Mysteries: the fascinating origins of the Basongora

Unlocking the Mysteries of the BaKama, BaHuma and BaChwezi


The Songora or Shongora (pl. Basongora, sing. Musongora) are also known as Kama [BaKama], Huma [Bahuma] and as Chwezi [BaChwezi or BaChwa]. Some other names given to Basongora in commentaries of explorers, missionaries and researchers include: Bagalla, Bazongora, Barondagani, Basagara, and others, some of which are certainly the result of poor spelling.

Basongora are traditionally a pastoralist cattle-herding cultural community located in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, primarily – but not exclusively – in what is now western Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Basongora have distinctive pastoral customs that include the breeding, bleeding and milking of African longhorn cattle. Several noted, but endangered, breeds of long-horn cattle – including the enGondo, eNyambo and enGombe – were bred in Busongora.

The Basongora are not nomadic, despite claims to the contrary.  Nomadism implies that a group entirely abandons one location and moves to another.  Basongora have never abandoned Busongora.

In pre-colonial times the young men and women would travel with the cows, but they always left some milk-cows and a cohort of warriors and able-bodied caretakers to guard the homesteads and take care of the elderly and the very young relatives.  Travelling herders always return after a while to rejoin their families.

Basongora women are held in great respect, and the men make decisions on the advice of their women.  It is taboo for a man to raise his voice in anger or impatience when speaking to a woman.  Basongora are one of the world’s few cultures that practice multilateral descent – they inherit through both the male and female ancestors.

In the pre-colonial era, Basongora were famed as priests, prophets, mandarins and warriors, and continue – even in modern times – to be perceived as talented administrators and commanders. From ancient times BuSongora was an important part of the world, and was incorporated into several of Africa’s largest and most powerful empires.

The land of the Basongora was known to the ancient Kushites, Egyptians, Phoenicians and Greeks as “The Land of the Moon”, and is the location of the spectacular “Mountains of the Moon” [the Rwenjura Mountain Range – erroneously misspelled as “Rwenzori” by Henry Morton Stanley in 1888].  Busongora also features several rivers that are sources of the Nile River. Busongora has a remarkable number of explosion craters, as well volcanic lakes, underground rivers, ancient forests, and much more besides.

The western arm of Africa’s Great Rift Valley – known as the Albertine Rift – also runs through Busongora. Basongora are traditionally monotheistic, and the culture consists almost exclusively of ancient court rituals and customs that attended protocol in the palaces of the ancient Kushites, the ancient Axumites, and the ancient Shenzi [Zenj].

Modern Basongora today are the last indigenous remnant of the royal families, military elites, nobility, courtiers and priesthood of the fabled Chwezi Empire, as well as of the ancient empires – Kush and Axum – that ruled Central Africa over the past centuries.

Throughout history Busongora sent envoys and settlers to every part of the planet, and in turn Busongora was visited frequently by travellers from as far afield as Europe and China.

The most ancient name by which the Basongora community was identified is “Kama”,  expressed  in  Rusongora  as “ba Kama”. It initially meant “those who milk”, in reference to cattle-rearing. Eventually, however,  the  “BaKama”  came  to  be associated with kingship and  are known to have dominated the earliest civilization of the post-Ice-Age era in Africa – known as the Bovidian Era – that existed about 10,000 years ago.

In fact it is from the “Kama” that we get the names Kem, Khem, and biblical Ham, all of which came to refer to the original name for all of Africa including Egypt.  The name “Egypt” is a recent innovation by Greeks who first appeared in Africa in 1400 BC.

Whereas the verb “kama” means to milk a cow, these days the noun “Kama” is exclusively used to mean “a monarch”.  We do not yet know the names of the original pre-Ice Age kingdoms which predate the Kama state.  Stone tools and fossils provide evidence that BuSongora was inhabited by humans as early as 1,000,000 years ago.

