The Flight of the Suba

There is a common story shared by the Suba of Mfangano – the flight of the Suba from the Kingdom of Buganda. Over 200 years ago, the Kingdom of Buganda was ruled by Kabaka Junju Sendegeya. After defeating the Nyoro army in southeastern Uganda and capturing the province of Buddu, Kabaka Junju’s brother, Semakookiro, rebelled against him. Sending two warriors of the Wakula clan, Semakookito wanted to capture his brother and assume the throne.

Then things got a little hairy. Instead of capturing the Kabaka, Witewe and Kiboye accidentally killed him in the battle of Kiawau. Semakookiro was furious and called a secret war council to kill the two Wakula warriors. Luckily for them, the meeting was overheard by Mwembe, a court drummer, who warned Witewe and Kiboye of Semakookiro’s plans. That night the Wakula clan fled Uganda in canoes, paddling east across the northern shores of Lake Victoria and eventually settling on the islands of Mfangano and Rusinga. They, along with other clans that fled from Semakookiro’s fury, are now known as the Suba.

The Suba have lived on Mfangano for twelve generations as fisherman and farmers. Life on Mfangano has remained relatively unchanged until a recent chain of events spurred the most widespread epidemic of HIV/AIDs in Kenya and likely the largest vertebrate mass-extinction in recorded history. It all began with the introduction of one fish specie into Lake Victoria…


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