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History of Kigyezi from 1500 to 1930

It is believed, with reliable evidence from studies of pollens, that the area now known as Kigyezi had human settlements at least as far back as 2000 years ago. However, there is no reliable information about our ancestors before about 1500 AD.

Likewise, the pre-colonial history of Kigyezi is not written. It was orally passed down to us. Therefore, we must be tentative in our statements that consider the period between 1500 and 1900.

The best book on the history of Kigyezi remains A History of Kigezi in South-West Uganda (Donald J. Denoon, Ed., National Trust, Kampala, 1972). Whereas this is not a traditional scholarly evidence-based account by professional historians, it is a collection of excellent essays that came out of a conference of Kigyezi Historians that was held in Kabale during the Easter weekend (March 27-29) in 1970. The conference was organized and chaired by Mr. Charles Kabuga, at the time the Resident Tutor for Makerere Centre for Continuing Education. This book, which remains the main reference on our history, is essential reading.

There are also excellent papers and short books on aspects of the history of Kigyezi which are held in various university libraries, some available for purchase online. Some of the authors whose work is worth a search include :

Ahurwendeire H., Some aspects of the history of Kinkiizi, 1973

Bagyenda F., The History of the Basigi clan in Kigezi, 1970

Baitwababo S. R. The origins and disintegration of the Mpororo kingdom, 1969

Bananuka-Rukara F., Bakiga resistance to alien rule, Department of History MS.

Brazier F. S., The Nyabingi cult; religion and political scale in Kigezi, 1900-1930, Social Science Conference Paper, Nairobi, 1968

Coote J. M., The Kivu Mission, 1909-1910, Uganda Journal, vol. 20, 1976

Kamuhangire E. R., Precolonial trade in South West Uganda, 1972

Morris H. F. The Kingdom of Mprororo, Uganda Journal, vol. 19, no. 2, 1955 

Muhereza J., The pre-colonial Bakiga: Migration and Settlement, Dept. History, 1972

Ngorogoza, P. Kigezi N’Abantu Bamwo, East Africa Literature Bureau, 1967  ( A second edition  of the  English translation – Kigezi and Its People – by Fountain Publishers, Kampala, Uganda, 1998 is available for purchase online)

Rwabihigi D. Z., Adaptation of the Bakiga to Colonial rule, 1969

Rwankwenda M. M. R., Kayonza history, 1971

Rwankwenda M. M. R. Kayonza external relations, 1972

Tibenderana P., The British and Baganda in Kigezi, 1909-1930, 1969

Turyahikayo-Rugyema Benoni, The History of the Bakiga in Southwestern Uganda and Northern

Rwanda, CA 1500-1930, University of Michigan, 1974

Turyahikayo-Rugyema, B. “The British Imposition of Colonial Rule on Uganda: The Baganda Agents in Kigezi (1908-1930).” Transafrican Journal of History, vol. 5, no. 1, 1976

Turyahikayo-Rugyema Benoni, Markets in Precolonial East Africa: The Case of the Bakiga, Current Anthropology Vol. 17, No. 2, 1976

Turyahikayo-Rugyema Benoni, Philosophy and Traditional Religion of the Bakiga, Nairobi, 1983

White R. G., Blacksmiths of Kigezi: Uganda Journal, Vol. 33, No. 1, 1969

We eagerly await a new book on our history, written by Edward Nobel Bisamunyu.

The main source of the following sequence of key events (up to 1930) is A History of Kigezi in South-West Uganda (Donald J. Denoon, Ed., National Trust, Kampala, 1972). Where necessary, I have added more recent information from Omugurusi Festo Karwemera, Kigyezi’s chief historian and custodian of the region’s traditions, the written account by Paulo Ngorogoza inKigezi N’Abantu Bamwo, and oral accounts by my father Ezra Kisigo Mulera, Omugurusi Danieri Sigirenda, Omugurusi Mugyerasaano, Omugurusi Eli Nasani Bisamunyu and Omugurusi Erika Bayenda ba Kyarukara.

