Busasamana: Where god sleeps

In many African societies, the king was considered a supreme creation or even a deity himself. This was the belief in Rwanda before the dawn of the Christianity era.

In many African societies, the king was considered a supreme creation or even a deity himself. This was the belief in Rwanda before the dawn of the Christianity era.

Busasamana, a complex name whose roots come from ‘Gusasa’ (to lay a bed) and Imana (God), roughly translates as ‘the place where god (the king) sleeps; or the god’s home’.

Benjamin Sehena, a Rwandan historian narrates in “Histoire du Rwanda” that located in what is now Nyanza district, Southern province, was Busasamana-the place that hosted the king’s palace towards 1900. Here, King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri, the first Rwandan king to see the white man, established his palace, at Mwima na Mushirarungu hill.

His successor, King Yuhi V Musinga whose reign coincided with the advent of the colonial era, consolidated his power at the same place, until 1931, when the Belgian colonizers with the Catholic Church’s complicity, overthrew and deported Musinga to Bukavu in Democratic Republic of Congo for resisting their rule.

Succeeding him in 1931, his son Mutara III Rudahigwa, who was later baptized Charles Leon Pierre, maintained the kingdom headquarters in Busasamana.

After his death (1959) King Rudahigwa was succeeded by Kigeli V Ndahindurwa who did not change the palace. However, he only reigned for a couple of months before being overthrown by independence claimants.

Between 1960s and 1990s, Nyanza and its Busasamana suburb were not spoken of. Many authors suggest that this was because the post-colonial rulers  wanted the area’s historical significance suppressed and Busasamana forgotten. Thus they put to different uses the magnificent modern palaces king Mutara III Rudahigwa had built in Busasamana, with no effort to preserve their rich history.

After the liberation struggle, the current government restored the two modern residencies of the King Mutara III Rudahigwa as well as his father’s traditional palace.

The traditional house and the first modern palace host the King’s Palace museum, while the magnificent storey building to which Rudahigwa was planning to relocate has been transformed into a National Art Gallery.

Every year, thousands of tourists from different corners of the world come to visit the two museums which mean a lot in Rwandan history. There they see some of the royal regalia and learn a lot about the Kings’ deeds, including their conquests that aimed at expanding the country.

They also learn about the believed supremacy. The subjects used to believe that their Mwami was, for instance, the provider of the rain and the source of blessings of prosperity. No wonder Rwandans used to call the kings gods,’ Imana or Nyagasani’, and his dwelling place ‘Busasamana’.

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