The earliest transcribed event in BuSongora that has been dated – so far – is the 25,000-year old Ishango Bone.  The bone was unearthed on the shores of Lake Rueru [L.  Edward] in BuSongora.  The Ishango Bone is a sophisticated calculating aide with inscriptions that consist of three columns of stacked numbers.

The existence of the Ishango Bone indicates awareness of complex mathematical principles, philosophy, as well as advanced knowledge of crystallography and prognostication.

The post-Ice-Age Kama kingdom, which is recorded to have been centred in Busongora about 10,000 years ago, is without question the first kingdom in recorded history of the world.  Ancient scribes and modern scholars have given us the names  of some of the rulers of that time – including Warusiri [known in European texts as Osiris or Ausar] and Mkama [known as in ancient Asian texts as “Am Kaam”], as well as others who have been deified and now make up the entire  cohort  of  early  gods  in  Kush,  Egypt, Mesopotamia  and  Europe.

The area that is now Busongora became the origin of all of Africa’s post-Ice-Age civilizations, as well as several other related civilizations in other parts of the world. Diodorus Siculus – writing in 50 BC while visiting Sudan – claims that Africans living around the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ had sent out – at the end of the Ice Age  –  under  one  Osiris,  a  great  army  “with the intention of visiting all the inhabited earth and teaching the race of men how to cultivate … for he (Osiris) supposed that if he made  men give up their savagery and  adopt a  gentle manner  of  life  he would receive immortal honors…”.

The names “Asr”, “Ausar” and “Osiris” are the Asian, English and Greek renditions of the Rusongora name “Warusiri”.  In Swahili and Arabic this name is rendered as “Wazir”, and in Luganda it is rendered as “Walusimbi”.  There are two famous persons named Warusiri in Busongora’s history. The first Warusiri mentioned by Diodorus and by ancient Egyptian priests lived about 8,000 years ago,  and it is  from  that Warusiri from whom we derive the name “Mizraim”  or “Misiri”  – the other name by which Egypt is known [it is also  known as  “Kemet”].

The name “Mizraim” originally meant “Followers of Warusiri”. and Egyptian civilizations were fully developed long before the emergence of the first dynasties in these places.  Their spiritual beliefs remained fundamentally the same as they had been at time of the cataclysm in Busongora. They looked backward in time to an ancient golden age in the “Land  of  the  Moon”  which remained their point of cultural reference for many centuries.

The second and more recent historical personality named Warusiri was a Musongora prince whose full name is “Ganda Warusiri”. This later Warusiri helped in the founding of the Kingdom of Buganda – which is named after him, and it is his name that is the origin of the name of the modern state of Uganda.  The root for the Rusongora name Warusiri is “si-ri” which breaks down as “earth – alternating movement”, and implies a “cultured environment”, “a garden” or “a paradise”. The preffix “ru” implies the male gender and/or “largeness”.

So then Warusiri should translate as “he of the beautiful earth”. About 7000 BC, the highly sophisticated pre-Ice-Age culture of Warusiri in Busongora – which had survived the thawing of the world’s glaciers – suffered a massive volcanic cataclysm and was destroyed.  Evidence of this cataclysm is still visible in the hundreds of explosion craters [ebi-korongo] of  BuSongora and neighbouring regions.

BuSongora had survived both the catastrophes occasioned by the start and the end of the Ice Age, but was not to be spared the subsequent volcanic and tectonic failure.  Many of the survivors of the volcanic cataclysm fled northward and created a new centre in the Sudan, and later on in Egypt.  They took with them to these places an already fully developed system of government.

