Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom
Motto: Habwa Ruhanga Neihanga Lyaitu
"For God and My Country"
Anthem: Uganda National Anthem
Royal anthem: Bunyoro Kitara Anthem
Location of Bunyoro (red)
in Uganda (pink)
and largest city
|Demonym||Bunyoro / Banyoro|
|Dr.Rukirabasaija Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru Amooti|
|Andrew Kirungi Byakutaga Ateenyi|
|Consolidation 16th century|
|18,578 km2 (7,173 sq mi)|
• Water (%)
|Currency||Ugandan Shilling (UGX)|
Bunyoro is a kingdom in Western Uganda. It was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Central and East Africa from 13th century to the 19th century. It is ruled by the Omukama of Bunyoro. The current ruler is Solomon Iguru I, the 27th Omukama (king) of Bunyoro-Kitara.
The people of Bunyoro are also known as Nyoro or Banyoro (singular: Munyoro) (Banyoro means "People of Bunyoro"); the language spoken is Nyoro (also known as Runyoro). In the past, the traditional economy revolved around big game hunting of elephants, lions, leopards, and crocodiles. Today, the Banyoro are now agriculturalists who cultivate bananas, millet, cassava, yams, cotton, tobacco, coffee, and rice. The people are primarily Christian.
The kingdom of Bunyoro was established in the 16th century by Rukidi-Mpuga out of the northern portion of the Kingdom of the Songora also known as the Chwezi Empire or Empire of Kitara. The founders of Bunyoro were known as the Bacwezi, a people who succeeded the Batembuzi.
Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom (Rwanda)
At its height, the Bunyoro kingdom controlled the Great Lakes region of Africa, one of many small states in the region. The earliest stories of the kingdom having great power come from Uganda and Rwanda. The power of Bunyoro faded by the end of the 16th Century, with the invasion of Rukidi-Mpuga from the north, following the death of a beloved king's cow Bihogo: There was a prophecy that when the beloved cow Bihogo died, this would mark the beginning of the end of this Chwezi Empire. Many of the Chwezi descendants who governed this empire moved south to present-day Uganda and Rwanda. Later, new kingdoms arose in the Great Lakes area, such as Ankole, Buganda, Toro, Busoga, Bagisu (in present-day Kenya and Uganda), Rwanda-Urundi, Bunyoro and Karagwe.
Bunyoro rose to power and controlled a number of the holiest shrines in the region, as well as the lucrative Kibiro saltworks of Lake Albert (Africa). Having the highest quality of metallurgy in the region made it the strongest military and economic power in the Great Lakes region.
The kingship of Bunyoro is the most important institution in the kingdom. The king is patrilineal meaning that it is passed down through the male line. However it is not passed to the first son. This tradition comes from a myth the Nyoro people tell. Once there were three sons of the Mukama, all having the same name. In order to name them , the Mukama asked the God to help him. The boys must go through a series of tasks before being named. The three of them had to sit all night holding a pot of milk. Milk is a sacred drink used for important events. Whoever had all their milk still in the pot by morning would be king. The youngest son dropped the milk and begged his older brothers to give him some of theirs, they did. When morning came the eldest son dropped a little more. When God and the Mukama came to observe the pots, the eldest son was named after the peasants who are not fit for cattle herding since he had no milk left. The middle son was named after cattle herders and the youngest son was named Oukama and later Mukama or king for having the most. This myth shows the ways in which the Nyoro infuse religion and kingship together.
Bunyoro began to decline in the late eighteenth century due to internal divisions. Buganda seized the Kooki and Buddu regions from Bunyoro at the end of the century. In the 1830s, the large province of Toro separated, claiming much of the lucrative salt works. To the south Rwanda and Ankole were both growing rapidly, taking over some of the smaller kingdoms that had been Bunyoro's vassals.
Thus by the mid-nineteenth century Bunyoro (also known as Unyoro at the time) was a far smaller state, though it was still wealthy due to the income generated from controlling the lucrative trade routes over Lake Victoria and linking to the coast of the Indian Ocean. In particular, Bunyoro benefited from the trade in ivory. Due to the volatile nature of the ivory trade, an armed struggle developed between the Baganda and the Banyoro. As a result, the capital was moved from Masindi to the less vulnerable Mparo. Following the death of Omakuma Kyebambe III, the region experienced a period of political instability where two kings ruled in a volatile political environment.
