History of Tooro

The Batembuzi Dynasty

The first kings were of the Batembuzi dynasty. Batembuzi means harbingers or pioneers. The batembuzi and their reign are not well documented, and are surrounded by a lot of myth and oral legend. There is very little concurrence among scholars regarding the Batembuzi time period in history, even the names and successive order of individual kings. It is believed that their reign dates back to the height of Africa’s Bronze Age. The number of individual batembuzi reigns, as given by different scholars, ranges from nine to twenty one.

The Bacweezi Dynasty

The Bacweezi are credited with the founding of the ancient empire of Kitara; which included areas of present day central, western, and southern Uganda; northern Tanzania, western Kenya, and eastern Congo. Very little is documented about them. Their entire reign was shrouded in mystery, so much so that they were accorded the status of demi gods and worshiped by various clans. Many traditional gods in Tooro, Bunyoro and Buganda have typical kicweezi (adjective) names like Ndahura, Mulindwa, Wamara, Kagoro, etc.

The bacweezi dynasty must have been very short, as supported by only three names of kings documented by historians. The bacweezi kings were Ndahura, Mulindwa and Wamara; in this order.

In addition to founding the empire of Kitara, the bacweezi are further credited with the introduction of the unique, long-horned cattle, coffee growing, iron smelting, and the first semblance of organized and centralized government, under the king.

No one knows what happened to the Bacweezi. About their disappearance, there is no shortage of colorful legend. One legend claims that they migrated westward and disappeared into Lake Mwitanzige (Albert). Another legend has them disappearing into lake Wamala, which bears the name of the last king of the dynasty. There is a popular belief among scholars that they simply got assimilated into the indigenous populace, and are, today, the tribal groups like the Bahima of Ankole and the Batutsi of Rwanda. The Bahima and Batutsi have the elegant, tall build and light complexion of the Bacweezi, and are traditionally herders of the long-horned Ankole cattle.

The Babiito Dynasty

The Bacweezi dynasty was followed by the babiito dynasty. Toro kingdom was, and still is, under the babiito dynasty. Any attempt to pinpoint the dates of this or any other dynasty before it is pure conjecture, as there were no written records at the time. Modern day historians place the beginning of the babiito dynasty at around the time of the invasion of Bunyoro by the Luo from the North. The first mubiito (singular) king was Isingoma Mpuuga Rukidi I, whose reign is placed around the 14th century. Todate, there have been a total of 33 babiito kings, including 7 princes who, for one reason or another, were not referred to as omukama (king).

The Kingdom of Tooro

The kingdom of Tooro, of the babiito dynasty, aptly claims its rightful origins in the ancient empire of Kitara. The first son of Omukama Kyebambe III of Bunyoro rebelled and annexed the southern part of his father’s kingdom, forming his own kingdom. He placed the northern border of his new kingdom at  River Muziizi. The kingdom of Tooro was born, under the reign of Rukirabasaija Omukama Kaboyo Kasunsunkwanzi Olimi I.

Following the death of Omukama Kaboyo Olimi I, there followed several other kings and princes on the Tooro throne. Some of them reigned for very short periods of time, during which they were still referred to as “Omubiito” (prince), not by the right title of “Rukirabasaija Omukama“. When we include such princes, the number of batooro kings comes to 8. The present Omukama is Rukirabasaija Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV. A brief write up on each Omukama follows. It should be noted here that the numerical denotation of kings of Tooro takes off from the list of Bunyoro kings, before Tooro broke away. This is why, for instance, while there have been a total of two kings with the name Olimi on the Tooro throne, Omukama Patrick Matthew Kaboyo Olimi was Olimi VII.

Omukama Kaboyo Olimi I

Prince Kaboyo was the first son of Omukama Kyebambe III of Kitara. He rebelled and annexed the southern part of his father’s kingdom which he declared an independent kingdom of Toro. He had visited Tooro several times, to collect taxes for his father and check on the royal herds. He was taken by Tooro’s beauty and the friendly way he was received by the batooro. He befriended a number of influential men in Tooro, who later played a key role in the success of his annexation scheme.

Kaboyo’s sisters, princesses Mpanja and Batebe, who then lived in Tooro, caught wind of their brother’s plan to rebel. They reported this to their father, Omukama Kyebambe, who went into denial and refused to believe that his beloved son would do such a thing. The rebel prince asked for and obtained his father’s permission to return to Tooro, under the pretext that the wife he had left in Tooro was expecting twins, and that he needed to return and be by her side. This is when he finalized his breaking away plan and never returned to Bunyoro. When his father died, the people of Bunyoro sent for Kaboyo to return and succeed his father’s throne. He refused saying he had his own people to look after in Tooro.

