BUNYORO - KITARA KINGDOM - History
The Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara is the remainder of a once powerful empire of Kitara. At the hight of its glory, the empire included present day Masindi, Hoima, Kibaale, Kabarole and Kasese districts; also parts of present day Western Kenya, Northern Tanzania and Eastern Congo. That Bunyoro-Kitara is only a skeleton of what it used to be is an absolute truth to which History can testify.
One may ask how a mighty empire, like Kitara, became whittled away to the present underpopulated and underdeveloped kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara. This is the result of many years of orchestrated, intentional and malicious marginalization, dating back to the early colonial days. The people of Bunyoro, under the reign of the mighty king Cwa II Kabalega, resisted colonial domination. Kabalega, and his well trained army of "Abarusuura" (soldiers), put his own life on the line by mounting a fierce, bloody resistance against the powers of colonialization. On April 9th, 1899, Kabalega was captured by the invading colonial forces and was sent into exile on the Seychelles Islands.
With the capture of Kabalega, the Banyoro were left in a weakened military, social and economic state, from which they have never fully recovered. Colonial persecution of the Banyoro did not stop at Kabalega's ignominious capture and exile. Acts of systematic genocide continued to be carried out against the Banyoro, by the colonialists and other foreign invaders.
Colonial efforts to reduce Bunyoro to a non entity were numerous, and continued over a long period of time. They included invasions where masses were massacred; depopulating large tracts of fertile land and setting them aside as game reserves; enforcing the growing of crops like tobacco and cotton at the expense of food crops; sanctioning looting and pilaging of villages by invading forces, importation killer diseases like syphilis that grew to epidemic proportions; and the list goes on.
Details of the horrific, genocidal acts against the Banyoro are well documented in "Breaking Chains of Poverty", published by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Advocacy Publications; authored by the Hon. Yolamu Ndoleriire Nsamba, Principal Private Secretary to H.M Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I, Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara. This book is a "must read" for anyone interested in the History and welfare of Bunyoro-Kitara. It enumerates Historical events, plus practices, past and present, that made Bunyoro-Kitara "a kingdom bonded in chains of poverty".
What Happened at the Population of Bunyoro–Kitara?
Excerpt of “Breaking Chains of Poverty” by Mr. Yolamu Ndoleriire Nsamba Dip. Ed. B.A., M.A. (M.U.K), M.Ed. (Hull), Principal Private Secretary of the Omukama
The British invaded Bunyoro–Kitara to control resources of the Kingdom. We shall see evidence is in the records of the agents of Britain who massacred large numbers of Banyoro. Lugard had estimated in 1893 Banyoro to number over 2.5 million people. He wrote, “Unyoro is probably more populous than (B) Uganda and Ankoli about equal to it. (Lugard, op. Cit.) Dunbar estimates the population was reduced to 400,000. Human rights violations left the remnants numbering only 100,000. (Dunbar, Ibid. p 68) in 1899 Reverend A. Fisher, said disease was killing many Banyoro because they worshiped the devil. (Byaruhanga Akiiki, Religion in Bunyoro, 1980. p 97).
Before Colville invaded Bunyoro-Kitara, there was a lot of trade, agriculture and livestock rearing. Seven years of military occupation stopped production. Famine, diseases and epidemics followed. In four years of British rule Gregory estimates that the population was reduced to a fourth,” (Dunbar, I bid p.88). Soldiers, historians and Kinyoro oral sources record looting of the Kingdom. The invaders ignored the sustained upsurge of popular resistance in the Kingdom. The population fought colonial military occupation for more than 30 years their determination could not be broken. (Morehead, Ibid, p. 151) It all started on 29th April 1872 when Baker built headquarters at Masindi preparing to prepare to annex Kitara to Egypt. The Banyoro were angry at Baker’s pride and rudeness imposing himself on the Kingdom ignoring their king and his chiefs. On 14 May 1872, he announced the annexation. He started buying ivory cheating the Banyoro Kabalega ordered his subjects to sell ivory only to the King. This monopoly over the ivory trade to protect his subject annoyed Baker. To provoke the King Baker demanded food from the Chiefs for soldiers daily. He ordered them to mistreat the Banyoro. On 7 June he sent Abdul Kader and Mounsuru to the King to demand food (Nykatura, John Anatomy of an African Kingdom: Translated by Uzoigwe p.120-121).
