The Truth About Buganda Kingdom in Uganda

A History and Some Notable Facts and People by Kisaka Robinson

The kingdom of Buganda is believed to have come into existence possibly around c. 1300AD. It is more than 700 years old. The early history of Buganda has been passed down the generation as oral history. It is located in the central part of Uganda with the most number of people. Unfortunately, as with many cases of oral history, the stories have taken on several different versions depending on their source. Prior to the establishment of the dynasty of Kintu, the first Buganda ruler in the kingdom’s traditions, the people who lived in the area that came to be known as Buganda had not been united into a single political entity. They were organized into groups that had a common ancestry and constituted the most important unit in Buganda culture.

The clan

Despite common language and culture, the clans were loosely autonomous. The clan leaders (Abataka) ruled over their respective clans. There was no caste system and all clans were equal. The clan which may proclaim military strength over the other would establish hegemony over the other clan for a time.

According to a widely accepted version of history, Bemba was the acknowledged leader at the time of Kintu’s arrival. Kintu came into Buganda as a conquering hero. It seems that at that time, Buganda was very sparsely populated. Buganda had a total of five clans referred to as the original clans (Banansangwa), these were Ffumbe (civet cat), Lugave (pangoline) Ngeye  (colobus monkey), Nyonyi  (eglet), and Nyanza clan. Kintu invaded Buganda accompanied by 13 new clans.

The final battle of Kintu and Bemba  took place at Naggalabi, and to this day, when a new king of Buganda is crowned, the ceremony takes place  at Naggalabi to recall Kintu’s victory over Bemba.

After the battle to oust Bemba, a general conclave of key clan members and clan elders was held at Magonga in Busujju County in the center of the kingdom, on a hill called “Nnono”. This meeting began the relationship between clans and king, which, though unwritten, has been followed up to now. Nnono became Kintu’s capital and form there he appointed his first government. Kintu became the first Buganda king to share authority with other clan leaders..

 Some remarkable kings of Buganda

 Kabaka Kintu (first king), Kabaka Ssuuna II (1832-1856), Kabaka Muteesa I (1856-1884), Kabaka Mwanga II (1884-1897), Kabaka daudi Chwa(1897-1939), Kabaka Edward Muteesa II(1939-1969), Kabaka Ronald Mutebi(1993-date).

 Succession in Buganda

In Buganda only sons of the kings and not daughters can become heir and take the throne. The first born son of a king known as Kiweewa, is a never considered for succession. In Buganda the king’s mother is referred to as Namasole. Apart from playing an advisory role, she is referred to more or less like the king and is granted her own independent establishment and residence away from king’s palace. After the death of king, she does not re-marry. One Drusilla Namaganda mother to Muteesa II did but was condemned and Katikiro Nsibirwa Martin resigned.

 Katikiro (prime minister)

Katikiro (prime minister) is the highest office any one can be appointed to in the kingdom of Buganda. The Baganda call their premier “Kamalabyonna” (the one who does every-thing in the kings name) and he is responsible for smooth running of the kingdom. However, the Katikiro is not supposed to be from royal family of princes.

Famous Baganda

Sir Appollo Kagwa; He is considered one of the most skillful politicians and was a Prime Minister at the time when colonial Britain was extending its influence in the region. He was appointed by Kabaka Mwanga II 1890 and served until 1926. He was the first African to receive the honor of knighthood from the queen of England.

Michael Kawalya Kaggwa; Son of the famous Sir Apollo Kaggwa, he served as Prime Minister between 1945-1950 during time of Kabaka Muteesa II. Kawalya Kaggwa is also associated with the introduction of electricity into Uganda, During a visit to England he asked colonial office to “bring electricity” although at the time many Baganda cursed him! They wanted something better like the removal of tax and introduction of better cotton growing methods. Owen Falls dam was built in Jinja in 1954.

Martin Luther Nsibirwa; Martin Luther Nsibirwa served as Katikiro (Prime Minister) for two terms (1929-1941) returning in 1945 before being assassinated. He was killed on September 5th 1945 at the main entrance to the Protestant Namirembe cathedral as he left the church after morning prayers. He was killed by Ssenkatuuka, a driver for the Indian community. Nsibirwa’s death arose from a land disagreement. Some Baganda hardcore were against the allocation of land for Makerere University but Nsibirwa was a modernist and reformer. He also caused controversy by being at the center of the Namasole (king’s mother) affair after he gave no objection to the young queen re-marring a “commoner”. His actions made him a divisive figure within Buganda.

Joseph Mulwanyamuli Ssemwogerere; After the restoration of the Buganda Kingship in 1993, Ssemwogerere was the first Prime Minister to be appointed by the current king, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II in July 1994. He was the first catholic to be appointed to the position traditionally reserved for Anglicans.

Joash Mayanja Nkangi; Served as Prime Minister for two terms during 1964-1966 prior to the kingdom’s abolition by Milton Obote’s UPC government. In 1993 when the kingdom was restored he served again for a year before handling over “Ddamula” (the office).

Daniel Muliika; Muliika is currently famous in Buganda, and Uganda, for his abrasive political style and his confrontation with central government over Buganda’s demands for a “federal” system of governance. Muliika rejected the “regional tier” which the government was proposing and is a strong supporter of greater political representation for Buganda.

John Baptist Walusimbi: Walusimbi achieved fame recently having been Prime Minister at the time of the September 2009 Buganda riots which left over 40 people dead. The riots erupted after the government blocked him and the king from visiting Bugerere County within Buganda. The Prime Minister and the king had been supposed to attend a  cultural function but members of breakaway communities known as the Baruli and Banyala demanded that the kabaka be prevented from visiting the area.

Looking Back

The lack of written history makes it difficult to trace the period of Buganda’s kings. The time of accuracy takes us back to the period of Kabaka Ssuuna .This is when Buganda experienced the arrival of European explorers. The number of kings and their chronological sequence is shown  or remembered through Buganda’s tradition. These traditions can be corroborated by historians such as when traditions speak of a great battle in the sky between moon and the sun during  Kabaka Jjuuko’s reign; a story correlated by scholars with the solar eclipse that occurred in 1680 and which affected Buganda.

The institution of kingship was interrupted in 1966 when Mutesa II (first president) was deposed by the Uganda army on orders of Prime Minister Milton Obote. The kingdom was later restored by President Museveni, after a long war struggle where many Baganda supported in favour of their kingdom. Buganda now has Kabaka (king) Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II crowned king on July 31st 1993.

Kisaka Samuel Robinson graduated from Makerere University with a BA in Tourism in 2010. Currently based in Kampala (Uganda) he works as a research assistant and with Buganda Kingdom. Contact:

he views expressed here are those of the author alone.

About perspectivesonafrica

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