c.1500 Firm establishment of Rwanda under Ruganzu Bwimba
1500-1600 Series of crises in Rwanda, including Banyoro invasion. Babaanda expel Barengye from Nduga – some Barengye flee to establish kingdoms in Kinkizi and Kayonza. Banyigyinya then overthrow Babaanda, some of whom follow the Barengye and take over Kinkizi. Some Bazigaaba flee from Mubari to South Kigyezi. North and Central Kigyezi occupied by pastoralists including Abashambo, Abeishekatwa, Abanyonyi and Abashengyera.
1600-1700 Mpororo Kingdom, small in size, ruled by Abeishekatwa. Rwanda-Gisaka conflict encourages Abatimbo and others to escape into South Kigyezi. Abazigaaba continue to move into South Kigyezi for the same reason. Abashambo, defeated by Rwanda and Gisaka, move into Mpororo Kingdom, straining the state whose queen is Kitami.
c. 1720 Immigrant Abashambo capture power in Mpororo, seizing the royal drum Murorwa from Queen Kitami. Birth of Kahaya Rutindangyezi.
1740-1790 Kahaya Rutindangyezi of Mpororo fights against Rwanda and expands Mpororo to its maximum extent, covering most of eastern Kigyezi, western Ankole, and northeastern Rwanda. In old age, having lost the drum, he loses control.
c.1790 Death of Kahaya, fragmentation of Mpororo into regions, each ruled by Abashambo lineage.
1840-1850 Bigyeyo bya Mureire rules over parts of central Kigyezi.
c.1850 Muhoozi consolidating control of Rujumbura. Bigyeyo consolidating control over Central Kigyezi. Rwanda fails to incorporate Bufumbira.
c. 1860 Nyakeirima ka Muzoora traverses the region foretelling events that came to pass.  Ba Mugyiri (clan) arrive in Bukimbiri and Rubanda via Mpimbi za Muganza ya Rubuuzibwa-mahano near Congo.
c. 1875 Massive immigration of Abasigyi and other cultivators, obliging the pastoralists to evacuate central Kigyezi. Only a few pastoralists stayed. They were members of the following clans: Abagyeyo, Abagunga, Abazoobiki, Abarihe, Abahitira and Abanzira.
1880-1895 Mwami Rwabugiri rwa Rwogyera, the king of Rwanda, establishes control over Bufumbira and raids south and central Kigyezi and Nkore Kingdom with the help of Abatwa (pygmies).
c.1882 Rinderpest epizootic decimates the cattle population.
c.1882 Epidemic of yaws.
c.1890 A coalition of Buganda and Nkore armies invade Rujumbura and take off with many cows. Makobore and his army, commanded by Miranda, flee to Kambuga.
c. 1891 Belgians pass through Rujumbura. They rob people of their cows.
1891 Emin Pasha (Isaac Eduard Carl Oscar Theodor Schnitzer), a German doctor, naturalist and governor of the Egyptian province of Equatoria, visits Rujumbura and meets with King Makobore.
c.1892 Second epidemic of yaws.
1894 Count Gusav Adolf von Goetzen, a German colonialist reaches the Birunga volcanoes. He later becomes governor of German East Africa, suppresses the Maji Maji rebellion and overseas the mass killings and starvation of the people.
1894-1897 The great Famines of Rwaranda, Mushorongo and Rwanyakizooba.
1896 Rucuncu coup in Rwanda. Musinga succeeds Mibambwe. Disputed succession encourages Muhuumuza (Nyiragahuumuza) to rally support in Kigyezi in order to enter the succession contest and install her son Ndungutse on the throne.
1900-1912 Disturbed times encourage Katuregye and others to raid extensively in South Kigyezi. Refugees flee to Makobore in Rujumbura, and to Kinkizi. Abasigyi and some Abaheesi oppose Muhuumuza in South Kigyezi.
1909 Captain J. M. Coote, the first District Commissioner establishes a station at a small lakeside hill in Nyakabande, Bufumbira. He builds a cottage that serves as the first administrative building of the future district. The small lake – generically called akagezi (akagyezi) or ikigezi (ekigyezi) in the local languages- provides the new district’s name.
1912 District Commissioner C.E.E Sullivan transfers district headquarters to Ikumba.

Ikumba Conference attempts to establish a British hierarchy for the whole district, confirming Makobore, Ruhayana, Nyindo and Katuregye in office. Anglo-Basigyi Alliance breaks down, and Baganda administrators become common.

1913 Kigyezi District Headquarters established at Kabaare (Kabale) by District Commissioner C.E.E. Sullivan.
1914-1919 War encourages Nyindo to rebel and join Mwami of Rwanda; Muginga and Makobore suspected by British of neutrality; Katuregye killed while in revolt; Ntokiibiri at large until 1919.
1922 Kigyezi High School opens its doors to its first eleven students – all of them boys.
1919-1930 Abanyakigyezi people gradually replace Baganda and pre-colonial rulers. Kigyezi District administration firmly established. Beginning of complete incorporation of Kigyezi into Uganda.



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