The baganda of Uganda

The baganda of Uganda

Who are the Baganda people?

The baganda of Uganda: The Baganda  ethnic group of people or simply the Ganda people (plural: Baganda, singular: Muganda) are a group  of  bantu ethnic group in central Uganda. They are composed of 52 clans although there are only 46 that are recognized. They are the largest group in Uganda comprising 16.9 percent of the total population.

The Buganda Kingdom is the largest and most popular in the whole Uganda.

The Baganda are sometimes referred to as ‘’ The King’s men’’ due to the significant role the King plays in their social, political, economic and cultural lives. The Baganda were a highly centralized Kingdom until 1967 when all Kingdoms were abolished. In 1993, Kingdoms were re-instated which led to the coronation of Ronald Muwenda Mutebi 11 as the thirty sixth king of Buganda.

The Kabaka ruled with the assistance of chiefs whose role was to collect taxes in form of livestock and food. Part of these taxes were distributed through the hierarchy and the rest was given to the Kabaka as a tribute. The Kabaka was given a lot of importance to the extent that people would lie down as a form of worshiping and praising him.

In the modern times however, after the formation of Uganda as a state, the King’s functions were reduced to avoid tribal conflicts. The Kabaka however remain strong influences in the cultural and ritual values of the Baganda.


Buganda Kingdom is located along the Northern and Western shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda. It is bordered by Bunyoro kingdom in the North, River Nile in the East, Ankole and Toro Kingdoms to the West and the country of Tanzania in the South.

They occupy the districts of Kalangala, Mpigi, Wakiso, Masaka, Mubende, Luweero and Mukono. However, every town in Uganda has an aspect of the Baganda in it be it in trading, manufacture, services, religion and many more


The Baganda speak an ethnic bantu language called Luganda and it is widely spoken in the great lakes region. It is also one of the main languages spoken in Uganda by over 8 million Baganda.

It is a second language after English spoken in the country and those who are not fluent in English can easily use Luganda or Swahili for communication.


History has it that the Baganda are descendants of one Kintu who migrated from the Easy passing through Mount Elgon to Busoga region up to central region where he fell in love with Nambi, the daughter of the creator Ggulu (Heaven)

Another ideology is that Buganda Kingdom was formed by Prince Kintu who fled from Bunyoro Kitara after an unsuccessful power grabbing. The prince Kintu is believed by a majority of Baganda and seen as a hero and was the first Kabaka to establish his reign as a ruler. Kabaka Kintu was successful in conquering and unifying a number of tribes that has previously been resisting. The conquer of these tribes led to the formation of a strong Buganda Kingdom.

Around the 18th century when the former Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom was at the edge of its collapse, the Baganda consolidated it as their own and shifted it away from defensive strategies moving towards expansion. Buganda Kingdom slowly started expanding and conquering more of Bunyoro and dominating it. Tribes that were conquered were placed under the chiefs appointed by the King. Tax collectors together with armies moved to all parts of the Kingdom to collect taxes for the kingdom.

However, after the introduction of colonial rule, the kingdom was put under a protectorate in 1894. Kabaka Mwanga II was not impressed by this and he staged a resistance. He was however defeated in 1897 at the battle of Buddu and he fled to German East Africa (present day Tanzania). He was arrested and confined at Bukoba. He later on escaped and led a rebel army to reclaim the Kingdom where he was once again defeated and exiled to Seychelles.

While in exile, he was received into an Anglican church where he was baptized as Daniel and later died in 1903. In 1910, his remains were brought back and buried at Kasubi tombs which is a burial ground for all kings.

The British introduced a tax system to generate income. They approached the Buganda chiefs to help them as agents in collecting taxes. The chiefs would in return be rewarded with everything they wished for as well as half of the land in Buganda. The British took over the crown land which they later found out was largely swamp and scrub.

The 1900 Buganda agreement imposed taxes on huts and guns where the chiefs acted as tax agents to guarantee the alliance of the British in Buganda. The British continued signing agreements with other Kingdoms without the provision of large scale land tenure.

After the independence of Uganda in 1962, all Kingdoms were abolished in Uganda by the Late Milton Oboe as a way of avoiding tribal conflicts and collaboration with the British. The kingdoms were later restored in 1993 that saw Kabaka Muwenda Mutebi 11 re-instated as the new king of Buganda Kingdom.

The Kabaka ruled with the assistance of chiefs whose role was to collect taxes in form of livestock and food. Part of these taxes were distributed through the hierarchy and the rest was given to the Kabaka as a tribute. The Kabaka was given a lot of importance to the extent that people would lie down as a form of worshiping and praising him.

