For nearly 30 years, some of the most ferocious British colonial wars in the world occurred in the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara in western Uganda, they involved dozens of invasions by tens of thousands of soldiers armed with the most destructive modern weapons, conducting severe extermination campaigns that were nearly as brutal as those carried out by the Germans in Namibia and French in Algeria. Under the rule of Omukama Cwa II Kabalega, Bunyoro-Kitara had only recently extended its commercial reach into the global markets, Its institutions proved adaptive enough to be quickly adjusted in response to the rapidly changing international political landscape of imperial expansion in which the kingdom was thrust; enabling Bunyoro to sustain one of the longest defensive wars against colonialism, not only in Africa, but the world. Omukama Kabalega’s defence systems managed to fend off the colonial attempts for nearly close to 20 years. With this as a major obstacle to the British interest of establishing themselves in the East Africa interlacustrine region, in 1890 Britain declared full scale war on Bunyoro-Kitara. With majorly Gorilla warfare, Omukama Kabalega managed to resist the British for nearly 9 years more years before he was captured in 1899 and exiled in the Sychelles Islands where he survived for 24 years before he was released to return to Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom.

A collapsed time-scale map showing the major invasions of the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom by year and the British commanding officers that led them.

(Credits: Isaac Samuel)

To quell the resistance of Bunyoro-Kitara, the British first employed Ganda
alliance who willingly corporated as this was towards helping overcome their
most serious threat at the time, the Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara. Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda and Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro-Kitara had lived strikingly parallel lives long before the declaration of war against Bunyoro by the British.

Having sought for peace in 1894, and this turned down by the British that were bent on total war, Kabalega switched to guerrilla warfare, utilising his army’s mobility, the use of fortifications and trenches to stall the dozens of British expeditions, and foment rebellions in colonial territories. His resistance was sustained largely because of its wide support across the Bunyoro society and allied chiefdoms.

Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda, upon being forced to surrender sovereignty with Buganda declared a British protectorate in 1897, sought to join Omukama Kabalega in Bunyoro and jointly resist the colonialists, and together they faught for close to 2 years.

With long sustained battles, to break the back born of the resistance, the British deployed a scorched-earth policy as a military strategy, with massive destruction occasioned on communities including massacre of entire communities and burning down of villages, food plantations, granaries, and killing of animal herds.

The Anglo-Nyoro war is also one of the first recorded cases of use of biological warfare where syphilis was introduced into the community affecting fertility, deterring population growth, and hindering men from full participation in the war. Through these unjustifiable circumstances the kingdom of Bunyoro- Kitara population was reduced from 2.5 million people to a mere 100,000 people, and cases of dire violation of human rights. Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom to date seeks justice for the injustices meted upon it’s people by the British colonial forces, and the return of its looted property including royal regalia housed at Pitts Rivers Museum and other Museums across the United Kingdom.

A maxim gun; one of the heavy weaponry deployed by the British against Bunyoro being manned by Nubian mercenaries.