The Legendally Kingdom of Buganda according to Kawalysa Ssewanyana


Excerpts from

  “The Legendally Kingdom”

Nicholas Kawalysa Ssewanyana

Introduction to Buganda

In East Africa, the Baganda are among the Bantu tribe who include others like the Bagishu, Baluya, Samya, Batooro, Nyankore, Basoga, Bakiga, Bakonjo, Bamba, and Nyarwanda. The Nilotics are also found in the region.

The people of the Bantu origin are said to have trekked from Central Africa in Katanga region in Democratic Republic of Congo, former Zaire 1000 AD. Some traveled as far as East African coast to a place called Shungwaya. From around 1100 they traveled inland East Africa. These people include the fore mentioned tribes. The Baganda however like the Banyoro crossed Rive Nile unlike the Basoga. They settled in the present counties of Kyaggwe, Kyadondo, Busiro, Mawookota, Bulemezi, Singo and Busunju.

The Baganda, Basoga and Banyoiro traveled together inland but as they continued to separate and traveled in different groups, their original language assumed the difference they have to-date. Their customs and traditions do not differ much that is why the Baganda and Banyoro share the spirits of Nabuzaana and Lubanga.

The Empire of Bunyoro Kitara

The states of Bunyoro, Tooro, Busoga, Ankole, Buganda, Burundi, Rwanda and some parts of Lango and Bukoba of Tanzania were at first under the empire of Bunyoro Kitala.  The empire of Bunyoro Kitala existed from 1220-1500. The headquarters of this kingdom was a a place called Bigo Bya Mugenyi in Masaka.

When the Bachwezi kingdom collapsed, the Luo royal family known as the Babiito started ruling the following parts of Bunyoro, Busoga, Bugabula, Bugwere. The Bagabe started ruling Nkore and Bukoba in Tanzania. The kings of Buganda became autonomous from the Bachwezi of Bunyoro Kitala.

The the Baganda settled in the already mentioned places after their trek from the Indian Ocean in 1200, they divided themselves into six clans i.e.

1) The Civeat Cat (Ffumbe); 2) the otter clan (Engonge); 3) the Scary ant (Olugave); 4) Red buck (Njaza); 5) Emmamba (Lung fish); 6) Bird (Enyonyi).

Each had its own clan leader, however, since they had the same origin, each clan co-operated with each other. Walusimbi of the (Civeat) cat clan was the chairman of all the clan leaders. The Baganda had their distinctive religion, a complete set of beliefs and practices where they believed in one God who had spirits and mediums. Through holy spirits they would communicate with God to know what was expected of them and what they needed from God. The specially selected people by divine were and still the custodians of such tasks. On identification such people are trained in the practice of the Ganda religion.

Income Generating Activities of Buganda

Economically the Ganda were agriculturists they grew matooke )bananas) a plant which they moved along with right from Katanga region. The banana plant did well in Buganda because the soils were fertile. From the matooke )banana) plant called “mbidde” they brewed “foot wine”. They grew a variety of food and greens like potatoes, cassava, yams and ejjobyo, ensugga, nnakati, entula, empindi,k ebijanjalo (beans) empande (cow-peas) enderema, and buyindiyindi respectively.

The Bantu left Katanga region when they had mastered iron work. They would melt iron and make hoes, pangas, spears etc. They brought and exchanged such items in the societies they passed through and to their neighbors where they finally settled.

During the reign of Kabaka (king) Jjunju 1764-1779, Ssonko of the Otter clan invented Bark cloth making, every young boy child was taught bark cloth making. The bark cloth industry flourished as the Baganda gave up skin dressing to bark cloth dressing. The bark cloth became a very important asset in the region as it was used for dressing, wrapping dead bodies, beddings (sheets and blankets) bride price and other cultural uses like the gifts in marriage introduction ceremonies. It was a lucrative source of income because the Baganda highly valued dressing, for instance it was an abomination for a Muganda woman to expose here breasts or body beyond the knees.

