By John C. Ssentongo
An amiable and humble man parked his monster Prado at Satellite Beach shopping mall in Mukono town along Kampala Road. He is the man who has been appearing on television news bulletins staging crusades or wedding couples in African traditional religion. This faith, he calls it, Tondism.
Sabakabona Jumba Lubowa Aligaweesa, 39, is the ‘pope’ for Tondism according to his followers. However, the right translation for Sabakabona is “High Priest”.
Where Jumba parked at Satellite Beach, he stayed in his vehicle because his face could attract unnecessary attention. He is not new in Mukono and he is a known and popular figure.
After he parked his vehicle, two gentlemen joined him. I was on appointment too – as I wanted to interview him about the meaning of the religion he was promoting. At this point, I didn’t know its name. I was satisfied to call it traditional African religion.
For three hours, I sat with Jumba at his Kilowooza office which also doubles as his worship place, to talk about his religion and its god; his nature, how he created the universe, the purpose of life and why Africans should return to the African way of praising and worshiping God. Jumba is already spearheading the building of worship places in over a 100 places in Uganda and says he already has 96 priests overseeing this religion.
“This religion is not new,” Jumba challenges me when I point out that he was introducing a new religion in the country.
“Before the White man came here, we had a God we worshiped,” he says, leaning over to emphasize the point that the White man got rid of the African beliefs and demonized the spirituality and knowledge of thousands of years to colonise us effectively.
The High Priest explains that were it for Tondism priests being killed at Bunamwaya in the 19 century, the religion would be very strong.
“Imagine, we don’t have a memorial in Bunamwaya yet we have one for Uganda Martyrs,” Jumba says, throwing his hands in the air.
However, for the man who has practiced three faiths namely, Catholicism, Islam and now Tondism, now his mission is to make Tondism a universal religion for the black race which he says would turn around the fortunes of the Black people across the globe on condition they discover what they lost.
Who is Jumba Lubowa Aligaweesa?
Jumba Lubowa Aligaweesa was born in 1978 in Rakai district. His father Senyonga Mugerwa Paulo was a Catholic but he died before Jumba could recognize him. His mother Theresa Namakula Nakamanya was a woman of little means and she had two children to look after upon the death of her husband. Jumba was taken away to a relative to raise him. His new father would be a Muslim, a Hajj Sulait Mugerwa. Jumba would be raised a Muslim.
Jumba says that he didn’t go far with his formal schooling and spent his days looking after new father’s cattle; actually, his friends say he didn’t go beyond Primary Three. This is actually surprising given his ability to use high tech gadgets such as smart phones and its modern communication applications such as Facebook, Youtube, Whatsapp, among others. For example, anyone who wants to reach Jumba on Whatsapp, he is available on +256772602384.
Jumba might not have gone to school but he is a man with sharp intellect. You can see that in his quick grasp of concepts and explanations he gives to metaphysical and physics questions.
To give his story a special narrative, he talks about his call to serve as a medium at the end of seven.
“When I was seven, I started facing different ailments that I could not consistently be in school. The sickness would reveal to my custodians that I was not an ordinary child”.
At 13, Jumba recalls that he become a medium of a spirit called Lubowa. Not long after, he says, he quickly started running into trouble as he could prophesize who would die next in the village or tell what was in the hearts of people.
“We would be in a village meeting wondering who was stealing people’s food in the gardens or animals, and I could get revelations – and tell the village I knew who the thief was.
“Many people started hating me for telling secrets they have hidden from anyone.”
Jumba became a little notorious boy in the village and soon came to be known as “Muzzukulu” (grandchild) since the spirit for which he was a medium always referred to him as Muzzukulu.
One day, a woman called Namyalo who used to frequent their village to buy bananas which she sold in Seeta Mukono was told to go to him to solve her pressing problem. The woman had made losses in her last business trips after her merchandise got spoilt before she reached the market. She thought it was unusual.
“I told her why it was the case and told her what to do.” That was Jumba’s turning point.
Namyalo would soon arrange to bring the little medium to Mukono, where he has thrived and made himself a name.
The spiritual medium
In 1992, Jumba started moving on different hills to learn about the secrets of sacred places of Uganda. He says, he discovered that at Walusi hill, had the “Garden of Eden” with marks of the story of creation. From there, he joined fellow seekers for the “African truth” including Kabona (priest) Laadi, Kisomba Matovu, Kayonda, Nsimbi Bagonzi, Omusiige Ssebyayi among others. They agreed to once again reinstate their traditional religion to worship their god in the religion, Tondism.