In July 1890 an agreement was settled whereby the entire region north of Lake Victoria was given to Great Britain. In 1894 Great Britain declared the region its protectorate. In alliance with Buganda, King Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro resisted the efforts of Great Britain, aiming to take control of the kingdom. However, in 1899 Omukama Kabalega was captured and exiled to the Seychelles, and Bunyoro was subsequently annexed to the British Empire. Because of Bunyoro's resistance to the British, a portion of the Bunyoro kingdom's territory was given to Buganda and Toro.
The country was put under the governance of Bugandan administrators. The Banyoro revolted in 1907; the revolt was put down, and relations improved somewhat. After the region remained loyal to Great Britain in World War I a new agreement was made in 1934 giving the region more autonomy. Bunyoro remains as one of the five constituent kingdoms of Uganda, along with Buganda, Busoga, Rwenzururu, and Tooro.
During the first regime of Milton Obote, the Kingdom of Bunyoro initially benefited from regaining the two "lost counties" of Buyaga and Bugangaizi following a 1964 referendum. It was, however, forcefully disbanded in 1967. The kingdom, together with three others, Buganda, Busoga, Toro, remained banned during the regime of dictator Idi Amin (1971–1979) and the second regime of Milton Obote (1980–1985) and remained banned until 1993.
In 1993 the Kingdom was re-established and in 1995 the new constitution of Uganda was made, allowing and recognizing the Kingdoms. The current Kingdom covers the districts of Buliisa District, Hoima district, Kibaale District, Kakumiro District, Kagadi District, Kiryandongo District and Masindi District.
According to 1997 projections, the total population of the Kingdom is between 800,000 but there may be 1,400,000 (depending on sources) living in 250,000-350,000 households. 96% of the population live in rural areas, and only 1% of the population uses electricity for lighting and cooking. More than 92% of the population are poor, and has earnings less than half that of the Ugandan national average, and about 50% of the population is illiterate.
The economic potential in the region is very large, with the Kibiro saltworks, and the possibility of large deposits of oil, gas, iron ore and precious stones. During the first decade of the 2000s, sizeable deposits of crude oil were discovered in the area. The area also has large rainforests with an abundance of hardwoods including mahogany and ironwood.
The Omukama (King) and the other leaders of the area are planning to establish a university that will primarily focus on teaching relevant skills with regard to working in the extraction of natural resources. The university will also work to preserve the high level of cultural heritage in the area. (See Public University below.)
The King is in general doing a lot of work to improve the living standards of the people. Relations are maintained with the European community via the development organization Association of the Representatives of Bunyoro-Kitara. The King is also working to maintain the traditional Bunyoro culture, but at the same time altering the honors of the kingdom in a way that they can be compared to western standards.
On 7 April 2011, the National University of Criminal and Security Sciences (renamed as the National University of Penal, Administrative and Security Sciences, "the UNIPASS") was bestowed with the Royal Charter of Incorporation by His Majesty Omukama Rukirabasaija Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I and it became the first public university of the kingdom. The university imparts certificate, diploma, bachelor, master and doctorate level courses in the disciplines of criminology, security sciences, police studies, law, business administration and other contemporary disciplines. This is the distinguished public university of the kingdom having a large number of students around the globe.
For royal traditions see Omukama of Bunyoro.
The Banyoro were traditionally a polygamous people when they could afford it. Many marriages did not last and it was quite common to be divorced. Due to this, payment to the girl's family was not normally given until after several years of marriage. Premarital sex was also very common.
All families were ruled by the eldest man of the family (called Nyineka), and the village was run by a specially elected elder who was chosen by all the elders in the village. He was known as a mukuru w’omugongo.
