Two-century expansion of Ankole comes to a close

Monday July 17 2017

At the time the British arrived, Kaaro Karungi,

At the time the British arrived, Kaaro Karungi, as Ankole was known then, had evolved beyond Isingiro, Rwampara, Nyabushozi and Kashaari counties. FILE ILLUSTRATION  

By Henry Lubega

At the time the British arrived, Kaaro Karungi (as Ankole was known then), had evolved beyond Isingiro, Rwampara, Nyabushozi and Kashaari counties.

In the 17th Century, the chiefdom of Mpororo started disintegrating and became part of Nkore, later Ankole kingdom. Only two chiefs are talked of in the oral tradition of Mpororo, these are Kamurari and his son Kahaya Rutindangyezi. During Kahaya’s time, Mpororo extended its borders to include present-day Igara, Sheema and Rwampara.

Writing in the Uganda Journal of 1957, F. H. Morris says it was during Kahaya’s reign that a close relationship was established between the chiefdom of Mpororo and Nkore.

“The relations were first developed through marriage between Omugabe Ntare and Kamurari’s daughters and then the marriage between the Omugabe Mucwa and his first cousin Nkazi, Kahaya’s daughter,” Morris writes.
Nkazi’s sons took over after their grandfather denied his sons the right to succeed his throne. The sons accepted their father’s decision and encouraged the lordship of the Omugabe.

Morris goes on to say Igara was the only portion of Mpororo which retained some semblance of autonomy because they had their own drum. Mpororo under the Benemafundo managed to retain their independence from Nkore until the 19th Century.

“The Banyankore after interference in a disputed succession managed to establish their suzerainty over the Bakama of Igara,” explains Morris.


Sheema was given to the Omugabe as a wedding gift by either Kamurari or his son Kahaya Rutindangyezi, while Rwampara, which was under the control of one of Kahaya’s sons, came under the Omugabe’s jurisdiction.

Only seven chiefs are recorded in the history of Buzimba: Rugo, Kantu, Mukindo, Nyaruyonga, Mugarura, Nyakairu and Nduru.

Writing in the Balisa Bakama of Buzimba in the Uganda Journal of 1938, Morris says: “First subordinated to Bunyoro, Buzimba came under suzerainty of Nkore during the reign of Omugabe Rwebishengye. Buzimba had earlier on been attacked by Mukwenda and plundered Nyakairu’s cattle. Nyakairu with his family fled to Bunyoro where he died from.

During Kabalega’s wars Nduru, Nyakairu’s son, decided to return. He arrived at Ntare’s kraal at Muti within the present township of Mbarara and submitted to Omugabe. He was restored by Ntare to his kingdom which he continued to rule as a vassal until the coming of the British.”

Bunyaruguru was originally ruled by people called the Banyampaka, who according to Morris’s 1957 article, were of the Bahororo clan who had migrated from Rujumbura.
“Although these Banyampaka chiefs can hardly be dignified with the title of Bakama, they possessed a drum, Mugonzi. The names of the remembered six rulers are Nkomyo, Ihungo, Goro, Rutairuka, Kasheshe and Kuri-ofire.”

When in 1890 Kabalega overran Busongora, their ruler Kaihura fled to Kazinga where he found Araari, one of Kuri-ofire’s chiefs who offered him sanctuary. While in Kazinga, Kaihura offered to help his cousin the ruler of Nkore to conquer and hold the whole of Kuri-ofire’s territory as Ntare’s chief.

“To this Ntare agreed and with the help of the Banyankole, Kaihura made himself chief of the land below the Bunyaruguru escarpment,” Morris says.

Ankole’s turn
A year after signing the Buganda and the Tooro agreements, it was Ankole’s turn to be officially brought under the British colonial administration.

But even then, there was more expansion of the kingdom even after the signing of the agreement as there were some territories that had resisted the leadership of the Omugabe.

But a year before the signing of the agreement, there was intense expansion activities on the side of Ankole, courtesy of Macalister and Racy, two British collectors who had been posted in Mbarara.