The men’s activities were basically house construction, black smithing, bark cloth making, hunting and barter trading-exchanging hoes, axes and pangas with salt which the neighboring Banyoro got from Katwe in Tooro. Invasion – raid expeditions to neighboring states for women, servants and domestic animals, namely cattle and goats,  was a chief Muganda man’ duty (role).

Originally the Baganda had a few cows they always carried on raaids on neighboring states like Bunyoro, Nkore and the Ziba of Bukoba in Tanzania which then increased their number.

A Muganda woman’s basic role was cultivating and house keeping.

The Beginning of Kinship in Buganda

The first leaders of Buganda were the clan chiefs as already observed. However around 1314 a charismatic name namely Kato Kintu with his forces from Masaba mountain (Elgon) entered Buganda, Kato Kintu captured and usurped the clan chiefs power and became Buganda’s first Kabaka (king). This Kato Kintu should not be confused with Kintu the first Muganda man, husband to Nambi Nnantuttululu who is mentioned in the creation story of Buganda, (the equivalent of Adam and Eve in the Biblical version). King Kato Kintu never abolished the clan leadership, he just truncated their political power and left them with only the traditional role. He firmly consolidated and retained political power.

The Baganda however were so loyal to their clan leaders that they did everything required of them by clan leaders without question, solely because one to be a Muganda he had to belong to a certain clan.

The clan was a chain which connected people to the king and others. In case a clan leader cursed or disowned someone, he ceased to be a Muganda. He had to explain his parentage to his clan chief and Katikiiro (Prime Minister), failure to do so meant that one became an alien; he had to relocate to neighboring tribes. This then explains the important of the clan. King Kato Kintu created his own clans (18) eighteen in number which were added to the (6) six original clans. During the clan meetings, Kato Kinto’s deliberations won the day since he had the biggest number of clan chiefs. The fact that Kato Kintu realized the importance of clans and retained them, shows that he was an astute focused leader.

Although he retained them, he made himself the chief of all clan chiefs.

The Kabaka (king) who succeeded him retained/maintained this position.

Each clan had a specific role to render to the king. For instance the role of the Buffalo clan was to should lift the king Members of the mushroom clan were the king’s dancers and musicians. Those of the Edible rat were in change of sanitation in the king’s palace.

When the Kabaka (king) Kato Kintu passed away as was buried at Nnono in Busujju county. His son Kimera was the son of Prince Kimera, and his mother was Wanyana of the grass hopper clan. Prince Kimera had visited the palace of the king of Bunyoro and that is where he fathered Kimera in the above king’s wife. Unfortunately Kimera died there. Prince Kimera grew up in the palace of the king of Bunyoro. By the time Chwa I died, he had no son. Buganda elders picked up Kimera from Bunyoro and was enthroned as Buganda’s third king in 1374. The Kiganda saying that “when one becomes a chief, he attracts many friends” was then applicable to Kimera case, he was accompanied by many contingents of friends, from which he created twenty-eight (28) more clans to overlap the ones found in Buganda viz the original six, the thirteen created by Kato Kintu and the five created by King Chwa I. Since then Buganda has fifty-two clans. The successive kings to King Kimera never created more clans.

The Expansion of Buganda

At the time Buganda became autonomous, after the collapse of the Bachwezi’s Bunyoro Kitala kingdom around 1500, she only had the counties of Kyadondo, Busiro, Mawokoota, Busujju, Butambala, Ggomba, Kyaggwe and some parts of Bulemeezi and Singo counties. However the kings of Buganda waged constant wars on neighboring states of Bunyoro, Busoga, Nkore and Bukoba in Tanzania, annexed their lands and expanded. This was not until the 16 century, 150l – 1599 when Buganda surpassed the Babiito powerful Bunyoro. Buganda realized massive expansive in the beginning of the 17th century, 1601, when it annexed big hunks of land from the mentioned neighboring states.

The factors which facilitated Buganda’s growth mostly are two-fold, first it had successive astute dynamic leaders, while on the other hand her neighbours had successive indolent leaders. This made it easier to invade, defeat and annex their neighbours’ land. Secondly internal rivalry and disunity among neighbouring tribes made it easier for Buganda to defeat them. As Buganda’s neighbours were not united, they could not counter-attack Buganda in Union. However, the Baganda were so united and had the following saying “my king I shall never desert you, if attacked from the rear I shall counter-attack from the front and defend you” – such commitment and unity lacked in Buganda’s neighbours.

