Buganda Culture


The Baganda are noted to be the largest group of all ethnic tribes thriving in Uganda. They inhabit the Central Part of Uganda and thus can be traced in the districts of Mukono, Kampala, Wakiso, Kalangala, Mubenede, Mpigi, Mityana, Masaka, Butambala, Rakai, Kiboga and Kayunga.

buganda map and Kabaka

The region occupied by the Baganda at the moment was previously known as Muwaawa prior to 12th Century a word that literally means a land that is sparsely populated. The belief has it that the Baganda emanated from Abyssinia traversing the rift valley system and the Elgon Mountains.

The Baganda were organized in groups with a common ancestry which formed the core of the most significant unit in Buganda and this was the clan. The clan leader was a chief and controlled a given section of the territory. There are five original clans of Buganda namely: Ffumbe, Ngonge, Lugave, Nyonyi and Njaza and these were referred to as Banasangwa. These clans later expanded to form the 52 clans by the year 1966. These clans were ruled over by the Bataka and there was no generally recognized leader, everyone could rule depending on his demonstrated might in the battle field. The range of powerful leaders are noted to have established themselves in the region before the coming of Kintu and these included; Buwumpya, Sseguku, Bukokoma, Bandi, Bukulu, Beene, Kyebagaba, Ggulu, Muyizzi, Bukadde-Magezi, Bukuku Nakirembeka, Maganda, Tonda, Bemba and Mukama. Bemba is however noted to have been a contemporary leader of the time.

The land Muwaawa later became Buganda during the region of Ssekabaka Kintu after taking over from Bemba. At that time, there clan called Ffumbe was the headed by a man called Buganda Ntege Walusimbi who control over other clans.   The head of the clan Walusimbi had a range of children including Kisitu, Makubuya, Kato Kintu and Wasswa Winyi. When Walusimbi passed on, his son Makubuya replaced him who was also replaced by his brother Kisitu upon his death. During the reign of Kisitu, the renegade Bbemba from Kiziba in the current northern of Tanzania and set his camp at Naggalabi Buddo from where he started to hatch plans of destabilizing the Kisitu leadership. Bbemba was ruthless and a cruel person that the natives could not bear to have him as a ruler. Kisitu out of fear declared that whoever fights and wins Bbemba would be given Authority to rule over land. The Ssemagulu which was the chair of Kisitu was to be given to whoever wins and Kills Bbemba. Kintu took advantage of the situation of the situation and gathered his followers and attacked Bbemba. Nfudu from the Lugave clan beheaded Bemba and took the head to Kintu who also took it to Kisitu who abdcated his throne and gave in favor of Kintu. However, Kisitu wanted to retain his leadership of the Ffumbe clan, he advised Kintu to start his own clan and that the Kingdom should be called Buganda in honor of their ancestor Buganda Walusimbi Ntege. From there a royal lineage as created distinct from the Ffumbe clan. The chronology has been passed from generation to generation until the contemporary times when it has started to be recorded in the books.

However, there other traditions that shows the origin of Buganda. The Bemba and Kintu were brothers and they had power struggle. Bemba overpowered Kintu and Kintu sought refuge in the Ssese Islands from where he organized himself and his followers and came to attack Bemba winning him at Nagalabbi Budo. It is noted that Bemba was a ruthless Leader and people nick named him Bemba Musota meaning Bemba a Cobra, so when Kintu returned all people rallied behind him and took over the Bemba’s leadership.

It is noted that Kintu returned from Ssese Islands using the eastern route through Mount Elgon and gathered a strong force that overpowered Bemba. Kintu Kato is not the first Muganda but the grandson of the first Kintu who descended directly from heaven and was married to Nambi Nantululu.   After the Kintu’s Victory, he slept in Bemba house a symbol of victory and Bemba had named it Buganda from which the name rolled on to cover the whole territory that Kintu ruled. Even up to today, the coronation of the Kings of Buganda tales place at Naggalabi commemorating the victory of Kintu over Bemba.


