Nyabingi Priestesses Muhumusa (died 1945) and Kaigirwa (???)
- Muhumusa and Kaigirwa were leaders of the feared East African Nyabingi priestesses group, which was influential in Rwanda and Uganda between 1850 and 1950.
- Muhumusa vowed to drive out the Europeans, proclaiming that “the bullets of the Wazungu would turn to water against her.”
- As a rebel priestess fighting colonial domination, Muhumusa helped to organize armed resistance against German settlers.
- She was eventually jailed by the British in Kampala, Uganda, however, from 1913 until her death in 1945.
- Britain’s 1912 Witchcraft Act was passed in direct response to the spiritually-based resistance movement.
- Following in Muhumusa’s footsteps, the “Nyabinga” Kaigirwa fostered the Nyakishenyi revolt against the British.
- The British managed to capture the tribe’s sacred white sheep, however, and burned it to ashes, unleashing a series of unfortunate events for the district commissioner. His own flocks were wiped out, his roof caved in and a fire broke out at his home.
- The British also attacked Kaigirwa’s Congo camp in January 1919, killing most of the men there.
- Kaigirwa attempted a second uprising years later and fled to the hills where she was never found. One official described the thwarted attack as “the narrow escape … from a serious native outbreak” and the danger of “this Nyabingi propaganda.”
- The Nyabingi movement was ultimately quelled by the 1930’s but later inspired the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica.
Nyabingi Priestesses Muhumusa and Kaigirwa are part of our Black Rebel series for Black History Month.