All of the essential elements that constitute ancient Kushite 6 Around 4236 BC, the people from the “Land of the Moon” [the baKama] established the lunar calendar in Egypt.  Based on  cycles  of  the  moon  “Iah”  or  “Jah” – the calendar and its associated fertility cults would eventually be adopted by foreigners who now worship Yahweh and Allah – both variants of the Kama word name for ‘moon’.  Robert Graves – the 20th century’s leading scholar of mythography – wrote in his book “The Greek Myths”, that “Agenor, Libya’s son by Poseidon and twin to Belus, left Egypt to settle in the land of Canaan, where he married Telephassa, otherwise called Argiope, who bore him Cadmus, Phoenix, Cilix, Thasus, Phineus, and one daughter, Europa… Agenor is the Phoenician hero Chnas, who  appears  in  Genesis  as  ‘Canaan’; many  Canaanite  customs  point  to  an  East African provenience, and the Canaanites may  have  originally  come  to  Lower  Egypt from Uganda.”

In 3800 BC the pharaohs buried at Qustul in Kush had fully-formed and stable ideas about management of government, and about the rites required in the performance of their duties on behalf of society.    Moreover, the cultural  milieu  in which they grew was one which had cattle as its primary source of organizational, economic,  spiritual  and  cultural  vitality.

The graves of the pharaohs at Qustul were surrounded by the graves of cattle. Thus architecture, trade, mining,  hunting, fishing and agriculture functioned only as auxiliary systems of servicing and augmenting the primary cattle complex.  The Egyptian scribe Manetho of Sebennytus explained in 275 BC that the Egyptian kingdom to the north of Kush emerged from an array of small city states, each ruled by a hereditary king.

There were about 40 of these city states in Egypt that had been formed over the course of 2000 years – between 7000 BC and 5000 BC.  Eventually these states were unified to create two states – one based around Thebes in the South and the other centred on Memphis in the north – but they were vassals of the Early Kushite Empire with its capital at Qustul in what is now Nubia.

In 3100 BC the two states were unified by a pharaoh named Aha who broke away from the early Kushite Empire to the south.   Aha formed the  autonomous  state of Egypt.   Another old name for Basongora is “Huma”, and is associated exclusively with long-horn cattle and the processing of iron. Long-horn cattle were from the earliest times associated with iron smelting rites, and thus the name for those cows may have  been  transposed onto the smelting process, and eventually to the metal product itself.

Thus the word for metal prong or fork is also “huma”, and the old word for iron in east and central Africa  became  “huma”  –  or  its  variants such as ‘chuma’ ‘kyoma’ and ‘uma’].  The thing  that  ties  together  these  diverse meanings for the word “huma” is the fact that both these special cattle and the iron-smelting process, were initially associated with priests who managed the  cow-sacrificing rites that  took place at the iron-smelting sites.

In due course the people associated with these ritual practices involving “cattle, divination and iron” became known as “BaHuma” – literally translating as “People of Iron”. This connection with priesthood is born out by the fact that the routines and taboos – such as abstinence from rich foods, and the prohibition against eating fish, insects, meat – as well as use of a highly ritualised moon calendar, which constitute the customs of the “baHuma”, are all rites ascribed to the ancient priesthood of Kush and ancient Egypt.

The priests in Egypt and Kush didn’t create these taboos and rites relating to food or smelting, but rather were following established  tradition  that  predates  the Tembuzi  narratives  are  inclusive  of  all  of the dynasties that came before the current and last dynasty – the bachwezi. The Tembuzi are inclusive of the Kushites and the Axumites and the Shenzi Dynasties, as well as prior dynasties founding of Egyptian Civilization.

Records left by Egyptian scribes dating as far back as 2300 BC, claimed that the founders of various Egyptian dynasties up to that time came from “the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon”. The scribes also claimed the ‘Land  of  the  Moon’  was  home  to  the  god Hapi – the Egyptian and Kushite god of cattle and water – indicating that at that time and prior, intensive cattle-rearing was already established in Busongora, before it spread to Sudan and Egypt.

Moreover, ritual cattle culture is attested as far back as the start of the Holocene Era [10,000  BCE]  when cattle burials, kraal building and other customs associated with long-horn breed of cattle became common,  and  possibly  as  early  as  50,000 years  ago  –  when  it  is  said  that a  mutation in the human genome allowed some Africans to start digesting cow milk.

