Mbale, Uganda | URN | There is public outrage towards the organizers of the just concluded inaugural annual Elgon Festival held at Mbale SS grounds in Mbale city over the weekend. Formerly Imbalu Parade and Festival, the annual event was organized by the Masaba tourism initiative in partnership with Babana Basha and Mbale City Council involving representatives of different ethnicities in the Elgon region.
The performers assembled at Mbale Cricket grounds and led a procession led by a brass band, traditional Kadodi drummers, and a sound truck. Young girls marched through the streets half-naked with their breasts out and their lower abdomen covered with banana leaves. The breasts were painted with white paint.
The decision to parade naked teenagers through the streets has been a subject of contention for the past few days among the Bamasaba, with many criticizing the organizers for misrepresenting the Bamasaba culture.
Josephine Flavia Lunyolo, the industrial Division East councilor, says that she was shocked to see young girls moving naked and wondered if this was a new culture in Masaba land. “It was embarrassing to us the women; one could not hold it to see their teen daughters displaying their innocent protruding breasts as they matched in Mbale city,” she said.
According to Lunyolo, the decision to parade teenager girls naked in the streets was very shameful to women.
Rebecca Neumbe, a woman leader in Mbale city, said what transpired over the weekend demeaned women’s dignity. She notes that as women leaders, they are considering dragging the organizers of the Elgon Festival to court for parading naked young girls in the streets in violation of their rights to privacy.
Abdallah Magambo, the Deputy Speaker of Mbale City Council posted a long message on social media expressing shock with the manner the entire festival was organized.
“I have been watching with a growing sense of bewilderment how the Bugisu Cultural Festival was organized and conducted under the chagrin of our Cultural Heritage and norms, luckily though the gods of Ba’masaba were present and didn’t sleep until they poured their traditional anger and rain visited the venue starting all the way from Iganga to Soroti and Tororo to deny the entry routes to city center to the venue registering one of the biggest losses I have ever seen for such a concert,” he posted on the Bugisu Political Debate WhatsApp group.
Eric Mukhwana, a resident of Mbale city didn’t have kind words for Mbale Resident City Commissioner, Ahamada Washaki for allowing the show. “I’m informed that permission was granted by Mbale City RCC, Mr. Washaki Ahamada, with caution that IYM-Inzu Ya Masaba should not be involved. And so it was,” he said in a short message on social media.
He noted that what happened at Mbale SS was a purely cultural matter that needed redress from Inzu Ya Masaba, but the organizers on the orders of the RCC refused to involve the institution. “Of course, this will either in the short run or long run damage our culture and it’s high time for the disgruntled cultural institutions to wake up and stand on, it will be so damaging to see this,” he posted.
Inzu Ya Masaba officials have distanced themselves from the festival, saying they were never involved. A statement by Augustine Wamalwa Wekesa, the Minister in charge of programs, works, and transport in Inzu ya masaba, stated that the institution disassociates itself with the event.
“So we request that when referring to this event don’t mix it with INZU YA MASAABA and Bamasaba. Bamasaba young people are very respectful and they value, respect, and cherish their culture. Any person associating the Elgon festival with Bamasaba and Inzu ya masaba attracts criminality,” the statement reads in part.
Ahamada Washaki, the Mbale City Resident Commissioner says that while security okayed the festival after the organizers indicated that they were showcasing the culture of the Bamasaba, they were not aware that the festival would turn into a nude show. He notes that security has summoned the organizers of the event to explain how such events unfolded in the city.
Priscila Khainza Mungoma, the proprietor of Masaba tourism initiative and one of the organizers of the festival, said that this is the third edition of the festival and even in the previous two editions, women moved with their breasts out naked but there was no uproar as it happened this time.
She explained that the aim of the festival was to showcase the Bamasaba culture which is dying but also to engage the neighboring cultures to understand how they affect the Bamasaba culture. She however says that she was surprised that the event was blown out of proportion and how people sexualized the dress code.