Clan and cultural identity in Africa: A Clan History of Bakhulo people

what is clan as a cultural entity

A clan, as a cultural entity, refers to a social group within a larger community that shares common ancestry, traditions, customs, and values. Clans often form the foundational units of many societies, especially in traditional and indigenous cultures. As a cultural entity, clans contribute to the preservation, transmission, and expression of cultural identity and heritage. clans as cultural entities play a crucial role in shaping the identity, cohesion, and continuity of cultural traditions within societies. Clans serve as conduits for heritage, communal life, and the transmission of shared values and customs across generations.

Ancestral Connections:

Clans typically trace their lineage and identity back to a common ancestor or a group of ancestors. This shared ancestry forms the basis of their cultural identity and provides a sense of belonging and solidarity among clan members.

Cultural Traditions and Customs:

Clans uphold and perpetuate specific cultural traditions, rituals, customs, and practices that are unique to their group. These traditions often include language, ceremonies, celebrations, storytelling, folklore, and artistic expressions that define the cultural identity of the clan.

Social Organization:

Clans have distinct social structures and hierarchies that govern their internal dynamics and interactions. They may have traditional leadership roles, kinship systems, and systems of governance that regulate relationships, resolve disputes, and maintain order within the clan.

Identity and Belonging:

Membership in a clan provides individuals with a strong sense of identity, belonging, and solidarity. Clan members often identify themselves first and foremost by their clan affiliation, which serves as a primary source of social identity and pride.

Cultural Transmission:

Clans serve as vehicles for the transmission of cultural knowledge, values, and practices from one generation to the next. Through oral traditions, storytelling, rituals, and other forms of cultural expression, clans ensure the continuity and preservation of their cultural heritage over time.

Symbolism and Representation:

Clans may have symbols, totems, flags, or other visual representations that embody their cultural identity and serve as markers of group affiliation. These symbols often carry deep historical and symbolic significance within the clan’s cultural context.

Adaptation and Change:

While clans are rooted in tradition, they also evolve and adapt to changing social, political, and economic contexts over time. They may incorporate new influences, adopt different practices, and reinterpret traditions to meet the needs of contemporary society while still maintaining core aspects of their cultural identity.

The role of a clan as a social, cultural and economic entity

Clans play significant roles in cultural, social, and economic mobilization within various societies, particularly in traditional and closely-knit communities. The role of a clan can vary depending on the specific cultural context, but generally, it serves as a foundational unit that provides structure, support, and identity to its members. Overall, clans serve as multifaceted entities that play vital roles in preserving cultural heritage, fostering social cohesion, and facilitating economic activities within their communities. They form the backbone of many traditional societies and continue to influence social dynamics and development patterns in various parts of the world. Here is a breakdown of the roles clans play in these different aspects:

Cultural Role:

Preservation of Traditions:

Clans often serve as custodians of cultural heritage, including language, rituals, customs, and values. They transmit oral histories, folklore, and traditional knowledge from one generation to another.

Identity Formation:

Clans contribute significantly to individual and collective identity. Membership in a clan provides individuals with a sense of belonging, roots, and shared ancestry.

Rituals and Ceremonies:

Clans often organize and participate in various cultural rituals, ceremonies, and celebrations, such as weddings, funerals, festivals, and initiations, which reinforce social bonds and cultural practices.

Social Role:

Social Support System:

Clans provide a support network for their members during times of need, such as sickness, death, or economic hardship. This support extends beyond immediate family to include extended relatives within the clan.

Conflict Resolution:

Clans may serve as mediators in resolving disputes within the community, relying on customary laws, traditions, and informal mechanisms to promote reconciliation and maintain harmony.

Social Cohesion:

Clans foster social cohesion by promoting cooperation, solidarity, and mutual assistance among members. They strengthen interpersonal relationships and promote a sense of community and mutual responsibility.

Economic Role:

Economic Cooperation:

Clans often engage in economic activities collectively, such as agriculture, trade, livestock rearing, or artisanal work. They pool resources, share labor, and support each other’s economic endeavors.

Resource Management:

Clans may have traditional systems for managing communal resources, such as land, water, forests, or grazing areas, based on customary practices and collective decision-making.

Entrepreneurship and Business Networks:

Clans can facilitate business networks and entrepreneurial initiatives by providing access to capital, market information, and business opportunities within their social networks.

Bakhulo clan history


Amidst the influx of immigrants from Europe and Asia into the Holy Land during Roman rule in Israel, the Bakhulo forefathers made a decisive move to escape relentless Roman persecutions. The systematic destruction and burning of their cities had become pervasive, prompting them, like many Jews, to flee in various directions, dispersing men, women, and children across different corners of the globe. Other groups sought refuge in expansive regions of Europe, the African Mediterranean coastal lands, and eventually the North and South American continents.