During the reign of King Nakibinge 1494-1524, Bunyoro almost overran Buganda. The war was so decisive that the Baganda ran out of spears. Baganda women responded by sharpening reeds which Baganda warriors used to defeat the Banyoro. This aspect earned King Nakibinge another name of “Omulwanyamuli” (the one who used reeds to fight).

From this event King Nakibinge passed a law that every adult Muganda man had to be with two (2) ready sharpened spears and a shield and on the alert to defend his motherland at any given time on hearing the sound of the drum “Gwanga mujje” (Luganda) tribesmen gather up/mobilize. This unwritten law was highly respected until June 1894 when colonialism disrupted it.

Due to the above factors Buganda had greatly expanded by the time John Speke and James Grant arrived in Buganda in 1862.

During the reign of King Kyabaggu 1749 – 1764. Black traders from coastal Mombassa and Zanzibar were selling wares like cloth, plates, dishes and small caliber guns in land. In 1844 the Arabs arrived at Lubiri (palace) of King Ssuna II (1824-1856) at Banda. These Arab traders were led by Sheikh Ahmed bin Ibrahim, on face value they came as ivory ad slave traders but their ulterior motive was Islam. The event marks the sowing of the first Moslem seed in Buganda and Uganda in general. Some Baganda embraced Islam, even King Muteesa I joined it although he was not circumcised due to tradition. So by the time Protestantism and Catholicism arrived, Islam was already in Buganda.

It also alleged that these Arab traders were chased to leave Buganda by King Ssuna for trying to…(import his people as slaves and as they were leaving the kingdom). They left with Queen Nanteza the wife of King Ssuna. Mutesa I’s mother Nanteza was such a pretty “wife whom the sultan of Zanzibar married and they produced a baby who became the sultan of Zanzibar (king). This sultan was a half brother to King Muteesa I that means there is a Kiganda blood in the Kingdom of Zanzibar.

To have an efficient dynamic Buganda Kingdom the kings created the following administrative structures.

1) A special chief (Omutongole) was the leader of each village, he had his own village council comprising of village elders. He was the custodian of security, peace, tranquility and development.

2) Ten (10) villages (made up a parish, muluka), which was led by a parish chief. His council was made up of representatives from ten villages which made up a parish. Crimes which exceed the Village Special Council (V.S.C.) jurisdiction were forwarded to the parish chief (P.C.) council. The parish chief was responsible for his parish seurity and development.

3) Ten parishes made up a sub county which was led by a sub county chief. His council was made up of representatives from the parishes. Issues above the parish council were forwarded to the sub-county council under the sub-county chief. The sub county chief was responsible for the overall welfare of his sub county.

4) Ten sub counties made up a county under a county chief. His council compromised of representatives from ten sub counties. Issues above the jurisdiction of the sub county chiefs were forwarded to the county chief. The county chief was responsible for the general welfares of his country.

5) The prime minister was the highest chief in Buganda. He was responsible for the general duties of the kingdom. (Although the king was the the top of the hierarchy and parliament – Lukikko). Because of his paramount role, he was referred to as the one responsible for everything/one who solves everything (Kamala byonna-luganda)

6) For this vital responsibility the king would had given him a rod scepter (a symbol of authority) called Ddamula -for judging-Buganda. The (Lukiiko) parliament was composed of county chiefs and other kings’ appointees. Issues which could not be solved by country chiefs were forwarded to this parliament which was presided over by the prime-minister. This then was the last court of appeal in Buganda. To avoid the king to be a despot, there was a special council in the official palace of the king’s mother called Nnamasole, where the king would go for counseling and guidance. This special council was presided over by Nnamasole’s brother, the king’s maternal uncle called Ssaabaganzi.

