The Narration of Ankole Kingdom

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You may wonder what this is all about or where on earth is Ankole (Nkole) Kingdom! well as you are still debating with your brain, allow me to bring you aboard the mighty “Kaaro Karungi” as Nkole was often referred to. Kaaro Karungi means a beautiful hamlet, for the benefit of those who can’t trace the dialect.

Ankole kingdom is believed to have been founded way back in 1447. Legends give different background information about who and how was this kingdom formed. Today I bring you some of these stories, some of which sound a bit hilarious.

Ankole kingdom is said to have succeeded the Chwezi empire. The title given to the Ankole kingdom is “Omugabe” The first Omugabe was called Ruhinda Rwa Njunaki who was the son of Wamala.

For those who did their Social Studies Subject well, you can remember Wamala was the last ruler in the Chwezi dynasty. This explains how Nkole succeeded the Chwezi empire.

Like any other kingdom, the Ankole kingdom has many clans and the ruling clan is Bahiinda. this originated from Ruhinda the first king. “Ekihinda” means a black mark on the face. So that’s how the name Ruhinda came up. Njunaki was a maid at the king’s palace who gave birth to Ruhinda thus the name “Ruhinda Rwa Njunaki”.

Ankole kingdom is located in the southern region, often referred to as the “cattle corridor” and it extends to Tanzania that’s why the Bahaya of Tanzania have similar dialects to Runyankole. It covers the current districts of Ntungamo, Bushenyi, Mbarara, Isingiro, Cheema, Rubirizi, and Ibanda. the then Ankole countries (Amashaza) were Kashari, Isingiro, Rwampara, Nyabushozi, Ibanda, Cheema, Kajara, Bunyaruguru, Igara, Buhweju, Rushenyi, and Ruhaama.

The Ankole kingdom palace is at Kamukuzi in Mbarara and despite its collapse in 1967, the palace buildings are still standing. The Royal regalia of the Ankole kingdom include spears, shields, and the royal drum “Bagyendanwa” Bagyendanwa played an ancestral role in determining and confirming who the next king would be.

The Ankole kingdom was inhabited by people who valued unity but also had social stratification. The Bahima and the Bairu, Bahima are the pastoralists and Bairu are the cultivators.

The two castes carried out what I can term as batter trade in a way that Bairu exchanged their agricultural products like grains and another foodstuff for milk, ghee, and meat from the Bahima.

In fact about these castes is; even if a “Muhima” didn’t posse cattle, he could not be called a “Mwiru” and likewise even if a “Mwiru” had large herds of cattle, this would not turn him into a “Muhima”. The two persons were given names; that’s the Abahima with little or no cattle was called a “Murasi” while a “Mwiru” without extended crop farms was called a “Mwambari”.
People would take cows, local beer, and grains to the king as a sign of loyalty, and the king “Omugabe” would in return offer them security from internal disputes like cattle raiding by stronger families and external conflicts as well.

Meanwhile, other legend sources say that the Ankole kingdom was founded by “Ruhanga”, the creator who is said to have come from heaven to rule on earth. Ruhanga descended onto earth with his three sons that are; Kairu, Kakama, and Kahima. Kairu is the eldest, followed by Kahima then Kakama.

Ruhanga wanted to choose one among his three sons who were to be made king. he gave them a test inform a task to keep milk vessels (Ebyanzi) as they were called and their contents on their laps trans night. Whoever passed the test ie the one who had his vessel full by morning time would be crowned.

At the break of dawn, Kakama had passed the test and was made king while Kairu and Kahima were to be his servants. so they took up the rule of the Ankole kingdom. This could be the reason why the Bahima ie the cattle keepers have a tendency of underlooking the Bairu because they could not pass the milk fest.
The Ankole kingdom flourished with greatness from the 15th century to the 20th century and it was finally abolished in 1967 by the former president of Uganda Dr.Milton Obote. It had 23 kings throughout its existence from Ruhinda Rwa Njunaki to Gasonga II.
A committee was formed to reform the kingdom but these arrangements were again trashed by the NRM government in 1993. well, we can never say never I hope the Ankole kingdom rises to its heights once more.
By Kabagambe Gerald

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