The region was a bit disorganized at the time of Kintu’s arrival and had only five clans. He reorganized the society and merged the people that he had come with and they together formed thirteen (13) clans. The initial clans included Lugave clan, Ffumbe clan, Ngeye clan, Nyonyi, Njaza clan and Nyange clan and are locally referred to as “Ebika Binansangwa”.

A general meeting was organized with the clan leaders at the Magonga in Busujju on Nnono Hill and the form of governance and clan and the King relations were formerly agreed upon.   The principal attendants of the meeting included; Bukulu from Ssese was the chairperson of the meeting, Kintu Kato became a King, Mukiibi Ndugwa of the Lugave clan whose son Kakulukuku became the first Katikiro (Prime Minister) of Buganda, Kisolo from the Ngonge clan and also became Katikiro of Buganda, Kyaddondo from the Nvuma clan who became Ssabaddu, Kayimbyobutezi from the Njaza clan, Mwanje from the Ngo clan, Balasi, Kagobe from the Ffumbe clan, Kayimbyokutega from the Mpeewo clan and from Kyaggwe, from Kyaggwe and of the Mpeewo clan, Kiwutta Kyasooka, from the Mbogo clan, Kyeya Mutesaasira of the Ngo clan, Nnyininsiko from the Njovu clan, Bakazirwendo Ssemmandwa from the Ngeye clan, Kakooto Mbaziira from the Nnyonyi clan and from Bulimo in Kyaggwe county, Nsereko Namwama, from the Kkobe clan, Nsumba, from the Mbogo clan, Kisenge from the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county, Kyeyune from the Nnyonyi clan from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county, Mubiru from the Mmamba clan from Bumogera and Mutasingwa, from the Mbwa clan

After the meeting Baluku had to return to his place Ssese Islands and Kintu established his palace at Nnono Hill where he awarded chieftaincies to his trusted followers. And this explains why Nnono is still a site of historical and cultural significance to the Baganda. A fetish doctor locally known as Omulubaale who kept the Nagalabbi the throne’s traditional name gave Kintu one stick and requested him to break it into pieces which Kintu did at ago and the total of nine sticks were put together to form a bundle (Kaganda) and organized more others to form a range of Bundles (Obuganda) and then told Kintu to break them like he had done for one stick but Kintu failed to break them with ease like what he had done with the initial stick. From there the Mulubaale told him that it was easy to break one stick but difficult to break bundles (Obuganda) and thus he should rule his people as bundles not as sticks. It is from here that the name Muwaawa was dropped and Buganda adopted and every one would refer to the region of Kintu as Buganda Bwa Kintu. The Kingdom became Buganda; the people became Baganda singular Muganda, Language Luganda and the Culture Kiganda.


Another theory about the origin of the Baganda states that the brother of Rukidi of Bunyoro named Kato Kimera transferred to Buganda and established a royal dynasty in Buganda.

Regarding religion, the Baganda believed in spirits and they took different forms according to their specialized acts like Ggulu, god of the sky who was the father of Kiwanuka the god of lightning, Kawumpuli the god of plague, Ndaula the god of small pox, Wamala the god of Lake Wamala, Musisi the god of earthquakes and Mukasa the god of Lake Victoria. There was also Kitaka the god of the Earth and Musoke the god of the Rainbow. There were traditional temples dedicated to these gods spread in different parts of Buganda and people would approach such sites for worship and consultation. There were special shrines of worship for the King and the King’s sister Nnaalinya to take charge of the temple of the King.

Regarding marriage, the Muganda woman could not be respected unless she is married and the same applied to the man. The Baganda were polygamous and the man could even take up to 5 wives considered that he can manage to look after them, Also in Buganda, bride wealth was not a major concern and divorce was very common too than in other parts of the country. The parents would organize the marriages for the children. The father would choose the husband for his daughter without question from the daughter. However, as time continued, boys started selecting the wives for them. The introduction would be made and he marriage arrangements be conducted. The girls contributed nothing other than consenting. The marriage ceremonies included dancing and feasting. The man was not expected to marry from his clan. If the bride was still a virgin, she would be escorted by her Aunt and if she wasn’t, the escort would not go. The aunt would pass through the rear door from the couple’s house and go back home where the goat would be slaughtered and consumed without salt.


