The History of Kigezi and Banyarwanda in Uganda

Executive Summary:

The then Kigezi district [that included the then British Rwanda-now called Bufumbira County or Kisoro district, Ruzhumbura/Mpororo County and the Chiga counties of Ndorwa and Rukiga] were incorporated into Uganda in 1914, not in 1926 as some discussants on forum are saying. So did the Ankole-Rwanda border areas inhabited by people of ‘Rwanda’ stock.

When we talk of former ‘British Rwanda’, other than German Rwanda [today’s Rwanda proper and a small part of Tanzania’s Kagera region ruled by the Bahinda princes then] we mean big chunks of Kabale’s Ndorwa county at the time ruled by one Katuregye, made ‘Gombolola Chief of Bufundi sub-county at the “Kigezi Conference” of 1914 whereby the boundaries of Kigezi District were outlined. {the venue od the conference, Kigezi place is 5 km East of Kisoro town. It gave the name to the district that only changed in 1980 during {perennial} Local Gov’t Ministers Bidandi Ssali’s de-tribalisation of district names]. The bigger chunk of British Rwanda was constitued though, by current Kisoro district. At the Kigezi conference of 1914 to demacarte the new Uganda’s South Western borders, a few noteworthy things happenned:

In distributing the new-order administrative roles, District Commissioner sent from Entebbe, D.C. Sullivan, chairing, appointed then Govorner of Bufumbira, Prince Nyindo the first ‘Saza chief’. Nyindo had hither to been in charge of Bufumbira the ‘marcher ‘[front-line] province on behalf of his Uncle, King Musinga of Rwanda then.

Reasearch at Makerere, especially if you look up the pages of the “Uganda Journal” on the subject, indicates that Nyindo and his subordinate, Chief Katurege [Gomboloa chief in charge of Bufundi sub-county, Minister Suruma’s home area] left the Kigezi conference dissatisfied after his protests were ignored, and declared war on the British soon after that, for ‘robbing’ part of their [Rwanda] Kingdom. They were unaware of the decisions of the Berlin conference exactly 30 years back [in 1884] that had put this fertile and picturesque panorama under the British [who wanted it as a simla for their Governors from Entebbe]. He was routed, fred to the Beligian sector (in current Congo) but then returned and handed himself over. He was exiled to Gulu and pardoned in 1920 after the insurgency had ended. He died at Rwentobo in Ntungamo with his entourage, including his A.D.C. one Rikikana Blasio continuing home to tell the tell. [He was interviewed in 1988 by Makerere researchers to re-confim the details of story before he died in 1989].

Another ‘funny’ decision of the Kigezi conference was the appointment of one Rwagara, head of the Basigyi clan, to be in charge of ALL the Bachiga in the new district, as Saza chief. He (curiously) rejected this new post, claiming, “..I do not want to rule the Bahiimba “[a rival clan, second in size the dominant Basigyi]. [Prof. Kanyeihamba is a Muhiimba by clan]. The Basigyi have ruled that decision up to today and the Bahiimba take any opportunity to tease them on this.

Some of the mis-marches in the current Kabale District administration may have their roots in this Basigyi-Bahimba inter-clan rivalry, {in addition to religious frictions endemic in the Kigezi area of course}.

Since the British were short of manpower, they appointed agents from Buganda to ‘teach’ the native chiefs administrative skills. Hence, the Munnansi-Mutongole-Muluka-Gombolola-Saza administrative hierachy was institued, with success one may say, since the Nyindo rebellion and the subsequent Ntoki-ibiri and Muhumuza rebellions were over come at the same time as WW-II was raging in the area [the Germans fought the British and the Belgians in a 2-front war in current Kisoro district. The prize: Muhabura [or so called ‘Mufumbiro’ mountains]. The British/Belgians won and Germany lost Rwanda and Burundi, both of which the League of Nations handed over to the Belgians. Tanganyika went to the British.

