Kingdom of Bunyoro

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Kingdom of Bunyoro

Bunyoro is a kingdom in Western Uganda. It was one of the most powerful kingdoms in East Africa from 13th century to the 19th century. It is ruled by the Omukama of Bunyoro. The current ruler is Solomon Iguru I, the 27th Omukama (king) of Bunyoro-Kitara.

The people of Bunyoro are also known as Nyoro or Banyoro (singular: Munyoro) (Banyoro means "People of Bunyoro"); the language spoken is Nyoro (also known as Runyoro). In the past, the traditional economy revolved around big game hunting of elephants, lions, leopards, and crocodiles. Today, the Banyoro are now agriculturalists who cultivate bananas, millet, cassava, yams, cotton, tobacco, coffee, and rice. The people are primarily Christian.



The kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara was established following the collapse of the Empire of Kitara in the 16th century. The founders of Kitara were known as the Abatembuzi, a people who were later succeeded by the Abachwezi.

Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom

At its height, Bunyoro-Kitara controlled almost the entire region between Lake Victoria, Lake Edward, and Lake Albert. One of many small states in the Great Lakes region the earliest stories of the kingdom having great power comes from the Rwanda area where there are tales of the Banyoro raiding the region under a prince named Cwa around 1520. The power of Bunyoro then faded until the mid seventeenth century when a long period of expansion began, with the empire dominating the region by the early eighteenth century.

Bunyoro rose to power and controlled a number of the holiest shrines in the region, together with the lucrative Kibiro saltworks of Lake Albert; having the highest quality of metallurgy in the region made it the strongest military and economic power in the Great Lakes area.


Bunyoro began to decline in the late eighteenth century due to internal divisions. Buganda seized the Kooki and Buddu regions from Bunyoro at the end of the century. In the 1830s, the large province of Toro separated, claiming much of the lucrative salt works. To the south Rwanda and Ankole were both growing rapidly, taking over some of the smaller kingdoms that had been Bunyoro's vassals.

Thus by the mid-nineteenth century Bunyoro (also known as Unyoro at the time) was a far smaller state, though it was still wealthy due to the income generated from controlling the lucrative trade routes over Lake Victoria and linking to the coast of the Indian Ocean. In particular, Bunyoro benefited from the trade in ivory. Due to the volatile nature of the ivory trade, an armed struggle manifested between the Baganda and the Banyoro. As a result the capital was moved from Masindi to the less vulnerable Mparo. Following the death of Omakuma Kyebambe III, the region experienced a period of political instability where two kings ruled in a volatile political environment.

In July 1890 an agreement was settled whereby the entire region north of Lake Victoria was given to Great Britain. In 1894 Great Britain declared the region its protectorate. In alliance with Buganda, King Kabarega of Bunyoro resisted the efforts of Great Britain, aiming to take control of the kingdom. However, in 1899 Kaberega was captured and exiled to the Seychelles and Bunyoro was subsequently annexed to the British Empire. Because of Bunyoro's resistance to the British, a portion of the Bunyoro kingdom's territory was given to Buganda and Toro.

The country was put under the governance of Bugandan administrators. The Banyoro revolted in 1907; the revolt was put down, and relations improved somewhat. After the region remained loyal to Great Britain in World War I a new agreement was made in 1934 giving the region more autonomy. Bunyoro remains as one of the four constituent kingdoms of Uganda, along with Buganda, Busoga and Toro.

Contemporary society

During the first regime of Milton Obote, the Kingdom of Bunyoro was forcefully disbanded in 1967. The kingdom, together with three others, Buganda, Busoga, Toro, remained banned during the regime of dictator Idi Amin (1971–1979) and the second regime of Milton Obote (1980–1985)[6] and remained banned until 1993.

In 1993 the Kingdom was re-established and in 1995 the new constitution of Uganda was made, allowing and recognizing, the Kingdoms. The current Kingdom covers the districts of Buliisa District, Hoima district, Kibaale District, Kiryandongo District and Masindi District.

According to 1997 projections, the total population of the Kingdom is between 800,000 and 1,400,000 (depending on sources) living in 250,000-350,000 households. 96% of the population live in rural areas, and only 1% of the population uses electricity for lighting and cooking. More than 92% of the population are poor, and has earnings more than half that of the Ugandan national average, and about 50% of the population is illiterate.

