The Kebu People of West Nile Uganda : The West Nile in Uganda is a region with beautiful landscapes; it has green rocky hills and valleys. The beautiful tribes of West Nile include; the Lugbara, Alur, Lendu, Madi, Kakwa and the Kebu people who are barely heard about

Kebu – the minority group of people in Uganda

The Kebu people found in Zombo district live in villages with green rocky hills, valleys and River Nyagak. This tribe is one of the minority tribes recognized by the National Constitution of Uganda. Despite the fact that the Kebu are few, some of them still identify themselves as Alur and Lugbara. The small population of the Kebu about 300,000 people in Uganda will leave you questioning and wondering but their history, culture, and economic stories are even more inspiring and interesting.

The Kebu, also called Ke’bu, Okebu, or Ndu, are a tribe in North-western Uganda, west of River Nile (West Nile), on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Kebu belong to the Nilotic ethnic group. The Kebu originated from the Middle East, travelled through Ethiopia, South Sudan during the 13th century and currently settled in Uganda, Sudan and Congo. The Kebu who migrated to Uganda permanently settled in the West Nile region specifically in Zombo district. However, some are now scattered in other parts of West Nile.

During the migration, there were three brothers: Kebu, Aliga, and Zamba. When the migrants reached South Sudan, Aliga and Zamba settled in South Sudan while Kebu continued south to Northern Uganda where he founded the Kebu tribe that extended to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is said that upon arriving in Uganda, Kebu first settled in Metu (in present-day Moyo district) from where he continued to Umba Medigo (in present-day Yumbe district). In Umba Medigo, joined by Madi people. From Umba Medigo he moved and settled at the foot of Mountain Wati (in present-day Arua district) from where different groups from his group moved to DR Congo while others spread out in West Nile in Uganda where they became early inhabitants of West Nile; before the arrival of the Alurs in 1480 AD. Those that settled in West Nile became the Ugandan Kebu.
The Kebu belong to Kebu region under Ke’bu Rigangi Institution led by a Thebizi (leader). The current Thebizi is Thebizi Ephraim Waringu Kebbi.

Today majority of the Kebu is concentrated in Zombo district, West Niles’ food basket. Economically, the Kebu are both agricultural and ironsmiths. They Kebu farm millet, sorghum, cassava, maize, bananas, beans, and other vegetables, and also do ironworks. With the fertile soils in Zombo district, the other districts of West Nile vow to it as their food basket.

The staple food for the Kebu tribe is Millet and Cassava. The Kebu speak Kebutu language. Millet in Kebutu is called “Kehu”, and Cassava is called “Ongura”. They make bread from either millet or cassava flour. This bread is eaten with “Kutu” (beans). Having tasted this meal, I must say it is delicious and one of a kind in a unique way.

Furthermore, the Kebu are known as the guardians and custodians of West Nile’s Iron smiting Industry. “Historically, we were the Ironsmiths in West Nile and our ironworking skills made us superior at the art compared to our neighboring tribes,” a woman community elder proudly told me. She went ahead and told me that a lot of historical Ironworks in West Nile are linked to them the Kebu. Striving to maintain their status as the Ironsmiths in West Nile, the Kebu today still practice their ironworks through making weeding hoes, slashers and knives for sale in West Nile markets.

The Kebu, together with the Alur and Lendu, are the guardians and custodians of Nyagak Power Dam, the main source of hydro-electricity in West Nile. Nyagak Power Dam produces 3.5MW of electricity which is generated from River Nyagak. The dam is located in Zombo district (Kebu/Lendu/Alur region) in one of Zombo’s green rocky hills and valleys.

The Kebu, together with the Alur and Lendu, are the guardians and custodians of Ngbungbu Falls on River Ora in Ugudu Village, Atyak Sub County, Zombo District.

The Kebu People of West Nile Uganda
The Kebu People of West Nile Uganda

Just like any other tribe in Uganda, the Kebu have several traditional dances among which Kazakaza dance and Agwara dance. Agwara is a social gathering dance that the Lugbara and Kebu have in common.

“The dance got its name from the agwaras, the local trumpets. The men play these horns as the women dance.” Caroline Ocanda a Kube woman that is empowering women and girls under the Kube Women Development initiative in Zombo district explained to me.
During the agwara dance members of the community are called to come together and participate.

The Kebu traditionally wore animal skins and leaves but currently wear Kitengi as their traditional/cultural wear.
Lastly, the Kebu are friendly humans and are believed to be the early inhabitants of the West Nile region.