abstract:

Historical research on Burundi (Mworoha 1987, Chr├ętien 1993) has shown that the Kingdom of Burundi in the 19th century was involved in many wars. Among these, Mworoha (1987 : 239-240) accounts for raids of the Ngoni in Eastern Burundi (ca. 1880-1890). He goes on saying that the political-military Zulu revolution initiated by Shaka at the beginning of the 19th century reached the shores of Lake Tanganyika. A group of Ngoni settled in the south-west of Lake Victoria, from where they launched raids on Burundi in the 1880s. Buyogoma (Eastern province of Burundi) suffered from the attacks of these terrible Ngoni warriors whom the Barundi people called the Babwibwi, which means "Barbarians". A small group these Ngoni warriors settled in Eastern Burundi, and from these a new social group emerged, the Bagina clan. They were soon integrated among the Barundi people. Chr├ętien (1994) maintains that the Bagina were enrolled by local chiefs in eastern Burundi because they were appreciated for their knowledge in war tactics, magics, and healing powers. This study seeks to show how Ngoni migrations from the Mfecane process affected the Barundi people who lived in the Great Lakes region, thousands of miles away from South-Africa. It examines the challenges of settlement of a group of Ngoni in the Burundi society, inventing a new identity, i.e. the Bagina clan. The study addresses also the problem of integration of the newcomers in the Barundi society, especially with respect to the Hutu / Tutsi dichotomy which was unknown to them.

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