Imbalu festivities have kicked off in some parts of Bugisu Sub-region despite the current ban on public gatherings to control the spread of coronavirus.
Daily Monitor has learnt that in different districts, candidates donning traditional beads and bungles have started preparations such as Isonjo (preparatory dance) and visiting their relatives with imbalu dancers.
The imbalu season officially begins next month.
The cultural circumcision rites are held every even year among the Bamasaba, who hail from Mbale, Sironko, Manafwa, Bududa, Bulambuli and Namisindwa districts, and some parts of Kenya.
Among the Bamasaba, it is only after circumcision that boys are initiated into manhood.
Mr Robert Manana, a resident of Bunalwa Village in Bunambutsale Sub-county in Manafwa District, on Monday said local leaders and government should stay away from their ceremonies.
“This is our culture and we must practice it the way our ancestors ordered us not the way the uncircumcised people prefer us to do. That is taboo and we will not accept it,” he said.
Four police officers were critically injured by machete-wielding men during the launch of the ceremony at Nabalosi cultural site in Bunambutsale Sub-county at the weekend .
The police officers had attempted to disperse the group.
Mr Alex Masangha, another resident of Bunalwa, said they launched the imbalu because their leaders have failed to agree on a way forward.
Mr Masangha said they have given the Inzu-Ya-Masaaba leadership up to a week to come up with guidelines on how they will proceed with the rituals.
The Inzu-Ya-Masaaba leadership led by Mr Bob Mushikori has been embroiled in wrangles with two parallel organs since last year.
One faction is affiliated to Mr Mushikori and another to Mr James Kangala, the secretary general.
On Monday, social media was also awash with pictures of imbalu candidates and dancers in Bufumbo Sub-county in Mbale.
In Buteza Sub-county in Sironko District, another set of candidates with their dancers were also sighted.
The local leaders said they have tried to sensitise the residents to respect presidential directives and standard operating procedures on the prevention of coronavirus but in vain.
Mr Moses Kutosi, the chairperson of imbalu in Inzu-Ya-Masaaba, admitted that some subjects had commenced the ceremonies.
“We are going to come up with a way forward. We have reports of our subjects engaging in imbalu activities contrary to the presidential guidelines,” he said.
Mr Kutosi said they would work with police to arrest people defying the presidential directives.
A cultural leader, who preferred anonymity, blamed Mr Mushikori for failing to take a decision on the matter.
“We have forwarded a number of options but he has remained undecided. This has kept us confused,” the source said.
The source added that local surgeons and other traditionalists opposed to current leadership were stealthily urging people to proceed with the rituals.
Mr Eric Mukhwana, the kingdom’s deputy prime minister for culture, tourism and communications, called for a scientific circumcision this year.
However, Mr Kutosi said they were in touch with government officials to allow them hold the launch at the Mutoto cultural ground with a selected few people in the institution.
“During the launch, we conduct rituals at the cultural site to appease the gods. Short of that, we annoy them and invite trouble to our land,” he said.