Omubiito (Prince) Kazaana Ruhaga

Prince Kazaana Ruhaga succeeded his father, Omukama Kaboyo Olimi I; but his reign was very short lived. He was overthrown by his brother, Omubiito Nyaika Kasunga, who became Omukama.

Omukama (King) Nyaika Kasunga

He claimed the Toro throne after overthrowing his brother, Omubiito Kazaana Ruhaga. His reign was ended when his brother, Omubiito Kato Rukidi, with the help of an army given to him by the Kabaka (King) of Buganda, managed to overthrow him. He fled to nearby Mboga, in Congo, while his brother Kato Rukidi took over the throne.

Omubiito (Prince) Kato Rukidi

He overthrew his brother, Omukama Nyaika Kasunga and claimed the throne for himself. When Nyaika Kasunga, then exiled in Mboga, heard that the mercenaries who had helped his brother, Kato Rukidi, to overthrow him had returned to Buganda, he returned and retook his throne; becoming Omukama for the second time.

Omukama (King) Nyaika Kasunga’s Second Reign

Having retaken the throne from his rebel brother, Omubiito Kato Rukidi, Omukama Nyaika Kasunga made the mistake of offending Omukama Cwa Kabalega of Bunyoro. Nyaika Kasunga sent his men to Mwenge with orders to capture for him some of Kabalega’s royal cows.

Omukama Kabalega was angered by this action, and he sent his men with orders to capture Nyaika Kasunga and bring him to his court in Bunyoro. The expedition to capture Nyaika included 40 ruthless, nubian marcenaries. Omukama Nyaika Kasunga was able to defeat the invading force. He died two years later, and was succeeded by his son, Omubiito Olimi Mukabirere.

Omubiito (Prince) Mukabirere Olimi II

He succeeded his father, Nyaika Kasunga. Shortly after his accession to the throne, Omukama Kabalega of Kitara sent an army to defeat Olimi II and bring an end to the secessionist kingdom of Tooro altogether.

Kabalega’s army arrived in Tooro in the middle of internal strife. A rebel prince, Mukarusa, had annexed the beautiful area of Busongora, in the southern end of Tooro kingdom, and declared himself king over it. Omukama Olimi II, already weak from trying to fight Omubiito Mukarusa, was easily captured, with several other members of the Tooro royal family, and forcibly taken away to Bunyoro.

Realizing Kabalega’s determination to totally put an end to Tooro kingdom, the leaders of the babiito clan, in Tooro, decided to send Olimi’s son and heir, Prince Kasagama and his younger brother to Ankole, saving them from the wrath of Kabalega.

Omubiito (Prince) Mukarusa

Omubiito Mukarusa, who had annexed part of his brother Mukabirere’s kingdom did not escape the mighty Kabalega, who was determined to finish off all rebel princes. His capture shortly followed that of his brother, and he, too, was taken to Bunyoro. He was, therefore, the last of the rebel princes. Kabalega had, finally, succeeded in regaining the breakaway kingdom of Tooro and bringing the land back to Kitara where it belonged. He proceeded to subdivide Tooro into the old administrative areas that existed during the days of his grandfather, Omukama Kyebambe III.

Omubiito (Prince) Nyamuyonjo Kakende

In chronicling efforts by various parties to rid Toro of Kabalega’s harrassment, we cannot forget the valiant effort of prince Nyamuyonjo Kakende, grandson of Omukama Kaboyo Olimi I. With the help of an army given to him by the Kabaka of Buganda, Omubiito Kakende was able to drive Kabalega’s army out of Tooro, and declare himself Omukama. Kabalega was not prepared to tolerate another rebel prince in Tooro. He sent an expedition against Prince Kakende. The prince was forced to flee to Buganda, where he later died of small pox.

The Final Defeat of Kabalega

Kabalega’s constant harassment of Tooro ended on August 14, 1891, when he was defeated by Captain Lugard, an agent of the then Imperial British East African Company. Lugard brought with him several nubian mercenaries to help him accomplish his task. The descendants of these nubians form Tooro’s nubian community, that is present to this day. Captain Lugard was, therefore, instrumental in returning Tooro kingdom to its rightful heir, Omubiito (Prince) Kasagama; who became Omukama Daudi Kyebambe Kasagama, M.B.E., Tooro’s first modern day Omukama.

Omukama Daudi Kyebambe Kasagama, M.B.E.