A few months after birth, the baby would be given a name. This was normally done by a close relative, but the father always had the final say. Two names are given: a personal name, and a traditional Empaako name. The names were often related to specific features on the child, special circumstances in the birth of the child or as a way to honor a former family member. Most of the names are actual words of the Nyoro language and some are etymologically Luo language words. The Empaako or Mpako names include Okaali (for Kings only); Apuuli, Acaali, Araali and Bbala (for males only) and Adyeeri, Abooki, Abwooli, Amooti, Ateenyi, Atwooki and Akiiki, which can be used for both males and females. (Stephen Rwagweri Atwoki, E. D. -Engabu za Tooro). (Mi pako or M'pako in Luo language, would mean of honour/in honour of, therefore, Empaako or Mpaako/Mpako is a title of Honour, even in Luo.
Death was almost always believed to be the work of evil magic, ghosts, or similar. Gossiping was believed to magically affect or harm people. Death was viewed as being a real being. When a person died, the oldest woman of the household would clean the body, cut the hair and beard, and close the eyes of the departed. The body was left for viewing and the women and children were allowed to cry/weep, but the men were not. In case the dead was the head of the household, a mixture of grain (called ensigosigo) was put in his hand, and his children had to take a small part of the grain and eat it - thus passing on his (magical) powers.
After one or two days, the body would be wrapped in cloth and a series of rites would be carried out. The following rites are only for heads of family:
- The nephew must take down the central pole of the hut and throw it in the middle of the compound
- The nephew would also take the bow and eating-bowl of the departed and throw it with the pole
- The fireplace in the hut would be extinguished
- A banana plant from the family plantation and a pot of water was also added to the pile
- The family rooster had to be caught and killed
- The main bull of the family's cattle had to be prevented from mating during the mourning by castration
- After four days of mourning, the bull would be killed and eaten, thus ending the period of mourning
- The house of the departed would not be used again
The burial would not be done in the middle of the day, as it was considered dangerous for the sun to shine directly into the grave. As the body was carried to the grave the women were required to moderate their weeping, and it was forbidden to weep at the grave. Also pregnant women were banned from participating in the funeral as it was believed the negative magical forces related to burial would be too strong for the unborn child to survive. After the burial the family would cut some of their hair off and put it onto the grave. After the burial, all participants washed themselves thoroughly, as it was believed that the negative magical forces could harm crops.
If the departed had a grudge or other unfinished business with another family, his mouth and anus would be stuffed with clay, to prevent the ghost from haunting.
A Bunyoro Year
A typical year in Bunyoro is divided into 12 months and it is quite clear what work are to be done these months:
- January (Igesa), there would be harvesting of millet
- February (Nyarakarwa) there was not much work
- March (Ijubyamiyonga) fields were prepared for planting sesame
- May (Rwenseizere) there was not much work
- July (Ishanya maro), women would prepare fields for millet
- August (Ikokoba) was the months of burning grass in the millet fields
- September (Isiga) was for planting millet
- October (Ijuba) was a month of weeding
- November (Rwensenene) was named after grasshoppers
- December (Nyamiganura or Katuruko) was a month of rejoicing and festivities as there was little work to occupy the people
- Stokes, Jamie (2009). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Africa and the Middle East, Volume 1. Infobase Publishing. pp. 506–509.
- Facts about the Kingdom, https://www.scribd.com/doc/35682709/2010-01-21-Bunyoro-Kitara-Kingdom-General-Information
- Mwambutsya, Ndebesa, "Pre-capitalist Social Formation: The Case of the Banyankole of Southwestern Uganda. Archived 2008-03-01 at the Wayback Machine." Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review 6, no. 2; 7, no. 1 (June 1990 and January 1991): 78-95
- Uzoigwe, GN (1973). "Succession and Civil War in Bunyoro - Kitara". The International Journal of African Historical Studies. 6 (1): 49–71. doi:10.2307/216973.
- Briggs, Philip (2007). Uganda, 5th: The Bradt Travel Guide. Bradt Travel Guides. pp. 11–14.
- Uganda Constitution of 1967 http://www.buganda.com/const67.htm
- Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Act 1993 http://www.ulii.org/ug/legis/consol_act/troaapa1993622/
- http://www.uconnect.org/bunyoro/index.html 1997 projections. No current number exists
- Numbers supplied by the Ugandan Ministry of Interior
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-15. Retrieved 2010-10-10.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Unyoro.|