Buganda -Nation or Tribe?

Posted on July 6, 2011


authored by Ddembe on 25. April 2007 at 09:26




The misconceptions of what constitutes who is a muganda centre around the concept of tribe as a collection of people with a shared DNA and language, as opposed to the concept of a nation -a territorial division with one government containing a body of people of one or more nationalities and usually characterized by a relatively large size and independent status.


Buganda even precolonial Buganda fulfills the criteria for a nation -rather than a tribe. Historical evidence suggests many of the clans -5 original, 13 that came with Kintu and 28 that came with Kimera were of differing ethnic origins having come from different directions. The five original clans could be interpreted as being interlacustrine (negro, bushmen or forest negro), the 13 from the East near Elgon or even Ethiopia probably hamite/nilo-hamite (an Ethiopian has sworn that my name is Ethiopian) and the 28 from Bunyoro (negro, forest negro, hamite, nilotic). Add to that the fact that many counties of present day Buganda historically were not a part of Buganda but belonged to different ethnicities now integrated completely except for places like Burulia and Bugangaizi whose integration is partial!


Furthermore Buganda has a long history of aggressive miltary expansion -a source of land and women, a system of satelite vassal states from whom the Kabaka got tributes in the form of wealth and women, a diplomatic system that encompassed a large part of present day Uganda, northern Tanzania, Eastern Congo and Western Kenya. All this coupled with a highly centralised administrative structure, as well as a policy of cultural integration of new territory and people with the kabaka being at the head resulted in a politically and culturally homogenous structure that is present day Buganda which is anything but genetically homogenous!


The Kabaka’s wives in addition from coming from all tribes except the Balangira and his mothers, came from all over the lands mentioned above. Reference is here made to the chronicles of the earliest visitors to Buganda who documented Banyamwezi, Hima, Nyoro, northern, and Eastern Ugandan women at the Kabaka’s court -in many ways chronicling the extent and influence of the Kabaka within the region! The fact that to the swahilli at the coast, the hinterland was referred to as Uganda -the present day name of our country and not Nyoro, Toro, Nkole, Soga or Choli etc in a way tells its own story!


A few weeks ago, M… recalled an incident in high school involving a teacher and stereotypes about Baganda! That despite the common stereotype of the wide nosed short muganda, there is no such thing as a typical muganda! The kings of Buganda cannot be said to be Baganda if one were to follow ethnic logic given that many of them had non Baganda mothers. The recent post by M… (To Ma…: On a lighter note. Your comments? authored by M… on 24. April 2007 at 16:08) authored by one Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi is testimony to this. In the last few generations of Ganda kings and princes, one sees the current Kiweewa whose mother is a Tutsi, a sister to the reigning king whose mother was from the royal house of Toro, princes of the royal house whose mothers are Hima, recent Kings whose mothers are either Hima or Toro. This is topic that has been discussed here before!


Baganda are ethnically a heterogenous lot whose sense of identity and cultural homogeneity does not come from a common genetic identity -but from a fierce nationalism and allegiance to culture and King! Certainly it is a patrilineal society that has practiced all sorts of assimilation including war, marriage, commerce (slaves brought up in a household were frequently adopted and assimilated) as well as brotherhood pacts! It remains the most liberal society in Uganda were foreigners can buy land and live without threat to life or limb! There is no traditional law in Buganda that requires crown princes to be pure blood Baganda!


Some historians argue that Kintu could not have been a foreigner. That he had to have had some connection with Buganda for him to be accepted so readily and his legend fused so tightly with Buganda’s origins. There is documented evidence of at least 5 Kings before him including Buganda who he is said to have deposed! The argument is that he is more likely to have been an exiled prince who returned and with the help allegiance of some powerfull chiefs overthrew his uncle the tyrant King Buganda and slept in his house. This explains the place of Buganda’s house at Buddo in the coronation rites of Buganda’s Kings. This was followed by Buganda’s equivalent of the “Magna Carta” that cemented the relationship between the Kabaka and the clan heads of Buganda! The same can be said of Kimera who one version of the story is that he did indeed have a connection with Buganda in that he was the son of Kalemeera a prince of Buganda and grandson of Kato Kintu, who had impregnated the wife of Winyi King of of Bunyoyo (grandson of Mpuga Isingoma Rukidi, brother of Kato Kintu).


At a time of crisis with Buganda lacking a crown prince following the death of his grandfather (and father) Kimera was returned to Buganda from Bunyoro by Katumba who also holds a reverred position in the clans of Buganda together with many Banyoro and their Luo relatives! Katumba holds the ceremonial role of Mugema and acts as the “Bishop of Caterbury” in crowning the Kabaka. Just like your son returning from America at the time of your death and being installed as your traditional heir. If he stays and embraces his people, learns the language and integrates, he may inherit your position in the clan and tribe, whereas should he return to America, fail to speak the language, reject his Acholi culture, and marry outside the tribe, he will soon be a memory forgotten by his Acholi relatives. Add 1000 years and his offspring will probably be blue eyed blonde Americans who may or may not be called Obonyo but will almost certainly not be Acholi! Whereas should he return to Pader, a sampling of Acholi, Dinka, Alur or Kumam/Lango girls plus a thousand years and his offspring will be as dark as any Acholi come with no question or mention of a white American great great – grandmother except as a footnote to the family chronicles!


The monarchs of England can hardly be called English if one were to follow strict genetic arguments! The house of Windsor was created in 1917 when King George V whose mother was from the German House of Hanover and father the royal consort changed his German name at the height of anti German xenophobia from Saxe -Coburg -Gotha to the English sounding Windsor. The Russian Tsar Nicholas from the Family of Romanov as well as his wife were both cousins to King George V as was the Kaiser of Germany. His mother was a Danish princess and his wife the daughter of an Austrian! His daughter the current Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philippos of Greece and Denmark now Prince Philip Mountbatten (anglicised from the Germanic Battenberg). He is from the the Danish Royal House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg!


Little minds would insist that the royal family of England is largely German with much more proof than exists for the Royal house of Buganda being Luo-Babiito! The English would differ -to them she is their queen -an English Queen! While the Baganda may acknowledge a Luo link 1000 years ago, the Royal house of Buganda are Baganda full stop and not Luo! If anything, genetically going by the last few generations, they are probably more Hima than Baganda!

Posted in: Buganda