The Nyabinghi spiritual system became prominent in the Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania regions of Africa. Queen Nyabinghi was the ruler of the Karagwe Kingdom in modern-day Tanzania. Queen Nyabinghi was married to Ruhinda, Chief of the Mpororo Kingdom, which occupied the southwestern region of Uganda. Chief Ruhinda was greedy and took full control of the Karagwe Kingdom by killing Queen Nyabinghi. Following Queen Nyabinghi’s murder, it is said that her spirit terrorized Chief Ruhinda and everyone who participated in her murder. The spirit and the story of Queen Nyabinghi became a symbol of resistance to many African people in Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda. Queen Nyabinghi was also seen as a symbol of fertility, health, and abundance. The following of Nyabinghi became a spiritual system that some refer to as a cult. Followers of Nyabinghi grew over the years complete with initiations and cultural traditions being passed from generation to generation. Queen Muhumuza would become one of the most prominent followers of Nyabinghi and was even believed to be a reincarnation of Nyabhingi.
I am not sure about the exact date of the birth of Muhumuza, but according to sources she was born around 1870 in Rwanda and was given the name Muserekande at birth. She would eventually become one of the wives of King Rwabugiri of Rwanda until the death of the king in 1895. Rwabugiri was killed by his “favorite wife” Kanjora because she was conspiring with European colonizers to take control of the throne from his successor Rutarindwa, and place her son Musinga on the Rwandan throne. Muserekeande at the time was able to galvanize enough supporters to resist the overthrow of Kanjora until the Europeans came to Kanjora’s aide. With the help of the Europeans, Muserekeande and her son were forced into exile in Mpororo, Uganda, and Kanjora’s son, Musinga became the ruler of Uganda at 17 years old. While in exile Muserekeande changed her name to Muhumuza, which means “she who gives rest from tyranny”. During her time in exile, Muhumuza’s spirit of rebellion grew against the tyrannical Europeans and the Ugandans that were aligned with the Europeans. As her spirit of rebellion grew, she began to amass a following of people who believed in her. Muhumuza was eventually introduced to and adopted the Nyabhingi spiritual system, which helped her following and influence grow. Muhumuza was accompanied by the Abakiga people of Southern Uganda as they challenged the legitimacy of the rule of Kanjora. Muhumuza now seen as a threat to the throne, caused Kanjora to enlist the help of the Germans and other African kingdoms who joined forces with the Europeans. Anti-Colonial is what Muhumuza’s resistance was being labeled because she was now fighting against Africans and Europeans who wanted to control the Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania areas.
Muhumuza’s influence was tremendous at this point and she was viewed by many as the reincarnation of Queen Nyabhingi, she also became the ruler of the Mpororo state because of the following she amassed. Being that Muhumuza was seen as the reincarnation of Queen Nyabhingi, she was believed to have supernatural powers. She was carried around by six men on a platform, shoulder high when traveling. She predicted that if her followers found the sacred Karinga drum of Rwanda, her son would become the ruler of Rwanda. She also predicted that the bullets of the Europeans and their allies would turn to water when shot at her followers. Muhumuza and her followers harvested, collected, and stored massive amounts of produce and grains to sustain themselves. As Muhumuza’s following grew, they began to raid the African chiefs who aligned themselves with the Europeans. Because of these actions, she was characterized as hostile by the Europeans. As Muhumuza and her rebel's attacks on the chefs continued, the people within their states became refugees and an issue for the colonist. So Muhumuza needed to be stopped. In 1908, During a conflict between Muhumuza, her followers, and the Europeans, Muhumuza was captured and jailed. She was jailed for three years before escaping in 1911, returning to her people. Upon her return, Muhumuza found that the British and the Germans gained more power and influence during her absence, but she did not lose any of her rebellious spirit.
Still having her influence and the idea that she was the reincarnation of Nyabhingi, Queen Muhumuza was able to galvanize enough people to lead her second anti-colonialism rebellion against the British and Germans. Queen Muhumuza was becoming a thorn in the sides of the Europeans because she would not stop rebelling against their tyranny. The British and Germans eventually partnered to eliminate Muhumuza. The Europeans attacked Muhumuza and her rebels by surprise, led by Captain Reid, who commanded African and European soldiers. Muhumuza and her rebels were formidable opponents because a surprise attack turned into a six-hour battle. Muhumuza and her rebels were eventually defeated by the Europeans. Muhumuza was shot in the foot and captured, while 40 of her rebels were killed. She was jailed in Kampala, Uganda, in 1911, where she eventually died incarcerated. The death of Queen Muhumuza made her a martyr, the legend of Queen Nyabinghi even greater, and the Nyabinghi movement began gaining more followers. The Europeans were so fearful of the continued rise of the following of Nyabinghi that they enacted the “Colonial Witchcraft Ordinance of 1912,” to stop the further rebellions in the name of Nyabinghi. Because of her bravery, influence, skill, leadership, and spiritual nature, Munumuza became one of Africa’s most memorable Warrior Queens. She stood face-to-face with colonizers and Africans who supported the colonization, backed by her people and her African spirituality, to fight for the freedom of her people. To Queen Muhumuza, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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