The era of God’s Kings and the rise of King Rugambanabato

In the last issue of our series of African history, the writer talked about Rumezamilyango, the pioneer of Batembuzi Kings, today he is looking at the marriage and the history of Rugambanabato, one of the last kings of the Batembuzi.  

In the last issue of our series of African history, the writer talked about Rumezamilyango, the pioneer of Batembuzi Kings, today he is looking at the marriage and the history of Rugambanabato, one of the last kings of the Batembuzi.

The writer also indicated the number of names that were introduced to create confusion and gave us a new history which was not really ours.

A researcher today has difficulties in re-writing the real history of Africa, especially the pre-history of the Great Lakes Region.

The era of God’s Kings begins with the belief that the Batembuzi era started in 1400 BC, became dominant in Central/east Africa and collapsed in 1000 AD.

The archaeological and historical records show that around 1000 AD, cattle pastoralists from southern and central Africa expanded into southern Sudan and western Africa, from the Great Lakes Region.

This coincides exactly with the rise of Bacwezi kings.
If we agree that Rumezamilyango was the pioneer of Batembuzi, while Isimbwa was the pioneer of the Bacwezi, then the Bacwezi rose 1400 years after the Batembuzi.

As we said earlier, people in this region shared a common cultural and historical tradition, social structure, ideology of leadership and the same religious system.

We will look at this towards the end of this article, where people put together their efforts in fighting crickets from Lake Nzige (that was renamed Lake Mugesera in today’s Eastern Province of Rwanda), to Lake Rwicanzige in Northern Uganda.

They put together their efforts during the reign King Rugambanabato.

King Yuhi Musindi is the father of Rumeza/Kimera, the famous Rumezamiryango. In Rwanda we know him us Rumeza, but in Uganda, historians make a difference between Kimera and Isimbwa. For them Isimbwa is Kimezamilyango.

However, when you look the reign of Isimbwa, the pioneer of the Bacwezi, and Kimeza, the pioneer of Batembuzi, there is a long period that separates their reign to power.

The name Kimeza itself is a contraction of Kimezamilyango. The Batembuzi seem to include all the elders who left Buhanga with Rumeza to Gala, Northern Uganda.

The Batembuzi refer to people who came first with their cows as “Uruhururambitse.” Cows were considered at that time as a treasure.

The Batembuzi brought Uruhururambitse with them. Uruhururambitse was a kind of cattle similar to Imyambo, with exceptionally long horns.

Some writers say that these cows arrived in the region from Ethiopia; they actually came from Buhanga with Batembuzi lead by Rumezamilyango.

Fossils of these cattle are found in the Great Lakes Region and are more than 8000 years old.

Research has proved the existence of such cattle in Kerma that pre-dates the Bachwezi. Kerma civilization, which started shortly before the Batembuzi in Sudan was a great civilization.

It became dominant in Kush and Egypt for hundreds of years lasting from 2600 BC to 1550 BC.

Incidentally the Bacwezi rose after the Kerma civilization. For example, the Kerma used the ditch fortifications, surrounding their fort as it has been done at Bigo bya Mugenyi.

An example of the Kerma civilisation is the Buhen (which is a variant of Buha) temple.

Kerma civilization first was deposed by an Egyptian invasion in 1450 BC.

In southern Sudan it pre-dates the Kushite Empire.

That is why we can say without a shadow of doubt that the Batembuzi era pre-dates the Kushite Empire and most of the African kingdoms and empires.

Scholars like Robert Graves have said that around the same time, people from the Great Lakes Region of Africa started to settle along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea to become the Canaanites who dominated the lowlands between the Jordan River, the Mediterranean and the Sinai desert.

It is also during this era that the Sindi (variant of Musindi) civilization rose in Asia.

I happened to be in correspondence with a Ugandan who wrote to me the following about this issue:

“What is more interesting is that the Kushite dynasty in Sudan also fell at the same time the Batembuzi collapsed.

The Kushite was replaced in Sudan by the Beja (variant of Bega) civilization, even though the Empire retained the name Kush.

The fall of Kush also caused the rise of Axum, in Ethiopia, and Garama in Chad/Niger/Libya. Garama Empire lasted for about 1,000 years, from about 400 BCE to 600 CE.

Finally, the Sung Dynasty recorded visits to China in 1071 CE and 1081-3 CE of the embassy of Zenjistan.

Zenjistan is the Persian for “Land of the Shenzi”, in Africa.

If the Bacwezi are in fact the Shenzi (and I believe they are), then they were trying to establish diplomatic connections shortly after taking power.”

All this helps us to understand the greatness of Rumezamilyango, the pioneer of Batembuzi kings.

They ruled over the region more than 1400 years; 400 before the Common Era and 1000 year after the Common Era.

A poem by Dan Kashagama gives a clear idea of those kingdoms that existed at least shortly before the Batembuzi or after the Batembuzi civilization.