Ntok’ibiri [2 -ingured man] was an artful fighter who conducted guerrilla warfare in the British [Uganda side], German [Rwanda-Burundi-Tanzania] and Belgian [Congo] sectors. He was captured at the home of one Bikaaku, a British agent/spy (whose descendants live in Nyakishenyi sub-county to day) who lured him for a meal, by forces royal to the British, under the command of one Ssebalijja, administrative agent at Kabale District hearquarters. His left hand , with the trademark two fingures, was cut off, hung at the D.C’s office to dry and to scare the natives and later sent to Entebbe as proof that he was no more. Ntok’ibiri had a booty put on his head by the 3 colonial powers: Germany, Belgium and the British. Since he was distabelising their 3 territories at ago. he was so elusive though that he earned the nom-de- guerre, “Bicu-birenga” i.e. “wondering clounds” – because of his elusiveness. [here, I am quoting Hon. Mzee Nathan Bisamunyu, OB of Obote at Mwiri in 1948, first MP for Ruchiga Country from 1962, former and last MD, East African Habours Coorporation at Tanga and last MD of Uganda Posts & Telecomms under Idi Amin, Kigezi pioneer professional historian]. His contribution to the book, “A history of Kigezi” in MUK library is one of the sources used here.

Muhumuza [in Ruchiga. In Runyarwanda: Nyira-gahumuza] was the Queen-mother in-the-making whose son Buregyeya lost out in the succession war that broke out at the King’s court at Nyanza in 1896. It is said the Germans were involved to the disadvantage of his son. He fred with his supporters to Rukiga [meaning: the mountaineous part of the Rwanda Kingdom, now in Kabale District]. Interestingly, when she started war against the Kings of Rwanda, little did she know that the territory she was contesting was now painted ‘red’ on world maps – part of the British Empire on which the sun would never set [where from are these ghosts [white people] I hear of” ? – she is reported to have asked the seers, confused].

Many prominent Bachiga, like Paulo Ngorogoza [late Secretary General {today, RC-V Chairman} of Kigezi and first Papal Knight in the region] joined the Muhumuza forces, hoping for rewards on form of the cows that would ’emerge from the earth’ on defeating the Rwanda forces and restoring the Buregyeya [alias Ndungutse]to the Rwanda throne. Whom do they face instead: they found themselves engaging a formation of local British ensigns, including some Nubians, commanded by one Captain Reid [who had engaged Kabalega too, earlier on] and other agents re-inforcing from Kampala. Amid the confusion, Queen Muhumuza, daaghter of Nkanza and now called in official correspondance “the Queen of the Bachiga by the British (The Bachiga consider themselves natural Republicans] lost the battle at Eihanga hill [6 miles from Kabale, on Kisoro road]. The prince, who was carried on a small throne, placed on a stretcher, was never heard of in life after this battle. The British denied ever killing him and his followers believed [many now in Isingirocounty, Mbarara District] he is in a mistearious place, waiting to command them again [all of them are no more though].

Queen Muhumuza was exiled to Makindye in Kampala [she was allocated a 4-acre estate infront/opposite of the current Katwe Police station, at Kibuye, courtesy of Kabaka Daudi Chwa]. She became a heroine of the anti-colonial struggle and people from Kigezi still say that she lives in local folkrole and school songs. A road in kabale town is named after her. [Note: some people went to Mmengo recently taking gifts (okulanya) claiming the inheritance of this estate – Bukedee newspaper]. This lady and her many, long-horned cows, roaming makindye hill, was a spectacle from the 20’s to the 40’s when she died. The Baganda, amazed at the size of her breasts, nicknamed her “Nnabere”.

  What is 1926 then?

This is the year in which Uganda’s final borders were gazatted in the colonial office. WW-I had ended and many ex-soldiers were to be settled. therefore, part of Western Kenya, where even the Achdeacon of Maseno was appointed by Namirembe, were ceeded to “Kenya colony” – to later become parts of the ‘white highlands’ since, by the 1900 Buganda Agreement, Whites and Asians couls not own land in Buganda. The West-Nile northern border was finaly demarkated as part of Uganda deep beyond the original location. As a consequence, part of northern Acholi was ceeded to Sudan [the Agoro hills were hard to patrol, mbu-(one hears)]. It is at that time too, that the tribes existing in the borders were listed.

    Why did it take this long?

