The Empire of Bunyoro was founded by Batembuzi Dynasty which was succeeded by Bachwezi Dynasty.  The much known about Batembuzi is based on mythology and oral tradition. The Batembuzi   are known to have been the pioneers of development not only in Uganda but also in Africa and the Far East.

The Batembuzi were the first kings of Bunyoro over 2000 years ago. Their reign dates back to the Africa’s Broze age. They were believed to have been the first people on earth and were   super-humans because they did not die. They simply disappeared into the underworld. It is said the dynasty of the Batembuzi was founded by Ruhanga the creator who was succeeded by his son Nkya  and Nkya was succeeded by his  son Kakama and Kakama was succeeded by  his son Isaza who latter went to the underground kingdom of Nyamiyonga to look  for his lost cow Bihogo.  Isaza handed over to Bukuku who belonged to the Abaranzi Clan and is said to have been the last king of the Batembuzi dynasty.

It is also said that before Isaza descended into the underworld he impregnated Nyamate the daughter of Nyamiyonga king of the underworld.  Nyamate gave birth to Isimbwa who became the father of Ndahura the first of the Bachwezi people.

Isaza the last King of Batembuzi Dynasty

Isaza Waraga Rugambanabato ascended to the throne when was still very young and he faced many difficulties including the first cricket disasters during his reign.  The crickets are known to have destroyed forests and all plants. The King and his people could not defeat these crickets because were so many.  Scientists of the era sat down and tried to look for a solution and it was revealed by scientists that Lakes Rwitanzige’s water was poisonous and could kill millions of crickets. Rugambanabato ordered his men from northern Uganda to southern Rwanda to work hard to face these crickets. Their  work was to line up one by one from Northern Uganda to Southern Rwanda and dig a long dam in which they would plant a tree that crickets liked a lot. During that hard work old men were not able to work as King Rugambanabato wanted. He ordered that all old men be killed to give space to young ones who were able to face the challenge. The young monarch was therefore nicknamed “Rugambanabato” (he who talks only with young people). Trees that were most liked by crickets were planted and the crickets left Lake Nzige and started eating these trees from Lake Nzige to Lake Rwitanzinge.

How the old men were allowed back in the region

Rugambanabato enjoyed hunting. One day after killing a young gazelle, which had a nice skin, he expressed a wish to put on the skin of the young gazelle. His friends made the skin into the form of a cloth and gave it to him. The king was extremely delighted, but unfortunately, the skin dried on him and became too tight pressing against him to the point of squeezing him to death.

The King went to see aunt called Kogere and his sister Nyangoma to tell of his dilemma. The two had hidden an old man and the old man felt sorry when he was told the tragic story. The old man went with his grandson to save Rugambanabato.  When he arrived at the scene, he ordered Rugambanabato’s friends to take him to a river and let him sleep entirely in the water. When he emerged from the water, the animal skin has softened and with the aid of a knife the old man was able to cut the skin. He opened it and took Rugambanabato out of the skin.

King Rugambanabato was so delighted and ordered that if there is any other older man hidden somewhere, they should show up and come to live at his palace and made them his court advisors and ordered them not to depart from his presence.

From then, Rugambanabato preferred the old men to the young men and agreed to be advised by the elders because young people were not able to save him.  He respected the old people from that time onwards.

It is said the lineage of the Batembuzi kings was as follows; Ruhanga the creator, Nkya brother of Ruhanga, Kakama son of Nkya, Bada son of Kakama, Ngonzaki son of Bada, Isaza son of Ngonzaki.

During that time, there were the Heavens and the Underworld (the earth). Ruhanga ruled over the heavens and the Underworld was inhabited by outcasts who had been thrown out of heaven. One day, Ruhanga’s son Isaza, out of curiosity decided to explore the Underworld. He was fascinated with the different lifestyle the people of the Underworld lived and stayed over for a long time. He met a princess of the Underworld and fell in love with her. However, because of his long stay, he could not make his way back to the Heavens and got stuck in the Underworld. He married the princess and they went ahead to have children. His first son was called Isimbwa.

