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THE BACHWEZI

The Bachwezi have been surrounded with obscurity. There is no agreement among historians about who they were, where they came from, what they brought, where they went, and where they are now.

Oral traditions from Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole, Rwanda and Karagwe where the Bachwezi are supposed to have settled, assert that they were demi-gods because even if they were born of men and women, they did not die. They simply disappeared. They are portrayed as having had one leg in this world and another leg in the under world.

The Bachwezi are said to have assumed characteristics of human beings and the first Muchwezi, Ndahura, who ruled over a large empire called Kitara, is also venerated as the god of small pox. Some historians like Fr. Craxxolara assert that the Bachwezi were Luo. There is not much sense in that assertion because traditional attributes of the Bachwezi do not portray any connection between them and d the Luo. Wrigley dismissed the whole idea of the Bachwezi and says that they never existed at all except in the minds of men. This makes the traditions about the Bachwezi absurd and yet they are remembered as traditional rulers of the empire of Kitara.

Some historians believe that the Bachwezi might have been real people and their descendants are the present Bahima of Ankole, Bahuma of Bunyoro and Toro and the Batusi of Rwanda. In appearance, they are said to have been tall and light skinned. They were great sportsmen, magicians and hunters. Presently the Bachwezi are worshipped in western Uganda.

The Bachwezi are said to have ruled the Kitara Empire after the Batembuzi. The era of the Batembuzi in Bunyoro and Ankole is conceived as a period of creation. The Batembuzi are said to have been the first people on earth. They are believed to have been super-humans because they did not die. They simply disappeared into the underworld.

The dynasty of the Batembuzi is said to have been founded by Ruhanga (the creator). Tradition says that Ruhanga was succeeded by his brother Nkya and Nkya was succeeded by his son Kakama.Bada succeeded his father Kakama and he is said to have been in turn succeeded by his son Ngonzaki. Ngonzaki was succeeded by his son Isaza, the last of the Batembuzi rulers. Before he disappeared in the under world, Isaza is said to have impregnated Nyamate, the daughter of Nyamiyonga, king of the under world.Nyamate gave birth to Isimbwa who in turn was the father of Ndahura, the first Mukhwezi. This tradition presupposes that the Bachwezi were related to the Batembuzi.

The Bachwezi are said to have founded the empire of Kitara. This empire is said to have covered the whole of central, western and southern Uganda; northern Tanzania; western Kenya and eastern Zaire. Their capital is said to have been on Mubende hill and then at Bigo Bya Mugenyi in Masaka district. In all traditions, Bigo is linked to Mugenyi who is said to have been a Muchwezi prince. Excavations at Bigo have revealed the existence of findings which are also associated with the ancient capital sites of Ankole and Buhaya such as Bwegorere and Bweranyangi respectively. These have also been excavated by archeologists. This proves at least, in part that the Bachwezi were real people. However, the exact extent of the Kitara Empire could not have stretched as far as is usually assumed. What can be said is that the Bachwezi had a loosely organized empire, not very small but at least not as big as is assumed; perhaps slightly bigger than the present central, western and southern Uganda, north western Tanzania, northern Rwanda and eastern Zaire. It was based in Bwera and along the middle banks of River Katonga.

When the Luo invaded Bunyoro at the beginning of the 16th century, the Bachwezi are said to have migrated southwards and left the Luo to establish their Babitto dynasty over the former Bachwezi Empire of Kitara. According to traditions, the Bachwezi disappeared to an unknown destination. Some historian assert, however that the Bachwezi might have been absorbed within the local populations and might in effect be the present Bahima and Batutsi of southern Uganda. The actual truth is yet to be established but the Bachwezi were pastoralists and are said to have had some physical features similar to those of Bahima.

When the Bachwezi left, Bwera territory was left to a Mwiru smith called Kihesi. Kihesi is said to have made a drum called Rushama from waterbuck skin. Until recently, this drum was kept at Makore a few miles from Bigo. Kihesi is said to have acquired the name of Bararemwa Kihasha Nantomu and established the Kingdom of Bwera.

What the Bachwezi brought

As the exact origin, nature and presence of the Bachwezi is still open to question, their introductions and other attributes are also still questionable. It is said that they introduced the long horned Ankole cattle, the cultivation of coffee, and the skills of iron smelting, games like wrestling and mweso and more importantly, the idea of kingdoms or centralized states in Uganda.

They are supposed to have brought with them the idea of the kingship and kingly regalia and introduced building of palaces and the employment of women at the King’s courts. A lot has been said for and against such assumptions but the Bachwezi are said to have inherited the Batembuzi dynasty.Wamala is said to have been the last Muchwezi King. Tradition says that Wamala and the remaining Bachwezi disappeared into a lake in Singo named after his name. Other historians simply state that the Bachwezi moved south and founded the kingdoms of Nkore, Rwanda and the Bahinda states of Karagwe.

 

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