Then the people who lived in Busongora at the dawn of recorded history had a great impact on the subsequent evolution of the African civilization. The priestly portion of the  traditions  they  left  have  survived as BaHuma culture in Busongora, and it spread to other parts of Africa and gave rise  to sacred kingship rites involving long-horn royal cattle, moon-veneration, divination, and iron production technology.

There are several dynasties in Kush and Egypt whose organization and legitimacy were notably contingent on maintaining herds  of sacred longhorn cattle that had been bred in Busongora – including all the dynasties that fall under the Kerma Era, which lasted from 2500 BC to 1500 BC. The Kushite Empire that ruled Busongora and the rest of Africa from about 3800 BC to 3100 BC – and then again from 2300 BC to 330 AD – had the greatest legacy in terms of culture and languages.

In Rusongora, the name  “Kush” is  enunciated as “Kookyi” and also as “Kasha” and their related terms, and translates as “River Valley”.  The personal name “Mugasha” – Mukasa in the Luganda dialect – translates as “the Kushite”.  Other personal names or function names, such as Mukushi, Kasa,  Nkusi,  Gusi,  are  all  variants  or the name “Kush”.  The Kushite imperial administrative centres in Busongora – and elsewhere in Africa’s Great Lakes Region – still retain the name Kush, or its variants.

Beginning in 330 AD, the Axumite Empire gained control  of  Central,  Eastern  and Southern Africa, replacing the Kushite Empire in those regions. The traditional oral narratives of Busongora are rich with information about the origins and deeds of the “Tembuzi”  Dynasties  [the  word Tembuzi comes from “tembu’ra” meaning “to  found”  or  “to  arrive  early”].  The Moreover, the arrival of the Axumites in Busongora is recorded in the text of the Monumentum Adulitanum – an ancient Adulite inscription in Greek and Ge’ez depicting the military campaigns of the Emperor Aphilas. The text in the Monumentum Adulitanum describes the  King’s  conquests,  including  of  all  the areas  in  what is  now  Ethiopia,  Eritrea and parts of Arabia, as well Sudan and all of East and Central Africa.

The King Aphilas claimed that after his armies captured Meroe – the Kushite capital in what is now the Republic of Sudan – he became the ruler of all the places described in the text of the Monumentum Adulitanum.  The inscription also notes that his armies went “to the mountains past the Nile” and climbed these mountains until they were “knee-deep in snow.”

According to Aphilas’s own account of his expeditions into Central Africa, the people at the base of the Rwenjura Mountain Range had told him that they were independent and had never been conquered by outsiders – until he arrived.  Considering that Kushite control and expeditions in Central Africa before Aphila’s conquest are recorded in numerous places, it is certain that the people at the base of the Rwenjura Mountains [Rwenzori] understood themselves as the natural  citizens  of the Kushite Empire, with a sense of entitlement that the  empire  was their nation, as opposed to a foreign imposition or an illegitimate power.

The ancient Basongora told Emperor Aphilas that they had never before been conquered by outsiders – because they themselves were Kushites, as Aphilas himself had been until he overthrew the Kushite Empire.  By the end of Aphilas’ reign Axum was at the height of its power, and was regarded as the third of the four greatest powers of its time – after Persia and Rome – with China being the fourth.

The Axumite Empire’s initial capital was Zula [Adulis] in what is now Eritrea, but it later shifted to the city of Axum in what is now Ethiopia.  Zula had initially became great around 100 AD when it served as an important  port  city  of  the  Kushite Empire. It gained autonomy in 300 AD when Aphilas – its governor – revolted and overthrew the Kushite empire.  A few years later Aphilas’ new empire moved its capital to the city of Axum.  For the next 300 years Axum would control all of east, central and southern Africa, and would have a profound effect  on  the  history  and culture of Busongora.

