Buganda kingdom is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda, comprising all of Uganda’s Central Region.
The Baganda had a centralized system of government which by 1750 was the best organized in the interlacustrine region.
After 175O, the Kabaka (head of the kingdom) assumed a position of political importance far superior to the ranks of the Bataka. The Kabaka’s position was hereditary but it was not confined to any one clan because the king would take the clan of his mother. The Kabaka used to marry from as many clans as possible and this encouraged loyalty to the throne in the sense that each of the fifty-two clans hoped that it would one day produce the king.
The other persons who occupied positions of political and social importance were: the Prime Minister known as the Katikkiro, the Mugema, the royal sister known as Nalinya, the Queen mother known as Namasole and the Naval and Army commanders referred to as Gabunga and Mujasi respectively.
The kingdom was divided into administrative units known as Amasaza (counties) which were further sub-divided into Amagombolola (sub-counties), and these were sub-divided into parishes called Emiruka which were subdivided into sub-parishes. The smallest unit was known as Bukungu which was more or less a village unit. All the chiefs at all levels were appointed by the Kabaka and they were directly responsible to him. He could appoint or dismiss any chief at will. After 1750, chieftainship was no longer hereditary. Chieftainship was accorded on clan basis but only to men of merit and distinguished service.
The King (Kabaka)
The Kingdom has a centralized system of governance with the King as its titular head with absolute powers. In the past, Abataka had a lot of political influence but after 1750, the Kabaka assumed a position of political significance far superior to that of the Bataka. The position of the Kabaka is hereditary and not confined to any clan since the king takes his mother’s clan.
The King would marry from as many clan as he could which would encourage loyalty to the throne in a sense that each of the 52 clans hoped to have one of their own producing a King.
A King does not perform his duties solely but is assisted by other people who take position of both political and social significance who include;
The Executive Prime Minister- Katikkiro, The Mugema, the royal sister – Nnalinnya, The Queen Mother- Namasole, The Naval and Army Commanders referred to as Gabunga and Mujasi respectively.
For easier ruling and quicker communication to the subjects, the Kingdom is partitioned into administrative units famously known as Amasaza (Counties) which are sub-divided into Amagombolola ( Sub-Counties) which are also sub-divided into Emiruka (Parishes) which are also sub-divided into sub- parishes. The smallest unit is the Bukungu which is more or less a village unit.
All the above chiefs were appointed by the Kabaka and were directly responsible to him. He could assign or dismiss any chief at any time. However, by the end of 1750, chieftainship was taken to be open for any one to qualify. It was also awarded on clan basis but only to men of merit with notable services.
The practice of power sharing was introduced by Kinto Kato who delegated some of his powers to two Executive Prime Ministers (Bakatikkiro) who included Kisolo Muwanga and Kakulukuku. He also introduced the position of the royal sister by appointing Kabonesa as the first royal sister. Ssekabaka Kintu also delegated other powers to the Cabinet of ministers (Akakiiko Akafuzi), the Lukiiko (Parliament), County Chiefs, Sub-County Chiefs, Parish Chiefs, Clan heads ( Abataka Abakulu Ab’Obusolya), the Bafuma and the Village Chiefs. This made governing of the Kingdom very easy making it very popular in the region.
History of Buganda Kingdom
The region known today as Buganda was known as Muwaawa before the 12th century, a name literary seem to mean a place that is sparsely populated. It is believed that these people come from Abyssinia through the rift valley and the mountains of Elgon.
These people were organized into groups that had a common ancestry and constituted the most important unit in Buganda’s culture – the clan. The leader of each of these clans would be a chief and ruled a section of the territory. There were five original clans referred to as Banansangwa simply meaning the indigenous clans and they are: Ffumbe, Lugave, N?onge, Njaza and Nyonyi. These went on expanding to 52 clans by 1966.
There was no accepted general leader in the region but leadership passed on to whoever proved his might in the battle field. There used to be more than one leader in the same area.
