Ankole (Nkole) is a large kingdom in southwestern
where the pastoralist Hima established dominion over the
agricultural Iru some time before the nineteenth century.
Hima and Iru established close relations based on trade
symbolic recognition, but they were unequal partners in
relations. The Iru were legally and socially inferior to
Hima, and the symbol of this inequality was cattle, which
the Hima could own. The two groups retained their separate
identities through rules prohibiting intermarriage and,
marriages occurred, making them invalid.
The Hima provided cattle products that otherwise would
have been available to Iru farmers. Because the Hima
was much smaller than the Iru population, gifts and
demanded by the Hima could be supplied fairly easily.
factors probably made Hima-Iru relations tolerable, but
nonetheless reinforced by the superior military
training of the Hima.
The kingdom of Ankole expanded by annexing territory to
south and east. In many cases, conquered herders were
incorporated into the dominant Hima stratum of society,
agricultural populations were adopted as Iru or slaves and
treated as legal inferiors. Neither group could own
slaves could not herd cattle owned by the Hima.
Ankole society evolved into a system of ranked
where even among the cattle-owning elite, patron-client
important in maintaining social order. Men gave cattle to
king (mugabe) to demonstrate their loyalty and to
life-cycle changes or victories in cattle-raiding. This
was often tested by the king's demands for cattle or for
service. In return for homage and military service, a man
received protection from the king, both from external
from factional disputes with other cattle owners.
The mugabe authorized his most powerful chiefs
recruit and lead armies on his behalf, and these warrior
were charged with protecting Ankole borders. Only Hima men
serve in the army, however, and the prohibition on Iru
training almost eliminated the threat of Iru rebellion.
inferiority was also symbolized in the legal prohibition
Iru owning cattle. And, because marriages were legitimized
through the exchange of cattle, this prohibition helped
the ban on Hima-Iru intermarriage. The Iru were also
denied highlevel political appointments, although they were often
to assist local administrators in Iru villages.
The Iru had a number of ways to redress grievances
Hima overlords, despite their legal inferiority. Iru men
petition the king to end unfair treatment by a Hima
people could not be subjugated to Hima cattle-owners
entering into a patron-client contract.
A number of social pressures worked to destroy Hima
domination of Ankole. Miscegenation took place despite
prohibitions on intermarriage, and children of these
(abambari) often demanded their rights as cattle
leading to feuding and cattle-raiding. From what is
Rwanda, groups launched repeated attacks against the Hima
the nineteenth century. To counteract these pressures,
Hima warlords recruited Iru men into their armies to
southern borders of Ankole. And, in some outlying areas of
Ankole, people abandoned distinctions between Hima and Iru
generations of maintaining legal distinctions that had
lose their importance.
Data as of December 1990