During the reign of King Mutebi I, 1664 – 1654, they created the office of Kibaale. The clan chief  Kiggye,clan leader of Mpewo clan, would nominate a young man of great promise from the lineage of Sseryaazi to the King’s palace. His work was to selle misunderstandings between the king and his wives. Ssekamwa ws the first man to become a Kibaale – to take office during the reign of King Mutebi I. The creation of that office justified the Kiganda saying that “none is above the law, even the king is judged by Kibaale”.

The Relationship of Buganda and the Conquered People

The Baganda had a cordial relationship with conquered people They never segregated them but rather taught them their language (Ganda) and their culture. They would choose and enter clans of their preference. It was a taboo to segregate a conquered person. Buganda men settled in conquered lands, taught people Ganda language and married conquered women in a bid to have as many children as possible and completely assimilate these conquered people.

The above aspect developed the following saying – it does not matter whether your mother is an alien (Munyoro) as long as she mothered you from a clan and go to Mbale (Mawokota Sub county) to your fellow mixed Baganda. This was an impolite saying used by a segregative Muganda, to a conquered person.

Generally conquered people were assimilated and became king’s subjects, to the extent that they would assume offices in the Buganda hierarchy, even up to Prime minister level. People from annexed regions felt at home because they were not segregated that was considerable security and relative peace in Buganda, unlike in areas where they had been conquered from. This coupled with economic development made the conquered people unwilling to return to their home land where internal conflicts were rife. Little wonder that these people joined hands with the native Baganda to invade and annex land from Buganda’s neighbors. The above Buganda assimilation policy helped it to expand and grow at the expense of her neighbors who were segregative.

They coined the following adage to justify it. The number (quality) of leglets determines the sound, – also a parent does not segregate children. The policy of accommodation, assimilation and unity was the secret behind Buganda’s expansion. That policy did not end with the beginning of British rule in Buganda in 1894, but continued until 1966 when Milton Obote crushed the Buganda Kingdom. A number of tribes like Banyoro, Batooro, Alur, Madi, Nubians, Kakwa, Acholi, Langi, Nyarwanda, Barundi and so many other tribes were found in Buganda and would assume any office and worked together to develop Buganda and Uganda. This accommodation and hospitality aspect partly explains why the Baganda and their king Sir Edward Muteesa supported Milton Obote a Langi instead of Ben Kiwanuka their fellow Mugandan.

The same aspect of accommodation also explains why different tribes and nationalities are still buying land and settling permanently in Buganda. The Baganda are culturally accommodative therefore one can easily access land without much hindrances as is prone in other areas of Uganda. There is less internal conflicts in Buganda and relative peace that why Buganda is referred to as Muzzanganda – state of brotherhood.

The zeal by which Baganda volunteered to extend missionary work to different parts of Uganda and even beyond, when Muteesa I invited them in 1875, is another testimony of their accommodation policy.

The Relationship of Buganda Kings with Other Kings

Although Buganda expanded at the expense of her neighbors as already observed, the kings of Buganda never made permanent enemies after invading and annexing land from her neighbors. This was so until the coming of the first Europeans namely Speke and Grant in 1862.  In the above arrangement, during the reign of King Mutesa I the King of Kooki decided to annex his kingdom to that of Buganda on good will.

In another development when King Kabalega wanted to restore the Kingdom of Tooro to Bunyoro, which King Kaboyo truncated off  Bunyoro in 1830, King Kasagama sought assistance from Buganda’s King Mwanga. Up to date, Tooro has kept Buganda kingdom in high esteem because it saved it from being subjugated.

During the religious wars in Buganda in 1888 – 1892, the King of Nkole, Ntale gave King Mwanga the county of Kabula to resettle the fleeing Catholics, since then that county ceased to belong to Nkore kingdom and became one of Buganda’s counties.

Again during the above wars when King Kalema, who was heading the Moslems was defeated, he sought asylum in King Kabalega’s palace in 1988.

In another development, the Kings of Busoga sent musicians and dancers to the Kings of Buganda. They were allotted a whole village called Kyebando in Kampala.