Isimbwa had the wandering spirit of his father and somehow managed to find his way back to the land of his ancestors. Here he found the former gate-keeper – a commoner and tyrant, Bukuku had taken over the throne and was ruling over the kingdom. Bukuku wasn’t a legitimate heir to the kingship and had been told by fortunetellers that one of his descendants would overthrow him and take over power. He had fathered only one daughter called Nyinamwiru who was the most beautiful girl in the kingdom and a princess. Due to his paranoia, he imprisoned Nyinamwiru and cut off her breasts and removed one of her eyes so she would not be desirable to any man.

One day while on his adventures, Isimbwa stumbled upon the dungeon Nyinamwiru was being hidden. He was mesmerized by her beauty and touched by her sorrow. He immediately fell in love with her and rescued her from the prison. They ran away and soon married and had a son whom they called Ndahura. When Bukuku found out what had happened, he was very furious and immediately ordered a wide search for the little boy- his grandson. Remembering the warnings from the past he sought to execute the little boy before he grew into the man who would eventually overthrow him.

Baby Ndahura was captured and Bukuku decided to end his life by throwing him in a river. Nyinamwiru begged and pleaded with her father to spare her only child. She vowed to migrate to the outskirts of the kingdom to the lands unknown and raise the boy away from her father’s kingdom. But Bukuku was adamant because the boy had royal blood flowing through his veins and was a legitimate claim to the kingdom he had grabbed. He went ahead and hurled him into the river and believed his troubles were over. He had killed his adversary. As luck may have it, the gods were watching over their grandson. The baby’s umbilical cord got stuck on a tree branch and was saved from drowning. One of the king’s porters saw what had happened and hurriedly rescued him, hiding him in a cave. However he could not feed the newly born baby. He was just a lowly porter. If he couldn’t find a solution, the boy would surely die.

The gods saw their grandson was in jeopardy. They magically made the walls of the cave grow tens of breasts, dripping with milk enough to feed all the babies in the kingdom. They came to be known as “Amabeere ga Nyinamwiru” translated as Nyinamwiru’s breasts. The baby was saved. He remained hidden for years feeding on the endless supply of milk in the cave. He grew big strong and as handsome as his father. Soon he was able to leave the caves and join other youths of his age.

Bukuku still ruled over the kingdom. His wealth was in the massive herd of long-horned cattle he owned, stolen from the previous king Isaza. He was so proud of his wealth and named every single cow depending on the coloration and markings it hard on its skin. The pride of his bounty was an all-brown cow, so perfect it had no mark breaking the earth-brown color on its skin. He named it Bihogo. His pride and joy; the darling of his herd.

Bukuku soon needed more and more young boys to help him look after his every growing herd and lead them to the pastures. Ndahura was hired as a herdsman and joined the other young men in the fields. One day, unfortunately a lion attacked the herd and killed darling Bihogo. Word spread fast through the kingdom. Bukuku was livid! His most precious and expensive cow had died. He ordered everyone to search for the boy who was responsible for the neglect that led to the death of his beloved cow. He was to receive the harshest punishment ever and later beheaded.

Ndahura heard about the search parties hunting for him. He decided to pre-empt the second attempt on his life. He evaded the body guards, slipped into the king’s quarters and waited for him. When Bukuku was relaxing on his favorite stool, Ndahura sprang forth and speared him in the back. Bukuku was shocked that anyone would penetrate he’s heavily guarded palace. He inquired in surprise who the young lad was. Ndahura proudly declared he was his grandson, true heir to the throne and went ahead and stabbed him to death, marking the end to the tyrannical king’s rule.

Ndahura declared himself king and ruler of the Bunyoro kingdom. The people welcomed him because of his unmistaken remembrance to his great grandfather Isaza. He was a great warrior and strong king who went ahead and expanded the kingdom to as far as all of southern Uganda, Western Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, parts of Northern Tanzania, and Eastern Congo. He was credited to introducing the Long-horned cattle in the region, iron smelting and coffee. Bunyoro kingdom grew in strength and was the most influential of all the interlacustrine kingdoms in that era.

Ndahura abdicated his throne and disappeared around the crater lakes area in Fort Portal leaving his son Wamala in charge. He left his capital at Mubende hill in charge of his favorite wife Nakayima. Wamala continued his father’s legacy expanding Bunyoro further. He ruled on for a few more years until an outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease affected the kingdom, weakening the economy- many people had to migrate to save their cattle. This made it easy for the Babiito, the next rulers of Bunyoro to take over. Wamala, like his demi-god ancestors, disappeared to a lake named after him in central Uganda. That was the end of the Batembuzi and Bachwezi dynasty and the beginning of Bunyoro-Kitara under the Babiito.


