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The Legend of the Chwezi

According to history,  the Chwezi dynasty commonly referred to as the “Bachwezi” are believed to have reigned at a site called Bigo bya Mugenyi in Uganda around 1000AD up to 15000AD. The Chwezi have no clear historical background and to date, the details of their identity are still a mystery. It is not exactly clear what became of the “Bachwezi”.

Bigo Bya Mugyenyi

Bigo bya Mugyenyi cultural and archaeological site is located in the western part of Uganda, characterised by a thatched hut with sharp-pointed spears at the entrance and surrounded by huge curved rocks.

Sights and sounds of Bigo bya Mugenyi. Source: New Vision

Bigo Bya Mugenyi is a significant place in Uganda’s history. According to a piece by Cultural Safaris in Uganda, Bogo “remains hidden and abandoned a treasure.” 

The Chwezi or Bachwezi were predominantly cattle keepers. In fact, they are believed to have introduced the long-horned cattle of Ankole, iron smelting and coffee growing. Being a great Dynasty, the Bachwezi also introduced the first semblance of organized kingship and centralized leadership.

Often times you will hear elders in local communities of African countries say, “The gods are angry, a sacrifice of this nature & proportion needs to be made to appease the Gods or else we will continue suffering.” And climate change, diseases, poverty among other calamities are often attributed to the gods not being pleased. And so was the Chwezi whose own calamities started shortly after the death of their darling cow called Bihogo.

The Chwezi dynasty and an account of the Bachwezi spirits.

According to Ugandan folktale and much of African oral tradition, the Bachwezi were the founders of the ancient Kitara Empire. An area that covers parts of Uganda, Eastern DRC, Northern Tanzania and Western Kenya.

The Chwezi gatherings suffered calamities like famine and diseases in the period leading up to the empire’s demise. This led to the Bachwezi splitting up into independent kingdoms of Bunyoro, Buganda, Busoga and Ankole. As years passed most of the “Chwezi” dissolved into the indigenous tribes of Uganda.

Even though it’s not exactly known where the Bachwezi ended up, Several stories told about their mysterious disappearance indicate that the once-powerful “Chwezi” empire of “demi-gods” worshipped by the locals collapsed following a prophecy that revealed how a powerful Luo leader, known as “Isingoma Rukiidi” would overpower the Bachwezi.

The Chwezi could have migrated and probably disappeared in Lake Albert while others claim that they disappeared into Lake Wamala which was named after one of the kings. Some scholars insist, that the Bachwezi got assimilated into the indigenous people and could be the “Bahima” of Ankole, “Kikuyu” of Kenya, and the “Tutsi” of Rwanda and Burundi as well as certain groups in south Sudan given their similar resemblance in physiology, language and norms.

Also Read: The Legend Of The Spear And The Bead: LABONGO AND GIPIR’S STORY

Nonetheless, Some Ugandans still believe that the Bachwezi still exists in the underworld. In fact, on the outskirts of the western regions of Uganda like in “Mbarara” were burning fires on hills are often said to be the Bachwezi reconvening.

The Chwezi Dynasty is as rich as it is exciting to research or read about, just like Egyptian mythology, Rwandan History, West African folklore (e.g Dahomey Mythology, Fon Mythology), Japanese history, and Celt or ancient Britain history to mention but a few.

African Oral Tradition and the young generation

Before TVs, Phones and video games became popular, Africans took great pride in engaging their children in poems, folklore, idioms and riddles rich in educational life lessons.

In secondary school, I never failed questions regarding the “Bachwezi”. History fascinated me so much and as such, I was always eager to absorb as much information as possible.

Names like “Ndahura”, Kintu, “Nambi”, “Walumbe”, “Kaikuzi/kayikuuzi”, “Bukuku”, “Nyinamwiru”, will instantly come up when you start digging into Ugandan folklore.

Also Read: Origins Of The Batembuzi and the Bachwezi Dynasty (AD 1100 TO 1500)

For the most part of my childhood, it was one or the other. Over time, I learned to greatly appreciate the wealth of knowledge books & literature contributed to my curiosity.

African Storytelling and narrating. Source: Bwindi Uganda Gorilla Trekking

The modern generation of young people is growing up with little African history to ground their roots back home.

To this effect, I will be writing about all good African stories I can find or remember. I will also share stories from other prominent writers and historians. I also want to share stories from other African countries and some from all over the world. This obviously means if anyone has a better source then I’m open to collaborations and sharing.