Refers to the region around the Great lakes of East Africa i.e. Southern Uganda and Western Tanzania e.g. Lake Victoria, Albert, Kyoga and Tanganyika. The origin of the earliest people in this area is based on gods / semi gods because they were above death. The historical period is referred to as the rule of gods (period of mythology).
The earliest empire in this region was the Bunyoro-Kitara from Oral traditions (myths and legends) and Archeology, we learn that this empire was probably founded by the Batembuzi (Tembuzi) early inhabitant towards mid 12 century.
The Tembuzi period lasted for about south region roughly from 1150-1225. Belief is that the Tembuzi dynasty was founded by Odhiambo / Ruhanga were (creator /god) who lived with his brother Nkya.
Nkya had four sons namely Kintu ( Kantu, Kairu, Kakama and Kahima.
Kairu became the ancestor of cultivators / agriculturalists.
Kahima became the ancestor of herdsman / pastoralists
Kakama became the ancestor of ruling class /rulers.
Kintu and Ruhanga heaven and left Kakama to rule the earth.
N.B: Each leader was called Omukama as a title; later Kakama disappeared and was succeeded by his son Baba and then his other son Mukonko. During Mukonko`s reign number of people and cattle increased.
The 1st death is also recorded to have occurred during this time.
Mukonko was later succeeded by his son Ngonzaki, who was finally succeeded by his son Isaza. Isaza divided Kitara into separate states during his time one of them called Isaza.
Isaza is believed to have been the last ruler of Tembuzi dynasty. He married Nyamata daughter of Nyamiyanga god of underworld and she produced Isimbwa. Isaza is said to have gone to heaven after his earthly (disappeared).
N.B; for these myths, we learn that people in this area were both cultivators and pastoralists.
When Isaza disappeared the Tembuzi reign came to an end after 1225 and the Chwezi succeeded them.
Bukuku the gate keeper of Isaza declared himself Omukama instead of Isimbwa. The chiefs refused to recognize him and divided the empire among them. The prophet had told Bukuku that if his daughter Nyinamwiru produced cut out her eye, ear and they produced a son Karubumbi. He grew up and speared his grandfather to death and conquered the former Kitara lands in Nkore, Buganda, Buleya, Busoga, Toro, Madi and Bukedi the whole modern Uganda. He then changed his name to Ndahura 1st Chwezi King. Hence a link of the Tembuzi and Chwezi.
THE CHWEZI EMPIRE OF BUNYORO KITARA
The Chwezi Empire was composed of some parts of present day Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and North Western Kenya but when the Luo arrived from Northern Uganda they established the Babito dynasty of the Northern Bunyoro in the 15th century. Their arrival let to the starting point of the Empire`s breakdown. By the 19th century parts like Buganda, Ankore, Toro, Rwanda and Burundi, Karagwe, Busoga, some parts of Lango and others had broken off. They were expanding at the expense of Bunyoro Kitara.
THE ORIGIN OF THE CHWEZI EMPIRE
According to Oral tradition and Archeology, the Bachwezi were pastoral people and were related to the Batembuzi. This is because Ndahura the 1st Chwezi ruler and founder of the Chwezi Empire was formerly known as Karubumbi.
Ndahura is believed to be the grandson of Isaza the last Tembuzi ruler. The Tembuzi are believed to have occupied this region at one time between 1150-1325.
There were two major theories explaining the Chwezi origin with the following allegations;
The Bachwezi are said to have come from the Northeast of Uganda, may be from Ethiopia and were a Cushitic class.
Others say that the Bachwezi were a Caucasoid stock possibly Egyptian in nature.
NB: the Cushitic descent sounds more possible because it fits in other Cushitic movement into East Africa.
But it is certain that the pre-Chwezi inhabitants were Bantu. They were stronger and were pastoralists with great herds of long horned cattle. They also possessed super natural quality e.g. the Tembuzi.
They are the ancestors of the present day Bahima, Barundi and Batutsi but there is not enough information to tell us about the inhabitants of these areas before the arrival of the Bachwezi.
The scanty information available shows that majority were the Bantu- Basita in parts of Bunyoro, the Bantu-Batwa and the Bantu-Bahutu who occupied Rwanda, Bantu-Banyamba occupied Karagwe and Bantu-Bairu occupied Ankore.