Killing Non Combatants in Cold Blood
Both Nyakatur’s and Allan Morehead say that Baker wanted to start trouble in Bunyoro and create an excuse to dominate Kabalega by force. (Morehead, Allan, The White Nile Hamish Hamilton, London, 1960, p 150). The wars to silence Bunyoro Kitara had no credit as military actions wrote Major Thruston.
There were not worth the name of a war he said. He summarized it in a French saying Chasse aux Negre. It was banditry to rob the country its cattle, ivory and well watered agricultural lands Lugard looked with greedy eyes at the elephants “most plentiful in Bunyoro, which is a well-watered country with large forest interspersed with large open tracts of elephant grass, affording good cover an inexhaustible food and water supply”. “The largest tusks are to be found in Bonior also, which country they seem by instinct to have chosen as the safest retreat in which they can find secure hiding places, where their enemy man would find it both difficult and dangerous to hunt them. (Wallis, H.R., C.M.G, Chief Secretary to the Government, The Hand book of Uganda Crown Agent for the Colonies, London, 1913, P.105). Since the country had its owners it was impossible to steal the ivory. The British plotted genocide to grab the wealth. Kabalega tried in vain to make friends with them. In March, 1891, his envoys called on Lugard to request for peace terms, which was refused. In March, 1892, Kabalega sent a second delegation that was also rejected. (Dunbar. Ibid. p.82) Lugard and Coolville had a fixation to kill the Banyoro. Macdonald, acting as British Commissioner of Uganda agreed with Owen to launch a full-scale military campaign against Kabalega. They had feelings of guilt. Sudanese troops ordered to raid southern Bunyoro for food turned it into lonely wild country. They reasoned: “Since Lugard refused Kabalega’s offer of friendship, he must be an irreversible enemy, embittered by the destruction of his country,” Major Thruston attacked Kabalega to fulfil Colville’s wish either to force Kabalega to fight, or to give him an opportunity to attack the British.” (Thruston Ibid. p.138).
“The Uganda Protectorate revenue in this and the previous year was chiefly obtained from the sale of ivory captured in expeditions in Bunyoro-Kitara” between 1893 and 1898. The IBEAC looted ivory worth 337,253 pound sterling. (Wallis Ibid. p.171) From 1904 to 1913 ivory from Bunyoro- Kitara brought to the Protectorate an income of 224,196 pound sterling. (Wallis, Ibid. p .166) Going by hearsay that “Kabala hid his ivory at Umruli (Mruli) near the place the Kafu joins the Victoria Niles, Gibb was dispatched” from Kampala with soldiers to find it. They searched for the ivory said to be hidden on island but there was no island and no ivory. They returned empty handed. (Thruston, I bin .p. 194-194).
The invaders used “scorch earth” tactics. People were killed all along military routes. Homesteads, crops and livestock were looted or destroyed. Colonel Ternan allowed carnage to be committed. He ordered soldiers to kill non-combatants. He got pleasure from killing the Banyoro. He wrote that after Foster escorted Kabalega’s mother taken captive. A porter, “killed by a Wanyoro, with a spear two miles from Masindi was avenged “As a village bearing a very unfriendly reputation was close to the scene of the murder, it was subsequently visited by a patrol under Foster and destroyed”. He concludes: “… the Wanyoro richly deserve all they get”. (Thruston Ibid. p)
Major Thruston confessed that he had, “to take to shooting the Wanyoro, and it was not long before the sport began”. (Thruston, Brevel Major A.B African Incidents, Personal Experiences in Egypt and Unyoro, 1990, p.155.). He moved around the country looking for the house of a chief loyal to Kabalega. “I burnt his village, destroyed his banana plantations” (Thruston, Ibid, 128). At a small village...”within a yard of the road there was a house, and coming up to it, I could see a blazing fire, and that three men were sitting round a fire and were smoking… I stopped and turning round I made a sign to the soldiers. As I did so one of the men got up and went to the door. But the soldiers had understood me well: they had fixed their bayonets. In a moment a dozen had run into the house and silently done their work….. The transaction I know comes very near to mere assassination”. (Thruston, Ibid, p. 225) British soldiers violated human rights of the Banyoro whom they describe in writing as savages. They killed for fun. The British Government was different to rumours that reached the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He rumours that reached the secretary for Foreign Affairs. He assured the House of Lords, Britain and never annexed Bunyoro-Kitara. Those natives were not under British protection. He telegraphed this statement to the British Military officers at Hoima. After they read it at the mess table they decided that the unprotected natives were to be shot on sight. (Dunbar Ibid. p .88)
A Syphilis Scare crow
