ca. 1850–1923
King of Bunyoro-Kitara

Kabarega was ruler of the kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara in what is now the nation of UGANDA. During his reign he expanded the empire and led a determined resistance to British colonization in East Africa. Although some historians consider Kabarega a tyrant and a murderer, others see him as a hero and an early African nationalist.

Kabarega's father Kamurasi ruled Bunyoro from 1852 to 1869. After his death, Kabarega and his brother Kabigumire fought for control of the kingdom. Their struggle ended in 1870 with the crowning of Kabarega, who set out to restore the former glory of the Kitara Empire. The new king created a standing army that he used to extend his influence over his neighbors, as well as to raid them for slaves and wealth. Within six years he and his allies ruled a large part of northern and western Uganda. He also undertook public works such as building roads and constructing granaries to store food in case of shortages. However, Kabarega had little control over the outlying parts of his kingdom, and he never succeeded in unifying the many different peoples under his rule.


In 1872 a British colonial traveler named Samuel Baker arrived in Bunyoro and claimed Kitara for EGYPT. A short time later, Baker's troops attacked Kabarega's palace in the village of Kihande and burned Bunyoro houses there. Violence erupted again in 1891 when Frederick LUGARD, an agent of the British East Africa Company, attacked Kabarega's forces in the kingdom of Toro. Lugard built a series of forts along the border of Bunyoro and Toro and placed one of his own allies, King Kasagama, on the Toro throne. Two years later, Kabarega sent forces to attack Toro and oust Kasagama. This led the British to declare war on Kabarega. Within a month British forces captured Kabarega's capital, and Kabarega retreated to the forest. African forces allied with the British drove him out of the forest, forcing him to fight a guerilla war. Kabarega was unable to gather much support for his struggle against the British, but he won some battles.

Joined by King Mwanga of Buganda, Kabarega continued to hold out against the British until capture in April 1899. Both men were exiled to the SEYCHELLES Islands in the Indian Ocean. In 1923 the British allowed Kabarega to return to Bunyoro, but he died on the journey home. (See also Colonialism in Africa.)