The Decline Of Chwezi Empire

The Decline Of Chwezi Empire

  • The empire had grown too big to be effectively administered.
  • The empire lacked strong and capable rulers especially after the death of Omukama Wamara.
  • Misfortunes e.g. death of the darling cow Bihogo scared the Bachwezi who were forced to migrate.
  • Wide spread internal rebellions especially from the Bantu also led to the decline of the Chwezi empire.
  • Epidemics like Small pox and Malaria claimed many of their animals since they were a pastoral community and they ended up migrating to other areas
  • Famine also broke out in the region forcing many people to leave the area in search of new areas that could provide them with food.
  • The Chwezi rulers were greedy and oppressive which annoyed their subjects hence creating rebellions within the empire. 
  • The Chwezi also lost their popularity especially after people had realized that they were ordinary human beings not semi-gods which undermined their power.
  • Conflicts among the various princes over power also weakened their hold on power and influence.
  • Several communities broke away from the Chwezi empire for example Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole leading to the decline of their power and influence.
  • The Luo invasion is what finally broke the backbone of the Chwezi Empire i.e. the Luo set up the Luo-Bito Dynasty and forced the Chwezi to flee in different directions.

The importance of the Bachwezi in the History of E.Africa

They introduced the centralized system of governance which was later adopted in many societies.

They introduced hierarchical system of administration whereby administration was broken down into smaller units.

The Chwezi are also remembered for introducing the idea of a standing army in the kingdom.

The Chwezi also introduced the system of having a royal regalia comprising of the symbols of power in a community e.g. drums, spear e.t.c

The Bachwezi were the founders of ancient Bunyoro- Kitara Kingdom which spread from Western Uganda to Western Kenya and Northern Tanganyika.

They introduced games which are still popular in Uganda today e.g. local wrestling and Omweso.

The Bachwezi also introduced coffee and banana growing in E.Africa which are still cash crops.

The Chwezi introduced the idea of palace officials, royal women and slave artisans who were trained in administration.

The Chwezi are also remembered for their super natural powers i.e. they were a strange group of people who performed miracles and could disappear when annoyed.

They introduced a religion called Abashomi which is still evident up to today in Western Uganda particularly in Bunyoro.

They built their capital at Bigobyamugenyi which is still a tourist attraction for Uganda today.

The Bachwezi introduced the idea of royal enclosures (Ebirembo) in palaces such as Bigo, Mubende, Ntusi and kibengo. These were mainly for protecting cattle.

The Chwezi also introduced the idea of grass thatched houses smeared with cow-dung and decorated with a variety of handcrafts inside.

The Chwezi also introduced social classes in society especially in Western Uganda where the Bairu are the cultivators and subjects while the Bahima are the cattle keepers and ruling class.

They introduced iron working and they made implements such as spears, Pangas, Hoes e.t.c.

Discovered hot springs e.g. Kitagata in Western Uganda.

They also developed the art and craft industry e.g. they introduced basket weaving.

They also introduced bark cloth manufacture.

Bunyoro kingdom

Origins

  • Bunyoro was under Bito rulers and sprung up after the collapse of the Chwezi Empire.
  • Local traditions state that Isingoma Rukidi Mpuga was the founder of Bunyoro kingdom.
  • Bunyoro was a loose confederation of provinces or Ssazas ruled by the chiefs.
  • The growth and expansion of Bunyoro greatly depended on its rulers i.e. Abakama e.g. Omukama Kamurasi (1852- 1869) and Omukama Kabalega (1870 – 1897).
  • The Kingdom stretched as far as Buganda, Toro and Ankole in the west to Busoga in the East and West Nile in the North.

Factors for the growth and expansion of Bunyoro

Presence of able leadership i.e. Bunyoro was gifted with strong, active and ambitious leaders for example Omukama Kamurasi and Omukama Kabalega who expanded the Kingdom.

The Kingdom had a highly developed centralized system of administration which ensured easy administration.

The strong army of Abarusula built by Kabalega also contributed to the growth of Bunyoro. It was armed with guns got through trade with the Khartoumers and Coastal Arabs.

Bunyoro was also gifted with fertile soils which ensured constant supply of Bananas, Yams and millet to sustain the population.

Her good climate with heavy rainfall also supported agriculture to sustain the population.

Bunyoro also expanded because it constantly raided her weak neighbours for example Ankole, Toro and Busoga.

Bunyoro also participated in trade with her neighbours and also participated in the long distance trade (L.D.T) with the Arabs and Khartoumers where she got guns.

Bunyoro had Iron deposits and through Iron working she was able to make spears and arrows for defense.

Bunyoro also had plenty of salt deposits which she used to exchange with her neighbours.

The decline of the Chwezi dynasty also favoured the growth and expansion of Bunyoro Kingdom. This gave a chance to Rukidi Mpuga to start up his own empire i.e. Bunyoro.