Wild Heart African safaris

Mpororo kingdom

The lands that constituted Mpororo were formerly part of the Chwezi empire until its dissolution in the sixteenth century.

Before the middle of the seventeenth century, the area that became Mpororo – the land of the Hororo – was known as Ndorwa and formed the southern province of the kingdom of Busongora. During the reign of Queen Kitami cya Nyawera of Busongora, a fugitive Rwandan prince named Kamali Murari sought asylum at the queen’s court. Murari, a claimant to the Rwandan throne, had been ousted by his brother Kigeri II Nyamuheshera. At that time, Rwanda and Songora shared a common border, and Murari and his followers escaped into Busongora.

Murari arrived in Busongora and was directed to Queen Kitami’s palace. The Songora queen was renowned for her fearlessness, exceptional beauty, and intelligence. Murari resided at Kitami’s court, and the queen eventually married the Rwandan prince. They had a son named Kahaya Rutindangyezi. Meanwhile, King Kigeri II of Rwanda, to the south, sought to invade Busongora to capture Murari. The commander of the Rwandan troops was Bihira-bya-Muhuruzi, a member of the AbaKono sub-clan of the Abega clan.

The war between Busongora and Rwanda was brutal and prolonged. The capital city of Busongora, named Bunyampaka (known as “Ibumpaka” to the Rwandans), located in what is now Queen Elizabeth National Park, was sacked and burned by Rwandan troops. In retaliation, the Songora armies occupied the region around Lake Muhazi in central Rwanda (present-day Gahini) and captured many Rwandans. During the conflict, Queen Kitami cya Nyawera was stung by a bee and succumbed to toxic shock shortly after around 1625. Her death left Basongora generals bewildered, leading them to conclude that the war was futile. The Rwandan Royals also desired an end to the conflict due to numerous misfortunes during their king’s reign. Ncenderi, Queen of Rwanda and wife to King Kigeri II, took her own life before his reign ended.

To resolve the conflict, the Rwandans and the Basongora negotiated a truce to prevent future wars. The terms of peace stipulated that the region of southern Busongora, known as Ndorwa, would become a buffer state with Prince Murari (brother to Kigeri of Rwanda and consort to Kitami of Busongora) as its inaugural king. This new buffer state was named Mpororo, likely meaning “place of vengeance” due to the significant bloodshed it had witnessed. The Gisaka region in Rwanda, which had been occupied by the Songora, remained autonomous and was later reintegrated into Rwanda during the reign of Kigeri IV Rwabugiri in the 1880s.

Before departing from the newly formed Mpororo, the Basongora Royals entrusted Murorwa, one of the Songora royal drums, to the new King Murari. This event marked the establishment of Mpororo as an independent state. When Kahaya Rutindangyezi succeeded Murari on the throne, Mpororo flourished under his rule, earning a distinguished reputation that endures to this day. The inhabitants of Mpororo came to be known as “BaHororo,” meaning “people of Mpororo.

At its peak, the kingdom of Mpororo encompassed all of Kigezi (except the modern Bafumbira saza and a portion of Kinkizi), the Ankole sazas of Kajara, Igara, Sheema, and Rwampara (excluding the low ground south of the Rwizi River), sections of northeastern Burundi, northwestern Tanzania, eastern Congo, and the entirety of the northern region of Rwanda.[3]

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