History of Buganda

Buganda Kingdom

Buganda Kingdom was a kingdom located in present day Uganda, founded between the thirteenth and sixteenth century. It became the most powerful of the Lake Plateau states.


Around the thirteenth century, Nilotic speaking pastoralist and Bantu speakng farmers began to arrive in northern Lake Victoria.  The people that developed from admixture of the two groups, began to be referred to as the Ganda(Muganda for individual) and founded the Buganda Kingdom. Buganda initially was a tribute paying state of the Bunyoro-Kitara Empire.


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.

Although these people spoke the same language and had the same culture, the clans were not so autonomous. There was no organized system of governance in the region but the clans were ruled over by The Bataka. 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. There some powerful leaders who are said to have established themselves for some periods of time before Kintu’s arrival and they include the following: Sseguku, Buwumpya, Bukokoma, Bukulu, Bandi, Beene, Ggulu, Kyebagaba, Muyizzi, Bukuku, Bukadde-Magezi, Nakirembeka, Tonda, Maganda, Mukama, and Bemba. According to the most widely accepted version of history, Bemba was the acknowledged leader at the time of Kintu’s arrival.

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. The following are some of the principal attendants who were at the meeting:


1. Bukulu, from Ssese, who chaired the meeting


2. Kato Kintu, who became King


3. Mukiibi Ndugwa, of the Lugave clan, whose son Kakulukuku was the first Katikkiro of Buganda


4. Kisolo, of the Ngonge clan, who also became a Katikkiro of Buganda


5. Kyaddondo, of the Nvuma clan who was appointed Ssaabaddu


6. Mwanje, of the Ngo clan


7. Balasi,


8. Kagobe, of the Ffumbe clan


9. Kayimbyokutega, from Kyaggwe and of the Mpeewo clan


10. Kiwutta Kyasooka, of the Mbogo clan


11. Nnyininsiko, of the Njovu clan


12. Bakazirwendo Ssemmandwa, of the Ngeye clan


13. Kakooto Mbaziira, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Bulimo in Kyaggwe county


14. Nsereko Namwama, of the Kkobe clan


15. Kyeya Mutesaasira, of the Ngo clan


16. Nsumba, of the Mbogo clan


17. Kisenge, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county


18. Kyeyune, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county


19. Mubiru, of the Mmamba clan, from Bumogera


20. Mutasingwa, of the Mbwa clan


21. Kayimbyobutezi, of the Njaza clan


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


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.

Two oral sources exist and contradict each other as to which kabaka came first, Kintu or Kimera. Kintu is recognize as one of the first kabaka. Another oral tradition stated Kimera in the fifteenth century was the first. Under Kabaka Katerega(1636-1663), the Buganda Kingdom began aggressive expansion. By the end of the eighteenth century, the empire had surpass the Bunyoro-Kitara Empire as the most important empire in the region. Under Kabaka Mutesa(1856-1884), Arabs made trade contact with the kingdom trading guns for slaves and ivory. In 1862, the British made contact with the kingdom. Later in 1894, Buganda came under British rule, under Kabaka Mwanga. Kubaka Mwanga resisted British rule, in so doing he was deposed and replaced by his son. By 1900, all of Uganda came under British rule. In the Uganda Agreement, the Buganda monarchy was kept. In 1963, Uganda received independence with Buganda retaining regional autonomy. Three years later Milton Obote, outlawed the monarchy of Buganda. The kabaka fled to Britain. In 1993, Yoweri Museveni reinstated the monarchy, for Baganda support. The monarchy took on more of a ceremonial/religious role.


The empire was ruled by the kabaka, who was selected the sons or grandsons of deceased Kabaka. Initially, the kabaka ruled with a hereditary chiefly council called the bataka, but replaced the council with members loyal to himself called the Lukiiko. Land was granted to loyal chiefs, who in turn granted land to other chiefs. The cultivators or farmers planted the foodstuff, that would be distributed as tribute, up the chain. By the eighteenth century, all power emanated from the kabaka.


The capital kibuga of Buganda constantly changed from hill to hill, with each change of kabaka. In the late 19th century, a permanent kibuga of Buganda was established at Mengo Hill. The capital was divided into quarters corresponding to provinces. Each chief built a dwelling corresponding to provinces. Each chief built a dwelling for wife, slaves, dependents, and visitors. Individual huts were conical in shape made of thatch. Poles were arranged and anchored, thick bladed grass were placed on top to make walls.The city was a mile and half wide. Large plots of land were available for planting bananas and fruits. Roads were wide and well maintained. Each avenue was fenced with water cane(mateete), stacked uniformly. Side streets were narrow and crooked moving into other large avenues.

The kabaka lived in a massive reed dome palace 20 feet high and 30 feet in diameter. The royal enclosure of the kabaka was surrounded by a twelve foot fence, made of reeds and intricately woven elephant grass.


Cattle was a major part of Bugandan society, but the Buganda Kingdom was based on agriculture. Banana was a major staple crop. Banana plantations existed throughout the empire. Banana was used as payment of tribute. With fertile soil, the Buganda population increase greatly. Since banana as a staple crop was not too labor intensive and self propagating, manpower could be utilize in other avenues, such as road building. Buganda had a complex series of well maintained roads that all lead to the capital.

2 thoughts on “History of Buganda”

  1. its the best site i have ever found its feeds us with knowledge of our great Kings and culture, so please feed us more of it
    Awagaale Baffe ne Maama waffe owa bunganda

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Olulyo Olulangira Olwa Buganda

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