How Bakiga migrated from Rwanda to Kabale

An illustration of group of Bakiga arriving in Kabale from Rwanda. ILLUSTRATIONS BY COSMAS ARINITWE

What you need to know:

  • Great trek. In the mid-1800s, it is said about 1,400 Bakiga arrived from Rwanda and settled in what is today Kabale District in south-western Uganda. The colonial government in 1946 resettled them in north Kigezi, Ankole and Tooro sub-regions due to overpopulation and later in 1973, former president Idi Amin attempted to relocate them to Karamoja. In a six-part series, we bring you the Bakiga’s great trek to Uganda, their war with the Batwa over supremacy, the challenges they faced in their new home and how one of them went back to rule Rwanda, writes Faustin Mugabe.

Kabale in Rukiga means a small stone. In the beginning, there was a small stone from which the name Kabale was derived.
Those who saw it, according to Kigezi-based historian Festo Karwemera, said the mysterious stone was small in size, round in shape and very heavy in weight.
Originally, the mysterious stone was situated at where the Kabale District headquarters are located today. According to Karwemera, young men while grazing, or out of curiosity, would attempt to either roll or lift the stone, but in vain. The place became a centre of attraction for many.
Whenever parents asked for the whereabouts of their boys, they always got a response, “bari aha kabale” (they are at the stone), Karwemera tells Sunday Monitor from his home in Kabale Municipality.
When Europeans arrived and could not pronounce the word aha kabale, they shortened it to kabale. Asked what happened to the mysterious stone, the aging Karwemera says it is believed that the colonialists stole it and took it to Europe.


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