The economic potential in the region is very large, with the Kibiro saltworks, and the possibility of large oil, gas, iron ore and precious stone. During the first decade of the 2000s, sizeable deposits of crude oil have been discovered in the area. The area also has large rainforests with an abundance of hardwoods including mahogany and ironwood.

The Omukama and the other leaders of the area are planning to establish a university that will primarily focus on teaching relevant skills with regards to work in the extraction of natural resources. The university will also work to preserve the high level of cultural heritage in the area.

The King is in general doing a lot of work to improve the living standards of the people. Relations are maintained with the European community via the development organization Association of the Representatives of Bunyoro-Kitara. The King is also working to maintain the traditional bunyoro culture, but in the same time altering the honors of the kingdom in a way that they can be compared to western standards.

Public University


On 7th of April of 2011, The National University of Criminal And Security Sciences (The NUCSS) was bestowed with the Royal Charter of Incorporation by His Majesty Omukama Rukirabasaija Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I and it became the first public university of the Kingdom. The university imparts certificate, diploma, bachelor, master and doctorate level courses in the disciplines of criminology, security sciences, police studies, law, business administration and other contemporary disciplines. This is the distinguished public university of the kingdom having a large number of students around the globe.




The Banyoro were traditionally a polygamous people when they could afford it. Many marriages did not last and it was quite common to be divorced. Due to this, payment to the girl's family was not normally given until after several years of marriage. Premarital sex was also very common.

All families were ruled by the eldest man of the family (Called Nyineka), and the village was run by a specially elected elder who was chosen by all the elders in the village. He was known as a mukuru w’omugongo.


A few months after birth, the baby would be given a name. This was normally done by a close relative, but the father always had the final saying. Two names are given: a personal name, and a traditional Mpako name. The names were often related to specific features on the child, special circumstances around the birth of the child or as a way to honor a former family member. Most of the names are actual words of the Nyoro language.


Death was almost always believed to be the work of evil magic, ghosts, or similar. Gossiping was believed to magically affect or harm people. Death was viewed as being a real being. When a person died, the oldest woman of the household would clean the body, cut the hair and beard, and close the eyes of the departed. The body was left for viewing and the women and children were allowed to cry/weep, but the men were not. In case the dead was the head of the household, a mixture of grain (called ensigosigo) was put in his hand, and his children had to take a small part of the grain and eat it - thus passing on his (magical) powers.

After one or two days, the body would be wrapped in cloth and a series of rites would be carried out. The following rites are only for heads of family:

The nephew must take down the central pole of the hut and throw it in the middle of the compound

The nephew would also take the bow and eating-bowl of the departed and throw it with the pole

The fireplace in the hut would be extinguished

A banana plant from the family plantation and a pot of water was also added to the pile

The family rooster had to be caught and killed

The main bull of the family's cattle had to be prevented from mating during the mourning by castration

After four days of mourning, the bull would be killed and eaten, thus ending the period of mourning

The house of the departed would not be used again

The burial would not be done in the middle of the day, as it was considered dangerous for the sun to shine directly into the grave. As the body was carried to the grave the women were required to moderate their weeping, and it was forbidden to weep at the grave. Also pregnant women were banned from participating in the funeral as it was believed the negative magical forces related to burial would be too strong for the unborn child to survive. After the burial the family would cut some of their hair off and put it onto the grave. After the burial, all participants washed themselves thoroughly, as it was believed that the negative magical forces could harm crops.

If the departed had a grudge or other unfinished business with another family, his mouth and anus would be stuffed with clay, to prevent the ghost from haunting.

A Bunyoro Year

A typical year in Bunyoro is divided into 12 months and it is quite clear what work are to be done these months:

January (Igesa), there would be harvesting of millet

February (Nyarakarwa) there was not much work

March (Ijubyamiyonga) fields were prepared for planting sesame

May (Rwensisezere) there was not much work

July (Ishanya maro), women would prepare fields for millet

August (Ikokoba) was the months of burning grass in the millet fields

September (Isiga) was for planting millet

October (Ijuba) was a month of weeding

November (Rwensenene) was named after grasshoppers

December (Nyamiganura or Katuruko) was a month of rejoicing and festivities as there was little work to occupy the people