The short-lived kingdom of Mpororo

My article titled “How Rujumbura’s Bairu got impoverished” in the Weekly Observer of December 4-10, 2008 has raised questions that require clarification by looking briefly at the history of the short-lived kingdom of Mpororo and its relationship to Rujumbura.

The topic has been covered in more detail in chapter 8 of my new book titled “Uganda’s Development Agenda in the 21st Century (2008)” available at

There is general agreement that the kingdom lasted a short time. The exact period varies. Karugire wrote that it was established around 1650 and lasted 100 years to 1750. Ehret believes it was established in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and lasted until the early eighteenth century. The pastoralist groups lost their special political position, and many returned to the kingdom of Rwanda.

The people of Mpororo are called Bahororo. The kingdom covered north-north-east of contemporary Rwanda and over most of south west Ankole (Karugire, 1980, Ehret, 2002, chretien, 2006).  It was ruled by two kings called Kahaya of Bashambu lineage, a pastoral group. The founder of Mpororo kingdom came from Rwanda and is believed to have been related to the ruling house of Rwanda.

When the kingdom collapsed, it left behind dispersed clans and principalities. “The clan chiefs (more so the agriculturalists [Bairu] than the pastoralists [Bashambu]) conserved the memory of this ephemeral kingdom” (Chretien, 2006). Mpororo went out of use and did not figure on any map of Uganda.

The settlement of Bahororo in Rujumbura is provided by Paul Ngorogoza (19980 and Denoon, in Ugoigwe 1982). Ngorogoza wrote that “About 1750, Kahaya arrived in Rujumbura while he was travelling with one of his sons, Kirenzi, and he found that the county was attractive. He told his son ‘when the Bahinda [ruling clan of Nkore] drive you from Mpororo, come and settle in Rujumbura’…. When Kahaya died, his son continued to visit Rujumbura, but always returned to Mpororo, and died while he was preparing to settle in Rujumbura. The task therefore fell on his son Rwebiraro who came to Rujumbura in about 1800 [at the earliest 50 years after the kingdom of Mpororo had collapsed] and built his residence Kigo at Nyakinengo, which is now in gombolola Nyakagyeme”.

Donald Denoon in Uzoigwe (1982) added that “Two or three generations [a generation is about 30 years] later [after the disintegration of Mpororo kingdom], another segment of the Bashambo spread their authority in Rujumbura to the north west, establishing another municipality over a mixture of pastoralists [with short horn cattle] and agriculturalists and bringing with them the identity of Mpororo, despite the fact that Mpororo as a state no longer existed except in memory”.

The three points being underlined here are that – (1) Mpororo kingdom had a short existence and disappeared from the map of Uganda; (2) more agricultural than pastoral clan chiefs conserved the memory of the kingdom and; (3) Rujumbura was not part of Mpororo kingdom.