These Bantu people were organized on clan basis, majority of them were cultivators and few of them kept short horned hump less.
ADMINISTRATION OR POLITICAL ORGANISATION
Before the arrival of the Bachwezi, Bunyoro was occupied by the Bantu, Basita, Ankore by the Bantu- Bairu, Karagwe by the Bantu-Bayamba and Rwanda by the Bantu-Batwa and Bahutu.
The Chwezi conquered, dominated and imposed themselves on the Bantu.
They introduced the centralized monarchy among the Bantu whose administration was based on clans.
Administration officials were to rule the villages. Different villages made up sub-counties each of them under a ruler or chief. All these were to represent the central monarchy.
The centre of the Chwezi was from Masaka at Bigo Byamugenyi. But the Empire consisted of Bunyoro, Toro, Karagwe, Rasanda, Buganda and Busoga. These areas weren’t ruled centrally i.e. they weren’t ruled by one person. They were sister states ruled by different Chwezi brothers.
They had rulers both in royal place and in the province. All of them were appointed by the Omukama as their central King.
The King had a standing army and their earth works or enclosures or parts. These were for defence purposes e.g. at Bigo Byamugenyi.
These royal enclosures (Oriremba) consisted of a system of ditches of over 10 km. In extent at Bigo which were meant to protect a big number of cattle. It enclosed grazing areas in the Katanga tributary valley. Bigo is said to have been the capital of Bunyoro Kitara because of its size. These enclosures found in Mubende, Kibengo, Ntusi, Kigogo, Kasaka were built between 1350-1500AD.
The Bachwezi sphere of influence consisted of several sister states bound together by family and ritual ties.
WHAT WAS THE ACHIEVEMENT OF OR CHANGES BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE BACHWEZI
The Chwezi came with long horned cattle and humps.
They were very great magicians i.e. strange people who performed miracles
They were great hunters
They wore cow hide sandals
They came with long spears and they knew how to make iron tools a method they introduced in the area.
They built grass thatched huts
They were great sports men
They introduced bark cloth making and coffee growing
Their pottery consisted of round bulbs, jars, and shallow basins and decorated dishes.
They came with new games e.g. board game, omweso.
Their regalia consisted of crown, royal drums, spears, arrows, stools and an institution of slave, artisans, palace women and others.
They introduced royal enclosures with earth works (forts) which were very large.
Bigo Byamugenyi in Bwera Masaka was the largest of them all of about 10.5 km (6.5 miles) in extent. These were for defence and guarding cattle form raiders and wild animals e.g. lions. These forts were common in Bunyoro, Ankore, Karagwe and Rwanda.
They built reed palaces were they kept large number of women and slaves.
They introduced a centralized monarchy.
NB: there were mainly two Bachwezi; Bakama mentioned that is Ndahura and his son Wamara. It is said that Ndahura abdicated in favour of his son. Instead he and his son Nyinamwiru went to the west where they created hot springs and marks on a rock which are seen even today.
Wamara built his capital at Bwera on the southern banks of River Katanga and lived there with his relative that is Kiiro and Ibona.
NB: after Wamara`s death the Chwezi Empire broke up due to a number of reasons as will be seen later.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OR AMONG THE BABIITO, BACHWEZI AND BATEMBUZI
Every year an “Empago” ceremony is held celebrating the King and the Kingdom. The celebration is held at the Royal Palace and all the Banyoro people are invited to join. During this ceremony the King also beats the Royal Drums as a sign of his power and as a mean of signaling the people. The celebration contains singing, dancing, music and much other.
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.
A MAP SHOWING THE ORIGIN OF BATEMBUZI
The Bachwezi Dynasty
The Bachwezi 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 worshipped by various clans. Many traditional gods in Toro, Bunyoro and Buganda have typical kichwezi (adjective) names like Ndahura, Mulindwa, Wamara, Kagoro, etc.
The bachwezi dynasty must have been very short, as supported by only three names of kings documented by historian. The bachwezi kings were Ndahura, Mulindwa and Wamara; in this order. In addition to founding the empire of Kitara, the bachwezi are further credited with the introduction of the unique, long horned ankole cattle, coffee growing, iron smelting, and the first semblance of organized and centralized government, under the king. If one considers the history of coffee growing and its beverages plus iron smelting, these people are likely to have come from the Horn of Africa in areas of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia.