The name Axum breaks down as “AkShum”, which originally meant “water lords” or “sea lords” in the Agaw language of northern Ethiopia from which many of the other languages and dialects of Eritrea and Ethiopia are derived.  Alternatively, the name “mai-shum” was used instead of Akshum.  The word “shum” originally meant ‘lord’ or ‘chief’.

The name for the Axumite governors and commanders has survived in Rusongora as “BaShuma”.  After the defeat the Axumite Empire by the Shenzi Empire, the name “Bashuma” came to acquire a negative meaning.  In the languages of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, “Shuma” forms the root for various related words with meanings that include: ‘buy’, ‘raid’, and ‘take without permission’.  All of these terms and phrases are reflective of the feelings associated with imperial rule of the Axumites in Central Africa.

In 630 AD, the Axumite empire declined precipitously on account of the instability generated by the rise of the Islamic Caliphate and also by the Axumite rivalry with the Nubian Federation. A rebellion within the Axumite Empire allowed for the emergence of the Shenzi (Zenj) Empire during the reign of the Axumite ruler named Emperor Sahama.    The nascent Shenzi Empire was carved out of the equatorial and southern territory of the Axumite Empire.

The Shenzi Empire was founded by a man named Twale, who most likely was serving as governor in the Axumite Empire before breaking away and forming the new empire. Despite the precipitous decline and the loss of a lot of territory to the Shenzi in 630 AD, the Axumite Empire remained a  large  and powerful  state  –  but confined to North-East Africa, in the territory now covered by the modern republics of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as northern Kenya.

However, in 960 AD this reduced Axumite Empire was invaded and conquered by  the  Shenzi  Empire.   At the time of the final collapse of Axum and its erasure from the list of nations of the world, the Shenzi Empire was ruled by the Empress Kudidi. The Empress Kudidi is referred to in modern Ethiopia  as  “Gudit”  or  “  Judith” and as “a southern pagan queen”.  At the time  of  “Gudit”,  the  Shenzi  Empire  was  the only southern neighbour of the Axumite Empire – there  were no  independent states between the two empires.

The Empress Kudidi may have been “pagan” in the eyes of the Christians and Moslems, but her paganism is described as having “Proto-Jewish” characteristics.   In fact BaHuma spirituality is “proto-jewish” and consists of kosher dietary traditions and other ascetic practices that the BaHuma bequeathed to the  ancient  Kushites, Egyptians and Canaanites.  These BaHuma spiritual practices were later incorporated into Judaism and Christianity and Islam.

Kudidi was the 14th ruler of the  Shenzi Empire.  She was a member of the ethnic Huma Dynasty that came to dominate the Shenzi Empire around 750 AD.  Kudidi is a common name for female Basongora.  The first three of the Shenzi emperors have names that typically belong to the African Sabaki language communities that are now resident in eastern Kenya and coastal Tanzania.  Sabaki includes such languages as Pokomo, Mijikenda, Maore-Comorian, and Swahili.

However, the later Shenzi emperors have names that are a mixture of Sabaki language and Rutara language communities of western Uganda, implying a gradual shift in the demographic configuration of the Shenzi ruling dynasty.  Rusongora – the language of Basongora – retains numerous Sabaki words and names.

Moreover, Rusongora consists of two divergent registers, which are separate languages, one Rutaran and the other consisting of Cushitic, Nilo-Saharan and Sabaki vocabulary. The name “Shenzi” itself is thousands of years old and predates the rise of the Shenzi Empire.  The ancient Egyptians and Kushites  referred  to  the  Great  Lakes Region of Africa as “Ta-She” meaning “Land of the Lakes”.  “Ta” is a prefix – sometimes a suffix – indicating or denoting “land of”, and “She” denotes “lakes”.

The structure of the name Ta-She is similar to  other  names  given  to  regions in Africa by the Kushites.  Sudan was  TaSeti meaning “Land of the Bow”, Lower Egypt was Ta-Meht – meaning “Land of Flax”,  and  Upper  Egypt  was Ta-Resu.   The people of TaShe were known as “She-zi” or “She-nzi” with the “zi” suffix denoting “domain of” or “element of” or “principle of”.

