Ankole Kingdom like all other kingdoms in Uganda that was abolished in 1967 by the then President Milton Obote, has a long history. It is said that by the time of abolition in 1967, it had existed for between 500 and 600 years. It started as the kingdom of Kaaro-Karungi (the beautiful land) before it became Nkore Kingdom. Due to mispronunciation by the whites, it eventually came to be popularly known as Ankole.
It is said that the kingdom of Kaaro-Karungi was started by the Bahinda Abagabe after disappearance of the rule of the Bachwezi. (The Bachwezi are believed to have disappeared and not died). With its capital in Kagarama hills, the kingdom initially had about 500,000 inhabitants. Kaaro-Karungi kingdom was initially ruled by Nkuba ya Rurama, the son of Ruhinda. It was restricted to a small region around his birth place Rurama in Isingiro because the neighbouring areas of Masha and Ngarama were in rebellion.
It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that the Abagabe, benefiting from the decline of Bunyoro and the break-up of Mpororo, extended their rule north and west. Omugabe was the title given to the king of Ankole as the head of the Obugabe (Ankole kingship.) Obugabe means ‘freedom’, while Omugabe means ‘the giver of freedom’.
The Abagabe came from the royal Bahinda clan, comprised mostly of Bahima. As was the norm, kingdoms expanded through conquests. Nkuba ya Rurama fought the rebellious chiefs and extended his kingdom’s boundaries to Rwizi. Thus, the kingdom now consisted of Isingiro and parts of Rwampara in the north east. Nkuba’s son ruled in peace, but the reign of his son, Nyabugaro (Ntare I), faced invasion from Bunyoro. The Babiito Abakama of Bunyoro claimed that as heirs of the Bachwezi, they were overlords of Kaaro-Karungi. Omukama Olimi I, having defeated the Baganda and slain their Kabaka Nakibingi, invaded Kaaro-Karungi, drove the Omugabe into exile and plundered the country.
At the start of the 18th century, the kingdom extended its power northwards and westwards to Bunyoro and Mpororo kingdoms. The short-lived Mpororo Kingdom appeared in the 17th century, comprising parts of West Ankole, parts of Kigezi and Rwanda. Under Kahaya Rutindangyezi, Mpororo extended its frontiers to include parts of Kigezi and Ankole sazas [counties]o f Kajara, Sheema, Igara and Rwampara.
During the reign of Ntare V, Omugabe’s power grew. Not only did the neighbouring kingdoms of Buhweju, Igara and Buzimba recognize Ntare as their overlord, but further afield, the rulers of Kitagwenda and Bwera would send him gifts to avert invasion whilst raiding parties for plunder were sent into Rujumbura and Ruanda.
It was, however, after the first government station had been opened at Mbarara in 1898 that kingdoms like Buhweju and Igara effectively came under Omugabe’s control after their incorporation in Ankole district. Under Ntare IV, Nkore extended to Kashaari and Nshara. In 1907, Bukanga also became part of Ankole. However, some areas resisted. For instance, Makobore, the Mwenekirenzi chief of Rujumbura and the chief of Kigezi repeatedly refused to pay allegiance to Omugabe. When Kigezi was made a district in 1912, Makobore opted to have his area included in Kigezi other than in Ankole district.
By the time of the signing the 1901 agreement, Ankole included 11 administrative units under different chiefs. They were: Buchunku (Mitooma), Matsiko (Nyabushozi), Rutasharara (Isingiro), Ruhara (Rwampara), Nduru (Buzimba), Enganzi Mbaguta (Ngarama, Sheema, Kashaari), Mukotani (Igara), Rubarema (Buhweju), and Kaihura (Bunyaruguru.)
However, it was not all about gains. Ankole kingdom also lost some areas like Kabula, which is presently under Buganda kingdom.
Abagabe of Ankole
• Ellison Karuhanga – antiquity
• Ruhinda – late fifteenth century
• Nkuba – late fifteenth century
• Nyaika – early sixteenth century
• Ntare I – mid sixteenth century
• Rushango – late sixteenth century
• Ntare II – late 16th/early 17th century
• Ntare III – mid seventeenth century
• Kasasira – late seventeenth century
• Kitra – late seventeenth century
• Rumongye – late seventeenth century
• Mirindi – late seventeenth century
• Ntare IV – c.1699-c.1727
• Macwa – c.1727-c.1755
• Rwabirere – c. 1755-1783
• Kahaya I – 1783-?
• Rwebishengye – ?-1811
• Kayungu – 1811-?
• Gasyonga I – ?-1839
• Mutambuka – 1839-1873
• Rugingiza Ntare V – 1873-1895
• Kahaya II – 1895-1944
• Gasyonga II – 1944-1967
• Interregnum – 1967-1993
• Ntare VI – 1993- (not ruling)