No one knows what happened to the Bachwezi. 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, one of the clans in Bunyoro and Toro Kingdom, as well as 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 some of the bachwezi, and are traditionally herders of the long horned Ankole cattle.
The Babiito Dynasty
The Bachwezi dynasty was followed by the Babiito dynasty of the current Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara. 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 Mpuga Rukidi I, whose reign is placed around the 14th century. Todate, there have been a total of 27 Babiito kings of Bunyoro-Kitara.
REASONS WHY BUNYORO-KITARA BROKE UP OR THE DECLINE OF BUNYORO KITARA EMPIRE
In the early 16th century, there were various problems both internal and external. These contributed to the breakdown of the Chwezi Empire of Bunyoro –Kitara.
There were constant rebellions among the subordinate Bantu cultivators against the Chwezi leadership. Different areas or people wanted to be independent i.e. under their own leadership so they became uncooperative.
There were constant civil wars in the different provinces of Bunyoro-Kitara Empire. This was because there is no strong cultural political unity. The Empire was composed of unrelated tribes / states.
Both the rebellions and civil wars weakened the central control of Chwezi rulers. This made them tired of trying to hold on together such a large Empire. For instance it is said that the Basinga refuses to pay tribute and when Muchwezi Mulindwa tried to force them, he was murdered.
There were constant misfortunes in the Empire due to small pox among the people and Nagana which was killing plenty of Chwezi cows.
This robbed the people of their livelihood and source of food. There was also sleeping sickness claiming many of their lives.
There was a big blow of the death of the Prince Mugyenyi`s daring cow Bihogo yet the Bachwezi were so superstitious. These continuous misfortunes threatened the Bachwezi and weakened their confidence. So they became braise among the land people and suspected them of bewitching the Bachwezi. Finally they decided to give up that area and move to a safer place.
The area occupied by the Bachwezi was unfavorable for human habitation settlement because of prolonged droughts. These usually resulted into lack of water and pasture for their animals and breaks of failure.
The final cause which made the Bachwezi to give up power was the Luo invasion from the North around 1000.
Some sources show that the Chwezi withdrew voluntarily and peacefully being tired of this chain of misfortunes but other on further south.
Despite this, their religious culture continued to flourish in the area long after their departure. This happened during the region of Wamara, the last Chwezi ruler.
THE IMPACT / EFFECT OF LUO INVASION ON BUNYORO KITARA EMPIRE
The Luo finally broke up the Chwezi Empire of Bunyoro-Kitara which they found collapsing due to the above reasons.
These are separate states out of Bunyoro Empire. Each became independent of the others e.g. Bunyoro, Ankore, Buganda, Karagwe, Busoga principalities and Rwanda hence Bunyoro Kingdom instead of Bunyoro Kitara Empire.
Bunyoro Kingdom was of the Luo Babiito dynasty yet Bunyoro-Kitara of the Chwezi dynasty. The Luo-Babiito begun to rule over the small Bunyoro Kingdom covering present day Bunyoro until 1830 when King Kyebambe Nyamutukura son of Kabaya formed Toro Kingdom and out it off from Bunyoro. It became a separate Bito Dynasty founded by Kaboyo in 1830.
There was the kingdom of Wangu in western Kenya formed by the fleeing Bahima immigrants from the former Bunyoro Kitara Empire of Western Uganda.
The Luo formed a number of Bito related dynasties in Busoga e.g. Bukooli, Bugwere, Bulamogi and Bugabula
They had similar political institutions and royal regalia to those of the Babiito of Bunyoro. But not tender Bunyoro is effective control.
There is a claim that Buganda Kings (Bakabaka) had a connection with the Luo Bito of Bunyoro through Kabaka Kimera son of Muganda Prince Kalemera who died on his prolonged visit to the coat and Kabaka Kimera`s Mother Wanyana of the grasshopper clan was leaving a son called Kimera.
Yet his father Chwa Nabakka died in Buganda but leaving no prince to succeed his grandfather hence Prince Kimera became to third Kabaka in about 1374 yet the Luo took over Buganda a Kingdom around 1500.
Bunyoro still exercised her influence control over Buganda, Ankore, Rwanda, and Karagwe in Tanzania up to the end of the 17th century. But from the onwards, these secondary states gained complete full independence from Buganda.