The Abakiga (“people of the mountains”) are an ethnic group located in what is now north-estern Rwanda and southern Uganda. They speak a Bantu language called Rukiga. They are sometimes referred to as the Chiga or Kiga, while the singular form is Umukiga. It has been suggested that the Bakiga arrived in Uganda from Rwanda between 1600 and 1700.
The people of southwestern Uganda, mostly located in Kabale district, 7% of the population or 1.7 million according to the last 2002 census.
The Kiga culture is quite confusing. In order to know the Bakiga, one has first to know something about Rwanda. The Kiga people are believed to have originated from Rwanda. It is even in one of their folk songs – Abakiga twena tukaruga Rwanda, omu Byumba na Ruhenjere, – meaning that all of us Bakiga, we came from Rwanda in Byumba and Ruhenjere (called Ruhengeri in Rwanda). Both Byumba and Ruhengeri are Rwandan provinces. The Bakiga are believed to be the descendants of Kashyiga, who came to be called Kakiga son of Mbogo from the small Kingdom of Bumbogo in Rwanda later. He came to form the present community of the Bakiga of Kigyezi or Kigezi as a result of Immigration.
Before the year 1700 A.D., Rwanda is believed to have been occupied by the Twa people as the first group to occupy it, and then was later on occupied by the second immigration of the Hutu people, and the third was the Tutsi. Rwanda was organised in small states and chiefdoms but under one ruler called the Mwami. Originally, he was also known as Omukama. Among the Bakiga, the ruling person was therefore named Mukama, equivalent to Mwami in other parts of Rwanda.
Originally, the name Mukama was not a name, but rather the title of a Ruler. But later on it came to be recognised as a name, implying to one ruling man. In the Bakiga culture, the name was later attributed to God as Lord. Among the Bakiga, the name Mukama is not a female name. There are not many Bakiga called by the name Mukama. It is a name that was reserved to be used in the family of the ruling clan, the Bamuhutu, who possess the inheritance powers. If there is any person bearing the name Mukama, he must be a Bamuhutu, specifically a Mungura/Mwitira, or belong to the royal clan of the Bamuhutu. Not even in Rwanda among the Tutsi who took over the Kingdom after Kirima (Cyirima) had been defeated, did they dare to use the name Mukama because it signified a more fundamental power than they had assumed.
Similar names could be like Byamukama, Kyomukama, Womukama, Kamukama, Bainomukama and so on. Therefore, the title for the King in Rwanda remained Mwami (Omwami), whereas in the Rukiga (the Kiga Kingdom) they continued to use the title Mukama (Omukama).
In the first stages of the formation of the Kingdom of Rwanda, the major states were Bumbogo, Buriza, and Rukoma (These areas kept their names, and are located in central Rwanda near the capital city of Kigali). Each of these states was represented by a clan chief. The first Mwami was Mbogo of the small state of Bumbogo. At that time, the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa ethnic groups were all present in Rwanda, living side by side. Though these three major groups stood out, their indigenous clans remained as the point of reference due to their totems. Mbogo, who belonged to the Abungura clan, today known as Abaitira clan, is believed to have been conquered by his friend Kirima of the Abanyiginya clan. Kirima accused Mbogo of mistreating the people, and Kirima promised he would be a better chief, though he could not claim to be a King or Umwami. He asserted that Mbogo was using testicles of men to decorate his royal drum, Kamuhagama, the symbol of his kingdom. Kirima is believed to have made progress, but his time was short lived by the first invasion of Bunyoro, led by Cwa I son of Nyabwongo. It remains to verify, whether Nyabwongo is same Labongo, the first Babiito king of the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom in Uganda.
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