Every year on April 6, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom commemorates the demise of Omukama Chwa II Kabalega.

By UG Reports

HOIMA: Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom has commenced preparations to commemorate 100 years since the demise of Omukama Chwa II Kabalega.

The commemoration will take place on April 6, 2022, under the theme Unity for Development.

In an exclusive interview with UGReports, the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Andrew Byakutaga, said that the event will be honored at Kikangaara Hill, Buyanja Secondary School in Kibaale District.

Byakutaga said that it was where Omukama Chwa II Kabalega defeated his siblings. ‘’We shall have activities such as community service, cultural exhibitions, speeches, a football match, and the launching of some projects in honor of Omukama Kabalega,’’ he said.

The Kingdom premier asked the public to embrace the commemoration day, saying that Omukama Chwa II Kabalega defended Bunyoro against the enemies, boosted trade, and promoted unity among the subjects.

Every year on April 6, Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom commemorates the demise of Omukama Chwa II Kabalega.

Who was Omukama Chwa II Kabalega?

Omukama Chwa II Kabalega was the ruler of the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom from 1870 to 1899.  He was born on June 18, 1853, and died on April 6, 1923, at Mpumudde Hill in Busoga Region on his way back home.

He was born to Omukama Kamurasi Mirundi Rukanama rwa Kanembe Kyebambe IV of the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom. His mother was called Kanyange Nyamutahingurwa Omunyonzakati Abwooli.

Kabalega ascended the throne in 1869 at the age of 16 as the 23rd  Omukama of the Babiito Dynasty following the death of his father. He chose the throne name Chwa II after Omukama Chwa 1 Ente-Nkore Rumoma-Mahanga, whose stories inspired him as a child.

He was also later named Yohana (John) upon being baptized in captivity.

Kabalega led a historic revival of the kingdom and registered several victories in reclaiming lost territories, increasing food production, cattle keeping, and trade, given that Bunyoro was the center of iron smelting at that time and had the Kibiro Salt Works.

He was a war genius. His blacksmith, who had acquired the art of duplicating European guns, manufactured for him his famous “Bagwigairebata” gun.

He resisted the British attempts to colonize his kingdom.

In June 1872, Kabalega defeated Sir Samuel Baker at Masindi, frustrating his attempt to annex Bunyoro and the entire Lake Victoria region to the equatorial province of Egypt.

In 1888, Kabalega backed Prince Kalema of the neighboring Buganda kingdom, attacked Mengo, and forced Kabaka Mwanga II to desert his capital and flee to Bulingugwe Island. Kalema ruled Buganda for one year before Mwanga II returned.

At the height of the British offensive on his kingdom, Kabalega went into hiding in Acholi in the north under the protection of Chief Awich Abok of Payira.

It’s from there that he consistently led his rebellion, dubbed “Nyangire,” that proved a thorn in the colonial skin. For five years, Kabalega was able to fend off the British, who had enlisted help from other countries, including Somalia and Nubia.

His capture

On April 9, 1899, Kabalega was shot by the British, who captured him and the anti-imperialist Mwanga II of Buganda, who had been deposed by the British and had become allied to Kabelega.

He was exiled to the Seychelles for 23 years. His son Kitahimbwa was appointed king but had little power as the kingdom was administered nearly directly by the colonial authority.

In science and innovation, according to R.W. Felkin (a medical missionary), Kabalega’s Bunyoro was the only place in the world in 1879 where the Caesarean section was performed to save both mother and baby. In other areas, the mother’s life was sacrificed for the child.

Further, during Kabalega’s reign, Bunyoro discovered a cure for sleeping sickness, and Bunyoro’s citizens used to be immunized against endemic syphilis.

In 1923, Kabalega was given permission to return to Bunyoro but died in Jinja on April 6, 1923, shortly before reaching the borders of the kingdom.

In 1972, President Idi Amin renamed Murchison Falls, located within Murchison Falls National Park, Kabalega Falls after the Omukama.

On June 8, 2009, Kabalega was declared a national hero of Uganda by President Yoweri Museveni.

In 2010, the Most Honourable Order of Omukama Chwa II Kabalega was founded in honor of Kabalega by the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara.

Kabalega remains an inspirational figure for Ugandans and Africans at large, and many still revere him as an African icon and hero.

Additional information by the Kabalega Foundation

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