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Exploring Bunyoro’s Mparo Royal Tombs

The Mparo Royal Tombs are one of the most treasured historical sites and unique among the royal tombs in Uganda.

The tombs that were originally owned by the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom command a lot of respect.

If you are visiting, you have to dress and conduct yourself decently.

The tombs are located in Mparo Division, about 4 kilometers along the Hoima – Masindi Road. They are seated on a six-acre piece of land.

Arriving at the site in my skinny jeans, I was told first thing that wasn’t acceptable.

I had to wrap myself in a leesu first.

At first glance, the Mparo Royal tombs scream culture, decency and calmness.

According to my tour guide John Mugisa, the tombs are the resting place to the great Omukama Kabalega, Bunyoro’s most known king; Sir Tito Winyi, the father of the current Omukama of Bunyoro; and other royals.

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History

The White Monument that symbolizes the day Sir Emin Pasha and Omukama Kabalenga met

Just outside the tombs, is a white monument made of 12 steps, which symbolizes the first day Sir Emin Pasha and Omukama Kabalenga met, and the days spent trying to convince Kabalenga to accept the British Colonial rule, which he refused.

Kabalenga, who is held in high esteem because of his courage, braveness and the love for his people after the 12 days, knew that the British could not give up easily, so he asked his subjects to follow him at all the Kingdom’s boarder points. He fought off the colonialists to prevent them from taking over his kingdom.

“Kabalenga was believed to be a Muchwezi (spirit) because some people said he would disappear and reappear.

In the same war, Omukama Kabalega is said to have lost an arm and hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

In April 1899, Kabalega was defeated and exiled to Seychelles Islands. He later died in 1923.

Inside this hut are the remains of King Kabalega

He nonetheless remains a key figure in Uganda’s history for resisting the British colonialists who had allied with Buganda to fight Bunyoro.

Kabalenga’s tomb is inside a round grass-thatched hut which has a wooden door.

“If you had an extramarital affair the previous night, it’s a taboo for you to enter,” Mugisa warned.

Inside the tomb are smoking pipes, clay pots, milk, water containers, baskets, wooden bowls, sticks, spears, drums, shields, wooden stools, animal skins, back cloth and many others.

Rituals

Being a cultural site, several important rituals are performed at the Mparo Tombs; the most important is the Empango Ceremony (Coronation Anniversary), which takes place on June 10th each year.

At the Empango Ceremony, two bulls are slaughtered at the site.

One bull is for Kabalega and the other is for Sir Tito Winyi.

“The meat is strictly smoked and nine small pieces are thrown in different corners of the two kings before eating starts. This symbolizes that the kings have eaten first and are now sharing with their subjects”

It’s also after the ritual that Okweza Amagasani (cleaning around the graves) is done.

Mugisa told us that many people visit the site to perform rituals and also seek inspiration from Omukama Kabalega.

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