History of Batwa in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

July 20, 2020
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History of Batwa in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park: From the available records that talk about the history of Batwa, it is revealed that it was only Batwa pygmies that had stayed in Bafumbira and Kisoro as early as in the 16th century’s these people mostly. Most of them were hunters within the forest however some stayed in savannah grass forest areas and forest around lakes environments. Importantly to remember is that Batwa originated from Rwanda and was regarded as the northern frontier territory of the pre-colonial Rwandan state. Always Batwa could pay tribute to the Batutsi king’s court in ivory and animal skins for the forested areas they covered and belonged to.  As their responsibility, the Batwa were supposed to collect a toll from caravans that would via their territory as well clearing of fine payments in form of food and drinks to only those who were caught encroaching on the forests. This clearly shows that although they were hunters and forest gatherers in their time, they were as well responsible to protect the forest by imposing fines.

In the year the 1750s a small number of Bahutu clan escaped the Batusi rule in Rwanda and the Batwa claimed that they belonged to these two different clans and as more Bahutu came to the areas, they conflicted themselves and the Batwa leaders became so prudential for many ancestry heads standing against those who were encroaching on them. The original Batutsi had shifted into the area after 1550. While recognizing Batwa ownership of the high-altitude forest, Mpama the chief of the Batutsi prince was ordered to go and rule the northern frontier which now was occupied by the Bafumbira 1830s, after reaching the frontiers with his troops that composed of Batwa leaders.  Its believed that about four battle settlements in Bufumbira around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park today are progenies of the fighter Batwa who accompanied Mr. Mpama from Rwanda.

Additionally, some groups of Batwa proved to be important some dignitaries in the kingdoms and were rewarded with land. In Bwindi, the Batwa used to get tributes from Bahutu and later gave them to Busanza. Powerful Batwa like Semasaka became prominent and well respected. And lately in the 19th century, one of the old Mutwa women who were representatives of the clan demanded that Mututsi sub-chief give her son his daughter to marry. Further in her demand, she requested that Prince Nyindo in Rwanda provide one of his sisters for a Mutwa to marry which Batwa rejected

As a result, Batwa was annoyed and resorted to fighting which led to the toppling of sub-chief hence dominating most of Bufumbira. This called for to request for Prince Nyindo to seek intervention from Belgium to succeed about rebellion and for the first time the Batwa fled into the forest after being faced with guns

One of the resistant Mutwa fought by the names of Basebya resisted to   Batutsi leading many raids in the years of 1899 and 1910. Later Bahutu in the east and some to the north of Kisoro paid him tribute in 1905. He attacked the Batutsi chiefly headquarters in 1905 and 1906 and this led to semasaka being killed.

The Rwandans sought Belgian help to overcome Basebya and his men. Despite their superior firepower and numbers, they failed because of the Batwa’s guerrilla tactics. In 1910 the Batutsi captured Basebya through treachery. Inviting him to a feast, they got him drunk, tied him up and transported him to the Rwandan capital. The Germans executed him in 1911. The British took over the Bufumbira-Kigezi area in 1912 and confirmed Nyindo as a leader, but subject to them. Encouraged by the Germans, Nyindo unsuccessfully rebelled against the British with Batwa support.  The Batwa Batwa pygmies recruited another chief to fight against the British however like others he was defeated and this marked their homes in forests.

Based on the above history, there is a lot to learn about Batwa pygmies origin, Culture and what exactly are they doing now and where they live. Most travelers have found the most exciting moments with these short-statured group of people Adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. At Africa Adventure Vacations, we help you organize your trip to Bwindi National park and as you enjoy Gorilla Trekking you can as well experience this unusual group of people



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