This mass migration appeared to fulfill a Biblical prophecy predicting the future dispersion of the Israelites worldwide (DEUT. 28: 64, EZEK. 34: 5-6). One particular group, fleeing southward, found sanctuary in the land of Misir (Egypt), initiating a lengthy journey that culminated in their settlement in Samia, near the Kenya-Uganda border.

Between AD 400 and 500, Misir became the new homeland for these immigrants, who had congregated in the Nile Delta after leaving Israel. In their new abode, the Black Jews experienced a period of relative peace and happiness, a stark contrast to the turmoil in their former homeland. Unfortunately, this tranquility was short-lived, disrupted by a fresh wave of newcomers around AD 650.

These newcomers, predominantly from the Arabian Peninsula, arrived as invaders driven by their mission to spread the Islamic faith. Their presence stirred upheaval among the Misir communities, sparking protracted wars in the name of jihad. As time passed, the pressure escalated to a point where the natives could no longer endure. These wars prompted widespread migration by the locals, moving predominantly southward and westward, as they sought refuge from the turbulent circumstances that enveloped their once-peaceful home.


The departure journey from Misir began in about 700 AD, travelling southwards, along the Nile River. They arrived in Abyssinia, in the present day Ethiopia, at about 720’s AD. They settled in the Abyssinian highlands, around the Lake Tana. Here the natives proved to be very welcoming and accorded them quite a nice and peaceful stay. They farmed the land, kept animals and freely enjoyed all the facilities that the land could offer, just in the same way as the rest of the natives.

This good relationship with the locals enabled their free intermarriages with the native tribes. However, regardless of this free interactions and intermarriages, these new comers still remained a distinct people, leading a life and professing a Jews religion very different from the Ethiopian native. They came to be referred to as the Falasha (landless)

Abyssinia experienced prolonged droughts resulting into a big crop failure which caused a great famine that led to a lot of deaths. This havoc in took quite a toll on the entire population. Deaths occurred day by day, sparing no section or class. This matter was so serious that made the Falasha to disintegrate for failure of agreement on which decision to take. Some sections of them broke off moving into different directions, leaving the main group behind.

Cameroon to Uganda

From from Abyssinia, the contemporary Bakhulo people eventually settled in present-day Cameroon, where they enjoyed abundant food and tranquility. The lush surroundings provided wild fruits, roots, game, and fish, ensuring their sustenance. Over time, they assimilated into the Bantu-speaking community, adopting the name “Bakhekhe” from their leader Mukhekhe.

Life in Cameroon was idyllic, yet plagued by tropical diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and tsetse flies, leading to high mortality rates among the Bakhekhe. Despite the comforts, their existence became increasingly dismal, prompting their migration under the leadership of Muganda 1st.

Their journey southward led them through the Congo forest and eventually eastward into present-day Uganda. However, the dense forests of Congo presented numerous challenges, including harsh landscapes, adverse climates, wildlife threats, and conflicts with indigenous tribes. Encounters with hostile tribesmen and the ingenious tactics of the Pygmies, such as using bees to repel intruders, marked their perilous passage.

Emerging from the dense forest, the Bakhekhe traversed into present-day Uganda, settling on the Lake Victorian Island known as Jagusi. Their arduous journey reflected the resilience and determination of the Bakhekhe people in the face of adversity, as they sought new territories to call home.

The clan in the contemporary society

Bridging the Intergenerational Gap for Social Inclusion

When Bakhulo clansmen met on 17th of July 2022 buoyed by their renewed sense of brotherhood under the leadership of their newly installed Achiebo (clan patriarch) one single agenda was clan unity. The unity agenda revealed the a generational gap in opinions relating to beliefs, politics, language, and values systems. Generally such differences often cause misunderstandings. So with multiple generations coexisting in the all spheres of the Bakhulo clansmen, understanding and effective collaboration across age groups is essential for fostering a harmonious environment.

The clan history of Bakhulo book tries to explore the cultural, historical, and contemporary dynamics underpinning the generation gap, and provide practical strategies to solves the contemporary issues of Social inclusion .

Leveraging the liberal cross-border environment within the East African Community protocol, clan brothers separated by migration barriers foster closer interactions. Through easier movements the clan is able to forge closer relation in identifying and documenting cultural sites within the partner states. Further the clan Elders consultative council through intergenerational conversation blog on is tracing, documenting and publishing the clan history looking at the following emerging issues:

  1. Cultural and historical  identity
  2. Religious life and the Black heritage
  3. Social and economic inclusion
  4. Environment and climate change
  5.  Leadership and governance

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