Home Green Energy King Bukuku and the cave that was Bunyoro’s palace

King Bukuku and the cave that was Bunyoro’s palace

Bukuku’s palace reveals how culture and technology have changed over time. It fits well with humanity’s evolution narrative that describes humans’ march from the jungles to the savannah through to caves and finally to high-rise buildings. 

1001
The entrance to King Bukuku's palace in Kisengwe, Kakumiro district
The entrance to King Bukuku's palace in Kisengwe, Kakumiro district. Photo: Gilbert Mwijuke | Nature Guardian

By Gilbert Mwijuke

It’s quite absurd that one of Uganda’s most culturally important archeological sites is also one of the most forgotten and neglected. Located in Kisengwe village in Kakumiro district, it’s the ancient palace ruin and burial site of King Bukuku, one of the most ancient kings recorded in Uganda’s history.

Bukuku, who was from Bunyoro’s Baranzi clan, is said to have ruled over Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom for a short period in the early 14th century – at the time when civilisation was still somewhere in the future.

Unpopular among his subjects, Bukuku’s reign was cut short by his own grandson Ndahura (born to Nyinamwiru, the king’s only daughter) at the battle of Nyabarongo River in Kisengwe.  

Ndahura, whose father was from the Chwezi clan, personally stabbed King Bukuku to death and declared himself king, marking the start of the long reign of the Chwezi – the somewhat mysterious and legendary rulers who remained in charge of Bunyoro-Kitara until the 16th century.

After his death, Bukuku was buried atop Kasunga Hill, about 200 metres from his palace, and his remains are said to have been exhumed in 2004 by unknown foreign archeologists.

“Some bazungu (whites) came here and dug Bukuku’s grave and took all the bones they found. We all wondered what they were going to do with them. They said they had sought permission from Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom,” said Nyamaizi, an elderly woman who claims to have lived in this area all her life.

The legitimacy of Ms Nyamaizi’s story, however, couldn’t be verified as Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom officials denied having permitted anyone to exhume King Bukuku’s remains.

“As the kingdom we know nothing about the exhuming of Bukuku’s remains,” said Apollo Rwamparo, the kingdom’s second deputy prime minister.

Residents of the area said that the land on which Bukuku was buried has for a long time been privately owned by Rwandan immigrants – so it’s possible that the archeologists could have privately struck a deal with the land owner to exhume the king’s remains.

Inside Bukuku ’s palace

Bukuku’s palace reveals how culture and technology have changed over time. It fits well with humanity’s evolution narrative that describes humans’ march from the jungles to the savannah through to caves and finally to high-rise buildings. 

Compared with today’s grand Karuziika Palace in Hoima City, the official residence of the current king of Bunyoro-Kitara, it’s quite unfathomable that King Bukuku’s official residence was a mere cave in the cave-studded countryside of Kakumiro district.

The cave, which is also where all official palace meetings used to be held, sits in a unique spot atop a small hill, and Bukuku must have chosen it because it put him at a vantage point to ward off his enemies – and probably some deadly wild animals such as lions and hyenas.

“You have to remove your shoes before entering lest you upset the spirits of our ancestors,” Kasibante Sekito, a resident of Kisengwe, tells me as we step inside the cave for a trip back in time. 

Inside, the cave is cold, dark and damp, and some of the tools that were used by the king, such as remnants of clay pots in which meals were prepared, are still scattered on the floor.

Many other items that are said to have belonged to the king, such as spears, animal skins and calabashes, remained in the cave undisturbed for centuries until just a few years ago, according to Mr Kasibante. Because the kings of yore were believed to have supernatural powers, few people dared touch what they found inside this cave.  

Today, Bukuku’s cave – along with the Semwema Cave, which is located about 20 kilometres away and is said to have been Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom’s parliament during King Ndahura’s reign – are still used for traditional rituals by locals and many other Ugandans from afar.  

Previous articleUNEA 5.2: Animal welfare, environment & sustainable development nexus resolution adopted
Next articleKabalega Corridor: Trailing Uganda’s fiercest anti-colonial hero

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here