It's not surprising to hear locals in 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.” Climate change, diseases, poverty among other calamities are found to often be blamed on the gods not being pleased. And so was the Chwezi whose own calamities started shortly after the death of their darling cow called Bihogo.
Chwezi, commonly known among historians as “The Bachwezi” are believed to have reigned sometime leading up to 1500AD, at a place called Bigo bya Mugenyi in Uganda. They are rumoured to be the founders of the ancient Kitara Empire that covered areas of Uganda, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Tanzania, and Western Kenya.
Whether true or false, it’s said the bachwezi, who were given the status of demigods and worshipped by some local residents at the time are believed to have been the first inhabitants of Bigo Bya Mugenyi and the surrounding areas. Like all other tales, the supporting information to the bachwezi and Bigo is rich with exciting details that can also better be appreciated by visiting these historical sites.
The Chwezi have no clear historical background and up to date, their identity still stands as a mystery. It is also not clear what happened to the Bachwezi but there are several stories that have been told about their disappearance. Nonetheless, 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. This exceptional archaeological place was dug out to offer the Bachwezi Empire protection from intruders especially the Luo from South Sudan.”
Anyways, the once-powerful Chwezi empire of “demi-gods” worshipped by ordinary mortals collapsed following a prophesy revealing that a powerful Luo leader who came to be Isingoma Rukiidi would overpower the Bachwezi. They also suffered calamities like famine and diseases in the leading up period to the empire’s demise which saw it split into independent kingdoms of Bunyoro, Buganda, Busoga and Ankole. Its believed that the Chwezi simply got dissolved into the indigenous tribes over the years and can be associated to the Bahima of Ankole, Kikuyu of Kenya, the Tutsi of Rwanda and Burundi or even loosely but distantly associated with certain groups in south Sudan given their similar resemblance in physiology, language and norms.
One would need to do a lot of research to not only discover but also appreciatively understand the rich roots of what is only but a small portion of the diverse African History that dates as far back to ancient Eygpt, Ethiopia and Sumeria.
Nonetheless, Some Ugandans still believe that the Bachwezi still exists in the underworld, better still on the outskirts of western regions of uganda like in Mbarara were burning fires on hills are often said to be the Bachwezi reconvening. I know this because it was a big deal while I studied in Mbarara all through my O’level and A’Level. Being a Ugandan with strong “Rwandese” blood and similar resemblance to the Bahima, Tutsis, the Kikuyu, Ethiopians, and Somalis. Fun fact, while at the university the Burundian community often confused me for one of their own because I both could understand their language and looked like them. Most of them still believe so.
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. While in secondary school, I do remember never-failing questions regarding Bachwezi which was due to the fact that when we learning the history of Uganda all the way from Kintu, I was always fascinated and eager to absorb as much information as possible.
Names like Ndahura, Kintu, Nambi, walumbe, kaikuzu, Bukuku, Nyinamwiru, will instantly come up when you start digging into Uganda based folklore.
Africans before the normalisation of TV, mobile devices and video games prided their young generation’s upbringing on poems, folklore, idioms and riddles rich in educational life nuggets and for the most part of my childhood, it was one or the other. Over time, when I couldn’t get any of them, I shifted my attention to any book or piece of literature that could feed my curiosity.
The modern generation of young people is growing up with little to on rich 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, 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.
This article was first published via The Legend of the Chwezi On my personal website