It is certain that the people of the Great Lakes Region of Africa referred to themselves as Shenzi long before the founding of the Shenzi Empire.   The name Shenzi has been recorded from the earliest times as the name of the peoples of the Great Lakes Region.  The founders of the Shenzi Dynasty may have given their dynasty the name Shenzi as confirmation of the fact that they were indigenous or that they were harkening back to an earlier time when things were better.

It is also possible they were  simply  known  by that name because it was the name of the region and the people. Under the Empress Kudidi, the armies of the Shenzi Empire expanded into all of north-east Africa, as well as western Africa, and established there the female dominated military hierarchies and communities that have persisted for centuries.

The Empress Kudidi not only destroyed the Axumite Empire, she also changed the demographics and culture of Sahel Belt and North-Eastern Africa in profound ways.  The Boraana are descendants of the BaHuma army that the Empress Kudidi send to Axum.  Several cities in northern east Africa grew out of the military encampments  of  Kudidi’s military divisions – some of which divisions were led by female commanders.

Both the Kogyere Epic of the Basongora and the Liongo Epic of the Sabaki provide an abundant amount of information about origins of the Boraana, and the origins of other “Galla” pastoralists now currently living in north Kenya, Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia, as well as the Borooro (Wodaabe) in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria.

The name Galla was still being applied to Basongora  by  Arabs  and  by  Europeans during the colonial occupation (18911962), and it is certain that the Boraana, Wodaabe (Proto-Fulani) and the Basongora had relations in the past owing to  the correspondences  in the  languages, history and social practices.  The Boraana and the Masai in East Africa, as well as the Bororo [Wodaabe]  in  West  Africa,  and  the Himba in Southern Africa, all share with the BaHuma of Busongora many spiritual beliefs, words and customs – especially those relating to pastoralism.

However, the Basongora also share commonalities with the Proto-Luo, as well as with many other pastoralist communities across Africa.  The Shenzi were a unique civilization in many ways.  They used age-set cohorts in their armies, and maintained sophisticated calendrical  systems  based  on  star-charts.  Many of the leading military commanders and governors were female.

They detested slave-trading, and rejected the religions, symbols and arts of their Islamic and Christian neighbours in Nubia and  Axum.  They  were exceptionally  good  sailors,  and controlled the  shipping  lanes  on both the equatorial and southern African coasts  of  the  Atlantic  and  Indian  oceans.  In addition, the Shenzi were versatile animal-breeders, and kept large herds of cows and camels in different parts of the African interior.  The Shenzi also built and  maintained  great  forts  on  the African coast and the interior, and in the Persian Gulf.  The kept embassies abroad in states  as  far-flung  as Europe, Persia  and China.

They also traded salt from mines in BuSongora and in Uvinza [in what is now Tanzania], as well as copper, gold, and iron. The Empress Kudidi ruled the Shenzi Empire for over 40 years, beginning in 960 AD. The unified Shenzi Empire lasted another 130 years after Kudidi’s reign.  During its existence, the Shenzi Empire maintained embassies across the world in places as far flung as Denmark in northern Europe and Kaifeng in China.  The Shenzi Empire began crumbling during the reign of Emperor Ishaza, around 1080 AD when its coastal territories fell under control of the Islamic Arabs.  During Ishaza’s reign the south-eastern part of the empire – in what is now Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique – was captured by the Ruyonga (Liongo) and eventually Ruyonga’s area became the Mutapa and Maravi empires.  In 1090 AD the north-eastern half of the Shenzi Empire was captured by the Empress Dowager Kogyere I Rusija-Miryango, and became the new Chwezi Empire.