Regarding death, the Baganda were afraid of death and did not have faith on life after death. When someone passed away, they could weep around the corpse and someone who desisted from crying was regarded to have had a hand in the death of the deceased. They never believed that death was a natural phenomenon and rather a work of sorceress or witch craft. The duration for the burial was five (5) days hoping that the body might still be having a life in it and may be it can come back. The women were buried faster than men because they were believed to rot faster than men. After the burial, there funeral rite would take place after the 10 days from the date of burial and his was known as Okwabya Olumbe. This was a great ceremony as all clan heads would be invited along with many people to attend the function which involved lots of drinking, eating, uncontrolled sexual intercourse among the members present and it is at his occasion that heir would be installed considered if the deceased was the head of the family. The incumbent heir would stand close to the door putting on a ceremonial bark cloth holding a spear and a stick and hen the elders would instruct him to take care of the beneficiaries. Then the deceased’s children could be covered with the bark cloth and would go crying to the planation in order to drive the ghost of the deceased away from home. They would also shave off their hair.

Regarding birth, when a Muganda woman got pregnant she would start using Nalongo a traditional herb in her private parts at the six months of pregnancy of it was her first time and at seventh month of it was her second time to enlarge them. After producing, the afterbirth (Kigoma) would be buried close to the door way and this was meant to prevent it from the evil seekers who could harm the baby and or the mother. The mother would take 3 days in confinement and the period sometimes depended on how long the umbilical cord takes long to dry. The husband would then have sex with her after two weeks and this was a ritual function that was connected to the child health and don that day, the child would be named.

Regarding the social setting, the Baganda seemed to have a united society compared to the neighboring parts of  Ankole, Toro and Bunyoro. The Buganda society was structure that any person of a certain ability or talent would raise to a considerable position in the society. However, this does not conclude that there were two classes in Buganda. There was Bakopi literally serfs at the bottom of the society who simply would not matter in society and these derived their livelihood on the mercy of the Chiefs (Baami) and the Princes (Balangira) the other two groups in the society of Buganda. The Bakopi used to depend on land though they had no ownership over it. In fact, the Bakopi were serfs of the King and the Chiefs. From the Bakopi class, there came the Baami class who were not born but were appointed by the Kabaka. The chiefs were the middle class and initially they were the clan heads, However, post 1750, the Bakopi also bean to be elevated to the similar status. The Baami were differentiated into three patterns including; the Bakungu, Bataka and the Batongole. The last and the highest societal class in the Kingdom of Buganda were the Balangira. These were Royals who were close to the King and in his ancestral blood. The notable ones included the Kabaka, the Queen locally known as Namasole, Kanyabibambwa or Nabijano, the Royal Sister known as Lubuga, the Kimbugwe and the Katikiiro.


Regarding their social character, the Baganda are social people and are welcoming. They rarely pass by a person without greeting him and they dressed neatly in other traditional bark cloth and with the event of Gomesi they adopted it as their traditional dress. They enjoyed cooking and their famous Luwombo meal still exists up to today. The men and women would all sit on a mat for a meal and upon finishing; everyone would say Ofumbye Nyo to the person who prepared the meal and Ogabude to the Head of the family.

Regarding the economy, the Baganda were primarily agriculturalists and the main crops grown included sweet potatoes, bananas, beans, Cassava, Cow peas, and a range of green vegetables. The Baganda also kept goats, chicken and cattle. Land was an important asset in Buganda and it all belonged to the Kabaka. The granting of land would go along with an office such as Saza chief, Gombolola Chief or Parish (Muluka) Chief. The Muluka Chief would then grant the land to the people in the area to cultivate. When the chief lost the seat, he would also loose the control over land and thus the loss of rent paid to him by the peasants. The Bakopi (peasants) had to give part of the produce to the chief as Obusuuli or envujjo for cultivating the land. However, this system slightly changed on 1900 when the land was divided into Crown and Mailo land where by the crown land belonged to the Her Majesty the Queen of England and Ireland while the Mailo land was granted on free hold basis to the members of the Kabaka’s family and the chiefs and the Bataka (clan heads) were not considered. The Bakopi however remained in their exploitative form until 1927 when the Nvujjo and Busuulu were scrapped off.