In Tondism the day of worship is Wednesday, and Saturday is also regarded as holy since it was the day creation was completed.
In Tondism, Jumba who was elected this year, chief priest of this religion, wants to formalize the spirituality of Tondism including introducing literature for catechism and worship as well as marriage and death rites, etc for their followers.
Actually, it is the controversial wedding ceremonies that have made Jumba oversee that have made him a name.
Yet, he does not stop at overseeing other people’s marriages and weddings, but, himself in April 2008 wed off a daughter of one of Uganda’s historical military officer, Col Ahmed Kashillingi RO040, one of the 15 most senior military officers in UPDF, who is herself a medical doctor. Jumba married Dr Aisha Kashilingi in a traditional but lavish wedding reception attended by over 60,000 people in Gulu Mukono including renown River Nile medium in Jinja called Bujagaali. It was the first time he was attending a wedding party. Surprisingly, only 80 relatives of the bride turned up for this mega wedding fiesta.
The couple was flown at the venue in a helicopter, still a sign of opulence. The traditional marital rites had taken place at Bembe Kitala in Entebbe where seven priests of Tondism blessed the marriage. Jumba says Col Kashilingi refused to leave his car, and he didn’t witness the exchange of vows for his daughter. He however attended the reception in Mukono where he gave a moving speech, admitting he was “ignorant about the religion the daughter was married into but had to accept it as a fact of life”.
The guests of the couple were entertained to traditional African music by Banguliro Spiritual band led by Kiggundu who Jumba helped found, and music stars of the time including Mesach Semakula, David Lutalo and Annet Nandujja among others entertained the guests.
Jumba, sounds very proud of his wife. He acknowledges the fact that it was not easy for Col Kashilingi’s Muslim family to give away their daughter to a Muganda man, let alone accepting an in-law who is a traditional healer. For Jumba, they set conditions for him which would ordinarily discourage a man from going ahead with his plans.
“I was told to pay UGX10 million, nine cows and a bull,” Jumba recounts. “But all the cows I took were rejected. They told me to give them money to buy the Frisians.” He paid the bride price without negotiating.
“I met my wife in the hills of Kitagata where they are hot springs…I didn’t know who she was, but spirits told me she was my wife.” Jumba believes their meeting was divinely set up.
What is Tondism?
Interviewing religious leaders of any faith is never easy. Each one keeps telling you about their truth like it is the ultimate truth. It was not different from Jumba, who blames Europeans colonizers for defacing Africa by disfranchising their religious and belittling their beliefs.
“Our religion is not satanic,” Jumba says, explaining Tondism concept of good and evil. He says by the time Europeans come bearing bibles and guns, they found Africans believing in God (Katonda). Tondism is actually the belief in God the Creator.
The Tondism high priest says where Africans were deprived of their religion, that was why they were successful colonized and the situation in Africa will never be any better until the continent discover their true self, their God.
“God did not make a mistake in creating us in many colours and placing us on different continents,” Jumba argues, explaining that everything God made was in pairs. God himself is in two – Namugereka and Kyetonda. He explains that under them are seven spirits who manifest themselves in the rainbow. Jumba goes ahead to say the rainbow is the power that helped God create the world as we see it.
“Some of our traditional healers do not know these facts,” Jumba turns the guns on fellow medium. He says they have made every belief balubaale (angels) are God, yet, they are servants of the gods in the rainbow. Jumba goes ahead to break down the power layers from God to man, saying, all are supposed to help God in creating and maintaining his creation.
According to Jumba, the purpose of man is to assist God in “creation” since God created once and the rational beings he made should help him sustain this work without rebellion.
He brands Africans who follow other religions as rebellious – having left the faith of their ancestors and embraced the faith of people from other continent. Jumba alleges that since life started at Walusi hill, all other nations too emerged from this area to spread to other continent.
“God made a black person first. It is from darkness that light was made,” Jumba says, standing up to demonstrate that black is the first primary colour from which every other colour is made.
Before I said good bye to Jumba’s spiritual knowledge, he told me his message to all blacks.
“Know where you’re coming from to know where you are going”. These were like words Plato attributed to Socrates – “Know thy self”. Jumba warns that “what comes out of its nature dies” expressing fear that turning the blind eye to African religion was the Achilles heel for Africans.
He says, “God made you in his image. Go back to your creation as God made you.” And Jumba’s mission is to teach Africans how God created them and their purpose.