Queen Ririkumutima of Burundi
African communities are predominantly patriarchal based, hence most successful accomplishments by women are lost in history. No one will tell you that most African empires were led and built by women who were daring enough to go out of their way to protect and guide their people to victory.
The African Queen Challenge is here to enlighten you on and honor every African Queen whose efforts have gone unnoticed.
This week we introduce you to Ririkumutima, a queen from Burundi. Ririkumutima is described as an unscrupulous woman who would do anything to achieve her ends which is evident from how she made it difficult for the Germans in Burundi after her husband’s death.
Her official name is Mwamikazi Nidi Ririkumutima Bizama hitanzimiza Mwezi (the name itself holds so much power).
She was born in Burundi around the mid-19th century as the third daughter of Chief Sekawonyi of the Watussi Munyakarama clan. She became one of the thirteen wives to Mwezi Gisabo, and rumors have it that she was his favorite wife. She bore Gisabo five children, namely; Karabona, Bishinga, Nduwumwe, Bangura, and Nganguzi, but her sons were not the firstborns thus had no chance of succeeding Gisabo. However, that did not stop Ririkumutima from persuading her husband to consider one of her sons as his heir, but as much as Gisabo loved his wife, he did not fall for her wishes.
Mbikije, born from an adulterous relationship between Gisabo and Ntibanyiha but raised by Ririkumutima, was appointed to succeed his father because he was born before all the children of Ririkumutima.
It is said that Ririkumutima wanted to be the queen mother so badly she was willing to do anything for her dream to come true even though it meant killing Mbikije’s mother. Once she accomplished that, she tricked the Kingdom into believing that she was Mbikije's biological mother, which enabled her to earn the title of queen mother. She orchestrated several deaths including her husband's in order to have and maintain the coveted title of the queen mother.
Most people may wonder why Ririkumutima would cause all that trouble to be queen mother. Historians claim that holding such a title gave a woman great power in the community, extending it to her children, who would exert dominant positions in the future.
After Ririkumutima died, the Europeans recognised her as the most intelligent and enthusiastic and tenacious ruler, more than any of the princes that followed her. Not only because of her using mischievous ways to become and remain queen mother but also because she managed to hold off the Germans single-handedly for many years till she died.