Here is  the poem:
Addis Abeba
A cherished Andromeda
Home of denizens and dreamers
Promethean fount of Africa’s new millennium
Ophiric gilding has cast you in the mode
Of the Kushite craft,
So upon your shoulders
Let us stand
with heroic postures,
A hand shielding our eyes
As we gaze at the lay of the land
Toward great wonders north
through Meroe and Napata, past Karnak,
then arc slowly wide and westward
through Carthage to Timbuktu’s horizon
and now inward
to Mandara’s granite terraces
and southward again
over the eternal beauty of ancient Loango;
first to Bigo bya Mugyenyi
across the old Shenzi heartland
and beyond Izimba za Mabwe
clear past the Mapungubwe Hills
and into the bright sun of Kalahari.
And then
raising our arm in a fist of glory
the African salute
Or perhaps placing our other hand
On our hearts
Let us lift every voice
Although our African stories have been stolen, our hope is that African children will dig deep until we find our real history.

We shall then bury the given history in the colonial history books.

Rumezamilyango’s marriage to Kirezi

After establishing himself in Gala, Rumezamilyango wanted to marry. Although In the Nyoro version, Rumezamilyango or Isaza’s wife is the Empress Nyamata, who was the daughter of Nyamiyonga.

The oral literature of Rwanda doesn’t refer to Nyamiyonga as a King and it holds that Nyamata was Musindi’s grand mother.

According to Rwanda oral literature, Rumeza was the son of Musindi and Nyamata. Nyamata was Rumeza’s grand mother.

She is the one who left Buhanga accompanying Musindi when he was a young boy going into exile. Rumezamiryango returned to Buhanga and married Rugwana’s daughter named Kirezi.

At this point we should remember that from Gihanga’s era up to the reign of Ruganzu Bwimba, all queen mothers were from Basinga clan.

Rumezamilyango returned only to get a Musinga’s wife, Kirezi a daughter of Abasinga, whom he married.

He took her and constructed her residence in a place known today as Bigo bya Mugenyi in Uganda.

The Mugenyi (bride) mentioned here is Kirezi.

After they had been married for a long time, Kirezi wished to test how deep her husband’s love was.

She said to him: “Who do you love more, me or your cow Bihogo bya Gaju?” The king replied: “Surely, my dear, I love you as much as I love my cow Bihogo bya Gaju.” After this incident, Kirezi was in no doubt about Rumezamilyango’s love for her.

One day, as Rumezamilyango and Kirezi were seated conversing, the king’s cows, including Bihogo bya Gaju happened to stray towards their direction.

All of a sudden, Rumezamilyango got up and went to find out what was happening.

Kirezi was furious, and the king, realizing what he had done, came back to her and told her: “My dear, do not be angry with me, because I lose all sense of proportion whenever I see cows.”

It is said that Bihogo bya Gaju died afterwards.

It is probably after this incident that Rumezamilyango left Gala (Toro) and went to start a new life in Bungeri (Buganda), living Kirezi at Bigo bya Mugenyi.

Toro’s story has it that Bigo bya Mugenyi is famous for having had a favourite of Rumezamilyango cow, known as Bihogo bya Gaju.

If Bigo bya Mugenyi was made famous for having this cow, it is then clear that when Kirezi left Rwanda, Rumezamilyango constructed a residence for her at the place where we know today as Bigo Bya Mugenyi today in Uganda.

“Bigo bya Mugyeni” the ancient capital of the Kitara Empire, means “City of Mugenyi.” The word Mugyeni, or Mugenyi which means bride in Kinyarwanda, has a different meaning in Nyoro; it means “visitor.”

This visitor to Bunyoro is none other than Rumezamilyango’s bride, Kirezi cya Rugwana, a daughter of Abasinga.

Nyoro story says again that Rumeza also married General Bukulu’s daughter named Nyinamwiru. Perhaps as a result of a compromise, or perhaps by love, whatever the case, Rumezamilyango married Bukulu’s daughter Nyinamwiru and they had a son named Karubumbi.

It is really difficult to know how many kings reigned during the era of God’s Kings or the Batembuzi era which lasted more than 1400 years.

But those who left memorable stories are Rumeza and Rugambanabato. Writers have written names that are themselves confusing; they total up to 11 kings.

We doubt this because 11 kings cannot rule over 1400 years.

As the previous list indicated, they included names like Kakama, Kairu and Kakuma created by colonial masters.

These were just a duplication of Gahutu, Gatwa and Gatutsi.

They also included six names that were a variation of one person, namely Gihanga. That is how the Batembuzi kings list was distorted, and it makes it difficult for us to trace their names today.

A typical example is that those who wrote about Rwanda said Nyarume replaced Rumeza, where as Nyarume was succeeded by Rukuge and the latter succeeded by Rubanda.

After Rubanda, we see names like King Ndahilo who was killed and replaced by his brother Bamara. (Sorry to write “L” because colonial scholars have said that Rwandans should not write “L” and “bg” except in “Kigali” and “Kabgayi,” there must be a reason for that).

What coincidence? Do you know that in the Ugandan history Rumezamilyango was succeeded by his son Karubumbi, who was later succeeded by Bukulu?

These two were succeeded by Ndahula who became the first King of Bacwezi?