When King Mwanga II realized that the British had usurped his power, he joined hands with Kabalega of Bunyoro and seriously fought the British until 1890 when they were both captured in Lango. The above aspects show that although Buganda used to wage wars to her neighbors and annexed their land, there was no permanent enemy in politics, your enemy today can be your best friend tomorrow. That is why when Obote abolished kingdoms in 1967, the blow was felt by Buganda alone but all kingdoms in Uganda, like Busoga, Nkore, Tooro, etc.

List of Buganda Kings and Their Dates of Rule

1.  Kakaba (King Kintu 1200 – 1230
2.  Kakaba  Chwa I 1200 – 1275
3.  Kakaba  Kimera 1275 – 1330
4.  Kakaba  Lumansi 1330 – 1350
5.  Kakaba  Tembo 1350 – 1360
6.  Kakaba  Kiyula 1360 – 1380
7.  Kakaba  Kayima 1415 – 1440
8.  Kakaba  Kiyimba 1380 – 1400
9.  Kakaba  Nakibinge 1400 – 1490
10.  Kakaba  Mulondo 1490 – 1510
11.  Kakaba  Jemba 1510 – 1530
12.  Kakaba  Ssuna 1530- 1555
13.  Kakaba  Sekamanya 1555 – 1590
14.  Kakaba  Kimbugwe 1590 – 1610
15.  Kakaba Katerega 1610 – 1650
16.  Kakaba Mutebi 1650 – 1670
17.  Kakaba  Jjuko 1670 – 1682
18.  Kakaba Kayembo 1682 – 1690
19.  Kakaba  Tebaneke 1690 – 1700
20.  Kakaba  Ndawula 1700 – 1710
21.  Kakaba  Kagulu 1710 – 1720
22.  Kakaba Kikulwe 1720 – 1740
23.  Kakaba Mawanda 1740 – 1760
24.  Kakaba  Tembo 1760 – 1760

(10 days)25. Kakaba  Namugala   1760-1770 [?]26. Kakaba Kyabagu1770 – 178027. Kakaba  Jjunju1780 – 179728. Kakaba  Semakokilo1797 – 181429. Kakaba Kamanya1814 – 183230. Kakaba  Ssuna II1832 – 185631. Kakaba  Muteesa I1856 – 188432. Kakaba  Mwanga I1884 – 188833. Kakaba  Kiwewa1888 – 1888

(73 days)34. Kakaba Kalema1888 – 188935. Kakaba Mwanga II1889 – 189736. Kakaba  Daudi  Chwa II1897 – 1939 37. Kakaba  Muteesa II1939 – 196738. Kakaba  Mutebi II    1993 – Present

The author was born in a small town of Mengo (The Traditional capital and headquarters of  Buganda Kingdom) in Mengo Hospital where he was born was a missionary founded hospital which was built by the first (C.M.S.) Church Missionary society To Uganda who arrived in 1877 from Britain. His parents being good Christians they had to use it too for his birth. The author was born in a war conditions whereby the rebels led by President Museveni were fighting to overthrow the government of Dr. Apollo Milton Obote therefore he is a ward born child.

2006 @ Nicholas Kawalya Ssewanyana


About ekitibwakyabuganda

Ba Ssebo ne ba Nyabo, Twebaza Abaganda bonna abulumulirwa Obuganda . Era twebaza ne mikwano gya Buganda gyonna wonna wegiri munsi yonna. Omukutu guno gwatandikibwawo nga e’kigendererwa kwe kuyigiriza abantu ebintu ebikwatagana no’Buganda era nokuwanyisiganya ebilowozo nebanaffe abatali Baganda. Abaganda ne mikwano gya Buganda mukozese omukisa guno muwereze ebirowozo byamwe no’bubaka bwona obunaagasa Abaganda na’baana Buganda berizala mu maaso eyo. Obumu ku bubaka obuwerezebwa ku mukutu guno bugyibwa mukuwanyisiganya ebirowozo okubera kumukutu gwa Ugandan’s at Heart (UAH) Forum ogwatandikibwawo Mwami Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba. Era twebaza muzukulu wa Kintu ne Nnambi ono olw’omulimu gwakoledde bana Uganda bonna abali e’bunayira mungeri yo kubagatta mu byempuliziganya no’kutumbula okukolaganira awamu.

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