Biharwe Hill: A Cultural Landmark Uganda Should Celebrate



Around 1520 AD, the powerful Bachwezi Empire strongly flourished, before it broke into kingdoms like the Nkore, Bunyoro, Buganda and many others in the interlacustrine region.

Of the three popular ones, Bunyoro is said to have had the strongest military force under the fifth Omukama of the Babito Dynasty, Olimi 1 Rwitamahanga Kalimbi Rukidi, and its influence rippled down to its neighbors.

Omukama Rwitamahanga was known to be aggressive and he was never satisfied with what he possessed. He kept raiding neighboring kingdoms even as far as Rwanda for cows and women.

Tales have it that Nkole people lost most of their cattle to the great Bunyoro leader which caused a famine they termed ‘Ijunga Nyonga’ during the rule of Omugabe Ntare V Nyabugaroobwera.

The writer Pamela Amia at the monument

Nkole did not give up its property without a fight however; several encounters happened between the two kingdoms at the battlefield and during one particular fight, something unseen of happened at Biharwe hill in Ankole.

A cloud of darkness covered the earth sending Bunyoro warriors to scamper in fear that it was a punishment from the gods of Nkole and so they fled from the battle field never to attack their Southern neighbors again.

The darkness was merely an eclipse.

Till today, its celebrated by the Ankole people because it gave them some of their cattle, women and children back.


Biharwe Monument

About 12 kilometers out of Mbarara town atop Biharwe hill, stands an unmissable three-legged pillar.

The three pillars represent three kings; Olimi 1 Rwitamahanga of Bunyoro, Ntare 1 Nyabugarobwera of Nkole and Ssekabaka Nakibinge of Buganda seats.

The artwork at the monument site

The monument was designed by Joseph Ssematimba, a lecturer of Art and Design at Makerere University.

The site was designed to look like a reed with Egyptian hieroglyphs carrying an eclipse.

On August 30th 2014, President Museveni officially unveiled the majestic Biharwe Eclipse monument, erected to commemorate victory for Ankole over Bunyoro 500 years ago.

Celebrating the quincentenary of the Biharwe Eclipse last Friday, James Tumusime proprietor of Igongo Cultural Center that runs the monument led a team from the Uganda Tourism Board and United Nations Development Programme to officially launch the site for cultural tourism.

James Tumusime proprietor of Igongo cultural center story telling about the eclipse

“We wanted to show you the importance of this hill and also to tell you that on the 17th of April it will be 500 years since this eclipse took place. This is a landmark we should celebrate,” Tumusiime said.

“It may no longer be important or over practiced now but Kingdoms are there and we all know that they were the most important drivers of authority, religious authority, political, social and cultural authority; and gradually modern democracy has displaced them but they are still regarded highly,” he said.

Claire Mugabi the Uganda Tourism Board Marketing manager thanked the Igongo proprietor for developing a wonderful tourism product.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization report of 2014 conducted in 31 countries in Africa with Uganda inclusive, Nature, National Parks, Wildlife and Cultural sites are the four most important tourism experiences sold world over.

Looks like reeds carrying an eclipse

“This was confirmed by our own findings that 89 percent of our visitors that come into Uganda are interested in safaris followed by sightseeing which is at 86 percent, cultural entertainment 76.8 percent and visiting historical sites at 76.5 percent,” Mugabi revealed.

Exciting activities to do while there

Some of the cultural activities you can do are pottery, local brew making, milking experience, climbing up the hills using one of the three trails in blue, red and yellow representing the three kings.

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