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Site Last Update: 09 Dec, 2019

October, 2016 A dog cannot bark and bite at the same time. Chiga (Rwanda and Uganda) Proverb

Embwa tekumoka ekaruma. (Chiga)
Mbwa hawezi kupiga kelele na kuuma wakati mmoja. (Swahili)
Un chien ne peut pas aboyer et mordre dans le même temps. (French)
A dog cannot bark and bite at the same time. (English)

Chiga (Rwanda and Uganda) Proverb

Background, Meaning and Everyday Use of the Proverb
The Chiga people, or Abachiga ("people of the mountains"), are an ethnic group located in northern Rwanda and southern Uganda. The Chiga speak a Bantu language called Rukiga. They are sometimes referred to as the Chiga or Kiga, while the singular form is Omukiga. Additionally, a large number of Abachiga were still living in Rwanda at the time of European colonization. The Abachiga people live in southwestern Uganda and northeastern Rwanda, mostly located in Kabale District and Byumba Prefecture in Rwanda, and number about 8% of the population of Uganda or nearly three million according to population estimates.

The family of the ruling clan, the Bamuhutu, possessed the inheritance powers of the name Mukama. The Abukuru Bekika was a committee of elders chosen by the clan to issue rules and administer justice. If a case was particularly serious and involved more than one clan, the cases would be heard publicly. An Omukuru, ideally a wise elder who knew the customs and traditions of his people, and who could be trusted to give fair advice and justice, was elected to preside over this expanded court.

Before the Bachiga were educated about Islam and Christianity, they believed in one God. The Bachiga understood God as creator who is neither male nor female, known as Ruhanga. Abachiga were mainly agriculturalists, and kept significantly less livestock than the other pastoralist neighboring ethnic groups. They grew sorghum, peas, millet, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and beans.

The Bachiga were natural born-warriors. They were known as tough, hardworking people that made formidable enemies. The form of dance for the Chiga is called the Ekizino. Ekizino is a royal dance from the Chiga people of Kigezi. Musical instruments: Omukuli (flute): The flute is widely popular in all regions of Uganda. It is played both as a solo and accompaniment instrument. Amakondere (trumpets): Low-pitched instruments are cut from the trunks of the pawpaw tree. High-pitched trumpets are made of antelope horn among others.

A dog was one of the domestic animals in every Chiga homestead. It was one of the animals mostly domesticated for security. Through interaction and careful observation of this animal, the elders and wise people in the community learned that it could not bite and chew at one time, but it did one action before embarking on another.

The elders came up with the proverb to advise people, especially young people, to learn to focus their energy on one thing at any given time. Whenever you have two activities you will focus on one more than the other, thus not giving your best. For someone to be successful in life, they need to take a stand, focus and let others know they are people of integrity.

It was also used to teach community members to be firm on any decision they take and stand by it. They should not be like those people who support the king in one event and disown him in another. As a person of integrity, you should always do what you feel is right and stand by it at all cost.

Biblical Parallels

    1. Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
    2. 1 Corinthians 10:21 “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons”

Contemporary Use and Religious Application

In the modern world Christians have been caught between the love of money and the pleasures of the world and serving God. This has seen the rise and fall of prophets who are using the name of God to make themselves gain material things from unsuspecting congregations. Christians are focused on acquiring wealth through ungodly actions and at the same time they want to serve God. They want to please themselves with ungodly pleasure and at the same time they want to please God. This proverb tries to warn us Christians to choose life, Jesus Christ and emulate His ways. We should not focus on the worldly things, but on pleasing and serving our God Almighty and He will supply our every need.


Kevin Namatsi Okubo
Nairobi, Kenya
Cellphone: +254 715307874
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Photographs provided by:

Cephas Yao Agbemenu 
Department of Fine Arts
Kenyatta University
P.O. Box 43844
Nairobi, Kenya
Cellphone: +254 723-307992
Email:   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it