Omukama Kasagama is credited with making the final break from the clutches of Kabalega of Kitara, and with leading Tooro into the modern colonial era. He had regained his father’s kingdom with the help of Europeans, whom he welcomed as friends. He cooperated with the white colonial rulers and was open minded enough to even try some of their ways, like schooling and Christianity.

Omukama Kyebambe Kasagama was respected and honored by both local and colonial governments. Queen Victoria honored him with a special medal emblazoned with his name. This was in appreciation for Kasagama’s refusal to join forces with nubian soldiers who had started rising against the colonial government.

In the year 1900, Omukama Kyebambe Kasagama signed an agreement with Sir. H. Johnston, making Tooro part of the British Protectorate. It was in a true spirit of patriotism, therefore, that during the First World War, he sent a Batallion of young batooro soldiers to fight on the allies side. For this patriotic sacrifice, Omukama Daudi Kyebambe Kasagama was awarded the order of M.B.E. by  H.M. King George VI of England.

Omukama Kyebambe Kasagama is still remembered for embracing peace within his kingdom and with Tooro’s neighbors. He allowed all religious faiths to flourish, and he became a Christian in the year 1896. He encouraged his chiefs to send their children to school, to discover the white man’s secrets, and set an example by sending his own two sons, princes Hosea Nyabongo and George Rukidi to school. Prince Nyabongo went on to excell academically and become one of the world’s best educated individuals.

Omukama George Kamurasi Rukidi III

Prince George Kamurasi succeeded his father, Daudi Kyebambe Kasagama, as Omukama of Tooro on January 29, 1929. His people praised him as “Ruraihya n’emundu, emanzi ya Kyebambe” (He who sleeps among guns, the brave one of Kyebambe) because of his distinguished service in the King’s African Rifles (K.A.R.), during the Second World War; where he earned the rank of lieutenant. He was later knitted by Queen Elizabeth II, and became popularly known as Sir George by his many friends at home and abroad.

Omukama Rukidi III supported education and encouraged all batooro to send their children to school. During his reign, his government gave scholarships to all batooro attending higher secondary school. One of his own children, Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya, went on to become the third african woman to ever graduate from the prestigious Cambridge University. She earned a law degree and was admitted to the English bar.

Omukama Patrick Matthew Kaboyo Olimi VII

Omukama Rukidi III passed away in 1965 and was succeeded by his son, Prince Patrick Matthew Kaboyo Olimi VII.   Omukama Olimi VII had two very short reigns. His first reign was terminated in 1967, when then Prime Minister Apollo Milton Obote abrogated the constitution and made Uganda a republic with himself as president. When the N.R.M. government of President Yoweeri Museveni reinstated the institution of king in 1993, Patrick Kaboyo became Omukama of Tooro for the second time, but his second reign was very short. He suddenly passed away in 1995, and was succeeded by his three and a half years old son, Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV.

Omukama Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV

The accession of King Oyo to his father’s throne marked the beginning of a challenging and exciting period for the people of Tooro. At the infant age of three and a half years old, King Oyo of Tooro earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest reigning monarch.

The Royal House of Toro represents the senior line of the Babito Dynasty of Bunyoro-Kitara. The kingdom came into being in 1822 when Prince Kaboyo  rebelled against his father and seized the premier provinces of the kingdom. Although named as successor to his father, Omukama Kyebambe III, Kaboyo Olimi V preferred to leave Bunyoro to his younger brother. After a long reign, his death ushered caused a succession dispute between his many sons that lasted for nearly a decade.

Neighbouring kingdoms, particularly Buganda, intervened several times on behalf of various contenders for the throne. Bunyoro, was never happy with Toro’s separate existence, invaded in 1876. After a number of attempts at annexation and three wars against various princes, she triumphed in 1880. The Toro Royal family of Toro fled to neighbouring Ankole. Their choice of exile proved fateful, most of them were massacred on the orders of the Banyankore Queen Mother.

The sole survivor, Prince Kasagama, fled to Buganda. There he encountered Lord Lugard, then engaged in operations against the warlike and expansionist ruler of Bunyoro. Toro was wrested from him and Kasagama proclaimed as Omukama Kyebambe VI. He later converted to Christianity, performed valuable service against the Germans in the East African campaign, and reigned for thirty-seven peaceful years. Rukidi III succeeded his father in 1928. The first Western educated ruler, he had studied at King’s College at Budo and served as an officer in the King’s African Rifles, and in the Uganda Police. He too reigned for thirty-seven years, dying in 1966.

Patrick Olimi III, reigned for a little over a year before the abolition of the kingdoms. After a long period of exile in Kenya, he eventually returned home and represented his country as Ambassador to Cuba. He enjoyed his restoration for a little over two years, dying in 1995 and leaving his throne to his three year-old son, Rukidi IV. 

