Queen Muhumusa was a courageous leader whose resistance against the German and British colonial powers, resulted in her arrest and subsequent house confinement until her death in 1945.
Born in the early 1880s in what is present-day Rwanda, Muhumusa’s early life remains largely shrouded in mystery. However, she ascended to prominence as a charismatic and influential figure within her community after marrying King Kigeri Rwabugiri and bearing a son named Biregeya. The trajectory of her life took a significant turn with Rwabugiri’s death in 1895. Subsequently, a coup orchestrated by the king’s favored wife, Kanjogera, unfolded in 1896. This coup resulted in the overthrow of Rwabugiri’s chosen successor, Rutarindwa, and the enthronement of Kanjogera’s son, Musinga.
Following the coup, Muhumusa, accompanied by her son Biregeya, sought refuge in Mpororo, where her journey underwent a transformative shift. It was in Mpororo that Muhumusa assumed a significant role as an influential spirit medium of Nyabinghi—an entity believed to sway both positive and negative events.
Asserting spiritual authority through Nyabinghi, Muhumusa rallied the local people against King Musinga’s claim to the throne. Insurrections were organized, and she advocated for her son, Biregeya, as the rightful successor to Rwabugiri. She also disrupted the status quo by encouraging her followers to pay tribute to her, rather than Musinga’s court.￼
In reaction to Muhumusa’s actions, King Musinga enlisted the support of German colonizers to counter her movement. Subsequently, the Germans accused her of ‘witchcraft,’ leading to her arrest in 1908. She remained imprisoned in Bukoba until her successful escape in 1911.
Once again, she sought refuge and rallied her supporters, but this time, challenging the German and British colonizers who asserted their dominance over the region. Collaborating with Umutwa leader Basebya, they became instrumental in launching the first armed resistances against colonization in the region.
Muhumusa’s resistance took various forms, from organizing guerrilla warfare against colonial troops to mobilizing her community against the imposition of foreign laws and taxation. Her ability to unite different ethnic groups under a common cause made her a formidable force against the colonial powers.
The European colonial authorities in the area became increasingly alarmed as Muhumusa’s influence and the accomplishments of her resistance movement grew. This led to a collaborative effort by both German and British forces to capture her.
In 1911, Muhumusa’s forces were surrounded, and after a brief battle, she was arrested. The British then confined her to house arrest in Kampala, where she remained until her death in 1945.
Queen Muhumusa’s legacy extends far beyond her years of active resistance. Although she died in relative obscurity in 1945, her impact on the fight against colonialism lived on.