The Shenzi Empire completely collapsed around 1137 AD when its Axumite lands in north-east Africa were captured by the Zagwe Dynasty.  The Shenzi Empire had been founded in 630 AD, and its golden age had lasted  from  about  800  AD  to  1090 AD. Today the  name  “Shenzi”  survives  in Rusongora as the root for the term “obweshenze” meaning “autonomy” or “independence”.  “MuShenzi” in old Rusongora meant “a citizen”.  In Africa, the  name  Shenzi  –  including  its  variants such as Zenj, Janj, Zanzi, Senzi, Sese, etc – fell out of favour during the colonial occupation on account of the fact that it was  used  as  an  insult  by  the  Arabs  and Europeans.

However, in past centuries the name “Shenzi” generally referred to all the people of the Great Lakes Region of Africa. Besides the name BaKama and BaHuma, the Basongora are also known by another name – BaChwezi. The name Chwezi is a RuSongora word meaning “LawMaker” or more precisely “Decree-Giver” and “Commander”. It derives from the verb “chu’a” (cwa, chwa) meaning “to decide” or “to  judge”  or  “to  decree”.

The name “Chwe’zi” did not always refer to BaHuma exclusively, but rather to any member of the ruling elite in the Shenzi Empire. The word “chwezi” also translates as “empire”.  However, because Shenzi royals, administrators and commanders had joined Empress Kogyere in her rebellion against the Shenzi Emperor Bukuku, the dynastic  names  “Chwa”  and “Chwezi” came to signify specifically the dynasty that was founded by Kogyere in Busongora Kingdom.

Moreover, many of the early rulers of the Chwezi Empire are descendants of Kogyere’s father – the Shenzi Emperor Ngonzaki Rutahinduka.  Soon after it was established Busongora Kingdom  rapidly  expanded into  a  large empire that came to include most of northern  lands  of  the  old  Shenzi  Empire. The period of expansion – and of the greatest geopolitical extent – of Busongora Kingdom has come to  be  referred  to  by Historians as the Chwezi Empire.

The name “Busongora” itself initially referred to the special military district where successive emperors – specifically of the Kushite and the Shenzi Empires – sent their commanders, administrators,  and elite troops, for training. The Busongora Military District was the core area of the Shenzi province of “Imara”.

After the Kogyere Rebellion, the Busongora military district became the independent kingdom of Busongora, and subsequently, the Chwezi Empire. The Chwezi Empire occupied the Shenzi territories  in  Central  Africa  –  and  reached its  maximum  size  during  the  reigns  of the emperors Ndahura I Ruyangye kya Rubumbi [around 1140], Mulindwa, Wamara Bala Bwigunda, Kyomya II Rulema, and Kagoro.

At the height of its military power the Chwezi Empire included all of the region that is now Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, eastern Congo, south Sudan, and western Kenya. Kenya  –  the  ancestral  home  region  of President  Barrack  Obama  – still bears proof of the reach of the Chwezi, in the such place names as “Kogelo” [named after Kogyere] and Nyangoma [named after the Princess Royal of the Chwezi Empire under Ishaza].

However, the Chwezi Empire suffered climatic disasters and economic decline and became precipitously unstable during the reign of Emperor Kagoro.  The Emperor Kagoro was followed on the throne by the Prophet-Emperor Kakara-ka-Shagama. Kakara-ka-Shagama had troubled relations with the Chwezi Imperial Parliament that was dominated by priests and military commanders. Kakara-ka-Shagama eventually abdicated the throne in favour of a princess named Kamaranga. Kamaranga took the regnal name Njunaki – a name meaning ‘what have I to save?’ – and oversaw the orderly disbandment of the Chwezi Empire, as she deliberately went about creating autonomous states out of its territory – in an effort to prevent anarchy and war.

The core of the Chwezi Empire – Busongora – reverted to being a regular kingdom rather than an empire, under the king Shagama – Njunaki’s eldest son. Under the Shagama, Busongora included parts of what later became the kingdoms of Bunyoro, Toro, Buganda, Mpororo, as well Rwanda, east Congo, and part of south Sudan.

