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BAYUDAYA , group of adherents of Judaism in Mbale, Uganda. Numbering some 600 people who live in villages a few miles north of Mbale, this group owes its origins to a remarkable Ugandan soldier and traditional leader, Semei Kakungulu. At the beginning of the 20th century Kakungulu emerged as a powerful military leader on the British side against Muslim forces. Rewarded by the colonial authorities with a post as a semi-autonomous administrator in a large area around Mbale in the eastern part of the country, he decided to follow biblical teaching and become circumcised. In 1920 he declared of himself and his followers: "We shall be known as the Jews," and in 1922 published a book which was essentially a guide to Judaism. His followers in Mbale have maintained their Jewish practices (despite persecution at the time of Idi Amin). Orthodox conversions carried out in 2001 and 2002 have transformed the community into a substantially Orthodox community with links with western Jewry and Israel.


M.Twaddle, Kakungulu and the Creation of Uganda (1993); A. Oded, "The Bayudaya of Uganda:a Portrait of an African Jewish Community," in: Journal of Religion in Africa, 6 (1974); T. Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth (2002).

[Tudor Parfitt (2nd ed.)]

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