The British said Banyoro died in large numbers because of “sexual immorality ignorance superstition and dirt “, said Katherine Cook, a missionary nurse. Sexual immorality made many people in Bunyoro-Kitara’s sick. The British did not see the ill effects of their colonial policies. (Doyle, Ibid p.7) After conquest many babies were either born dead or died in early infancy. The state did not relate shortage of food for nutrition and population decline. Bunyoro- Kitara, Colville wrote in 1893, was “thickly populated”. Her people were well fed, nourished and healthy. (Colville, Sir Henry Edward. The Land of the Nile Springs, Edward Arnold, 1895, p.114) Returns of 1906 showed 8,572 births against 15,011 deaths. Deaths went on for more than 40 years. This made this Kingdom a lonely wild (Abating). Colonial Office in London acted to stop these deaths after three years had passed. The Banyoro say: (Oukitatwaliire nyina- if a beast has not grabbed your mother). A Commission was sent to Ugandan in 1980 he declared that 80% of the people suffered venereal syphilis. A venereal syphilis epidemic had broken out in the country. This he said was a result of a breakdown of social order. He blamed Christianity and colonialism that replaced native rulers. Too much freedom in the country gave Satan an opportunity to tempt promiscuous native women who engaged in acts of polyandry he said. (Brian, O’ Brian, That Coode Physician, 1962, p 164)
John Roscoe lied that there was a strange custom of polyandry among the Banyoro. He said this custom turned upside down ideas of morality common to most tribes in Uganda. Hospitality forced Banyoro to share wives with guests. (Roscoe, John, Twenty five Years in East Africa, CUP, p. 257) He did not mention the Banyoro who extended to him that privilege. He cited no evidence to support his claims. His words were biased notions to entertain and amuse audiences in Europe. It was a way of making money during Roscoe’s time. White people wrote about savages in distant lands and sold the stories. Nearly all 19th Century travellers, missionaries, soldiers or explorers in Bunyoro-Kitara sold stories about this Kingdom. The information about distant lands nowadays is got from radio, television and the internet. Printed fantasy and distorted fact in Roscoe’s time paid the writers a lot of money. Greed to grab the information market attracted Henry Morton Stanley to Africa. He wrote newspaper articles and a book about the journey. Members of his expedition signed an agreement not to publish anything until six months after his story had appeared “Business as well as politics had entered into African travel” (Morehead Ibid. p. 306) 19th Century men in Europe despised women. They also despised black people. Both Roscoe and Lambkin belong to that era. They lied about this Kingdom because they were gender blind and racialists. Both saw native women and perhaps all other women as “animals with strong passions to whom an unrestricted opportunities for gratifying those passions were suddenly afforded”(Doyle. Ibid. p. 11) Uncontrolled female sexual lust, they said, made Banyoro victims of venereal syphilis. This disease they claimed was introduced in the country ten years before Lambkin’s commission. (Vaughan, M. Curing Their Ills, Colonial Power and African Illness, Stanford, 1991, p. 134) For Bishop Tucker Bunyoro- Kitara Kingdom needed Christian teaching. Only the word of God was going to make native women stop fornicating, halt the syphilis epidemic and save a lot of people to die. (Doyle, Ibid. p. 11)
Anti Banyoro Policies
Major Macdonald says that the Colonial State of Uganda fed its troops by looting the Banyoro like, the IBEAC did before it. Lugard employed former soldiers of Emin Pash. They were 8000 people including their dependants (Lyns Ibid. P.72) the company had no money to buy the soldier food. He allowed them to raid for food in southern Bunyoro. “By the spring of 1893 they had laid waste 1,500 square miles of territory (plus) provinces of Kyaka and Kitagwenda“ (Macdonald, Major J.R.L. R.E. Soldiering and Surveying in British East Africa, Edward Arnold. London 1897, P. 174). They provoked Kabalega to defend his Kingdom. The British plot to destroy the power of the Omukama and rob the country started to unfold. The British made a military strategy to kill the fighting spirit of the population with hunger. Colonel Colville made this plot in 1894. Southern Bunyoro: Buyaga Bugangaizi, Buwekula and Singo suffered a double tragedy. It was looted a second time on Colville’s order to his solders and the chiefs he imposed to raid the country. He did this to escape responsibility to pay the people he employed. They killed the men, seized and raped the women and looted livestock. (Dunbar Ibid. p 87)They also grabbed land. Close to the village of Kited, In Guyana Kibaale Muliisamaanyi (the name means grabber) grabbed five square miles of land and was issued a land title. These areas came to be known as the lost counties. They were called lost counties because Colville made them part of the Kingdom of Buganda. Fertile agriculture land that produced a lot of food and livestock became a wild country. The villages surrounding Bujogoro, the location of Omukama Nyamuktukura’s tomb became will country. The servants of Colville become landlords but they found condition in the lonely wild country difficult and returned to their homes. They abandoned severely malnourished landless peasants. These lands remain undeveloped to this very day.