In the modern times however, after the formation of Uganda as a state, the King’s functions were reduced to avoid tribal conflicts. The Kabaka however remain strong influences in the cultural and ritual values of the Baganda.


Previously, the Baganda believed in spiritual gods (Jaja Muwanga) who they believed to be the creator of earth and the heavens. They wore charms which they believed would shield them from evil forces. It is believed that the gods had agents on earth who carried out their work. The Baganda established shrines were people would go to worship their god.

However, after the colonial rule, Christianity and Islam were introduced. Many people converted and became followers of these religions. There is a story of a group of Baganda men who were martyred for refusing to denounce Christianity in Namugongo. They are celebrated and remembered every 3rd of June.

Political Organization

The Buganda is one of the largest and biggest constitutional monarchy in Uganda.

the current Kabaka of Buganda is Muwenda Mutebi 11. He has been ruling from 1993 to date. The Kabaka ruled with the help of the Katikiro (prime minister) who was the main speaker and over saw the activities in the Kingdom. Chiefs would also supervise activities in their respective clans and these were also responsible for collecting taxes. The more aggressive chiefs would even go as far as conquering neighboring clans though they were not allowed to rule the conquered territories. The chiefs were also chosen by the people so that there was no favoritism from the King.

Cultural and Social Organization

The Buganda social structure emphasized decent relations through the males. This was based on a hereditary system of four or five generations p descendants of one man. Agroup of related lineages constituted a clan. Clan leaders were free to summon councils of lineage heads and decisions made by the council affected all lineages within the clan. Most of these decisions regulated marriages between different lineages which often led to the formation of important social and political alliances. The lineages and clan leaders also helped in maintaining efficient land use practices which instilled pride in the group by celebrating and remembering ancestors.

Many of these decisions regulated marriage, which had always been between two different lineages, forming important social and political alliances for the men of both lineages. Lineage and clan leaders also helped maintain efficient land use practices, and they inspired pride in the group through ceremonies and remembrance of ancestors.

Many of the lineages maintained links to a home territory (Obutaka) within a larger clan territory though members did not live on Obutaka land. Men often formed the core of a village with their wives, children and in-laws. People were free to leave if they were dissatisfied with their leaders and stay with their relatives.

Traditional marriage in Buganda kingdom

The traditional marriage (kwanjula) is Buganda is a giveaway ceremony that is very colorful and is a major turning point for children transitioning into adults.

They begin with the Kukyala first where the girl introduces the man to her aunt on the paternal side. Previously, it was a small function that included a few family members though with the modern times, people go as far as hiring events planners and even friends.

During the Kukyala, the man would be accompanied by his family and a spokesperson to speak on his behalf. The girl’s family also had a spokesperson and they would discuss about the dowry to be given in exchange for the girl’s hand in marriage.

Once both families were in agreement, they would set dates for the Kwanjula. The girl’s family had the main responsibility of organizing the function since it was to take place in their home. Friends and families were to be invited to join in celebration.

During the preparation time, the girl would often be told to keep indoors and smeared hearbs so that she would glow on her day. She was also adviced during that period by her aunts (Ssengas) on how to treat herself in marriage.

On the day of the Kwanjula, the bride would be clad in Gomesi, the traditional wear for the Baganda while the groom was clad in a Kanzu and a coat on top. On this day also, the groom would present the dowry as asked during the Kukyala. The groom also has to present a portrait of the Kabaka and Nabageraka(Queen) as a sign of respect to the Kingdom.

Both families use spokespersons on this day who are quite witty and ensure the smooth flow of the Kwanjula. Once the function is over, the girl is allowed to go with the groom to their new home since the Kwanjula is recognized as legal marriage. For those who are able, the wedding then takes place at an agreed date.

Family life

The Baganda had a term for traditional marriage called jangu onfumbire which meant come cook for me). This was an important symbol in society that meant the authoritative patterns in a typical household. The father of the house was the regarded as the powerful person in the house. Wives and children would kneel in front of the father as a sign of respect and he was always the first to be served food. The children had a close attachment to their mothers and often feared their fathers as a form of respect.

After a couple got married, a new homestead was set up in the man’s village where the two would live to start a family. Most marriages were monogamous even though polygamy was not a sin as well.
Economic activity

The traditional Ganda mainly relied on agricultural products. Unlike most Kingdoms, cattle played a minor role in Buganda. The people often hired labor from neighboring communities to help rear cattle for those who owned cattle. Banana is their staple food which is used for both subsistence and commercial use. The women were the main attendants to the farms while the men engaged in trade and politics. They would also carry out trade with the neighboring communities and often exchanged materials like cloths, food, guns, gold, silver and many more.

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