By fact of the Buganda Agreement, Uganda was a Protectorate, not a colony. The Uganda affairs were therefore handled by the British Foreign office, not by the Colonial office. The transfer of the Uganda file from the former to the later office in 1907 was , for decades to come, to be a source of contention between Mmengo and Whitehall, culminating the exile of H.M Sir Edward Mutesa-II in 1953 [other causes of the exile were the East African federation, which Buganda feared would make buganda un-recognisable  in the ‘forest’ of east African tribes which had been colonised yet, Buganda had not been colonised and felt she should enjoy ‘equal diplomatic’ relations].

Another fact that caused the ‘action’ of 1926 was that the new country was now fully surveyed by the ordinance office in London. The british now realised that they were not dealing with the Buganda of 1900 but a larger entity. To clarify matters, they therefore listed the ‘nationalities’ of the “new” Uganda.


Since the subject is the banyarwanda question, it may now be clear as to how ‘Banyarwanda-inhabited’ peoples came to be part of Uganda. It was not by the administrative action of 1926 but by the fact of the colonisation process whereby boundaries were drawn guided by the physical features of areas [the British wanted Kisoro/MUHABURA MOUNTAIN RANGES AT ANY COST. THE GERMANS WANTED IT. THE BELGIANS WANTED IT. SOLUTION: CUT THE RANGES INTO 3  and that is what happened. Here, the opinion of people who inihabited the place wanted was not sought, like in all colonial-partition cases.

Another factor: I agree with those who distinguish and do not confuse the Banyarwanda refugees who came in after the 1959 Rwanda revolution.

It is not right too, to assume that the Banyarwanda-Barundi emmigrant labourers (like the lugbara were also coming in from West Nile and North-Eastern Congo but they were not sufficient in numbers to meet the required human resouce capacities] who came to work on the coffee shambas in Buganda and on the Indian sugar and tea plantations [by arrangement of the Belgian and British governements] were part of the 1926 enumeration, even though they started arriving after WW-I. At this time, they were willing to return after the compulsory 6-month tours of duty (their earnings were withheld till end of contracts-akasaanvu [see Prof. Mamdan on the history of this emmigrant labour]. That, like Ukrainians, Hungarians, the Irish people who go to America and become assimilated after one generation, these emmigrant laborers eventually stayed sa result of many factors but one of them may be, being that the employers may have found it economically not cost-effective to loose ‘skilled’ labour every six months/so frequently and may be enforcement of ‘end of contracts’ [akasaanvu’] became un-necessary on the part of the employers as well as the colonial administration that needed the forkforce. Social factors, adaptability and the Cruel Belgian rule in the newly “mandated territories” of rwanda Rwanda and Burindi may have been contributing factors too. This became self-evedent again when the same British recruited some of them to fight the Germans in WW-II, along with many Ugandans. They then became subjects of the British crown and the rest is history.

Christopher Muwanga,






6 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. i am ali mfitundinda,who were the rulers of bufumbira since 1914,

    who were the rulers of bufumbira since 1914 todate?


    Its very important that we have got some clue! who was NYAKIRIMA KAMUZOORA &what was her fate compared to MUHUMUZA?


    so glad about the information! what was the Cause of the war between the BAKONGWE and the BAHESI

  4. When the colonialists were darmacating borders in Africa,they had many considerations most of which favored their purpose and aims.But what I would like to remind you is that most post independence African leaders are worse than the colonialists.

  5. My question is to known if a citizen can give his right to another citizen from abroad or to make exchange each other by benefit,property or directory of their origin native area as selling each other .
    If some one had more than one nationality; from
    The mom
    The father
    Radical ancestor
    Area of birth
    Union or cooperation in his/her generation
    Eligibility and heritage
    Parent business exchange
    Education and religion forum
    Service and political fellow

    I would like to ask if some one can give this to the international community ,International court as well as IOM.

    This was the main issues occur in marriage, job , opportunity and right to the arm in such country and economy release when documents got another form in government change or the time people change and replace art from known and reasonable event.

    Elie Ndayizeye
    1919Runnels #83 Houston,Texas,USA.
    713 987 4139

  6. Kiggwe Samuel,

    History makes us to remember what was there and what is to come

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