mayiga and kabaka

The Baganda were also good in art works, bark cloth makers, potter and weavers. They made shields, arrows, bows, spears, baskets, pots, chairs, drums and other instruments like Indigidi. They also did hunting and fishing. The women attend to house hold work while men were more into fishing, hunting and fighting. The later times such as the middle of the 18th Century, the Buganda took over the position of the Bunyoro as the center of trade in the region and started trading in ivory, white ants, dried bananas, and a range of crafts with their people of the interlucustrine region and the coastal Arabs from the Middle of 19th Century. With the arrival of colonialists in 1890s the Baganda became active in supporting them and thus adopted a new economy mode that was based on production of cash crops and trade and at the moment, the Baganda are the richest people in Uganda.

Regarding political setup, the Baganda has the most organized centralized form of governance by 1750 with King (Kabaka) as the head. The clan heads (Bataka) also had good political effect though they were subject to Kabaka and they referred to him as Sabataka. After 1750, the Kabaka assumed the position of greater political influence which was far above the Bataka level and the title was hereditary but the King would marry from a range of clans and each 52 clans hoped that one day each clan would produce a King. There were other two people of political and social significance in the Kingdom and these included the Prime Minister (Katikiiro), the Royal Sister (Namasole) the naval commander (Gabunga) and Army Commander (Mujjasi).

buganda leadership center

Buganda Kingdom was divided into administration units ranging from the Counties (Amasaza), Sub Counties (Amagombolola), Parishes (Emiruka) and Villages (Bukungu). The leaders at all these levels were appointed by the Kabaka and would dismiss and appoint them at will. However, after 1750, the chieftaincy was no longer hereditary and the person would be appointed on merit. There was also a practice called Okusenga where the Children of the Bakopi would go to the homes of the Chiefs and the King to grow up from there. The distinguished ones would be given political appointments.

Following the death of the Kabaka, there would follow a succession disorder though with time a range of modifications were carried out to resolve such disputes. One of the ancient forms of succession was that the King would kill his other sons and spare the only one that would be heir to the throne. As the time went on, the King would nominate the heir before he died and then the final decision would be taken by the Katikiro – the Prime Minister, the Kimbugwe who was the traditional Buruli Saza Chief and Kasujja – Lubinga who was a chief appointed to look after the Balangira Bengoma (the heirs to the throne) the other princes who would not become Kings would be called Mituba and were controlled by the old prince called Ssabalangira. Though in 1900 Buganda Agreement tried to alter this arrangement and setting that the kabaka is to be elected by the Lukiiko before being approved by the Queen of England, the suggestion remained paper and the subsequent Kings including Mutesa II and his son Mutebi II were nominated by their fathers.

Regarding their death of Kabaka, the Royal drum (Mujjaguzo) would be taken away to a safe place until the appointment of a new King. The Lugave Clan was the guardian of the Royal drum. The sacred fire locally known as Gombolola that kept burning at the palace entrance would be extinguished. This fire would be re-lighted with the coronation of the new King. The customary phrase to describe the death of Kabaka would be Omuliro gw’ Buganda Guzikide which mean that the fire of Buganda has extinguished. Another phrase would be Agye omukono mu ngabo literally translated as He has let the Shield loose. The body of the Kabaka would be wrapped in suitable clothing and would be placed in Twekobe room. The two chiefs Mugerere – the chief of Bugerere and Kangawo the Chief of Bulemezi would be put in charge of the body immediately. The King’s body would be preserved for six (6) months. Since the Baganda believed that the man’s spirit remained in the jaw bone, the one of the Kabaka would be removed and placed in a special Shrine for preservation.