Muwaawa become Buganda during the reign of Ssekabaka Kintu the first when he took over from Bemba. By this time, the head of the Ffumbe clan was called Buganda Ntege Walusimbi who had leadership over other clans. Walusimbi had several children including Makubuya, Kisitu, Wasswa Winyi, and Kato Kintu. When Walusimbi died, his son Makubuya replaced him as ruler. On his death, Makubuya in turn was replaced by his brother Kisitu as ruler. During Kisitu’s reign, a renegade prince called Bbemba came from the area of Kiziba in northern Tanzania today and established his camp at Naggalabi, Buddo from there he planned to fight Kisitu and replace him as ruler of Muwaawa. Bemba became so cruel and ruthless. When Bbemba attacked Kisitu, Kisitu became so intimidated and in his fear, he vowed to give his chair Ssemagulu to whoever would succeed in killing off Bemba whereby Ssemagulu was the symbol of authority. On hearing his brother’s vow, Kintu gathered some followers from among his brothers and some of the various clans and attacked Bemba. Bemba was defeated in the ensuing battle and he was beheaded by one Nfudu of the Lugave clan. Nfudu quickly took Bbemba’s head to Kintu, who in turn took it to Kisitu. On seeing Bbemba’s head, Kisitu abdicated his throne in favor of Kintu with the words that “Kingship is earned in battle”. Despite his abdication, Kisitu wanted to retain leadership of the Ffumbe clan, so he told Kintu to start his own clan. He also told Kintu that the kingdom should be renamed Buganda in memory of their common ancestor Buganda Ntege Walusimbi. Thus the royal clan came into existence by separated from the Ffumbe clan. Kintu established a new system of governance in alliance with the other clan leaders. Although there is no written literature, the information has passed on from generation to generation in oral form and the above version has been widely accepted as the most viable version.
However, there are other versions that talk about the origin of Buganda and amongst them is one where people believed that Bbemba and Kintu were related and that Kintu who was younger than Bbemba took over as leader. This did not go down well with Bbemba who was eldest which forced him to fight his cousin Kintu from the throne. Bbemba won the battle and Kintu ran away to the Ssese Islands from where he organized to come back and fight for his throne which was by then called Naggalabi.
When Bbemba took over power, he became so ruthless that people hated him so much. They even compared him to the dangerous cobra (Bbemba Musota) and wherever he would go to visit, he caused suffering to the people and even killed many of them. People became furious of him and when Kintu came back to fight him, all the people rallied behind him to fight Bbemba and this helped Kintu to win the battle.
This version goes a head to say that Kintu teamed up with all the different clans and his army was led by Mukiibi who was leader of the Lugave clan in the area. They won the battle and Bbemba was chased away. Kintu Kato took over the throne and its from here that some people mistake Kintu Kato as the first Muganda but this is not true. Kintu Kato could not have been the first Muganda when he fought Bbemba to take over power. He was a grandson to the first Kintu who came straight from heaven and he was married to Nambi Nantululu. When Kintu was coming back from Ssese Island, he took around about route via mountain Elgon. This he did because he wanted to take cover from his enemies so that he could attack Bbemba’s men with ease. This is the reason why some people mistake Kintu to have come from the east of the country known today as Uganda. Kintu came to Buganda as a conquering hero with a big force that enabled him to establish himself as king. It’s also believed that Bemba was a harsh and ruthless ruler. His subjects were already primed to rebel against him and indeed some prominent clan leaders joined Kintu’s invading force. Key among these was Mukiibi, head of the Lugave clan, who was assigned command of the invading force. When Bemba was defeated in the battle, Kintu slept in Bemba’s house as a sign of his victory. Bbemba had named his house Buganda and was located at Naggalabi Buddo. Thus Kintu took over leadership of Bemba’s house Buganda and the name eventually came to mean all the territory that Kintu ruled. To this day, when a new king of Buganda is crowned, the ceremony takes place at Naggalabi, to recall Kintu’s victory over Bemba.
Kintu found the region disorganized with only five clans. He reoganised them and merged those people he came with and the people he found in the region. Together they formed thirteen clans, organized themselves and formed the Buganda Kingdom. The five clans Kintu found in the region included among the following Ffumbe clan, Lugave clan, Ngeye clan, Nyonyi Nyange clan and the Njaza clan and they are referred to as “Ebika Binansangwa”. Kitnu organized the people and called for a general meeting for all the clan leaders who met at Magonga in Busujju on Nnono hill and formed a united government with Kintu as their leader. This meeting was of great historic significance for it was at this meeting that Buganda’s form of governance, and the relationship between the clans and the King was formally agreed upon. The agreement was not written down but it constituted an understanding between the clans that has been followed since then. In essence it set down Buganda’s Constitution.
