Key events in the history of Kigyezi from 1500 t 1930

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Key events in the history of Kigyezi from 1500 t 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, with 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

Hopkins,E.E.The politics of conquest; the pacification of Kigezi District, Uganda. PhD Thesis, Dissertation, 1968. (© 1969)

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


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 great historian and chronicler of the region's traditions; the written account by Paulo Ngorogoza in Kigezi N'Abantu Bamwo; and oral accounts by my father Ezra Kisigo Mulera, Omugurusi Daneiri Sigirenda of Kasooni, Rukiga,  Omugurusi Mugyerasaano of Mparo, Rukiga, Omugurusi Eli Nasani Bisamunyu of Kasooni Rukiga, Joseph Rukeijakare rwa Kakitaahi of Kahondo and Omugurusi Erika Bayenda ba Kyarukara of Kahondo.



Firm establishment of Rwanda under Ruganzu Bwimba



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.



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.



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. 1816

Death of Kahaya, fragmentation of Mpororo into regions, each ruled by Abashambo lineage.


Miremba, the ancestor of Abakonjo ba Kahondo arrives in Kahondo, bringing with him the first banana plant in the future Kigyezi. His name changes to Byamarembo.



Bigyeyo bya Mureire rules over parts of central Kigyezi.



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 will come 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 stay. They are members of the following clans: Abagyeyo, Abagunga, Abazoobiki, Abarihe, Abahitira and Abanzira.



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).



Rinderpest (an epizootic disease) decimates the cattle population.



Epidemic of yaws.



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.



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.



Second epidemic of yaws.



Count Gustav 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.



The great famines of Rwaranda, Mushorongo and Rwanyakizooba.




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.



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.



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.



District Commissioner C.E.E Sullivan transfers district headquarters to Ikumba.

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



District Headquarters established at Kabaare (Kabale) by District Commissioner C.E.E. Sullivan.




March 1915

Uprising against British rule in Nyakasiru and Kahondo ka Byamarembo. Anglican Church building at Kagunga, Kahondo burned down.


Resistance against British rule by Abahororo in Kyogo, Kamuheesi (Kamwezi)



War encourages Nyindo to rebel and join Umwami of Rwanda; Muginga and Makobore suspected by British of neutrality; Katuregye killed while in revolt; Ntokibiri at large until 1919.



Kigyezi High School opens its doors to its first eleven students – all of them boys. Another ten joined them during that year.

The 21 pioneer students in the founding class of 1922 were:  E. Bavawala, E. Bisetsa, Nathan Bwankosya, Y. Bwoma, F. Kabeba, Y. Kabogo, Z. Kakirakuyomba, Katororo, W. Kirenga, D. Lukunya, M. Lutukula, W. Munyangyeri, E. Mutaga, A. Ndagijimana, Y. Nyirundukwe, K. Rutahigwa, E. Ruyombya, Semu Rwakiseeta, Z. Rwenduru, and Y. Zirarunshya.  



Abanyakigyezi people gradually replace Baganda and pre-colonial rulers as administrators. Kigyezi District administration firmly established. Beginning of complete incorporation of Kigyezi into Uganda.


© Muniini K. Mulera


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