About Buganda

Buganda

Buganda is a subnational kingdom within Uganda. The kingdom of the Ganda people, Buganda is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda, comprising all of Uganda’s Central Region, including the Ugandan capital Kampala. The 5.5 million Baganda (singular Muganda; often referred to simply by the root word and adjective, Ganda) make up the largest Ugandan ethnic group, representing approximately 16.9% of Uganda’s population.[1]

Buganda has a long and extensive history. Unified in the fourteenth century under the first king Kato Kintu, the founder of Buganda’s Kintu Dynasty, Buganda grew to become one of the largest and most powerful states in East Africa during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the Scramble for Africa, and following unsuccessful attempts to retain its independence against British imperialism, Buganda became the centre of the Uganda Protectorate in 1894; the name Uganda, the Swahili term for Buganda, was adopted by British officials. Under British rule, many Baganda acquired status as colonial administrators, and Buganda became a major producer of cotton and coffee.

Following Uganda’s independence in 1962, the kingdom was abolished by Uganda’s first Prime Minister Milton Obote in 1966. Following years of disturbance under Obote and dictator Idi Amin, as well as several years of internal divisions among Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement under Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda since 1986, the kingdom was finally restored in 1993. Buganda is now a kingdom monarchy with a large degree of autonomy from the Ugandan state, although tensions between the kingdom and the Ugandan government continue to be a defining feature of Ugandan politics.

Since the restoration of the kingdom in 1993, the king of Buganda, known as the Kabaka, has been Muwenda Mutebi II. He is recognised as the thirty-sixth Kabaka of Buganda. The current queen, known as the Nnabagereka, is Queen Sylvia Nagginda.

History of Buganda

The kingdom of Buganda is situated in a swampy hillside that served as a refuge for those escaping rivalries in neighboring Bunyoro. One faction fleeing Bunyoro, under the leadership of Prince Kimera, arrived in Buganda toward the last quarter of the 14th century. The prince molded the already existing refugees in the area into a unified state and became the first Kabaka (ruler) of Buganda.

By the 18th century, the formerly dominant Bunyoro kingdom was being eclipsed by Buganda. Consolidating their efforts behind a centralized kingship, the Baganda (people of Buganda) shifted away from defensive strategies and toward expansion. By the mid 19th century, Buganda had doubled and redoubled its territory conquering much on Bunyoro and becoming the dominant state in the region. Newly conquered lands were placed under chiefs nominated by the king. Buganda’s armies and the royal tax collectors traveled swiftly to all parts of the kingdom along specially constructed roads which crossed streams and swamps by bridges and viaducts. On Lake Victoria (which the Ganda called Nnalubale), a royal navy of outrigger canoes, commanded by an admiral who was chief of the Lungfish clan, could transport Baganda commandos to raid any shore of the lake. The journalist Henry Morton Stanley visited Buganda in 1875 and provided an estimate of Buganda troop strength. Stanley counted 125,000 troops marching off on a single campaign to the east, where a fleet of 230 war canoes waited to act as auxiliary naval support.

At Buganda’s capital, Stanley found a well-ordered town of about 40,000 surrounding the king’s palace, which was situated atop a commanding hill. A wall more than four kilometers in circumference surrounded the palace compound, which was filled with grass-roofed houses, meeting halls, and storage buildings. At the entrance to the court burned the royal gombolola (fire), which would only be extinguished when the Kabaka died. Thronging the grounds were foreign ambassadors seeking audiences, chiefs going to the royal advisory council, messengers running errands, and a corps of young pages, who served the Kabaka while training to become future chiefs. For communication across the kingdom, the messengers were supplemented by drum signals.

The British were impressed with government of Buganda. Under Kabaka Mwanga II, Buganda became a protectorate in 1894. This did not last and the Kabaka declared war on Britain in on July 6, 1897. He was defeated at the battle of Buddu on July 20 of the same year. He fled to German East Africa where he was arrested and interned at Bukoba. The Kabaka later escaped and led a rebel army to retake the kingdom before being defeated once again in 1898 and being exiled to the Seychelles.

While in exile, Mwanga II was received into the Anglican Church, was baptized with the name of Danieri (Daniel). He spent the rest of his life in exile. He died in 1903, aged 35 years. In 1910 his remains were repatriated and buried at Kasubi. [5]

Kabaka Mwanga II Buganda was allowed near complete autonomy and a position as overlord of the other kingdoms.

The war against Kabaka Mwanga II had been expensive, and the new commissioner of Uganda in 1900, Sir Harry H. Johnston, had orders to establish an efficient administration and to levy taxes as quickly as possible. Sir Johnston approached the chiefs in Buganda with offers of jobs in the colonial administration in return for their collaboration. The chiefs did so but expected their interests (preserving Buganda as a self-governing entity, continuing the royal line of kabakas, and securing private land tenure for themselves and their supporters) to be met. After much hard bargaining, the chiefs ended up with everything they wanted, including one-half of all the land in Buganda. The half left to the British as “Crown Land” was later found to be largely swamp and scrub.

Johnston’s Buganda Agreement of 1900 imposed a tax on huts and guns, designated the chiefs as tax collectors, and testified to the continued alliance of British and Baganda interests. The British signed much less generous treaties with the other kingdoms (Toro in 1900, Ankole in 1901, and Bunyoro in 1933) without the provision of large-scale private land tenure.

Following Uganda’s independence in 1962, the kingdom was abolished by Uganda’s first Prime Minister Milton Obote in 1966. Following years of disturbance under Obote and dictator Idi Amin, as well as several years of internal divisions among Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement under Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda since 1986, the kingdom was finally restored in 1993. Buganda is now a kingdom monarchy with a large degree of autonomy from the Ugandan state, although tensions between the kingdom and the Ugandan government continue to be a defining feature of Ugandan politics.

 

 

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