This is the distortion of the same history. Colonial writers just changed names of people in order to separate African history especially that of Uganda and Rwanda.

Imagine that in Uganda, Ndahula was succeeded by Wamala, while in Rwanda Bamara was the successor of Ndahiro.

Let’s not try to cash up our stolen history, because it will be a difficult task to know names of Batembuzi kings who governed for 1400 years while first colonial writers wanted our countries to stay without historical facts.

They wanted Rwanda to be 900 years old (for Father Alexis Kagame) and 700 hundred years old (for other European scholars.).

African leaders who refused this forged history paid their lives.

It is said that when the white man came, we owned land and he carried the Bible.

He taught us to pray and said “Let’s close our eyes and pray.” When we opened our eyes, we carried the Bible and he owned the land.

What I can add, is that the white man didn’t only take land, but also our history, culture and especially lives of our leaders.

King Yuhi Musinga is the fist victim of the rejection of colonial teachings.

He refused to kneel down before the colonial god, and he paid his life for that.

It is under the direct influence of Bishop Léon Classe, that King Yuhi Musinga, who had resisted conversion to Christianity, was deposed and forced into exile in DR Congo where he died.

The history of one of the last kings of Batembuzi

In Uganda, he is called Isaza Waraga Rugambanabato; while in Rwanda oral tradition has him as Rugambanabato, one of the last kings of Batembuzi.

During his reign, the region faced many difficulties, especially the first cricket disasters in the region. It is King Rugambanabato who defeated these crickets.

He ascended to the throne while still a very young.

He made sure that all old men in his kingdom were killed.

The young monarch was therefore nicknamed “Rugambanabato (he who talks only with young people).”

He also had another nickname “Rugambanabacyara,” meaning one who speaks with ladies.

Why Rugambanabato killed old men

During this period, there arose a disaster throughout the region. Millions of crickets swept the entire part of Rwanda.

They were not like today’s crickets, because they were friendly to lakes and waters.

Their home was the then Lake Nzige (Nzinge means crickets).

The Lake is known today as Lake Mugesera (Rwanda).

Crickets destroyed forests and were disastrous in areas like Bugesera, Kibungo, Akagera and Umutara.

The King and his consolers could not defeat these crickets.

They were so many and the entire region put together their efforts in destroying them.

Scientists of the era sat down and tried to look for a solution.

The solution was found in Lake Rwicanzinge, meaning the Lake that kills crickets.

It has been revealed by scientists that Lakes Rwicanzige’s water was poisonous and could kill millions of crickets.

Rugambanabato ordered his men from northern Uganda to southern Rwanda to work hard to face these crickets.

The work was to line up one by one from Northern Uganda to Southern Rwanda and dig a long dam in which they would plant a tree that crickets liked a lot.

During that hard work, old men were not able to work as King Rugambanabato wanted.

He ordered that all old men be killed to give space to young ones who were able to face the challenge.

Trees that were most liked by crickets were planted from Lake Nzinge to Lake Rwicanzinge.

Seeing these trees, crickets left Lake Nzige and started eating these trees from Lake Nzige to Lake Rwicanzinge.

In Lake Rwicanzinge, all these crickets were killed by Rwicanzige poisonous water.

How the old men were allowed back in the region

Rugambanabato enjoyed hunting. One day after killing a young gazelle, which had a nice skin, he expressed a wish to put on the skin of the young gazelle.

His friends made the skin into the form of a cloth and gave it to him.

The king was extremely delighted, but unfortunately, the skin dried on him and became too tight.

It pressed against him to the point of squeezing him to death.

When he explained to them in anguish, “Bidishyi I am dying,” his young people responded in a chorus, “Mwidishyi you are dying.”

Seeing that the situation was getting out of hand, one of them who had hidden his grand father went to see him (his grand father) in his refuge and told him the situation.

The Ugandan version of the story says that he went to see the king’s aunt called Kogere and his sister Nyangoma.

(Nyangoma is known in Rwandan oral history as Nyangoma ya Nyabami).

The story continues that when the old man was told the tragic story, he went with his grandson to save Rugambanabato.

When he arrived at the scene, he ordered Rugambanabato’s friends to take him to a river and let him sleep entirely in the water.

When he emerged from the water, the animal skin has softened, and with the aid of a knife, the old man was able to cut the skin.

He opened it and took Rugambanabato out of the skin.

King Rugambanabato was so delighted and ordered that if there is any other older men hidden somewhere, they should show up and come to live at his palace.

He made them his court advisors and ordered them not to depart from his presence.

From then, Rugambanabato preferred the old men to the young men and agreed to be advised by the elders because young people were not able to save him.

He asked them always give reverence to the old people.
In our next issue, we will talk about the greatness of Bigo bya Mugenyi fortress, in comparison with other fortresses like those other parts of Africa and the Great Chinese Wall.

This will help us to understand the greatness of the Batembuzi kings, the pioneers of development not only in our region but also in Africa and the Far East;

The author is a Rwandan Independent Researcher, historian and writer.
Tel: 08456165