Origins of Ankole

Origins of Ankole

  • Ankole was one of the Kingdoms that made up after the decline of Bunyoro- Kitara.
  • Traditions in Western Uganda claim that Rukidi Mpuga a son to Wamara was the founder of Ankole Kingdom.
  • The Kingdom was established in the South Western part of Buganda around the 15th century.
  • Initially, Ankole was called “Karo Karungi” meaning peaceful land or ‘Land of Milk’.
  • Ankole remained a small Kingdom around the 18th century and Ankole produced a number of ambitious Kings who extended her boundaries.

Political Organisation

  • Ankole had a centralized system of administration.
  • Omugabe was the political head of the kingdom.
  • The Omugabe’s position was hereditary with absolute powers.
  • The Omugabe, Queen mother, Princes and princesses formed the royal family and resided in the royal palace.
  • The Omugabe was assisted by the Nganzi (Prime minister) who was the most important of all chiefs.
  • Ankole was divided into 10 districts each headed by Omukungu (chief).
  • Some of the districts included Mbarara, Ibanda, Nyabushozi, Bunyaruguru and Kashari.
  • The Omugabe and Nganzi came from the upper class of the Hima and always kept large herds of cattle and estates.
  • The Abakungu also kept cattle and were in charge of keeping peace and sending beer and millet to the royal palace.
  • Ankole had royal regalia that included spears, a crown and the royal drum. (Bagyendanwa).
  • Ankole also had a “royal fire” that was never allowed to go out until the reigning Omugabe died.
  • Ankole had no standing army but in case of war, all able bodied men were supposed to gather at the Omugabe’s palace with spears, bows, arrows and shields.

social organisation

  • Ankole society was divided into two distinct classes i.e. Hima and Iru.
  • Bahima who were the rulers and pastoralists and Bairu who were the peasants and subject class.
  • Marriage between the Bairu and the Bahima was considered a social disgrace and was highly discouraged.
  • Religiously, the Banyankole believed in a supreme being called Ruhanga who was thought to be the creator of the world.
  • No prayer and sacrifices were offered to Ruhanga because they believe there was no need of bothering him after bringing them into the world.
  • Below Ruhanga were other lesser gods e.g. kagoro, kazoba, Omusisi e.t.c to whom prayers and sacrifices were offered.
  • The Banyankole highly respected spirits of the dead and sacrifices e.g. beer and milk were offered to them at family shrines.
  • Owning cattle was a sign of prestige and those with few cows were always despised.
  • The Banyankole were united by a similar culture, Runyankole language and same way of dressing e.g. Omushanana.

Economic organisation

  • Pastoralism was the main occupation of the Banyankole and they kept long horned cattle mainly dominated by the Bahima.
  • The Bairu also carried out cultivation and mainly grew millet. 
  • Blacksmithing was another activity of the Banyankole and they made spears, hoes and arrows.
  • Trade was also carried out and they exchanged commodities like ivory with their neighbours and with coastal Arabs.
  • Carpentry was also carried out by the Banyankole and they made very beautiful wooden pots, dishes and other items.