KNOW YOUR HISTORY: Nyagakecuru, the woman who rebelled against the king

Rebellion against authority is as old as humanity except in most cases it has been led by men. And Rwanda has not been any different. During the reign of some kings, a number of people, particularly men, tried to challenge the power of their leaders.

Rebellion against authority is as old as humanity except in most cases it has been led by men. And Rwanda has not been any different. During the reign of some kings, a number of people, particularly men, tried to challenge the power of their leaders. But what made it even more interesting was the fact that some daring women had the nerves to lead rebellions against the king.

A case in point is Nyagakecuru wo Mu bisi bya Huye (Nyagakecuru residing in Huye mountains), currently in Huye District, Southern Province. According to history, this old woman lived during the 18th century under King Kigeli IV Rwabugili.

 

Rwabugili was a very strong king who expanded his kingdom by conquering neighbouring territories such as Ankole (in Uganda).

 

Although he was feared by other kings for his great combat abilities, it was not enough to suppress Nyagakecuru’s ambitions. Unlike other people who respected and obeyed the king, Nyagakecuru who had some authority (Umuhinza) in Kigeli’s kingdom never humbled herself before him.

 

A snake trained to fight

It is said that Nyagakecuru’s home was located at the top of Mt. Huye. According to Jean Marie Vianney Ndayisenga, 70, who has relatives near that place, Nyagakecuru’s home was surrounded by a fence of thorny trees. This environment turned out to be home for a very big snake which always protected the old woman from intruders.

“Very often, the king attacked the woman because she refused to send him gifts like everyone else,” says Ndayisenga, adding that “the snake would always fight the army making the king more furious.”

Realising that the violent approach wasn’t working, the king decided to change his strategy. He gave Nyagakecuru a present of 50 goats and she was excited. In fact she began bragging around, saying she had brought the king to his knees and that that’s why he was rewarding her despite her insubordination. What she did not comprehend was that her type of fence (trees) was both a delicacy for goats and a good hideout for snakes. 

In no time, the goats had eaten away the whole fence, leaving the snake homeless. It had no choice but to flee.

The king, who was watching from afar, then quickly sent his army and the woman was captured.

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