Mbarara, just as the Ankole Kingdom itself got its name from the colonial mispronunciation of ancient kingdom of "Nkore", also gained its name from the colonial mispronunciation of the local word "[E]mburara" which is a tall green grass favoured by the local cows. Indeed, archaeological remains unearthed at Bigo bya Mugenyi, the capital of the Bachwezi empire and at Ntusi located in the present day Mubende District of Uganda, reveal an urban centre indicative of a highly organized society under the Backwezi kings. The history of the Bachwezi themselves provides some insight into how legend, myth, fact and fantasy intertwined to create a history of the area. Those familiar with east African history will know the story of Ruhanga, the creator. He had a son, Isaza, who fell in love with the banished daughter of Bukuku, a tyrant who had seized the earthly throne and kingdom of Bunyoro after Ruhanga had left the Earth and re-ascended to heaven. Isaza and Nyinamwiru married in secret and had a son, Ndahura.
In years to come Ndahura escaped many attempts by his grandfather Bukuku to kill him, fearing his legitimate claim to the throne being the grandson on his father's side of Ruhanga himself. Eventually, Ndahura, as a young man, killed Bukuku and claimed the throne. His kingship was welcomed by his new people and he went on to expand the kingdom across all of modern day southern Uganda, western Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, parts of northern Tanzania and eastern Congo. Following his abdication, the kingdom was later ruled by Wamara however it was ravaged by disease forcing the population to migrate in search of food and sustenance and Wamara, along with his ailing kingdom, faded from history. With the area now sparsely populated and weakened with no functioning economy, the Babiito dynasty emerged as its new rulers having moved into the area from Ethiopia possibly through Sudan establishing Mpuga Rukidi I as the first king of the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom around the 14th century.
Around this time the kingdom of Kaaro-Karungi also emerged ruled by the Bahinda Abagabe (king), descendants of Wamara, former king of the Bachwezi. By the end of the nineteenth century the British were making inroads into what is present day Uganda. They opened an administrative station in Mbarara in 1898 and set about governing the area through local chiefs rather than directly. As such, the Buchunku (Mitooma), Matsiko (Nyabushozi), Rutasharara (Isingiro), Ruhara (Rwampara), Nduru (Buzimba), Enganzi Mbaguta (Ngarama, Sheema, Kashaari), Mukotani (Igara), Rubarema (Buhweju), and Kaihura (Bunyaruguru) were all deemed under Nkore rule, whether they accepted it or not, and this was formalised under the Ankole Agreement of 1901, with the word Ankole being mistaken for "Nkore", by which the Kingdom of Nkore was incorporated into the British protectorate of Uganda. As such, Omugabe Kahaya II became the last independent ruler of Nkore. Although Ellison Karuhanga is acknowledged as the first Abagabe (king) of Nkore, the dynasty is largely attributed to Ruhinda, whom, legend states, is buried in a Tanzanian forest called Muzaire-otaakwa-mwana. These legends also tell how the dead kings of Nkore would regain life as monsters that mercilessly hunt and devour their former loyal subjects.
The Nkore kingdom remained small until the until the 18th and 19th centuries when the Abagabe took advantage of the decline of the Bunyoro kingdom and the break-up of the Mpororo Kingdom after 1752 following a family feud. The then Nkore king or Omugabe, Rugingiza Ntare V, set about extending his rule to the north and west with the neighbouring kingdoms of Buhweju, Igara and Buzimba recognising the newly resurgent Nkore kingdom as their overlord whilst the rulers of Kitagwenda and Bwera similarly appeased him. He died in 1944 and was succeeded by [Sir Charles Godfrey] Gasyonga II when the kingdom was abolished under President Obote's republican constitution. Unlike other pre-colonial kingdoms, Ankore was never restored under the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Statute of 1993. The former royal palaces (right, above) have since fallen into disrepair, not least because Anokle itself had never really existed as a kingdom in its own right, being a colonial amalgamation of a number of other, smaller kingdoms as well as Nkore itself.
Rulers of the Nkore (Ankole ) Kingdom
• Ruhinda - late fifteenth century • Nkuba - late fifteenth century • Nyaika - early sixteenth century • Ntare I - mid sixteenth century • Rushango - late sixteenth century • Ntare II - late 16th/early 17th century • Kasasira - late seventeenth century • Kitra - late seventeenth century • Rumongye - late seventeenth century • Mirindi - late seventeenth century • Macwa - c.1727-c.1755 • Rwabirere - c. 1755-1783 • Kahaya I - 1783-? • Rwebishengye - ?-1811 • Kayungu - 1811-? • Mutambuka - 1839-1873 • Rugingiza Ntare V - 1873-1895 • Kahaya II - 1895-1944 • Gasyonga II - 1944-1967 • interregnum - 1967-1993 • Ntare VI - 1993-2011 (not ruling)
This museum aims to preserve and promote the history of the local tribes of the area. Stunning sculpures to admire!
A cultural centre for the Hima tribe close to Lake Mburo and Mbarara featuring traditional ornaments and regalia.
The Igongo Cultural Centre near Mbarara promotes the rich cultural heritage of south-western Uganda.
Mbarara is both the largest town in south-west Uganda and its administrative and commercial centre.
As yet largely uncommercialised, Western Uganda has many tourist attractions for the explorer to visit.
As well as the main tourist attractions there are many other activities to enjoy in Western Uganda.
A guide to the main towns in Western Uganda, where to stay, eat and things to see and do.