The ancient army of Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom
Abarusuura is the official name of the army / security body of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom.
This army system was introduced by Omukama Chwa II Kabalega . In terms of its formation, it was different from the traditional one that existed before known as obwesengeze. With this army, Kabalega became not only the head of state but also the commander in chief of all the Armed Forces.
The institution of the Abarusura had a modem ring in it because it involved the transfer of military leadership from the Saza Chiefs to a new group of men who were professional soldiers and who took order from the King .
This was a very important change in the base of political power in the land. The army was divided into regiment/battalions each with 1500 men. Each battalion was put under the command of a royal, courageous and well trained soldier. People could become commanders irrespective of birth. That is why his force was led by the Bairu commanders such as Rwabudongo, Kikukule and Ireta.
Battalions were given task names such as Ekidoka, Ekihukya, Ekiporopyo, Ekigwera, Ekikabya, Ekihabya and the like. The commanders of each of these battalions were appointed from their respective battalions.
This was different from the traditional Army ‘obwesengeze’, which consisted volunteers from each province of the Kingdom and were commanded by their respective provincial chiefs. These were in most cases Biito princes and were not directly responsible to the King. The political and military implications which these two systems of recruitment bore on the strength of the Kingdom can be understood.
The regimental system of which Omukama Kabalega introduced meant that the Abarusura was a state army which derived its powers from the King . It suited the centralised political system which he had introduced. While the volunteer system which operated before, made provincial chiefs to be semi-autonomous. These provincial chiefs hardly took orders from the King. That is why secessionism and intrigues had retarded the political development of Bunyoro-Kitara for a long time and had almost led to her collapse by the middle of the 19th Century.
However, by 1890 Bunyoro was a power to reckon with in the whole of the interlacustrive region. It had conquered Tooro and subdued all other provinces which attempted to secede such as chope and Bugungu. It posed as a potential threat to Buganda and Nkore which through centuries had gradually extended their borders at its expense.
With the administrative and military reforms, Omukama Kabalega had-consolidated his power and rallied all his people together. The Kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara became once united and all elements of rebellion and intrigue which had existed were curbed out.