Styles & titles in the Kingship:
The Sovereign: Rukirabasaija (personal name) (reign name) (praise names), Omukama of Toro, with the style of His Highness.
The eldest full-sister of the Sovereign and first lady of the Kingdom: Batebe, i.e. Princess Royal.
The mother of the Sovereign: Namasole.
The sons, grandsons and other male descendants of Mukamas, in the male line: Omubiito, i.e. Prince.
The daughter, granddaughters and other female descendants of Mukamas, in the male line: Omubiitokati, i.e. Princess.

Note: the reign name numerology of the Omukama originally followed those of the Babiito dynasty of Bunyoro-Kitara. This was changed during the middle of the twentieth century to reflect its independence and distinction.

Rules of succession:
Male primogeniture.

Orders & Decorations:
The Order of the Lion, Crown and Shield: founded by Rukirabasaija Sir George Rukidi III in 1963. Awarded in three classes (1. Grand Cross, 2. Commander and 3. Member).

Select Glossary:
Abeganywa: keepers of the regalia.
Bacwezi: the semi-divine Kings, descendants of the Abatembuzi dynasty.
Batebe: Princess Royal, usually a full sister of the Mukama, who enjoys the status of first lady of the kingdom during her brother’s reign.
Batoro: the people of Toro.
Emapango: Royal rites.
Kaizira Okwera: the sacred throne used for coronations.
Kaitantahi: the Royal Spear.
Kasusu Nkwanzi: the Mukama’s crown.
Kyamunuma: the Palace of the Princes.
Mirembe: the King’s drum.
Mucwa ya Babitokati: the Palace of the Princesses.
Mukama: “the superior milkman”, the title of the rulers of Bunyoro-Kitara and Toro.
Mutoro: a person from Toro.
Namasole: mother of the Mukama.
: Prince.
Omubiitokati: Princess.
Omugo: title of the wife of the Mukama.
Omusana: Master of Ceremonies.
Omwigazi: Bearer of the Mukama’s Staff.
Rukirabasaija: ‘th greatest of men’ one of the principal titles of the Mukama.
Ruhanga: the Creater.
Rutoro: the language of the Toro.

Batebe – The King’s Queen Sister or Royal Sister

The Abakama (Kings) of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom ascend to their thrones with their sisters or cousins as co-rulers. This custom is practiced in all cultural succession events. The said Queen Sister was originally called the Rubuga, but is currently called the Batebe. They are chosen for their vast experience and knowledge of cultural norms. Her duties among others include instructing members of the royal family in palace etiquette. She also serves as a counselor to the King’s subjects on cultural norms including marriage.

In 1300 when Prince Kato KIMERA then Chief of Muhwahwa County (now Buganda Kingdom) rebelled against his twin brother Omukama Isingoma Rukidi Mpuga of Bunyoro, he adopted this Kinyoro custom and named one KABONESA as his co-ruler/queen sister. Initially and in line with the origin of the custom, the Baganda called her LUBUGA, now she is called Nalinya.

Similarly, in 1822 (19th Century) when Bunyoro Kingdom’s Omukama Nyamutukura Kyebambe III’s eldest son Prince Kaboyo Olimi I rebelled and established his independent kingdom, the Toro Kingdom. Kabayo took the custom with him and in Toro Kingdom today, this queen sister is also called BATEBE.

The Batebe Who Become “King”

In the late 1600s (17th Century) when Toro Kingdom, Kooki Chiefdom and Eastern DRC were still under Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, Omukama Chwa I Ente Nkole Rumoma mahanga led his army to Rwanda to subdue chieftaincies that had begun threatening to become independent. He unfortunately died of wounds in battle. His sister and then Batebe of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Omubiitokati (princess) Masamba Ga Winyi ruled the kingdom for a considerably long time until she was murded by Chwa 1’s son Prince Kyebambe 1 Omuziikya who became the 12th King of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom in the Babiito Dynasty. Queen Masamba Ga Winyi, the first female ruler in East and central Africa, is listed as the 11th Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom. Her reign was categorized with peace and she is to date a great inspiration to many Feminists.

The Current King of Bunyoro kitara Kingdom Omukama Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru 1 named his last born Omubiitokati (princess) Daisy MASAMBA Nkwanzi after this great lady. Similarly in the neighbouring Buganda kingdom, one of Kabaka Ronald Edward Frederick KIMERA Muwenda Mutebi II’s brother is called Prince Robert MASAMBA Kimera Ggolooba probably after this great queen.