Colonel Colville drove a wage between Bunyoro-Kitara and Buganda Kingdoms. This wage did not last long because the two kings could not be kept apart for very long. The two kingdoms had a long history of working together. Having encouraged quarrels among the Baganda by fueling the religious wars Lugard posed as a protector of the Christian against the Moslems. He wanted money and turned his attention towards Bunyoro-Kitara. He planned an expedition to raid the kingdom for ivory that Baker had looked at with greedy eyes twenty years earlier. Relations between Bunyoro –Kitara and Buganda had been cordial for many years. Mutesa I., the father of Mwanga had assisted young Kabalega to become the king of Bunyoro-Kitara. He lent his an army that helped him to defeat his brother Kabigumire who was being assisted by Matambuko, the Omugabe of Ankole. (Nyakatura, Ibid. P.110) Lugard drew Kabalega into the Buganda conflict by forcing the Muslim army to seek refuge in Bunyoro-Kitara. Since Baker’s time the British had always looked for an excuse to break Kabalega’s power and control the wealth of this Kingdom. Lugard instructed Colville to attack Kabalega or to give the Omukama an opportunity to attack the British.
Colville in 1894 decided to march on Kabalega. His plan was to weaken the Banyoro with hunger. Fearing trouble during his absence by the Baganda soldiers that he never trusted he marched with the entire Buganda army to keep an eye on it as usual he did not have money to buy food for the soldiers. This suited his sinister plan, after crossing the border. He ordered the hungry army to raid for food. “The county was devastated for miles around, banana plantations cut down, sweet potatoes gardens torn up and houses burnt”. (Thruston, Ibid. p 132-136)
The Banyoro lost life, food and livestock. The forces devastated crops, granaries, herds of cattle and other livestock. Within two months there was no food in the Kingdom. The Baganda hungry deserted for home. Colville was forced to withdraw. This abuse of Buganda’s army failed to divide the Omukama Kabalega to fight British occupation. The two kings were captured and exiled together.
It was colonial policy to deny Banyoro food. The British destroyed farms and pastures. This led to famine and poor nutrition for many years famine occurred many times. Some famines were named: Igorra, Kabakuli, Kiromere, Ky’omudaaki, and Zimyetaara (Dunbar Ibid. p 107, 109, and 124) food shortage increased as youth run away from forced labour. For 20 years every grown up man did two month a unpaid labour per annum for the British. Others resisted quietly saying; Ogw’omujungu guitar ataguhikireho (Whiteman’s work kills those who fail to report). Chiefs imposed by the colonial administration extorted land rent from every man annually causing the Kyanyangire rebellion in 1906. Healthy young men were conscripted to join the British forces in World War I robbing the Kingdom of vital labour to produce food. (Richards, A., East African Chiefs, Oxford, 1960, p.108) The British upset the lives of the Banyoro so much so that, “the delicate balance of the natural relationships between indigenous people and their disease causing pathogens was thrown into chaos Violent changes in Human ecology, including famine, exhaustion and disease, resulted in increased stress and lowered resistance.” (Lyons, Ibid. p.65) Upsetting people’s lives was the way British rulers handled Africans throughout their rule and some of these bad methods of work were inherited by their successors. (Steinhert, E., Conflict and Collaboration: The Kingdom’s of Western Uganda, Princeton, 1977. 77)
Hesketh Bell’s Bad Policies
In 1904, a sleeping sickness epidemic that killed 200,000 people 200 miles away around Lake Victoria became an excuse Governor Hesketh Bell used to drive people from farm and grazing lands in Bunyoro-Kitara. Many domestic animals died especially cattle. He ignored the scientific advice Dr. Hodges, the Principal Medical Officer gave people were to cut the bush around homes. The flies that carry this disease would not come near them. Bell preferred to displace people completely. He wanted to “provide a new and understaffed colonial administration with….; highly authoritarian measures.” He did this to control the population. (Op. Cit.) The advice Dr. Hodges gave to Governor Hesketh Bell exposes this lie taken for granted and stated by the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities. It hid vendetta against the people of Bunyoro–Kitara. It was an excuse to make a huge area of 193,000 hectares of 772 square miles to be left without people in North Bunyoro-Kitara. This country was labelled a ‘sleeping sickness restricted area’, and in 1910 declared the Bunyoro Game Reserve extended in 1928 to include a block on the north bank of the river” (Op.Cit).