Bachwezi Empire of Kitara

It is believed that the Bachwezi are the founders of the ancient Empire of Kitara. The Kitara Empire covered areas of Uganda, the northern parts of Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, the eastern parts of the DRC, Zambia and Malawi. What we know as the Great Lakes region of Africa is also known as the Chwezi Empire or Bachwezi/Chwezi or Empire of the moon. Traditionally, it is said that the region was ruled by the Bachwezi who were the successors of the Batembuzi dynasty. Not much was written about the Bachwezi and their dynasty seems to have been short since only three kings have been documented in this history. The kings of the  Bachwezi were Ndahura, Mulindwa and Wamara.

Bachwezi clans, bachwezi spirits, bachwezi origin, the bachwezi history

According to history, it is said that the Chwezi dynasty reigned at a site in Uganda known as Bigo bya Mugyenyi around 1000AD to 15000ad. Bigo bya Mugyenyi cultural and archeological site is located in the western part of Uganda and is characterized with huge curved rocks around the place and thatched hut with sharp-pointed spears at the entrance. There are still many people who believe in this and visit the place to pray to the gods and speak to the Bachwezi spirits from around the stones and in the hut. Just like to other gods, you have to humble yourself when praying to the gods here. Bigo bya Mugyenyi archeological site consist of Bachwezi caves and the praying place for people who believe in these gods. The praying place has baskets where you can put your monetary offerings that are dedicated to the gods so that visitors remain safe when they are at the site and in the shrines.

The caves at the site are located on a hill where you’ll hike and be guided by the care takers that have been chosen by the gods. The caves are dark and the path through them leads you to the exit and a place inhabited by wild animals such as water bucks, duikers, bush bucks, snakes and other animals. You’ll be told about the mystical stream at this site known as Kabeho where traditional healers take their patients for cleansing.

Just above the stream are several thatched huts with the main one being the biggest and is said to be so many years old. Here is a site where the people come to pray and worship the gods. The hut is decorated with hides and skins, thick bamboo pipes, beads, different shapes of pottery pieces, spears and with mats.

It is believed that the Bachwezi were predominant cattle keepers and there is a large empty kraal behind the hut where they used to keep their cattle. Therefore some worshippers come to this place with milk which is filled in the calabashes in the hut as an offering to the gods. There is a pool of water at this site which has for long been maintained because it is respected as the lavatory facility of the former kings. It is believed that this is where the kings got their power to rule over their subjects. According to Prince Mkungu Frank Nzhuzuure alos says that he is the 37th heir of the Bachwezi dynasty following Wamala’s lineage, the descendants of Wamala possess similar supernatural powers up to date.

When you visit this site, you’ll also see an old thick wall that is said to have been a perimeter wall constructed to enclose the palace of the Chwezi kings. After disappearance of the Bachwezi kings, it is said that the kings of Buganda including Mwanga II occupied this palace on their visit to the site.

It is believed that the Bachwezi are the ones who introduced the long horned cattle of Ankole, iron smelting, coffee growing and the first semblance of organized and centralized government under a king. No one is sure about where the Bachwezi ended up but some believe that they were demi-gods and could have migrated and probably disappeared in Lake Albert while others claim that they disappeared into Lake Wamala which was named after one of the kings. One of the famous scholars wrote that the Bachwezi got assimilated into the indigenous people and could be the Bahima found in Ankole in Uganda and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi.

History of Bacwezi

The history of the Kitara complex covers geographically most of the present Bunyoro, Toro and neighbouring portions of Nkore, Mubende and Buganda. It is probably the oldest state system of the East African interlacustrine region, and its history is usually conceptualized in terms of three groups of invaders: the Batembuzi, the Bachwezi and the Bibiito.