Makobore, the head of the Benekirenzi in Rujumbura, and Rugarama, the head of the Benekihondwa in Kajara, refused to be under the Omugabe.

In the beginning of 1901, there were efforts to bring Musinga, the Omukama of Igara, to Mbarara to acknowledge Kahaya as his ruler.

According to the colonial archives, “Musinga agreed to make the journey but custom decreed that Bakama should never meet one another. On reaching Kandekye, which was the boundary of his kingdom, Musinga produced a hidden knife and disembowelled himself.”

Morris says the reason behind Musinga’s suicide was mainly his fear of suffering the same fate as his predecessor. Furthermore, Musinga feared that he would suffer the same fate as his enemy Igumira who having failed to reconcile himself to the new regime had been exiled from Ankole the previous year.

Counties of Nkore
In his April 1901 report to Entebbe, the second collector for Mbarara, R. R. Racey, stated that Nkore proper consisted of nine sazas (counties). These were Isingiro, Nyabushozi, Mitooma, Nshara, Buzimba, Sheema, Rwampara, Igara and Bunyaruguru.

The report further went on to say: “Four others had not yet been brought under the control of the native government – Rujumbura, Kajara, Buhweju and Bukanga.”
He, however, was optimistic that it was a matter of time before they are brought under native government control.
“Rujumbura requires special attention. Kajara and Buhweju may come to terms in time and recognise Kahaya as principle chief. Bukanga is independent of Bahima local or native government by sanction of H. M. Commissioner,” Racey wrote.

Bukanga was not under the native government because the area had been put under a Muganda chief, Abdul Effendi, making the area independent of Ankole for seven years. Effendi was one of the many Baganda Muslims who had fled to the area during the religious war in Buganda when Christians drove Muslims out of the throne.

Effendi was in charge of Bukanga and the area was regarded as part of Buganda and paid homage to Mengo. It was feared that Nkore had lost the area to Buganda as it lost Kabula.

Buhweju was the next troublesome area that Racey had to bring under the native government. Ndagara, the chief of Buhweju, was suspicious of Europeans and refused to cooperate with them to the extent that he swore never to allow a White man into his territory.

The collector was in a tricky position since he was not going to use force to bring Buhweju under control. This was because the commissioner had warned against any further use of military force in the areas they were supposed to administer.

But Racey was not going to wait and watch another suicide like that of Musinga. In order to save face, on the instigation of Lt G. C .R. Mudy, the head of the armed forces in the district, and Nuwa Mbaguta, who wanted to see his old enemy dislodged, armed forces entered Buhweju in April 1900 and then withdrew, before making another incursion.

On the second attack in June, Racey entered Buhweju with the intention of bringing Ndagara to Mbarara.
In his July report to the commissioner general in Entebbe, Racey said: “On the first instant a message from Wandagara (Ndagara), the chief of Buwenzu (Buhweju), was delivered to me stating that if I again entered his country he would spear me.”

“On the morning of [April] 12, accompanied with instructor Wood and 60 constables, Wandagara (Ndagara) did not give himself up. During an attempt to dislodge him, he was shot with his son Chiga and a number of supporters who offered resistance.”

Ndibarema, the only surviving son, was made chief of Buhweju and acknowledged Kahaya as the principle chief.
Soon after the subjugation of Buhweju, an agreement recognising Omugabe as the rule of Ankole was signed in August 1901.

The only territory that was out of Ankole at the signing that later became part of the kingdom was Bukanga and Kajara.

In 1907, Abdu Effendi accepted to become a chief under the Omugabe and have Bukanga returned to Ankole. For Kajara, it was declared a saza of Ankole without the consent of the chief.

Writing in the Historical Notes in Ankole, William F. Lukyn says: “Rugarama was in any case an ineffectual chief and it became necessary first to place a saza chief over him and then to administer the saza without him through a Muganda.”

In 1914, the two-century expansion of the Ankole came to its final conclusion when the southern part of the Benekihondwa and parts of Bagina land was incorporated into Kajara, making what became Ankole Kingdom.