Western Uganda

Ruhanga History

The village of Ruhanga on the Mbarara to Kabale road was named after the African God Ruhanga who was worshipped by the Banyankole and Haya people of modern day western Uganda and northern Tanzania. The legends tell that Ruhanga lived on earth however later decided to return to heaven but rather than leave the earth without evolved life he decided to create mankind and, to that end, he planted three seeds in the ground. These seeds quickly grew into vines and produced fruit from which he created a woman and three men called Kairu, Kahima and Kakama.

Ruhunga, the Creator, then set a task to establish which of his three created "sons" should rule the earth.

He set them the challenge of holding a pot of milk for an entire night without sleeping or spilling any of the liquid. Both Kairu and Kakama failed in the task by sleeping and wasting the milk. Ruhanga then decreed that Kahima should rule as he had successfully complete the task and that his brothers should be subservient to him. As Kairu had fallen asleep first, wasting the precious milk, Ruhanga decreed that he should spend the rest of his life foraging for food as an agriculturalist (farmer.) Likewise, Kakama, who had also fallen asleep but had managed to stay awake until just before daybreak, was also punished but less severely than Kaira. Kakama was duly made into a cattle keeper.

History of Ruhanga

It should be noted that this story reflects the caste system that existed in the area between the Bahima (cattle keepers) and the Bairu (agriculturalists) with the Bairu, to this day, being seen as inferior by some or at least feeling inferior to the Bahima not even being allowed to inter marry. Some suggest that this story of the creation by Ruhanga was developed to encourage the lower caste Bairu to accept their lot in life as it has been decreed by the creator and this was certainly advantageous to the Bahima who could point to their elevated status as being the will of a supernatural being.

The elevated status of cattle keepers is embedded in Nkole culture as they not only provide milk, meat and hides but they were used in cultural and religious festivals as well as dowries. (Visitors to the village of Ruhanga will see Ankole cattle identified by their long horns. These cattle are particularly suited the the area's climate and are known for their resistance to disease.) After appointing Kahima as his ruler on earth and as Ruhanga prepared for his return to heaven he gave the gift of eternal life to all men and women so that they could live forever and enjoy the fruits of the earth and never again having to mourn the death of family and friends. However, before he ascended to heaven a woman confronted Ruhanga demanding to know why his gift of life wasn't extended to her precious dog who had just died.

Ruhanga explained that the gift was for humans only not for animals but the woman continued to protest so Ruhanga rescinded the gift of eternal life so that all of his creatures would be equal and would all face death. With that he left the earth never to return. Kahima's descendants continued to rule the earth and by the mid 15th century had carved out the Empire of Kitara that straddled the Great Lakes area of Africa (above right). By this time the empire was breaking up, and land that is now home to Ruhanga village became part of the Mpororo Kingdom ruled over by its founder Kahaya a Mututsi, a relative of the the recently established Nyiginya kingdom of modern day Rwanda.

Ankole Palace

Within a hundred years the Mpororo Kingdom disintegrated due to family feuding and by 1752 Ruhanga became part of a small chiefdom of one of the small six states that replaced the Mpororo Kingdom ruled over by one of the six sons of Kahaya Rutindangyezi who had seized the throne from his brother only to trigger the feuding that lead to the collapse of the kingdom. Known as Kingdom of Igara, it was ruled over by an Omukama, "king", and thrived as a small independent state not least because its large neighbour, the Kingdom of Nkore, was subject to weak leadership and infighting that precluding it from developing its once strong territorial ambitions. By the late 19th century European colonists began to arrive in the area and the Kingdom of Buganda and other territories of modern day Uganda became known as the British Protectorate of Uganda (1894 to 1962). Being a protectorate was slightly different that becoming a colony as Kenya had become in that it didn't come fully under colonial administration rather was allowed some degree of self-government and power and administration was devolved to existing rulers rather than by military enforcement.

As part of this, the British considered the Kingdom of Igara along with the other five states that had formed part of the Mpororo Kingdom too small to deal with and told its Omukama to meet with the Omugabe (King) of Nkole and subject himself to him. He refused to do so and committed suicide by stabbing himself in the stomach rather than submitting to the king of a neighbouring state. But it was too late and by 1901 the British had grouped together the Kingdom of Nkore and the former Mpororo states into a new kingdom Ankole, a corruption of the misheard word Nkore. This was formalised in the Ankole Agreement of that year which saw Anokle subsumed within the Protectorate of Uganda. (Royal Anokle palace in Mbarara ~ above).


Ruhanga History

Ruhanga History

Ruhanga History

Ruhanga History

Guided Walks

Ruhanga Walks

Go on a series of walks in the mountains in village close to Ntungamo and be guided by local kids.
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Volunteer at a Secondary School in Western Uganda

Ruhanga History

Ruhanga History

Ruhanga was, as such, a village within the Ankole Kingdom, albeit its Omugabe was little more than a token head. The kingdom was abolished in1967 by President Milton Obote, and, unlike other former kingdoms, was never reinstated under the Traditional Rulers (Restitution of Assets and Properties) Statute of 1993. The village of Ruhanga become part of Ntungamo District when the new district was formed also in 1993 as part of Uganda's decentralisation policy.


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