The history of the Baranzi clan provides a link between the Batembuzi and the next dynasty in the Kitara complex – the Bachwezi. According to Kinyoro tradition, the founder of the clan, Bukuku, was a commoner and an official in the court of Isaza, the last of the ‘pioneer kings’. He is supposed to have taken over from Isaza and at the same time he is regarded as the  grandfather of Ndahura, the great ruler of the Bachwezi period. The clan itself had the grasshopper and the civet cat as its totems and it probably came from the Busongora area into the west. As is explained below, both totems are important in Buganda and Busoga history as names of pre-Kintu, and therefore pre-Bachwezi, groups that moved from west to east across the grasslands to the shores of Lake Victoria.

As we have said, Bukuku, an agriculturalist, provides a genetic relationship between the pioneers and the Bachwezi. Ndahura’s foster-father was, according to Bunyoro and Nkore traditions, a potter by trade, who came from a Bakopi clan. Hence Ndahura’s other name, Karubumbi (from mubumbi or potter).

The succession of Bukuku to Isaza’s throne was resisted by several chiefs, who objected to being ruled by a commoner. Bukuku crushed the rebellion, although dissatisfaction became widespread and provided an opportunity for Ndahura to seize the throne and found the Bachwezi dynasty. The traditions of Bunyoro and Nkore agreed that this dynasty consisted of two rulers – Ndahura and Wamara – and a regent, Murindwa, who acted as such when his brother Ndahura was away on war expeditions.

The prevailing theory is that the Bachwezi were local rulers who emerged as a result of the economic and demographic changes that were taking place in the interlacustrine region. It is clear that the empire of Kitara was created by Ndahura, a great warrior king, who extended the small chiefdom of Bugangaizi over a vast area which included Bunyoro, western Buganda, Toro, northern Kigezi, the Sese Islands, Nkore, Kiziba, Karagwe, part of north-eastern Rwanda and part of western Kenya. He lacked the military power, the bureaucracy and the means of quick communication to be able to establish a centralized state over this vast area. H e therefore relied more on agents who were appointed to represent the king in the various areas. This loosely organized empire seems to have had salt, cattle and iron as its economic mainstay.

King Ndahura, who often led his own army, was captured during an invasion of Ihangiro in Bukoba, when an eclipse of the sun caused panic among his troops. On his release, he preferred to migrate westwards rather than return as a disgraced king to his capital at Mwenge. Tradition is silent on his subsequent fate.

He was succeeded by his son Wamara, who on security grounds moved his capital from Mwenge to Bwera in Mubende. Wamara’s reign was even more turbulent than that of his father, largely because it witnessed the advent of several immigrant groups. Among those were the Jo-Oma (or Bahima), most of whom came from the Agoro mountain region; the Bantu-speaking clans from the east associated with the Kintu complex; an invasion from the south which probably represented an advance group of the Bashambo clan; and the Luo, who began to infiltrate into Kitara from north of the Nile.

King Wamara had attempted to enlist the support of the immigrants by appointing them to important political posts. For instance, Muramira of the Bashambo clan and Rugo and Kinyonyi of the Balisa clan were appointed Wamara’s representatives around Lake Masyoro in the areas which became Kitagwenda, Buzimba and Buhweju. Ruhinda, a Muhima, was placed in charge of the royal herds; Nono, a member of the Basita clan, became a deputy chief in Karagwe; Kagoro, a Luo, became the chief military commander; and Wamara formed a blood brotherhood with Kantu, who had emerged as the leader of the Bantu clans of eastern origin. All these overtures, however, were construed as appeasement by the immigrant communities, who soon developed into over-mighty subjects.

Then there occurred a great famine, followed by a cattle disease which spread all over the empire. Dissatisfaction became widespread. Kagoro, Wamara’s military commander, seized the opportunity to stage a coup against the Bachwezi, who were mercilessly massacred and their bodies thrown into water. The Bachwezi aristocracy, which in any case could not have been a large one, was thus annihilated or, as tradition put it, ‘disappeared’. The coup marked the end of the Bachwezi empire. It was replaced by two conglomerations of states: the Luo-Babito states of Bunyoro-Kitara, Kitagwenda and Kiziba; and the Bahinda (Bahima) states further south in Karagwe, Nkore, Kyamutwara, Ihangiro and possibly Gisaka.

The collapse of the Bachwezi empire led to a fierce struggle between the Luo and the Bahima (the Babito and the Bahinda) for the political control of the region; the history of the successor states for the next three centuries should be viewed in the context of this struggle for political hegemony.The Babito Dynasty GENEALOGY