Buganda’s clan system is central to its culture. A clan represents a group of people who can trace their lineage to a common ancestor in some distant past. In the customs of Buganda, lineage is passed down along patrilineal lines. The clan essentially forms a large extended family and all members of a given clan regard each other as brothers and sisters regardless of how far removed from one another in terms of actual blood ties.The Baganda took great care to trace their ancestry through this clan structure. A formal introduction of a muganda includes his own names, the names of his father and paternal grandfather, as well as a description of the family’s lineage within the clan that it belongs to. The clan has a hierarchical structure with the clan leader at the top (owakasolya), followed by successive subdivisions called the ssiga, mutuba, lunyiriri and finally at the bottom the individual family unit (enju). Every Muganda was required to know where he falls within each of these subdivisions and anyone who could not relate his ancestry fully was suspect of not being a true Muganda.
After the coronation of Kabaka Mutebi II in 1993, a survey of the clans was carried out to establish definitively the number of clans, corresponding clan heads, and all other positions of authority within each clan. The following list shows 46 clans which are officially recognised by His Majesty’s government as constituting the clans of Buganda, as of August 1996. Oral history has always maintained that there are 52 clans in Buganda. This anomaly may be because some clans have not been able to establish their claims legitimately, or possibly that some clans may have died out, with no heirs to carry on the clan heritage.
It is a curious fact that the clans are not known by the names of the respective clan founders. Instead, totems were adopted by the clans, and the names of those totems came to be synonymous with the clans themselves. Each clan has a main totem (omuziro) and a secondary totem (akabbiro). The clans are usually known by the main totem and they are listed above by that totem. The royal clan (Abalangira) is a unique exception in that it has no totems whatsoever. For a proper understanding of the culture however, it is important to distinguish between the totem and the clan. The clan is a matter of genealogy and it is through the clan that the baganda trace their ancestry. A totem on the other hand, is just a symbol to represent the clan. Although the two are intimately associated with one another, they are in fact different. In the west, a totem would be similar to a court of arms.
The table below gives the list of the clans of Buganda.
List of the Clans of Buganda