The inhabited territory of the Kingdom remained only 1119 square miles. Governor Bell disorganized, controlled and effectively repressed the Banyoro. Passive resistance ended once clans were scattered. The passive resistance to colonial rule popularly called Kyanyangire (I have refused) rebellion ended.
It is not true that sleeping sickness killed 6000 people at Pajao. This is another lie told to give a human face to injustice penetrated when large parts of this country were made conservation areas.
The natives of Pajao, the Abakwonga or Bakibiro clan traditional grandmothers of the Omukama were scattered to Kitana, Hoima and Panyimur and Deyi, Nebbi. (Rubenda Kassim, Interview at Hoima on 12th March, 2000) The Ababyasi clan that thickly populated Kyangwali and attracted the Church Missionary society (CMS) to build the first church in Bunyoro-Kitara on a five square mile estate that has remained undeveloped to this day. Families and clans scattered were forced to leave their ancestral homes. The town of Baranywa and Mugabi hills were depopulated by a garrison stationed at it and are wild country to this very day. Thousands “were removed from northern Bunyoro forcing the abandonment of fishing grounds, fertile lands, cultivated gardens, including the Pabidi coffee shambas, that became part of the Budongo Forest Reserve. Knowledge of a vast area was lost. Removing cattle keepers and cultivators made room for forests, tsetse flies and wild animals to colonize formerly cultivated lands.” (Doyle, Ibid. p.4) The policy to make and keep Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom lonely and wild, stopping people to use it, was written in the Bunyoro agreement of 1933. It stated that natives were subject to the “provisions of the Sleeping Sickness Rules and all other Protectorate legislation from time to time in force” but Sleeping Sickness had ended 18 years before. (Uganda Protectorate, Bunyoro Agreement 1933, p.5) reserved to the Government of the Protectorate State of Uganda the right to appropriate and place under his direct control any area which he…. Required for a forest”, (op.cit) it is declared “control of all existing forests and all areas hereinafter declared to be forests vested in the Governor” (Op.Cit.)
Residues of Colonial Policies in Modern Uganda
People are still forced to leave their homes even today. Between 27th and 29th August 1999, residents of the villages of Mpumwe, Kibyama, Kirooko, Bunyama and Kahara were chased away from their homes and displaced by a Mr. Thomas Okora, Game Warden, in Charge of the Karuma Game Reserve. He evicted 580 households. He displaced 3000 people. There was no compensation for their land, houses burnt and crops destroyed. The British made the boundaries of the reserves and the poor people who lost their homes did not know about them. (Kyetume, Kasanga Information Officer, Masindi District Administration, September, 1999). Similar eviction was done to the inhabitants of a whole parish in the Sub-County of Biiso. The natives of Nguedo in Buliisa Sub-County also lost agricultural lands in equally high handed manner at the hands of the agents of the state in recent time.
Because wild life reserves cover more than fifty percent of the land area in Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom wild animals that destroy crops are numerous. No single village escapes the raids of crop vermin i.e. baboons, monkeys, chimpanzee’s wild pigs etc. Crops are destroyed daily. The farmers toil and labour is wasted.