However, Busongora lost much territory in 1400s, mostly due to civil war and the instability caused by increased  Arab  and  Nubian  slave  raids,  as well  as  pressure from climate instability and famines. I should clarify that the kingdoms of Karro-Karungyi [Nkore], Burundi, Rwanda, Karagwe, Muwhawha [Buganda], and Bunyoro [Kitara], were all formerly part of Busongora’s Chwezi Empire before they broke  away,  each one at a different time.  Nkore, Karagwe, Rwanda and Burundi were formed out of Busongora around 1300 by the sons of Chwezi Empress Njunaki Kamaranga.  Buganda was formed around 1400 out of the territory of Muwhawha by Kimera I Kintu – originally a prince from Kiziba in what is now Tanzania – with the help of a Musongora prince named Ganda Warusiri.

Bunyoro was a province of BusongoraChwezi kingdom until a MuSongora prince named Rukidi Mpuga – son of the 19th king of Busongora, Kyomya III – revolted and  made  the  Bunyoro territory independent about 25 years after the formation of Buganda.  The first Toro Kingdom was formed in 1830 – out of the territory of south Bunyoro – when a Nyoro prince named Kaboyo led a revolt that created the new state out of four counties of Bunyoro – between south bank of river Ntusi-Kabi  [Kafu]  and  the north bank of the River Musizi (Muzizi).

The first Toro was destroyed and re-absorbed by Bunyoro in 1875.  The second Toro Kingdom was created in 1894 by Major Roddy Owen out of the northern territory of Busongora-Chwezi Kingdom, south of Musizi River, along the Mpanga River.

After the reduction of the Chwezi Empire by the Empress Njunaki Kamaranga, the use of the names “Chwezi” and “BaCwa” continued  to refer  to  members of Busongora Kingdom’s ruling dynasty exclusively – until recent centuries when the lineage systems and guild systems merged and formed into the modern clan system.  Moreover, during Busongora’s colonial occupation (1891-1962) the name “Chwezi” was used to refer to shamanistic anti-colonial cults in Uganda.

Whereas  these  modern  cults  incorporate the veneration and mystification of the Dynastic  Chwezi,  they  also  tend  to  engage in corrupted and feigned magical practices that were not part of the traditional Chwezi liturgy or spirituality, and theyalso  tend  to obscure the existence of  the historical Basongora-Chwezi rulers as real people with living descendants.

The culture and spirituality the ancient Basongora included such things as: sacred-kingship, sacrosanct-cattle, belief in a robust after-life that includes the physical engagement with the mundane world, milk-offering, rain-making, sacred groves, smoke and censer cleansing rites, fire-mounds, iron-purification, copper-crowns, marine shells, Huma hieroglyphics, mound-burials, megaliths, ritual-bathing, dietary restrictions, checker-board and numerological prognostication or divination systems, fractal-geometrical architecture, crystallography, and the use of lunarstellar calendrical systems.

The Colonial Occupation of Africa by the European powers in the 1800s, and the racist anthropological projects that the occupation enabled, created a new and fragmented narrative about African spirituality and the founding  of  African civilization.  Some ideologically-motivated European scholars were dismissive of the existence of empires and states in Central Africa, and have reinterpreted military and trade movements by Africans as mythical tales of clan dispersal, or as incidental migration by random groups of politically unsophisticated people.

The “myths” of these “clans”, which typically describe the travels of a heavenly-founder and his followers from an origin point to their final villages, have replaced in many areas the true history of the empires and states in Africa.

King Ndahura II Imara Kashagama king of Busongora-Chwezi kingdom.

Rwamusigazi Kyakunzire

Chief editor Rulema Journal





  1. Hello, thank you very much for this article. it’s indeed a great work, I could not imagine how mighty Busongora is!
    I have seen nowhere that the Basongora are said to have originated from the Niger-Congo basin. This is the exact what other states* should do, to make their own independent History and discard the Europeans stuff; and indeed you’re still an ancient example!
    Honestly, I have learnt a lot, thank you.
    Long Live…


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