After the meeting, Bukulu returned to the Ssese Islands. On completing his victory, Kintu established his palace at Nnono. It is here that he appointed his first government and awarded chieftaincies to his prominent followers. For this reason, Nnono is one of the most important cultural and historical sites in Buganda.
A Fetich doctor (Omulubaale) who was keeping the Naggalabi which was the traditional name for throne gave one stick (Akati Kamu) to Kintu and told him to break it into pieces which Kintu did at once. Then the Fetich put together nine sticks to make a bundle (Kaganda) and even prepared more others to make many bundles (Buganda) and told Kintu to break then like he had done with the one stick. Kintu failed to break the bundles with ease as it had been with one stick and therefore the Mulubaale explained to him that it was very easy to break one stick but it was very difficult to break the bundles (Obuganda) and that he should rule his people in BUGANDA and not in single STICKS. Therefore, it’s from here that the name Buganda was adopted and Muwaawa dropped. Every one would refer to Kintu’s region of rule as “Obuganda Bwa Kintu”. When the kingdom was formed and given the name Buganda, the people in the Kingdom also became to be called Baganda for many and Muganda for Singular, their language Luganda and their culture Kiganda. They loved one another, spoke the same language and were never jealousy of each other.
Other theories state that Rukidi’s brother Kato was called Kimera rather than Kintu. According to this school of thought, Kintu was merely a mythical figure and Kimera is the one who established the royal dynasty of Buganda. The Baganda strenuously resist this theory, and instead assert that Kimera was a grandson of Kintu. Kimera is counted as the third king in the dynasty, rather than its founder. More will be said about Kimera later
Cultural Set Up of the Kingdom
The leader of the Kingdom is called The Kabaka, the people are referred to as Baganda for many and Muganda for singular, their language is called Luganda and the Culture is called Kiganda Culture. The living king is called the Kabaka while the deceased king is referred to as the Ssekabaka. Sovereignty of leadership has always belonged to the male child from the royal family. Neither woman nor any other person not from the royal blood can reign in Buganda. The elder son of the King in Buganda does not become king but takes on the title of Kiweewa and there are functions carried out to crown the Kiweewa. The heir to the throne is always under the guardianship of the Kasujju. The Kasujju is also responsible for helping the Kiweewa carry out his duties. There is always a senior prince in the Kingdom called the Sabalangira. Princes and princesses take up their mothers clans and totems. The queen and the queen mother are permitted to hold their courts and a certain measure of administrative powers is conferred on them by the Kiganda Custom. Princes in the direct linage of succession are called Princes of the Drum because their father is on the throne and has the royal drum (Mujaguzo). Possession of this drum has always been regarded as possession of power, office and authority. Apart from the Royal drum (Mujaguzo), there are also other drums for each chieftainship. Each office is identified by the rhythm of its drum.
The kingdom also relied on the Bafumu who were appointed by the King. The Sabafumu would help to predict and warn the King about the coming problem and would go ahead to provide the King with people who could solve the problem.
The kingdom also relied on the work of the royal sister. She would help and guide the King when he takes over power. She is also traditionally called the œLubuga of the king. She was appointed by the elders who were also responsible for the selection of the next king from amongst the sons of the outgoing king. The Royal sister would stress her advice to the King so that he takes her word seriously. This is traditionally called Okuvuma Kabaka in Buganda. She also had an assistant called the Nampakibeezi who would help by doing her duties when she was away.
The King’s Twin (Mulongo) was also very useful in guiding the King on special powers claiming to come from god. The Twin had special powers called Lukenge. He was some times called the Mukasa wezadde. Thats why the Baganda say Bweza Bwa Mukasa when twins are born.
Every king in Buganda had to have a Jjembe which would make the King a hero by helping him win all the battles that came his way. The King would choose a name for his Jjembe.
The Home, like in most African culture, for one to become a man, he has to build himself a home and marry a wife. The King can build his home and give it a name of his choice.
People in Buganda are organized under different clans and are identified according to their respective clans. Children in Buganda are given names depending on their respective clans.