THE BAGANDA PEOPLE

Buganda Kingdom
Bulange the kingdom’s administration block.

Uganda’s largest tribal group, the Baganda, comprises almost 20% of Uganda’s population and is the source of the country’s name (‘Land of the Baganda’; their kingdom is known as Buganda). Although today the Baganda are spread throughout the country, their traditional lands are in the areas north and northwest of Lake Victoria, including Kampala. Due to significant missionary activity, most Baganda is Christians, although animist traditions persist.

Baganda’s social organization emphasized descent through males. Four or five generations of descendants of one man, related through male forebears, constituted a patrilineage. A group of related lineages constituted a clan. Clan leaders could summon a council of lineage heads, and council decisions affected all lineages within the clan. 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 remembrances of ancestors.

Most lineages-maintained links to an origin territory (obutaka) within a larger clan territory, but lineage members did not necessarily live on the origin (butaka) land. Men from one lineage often formed the core of a village; their wives, children, and in-laws joined the village. People were free to leave if they became disillusioned with the local leader to take up residence with other relatives or in-laws, and they often did so.

As of 2009, there are at least fifty-two (52) recognized clans within the Buganda kingdom, with at least another four claiming clan status. Within this group of clans are four distinct sub-groups that reflect historical waves of immigration to Buganda.

The Baganda, together with the neighboring Haya, has a historical reputation as one of East Africa’s most highly organized tribes. Their traditional political system was based around the absolute power of the kabaka (king), who ruled through county chiefs. This system reached its zenith during the 19th century when the Baganda came to dominate various neighboring groups, including the Nilotic Iteso (who now comprise about 8% of Uganda’s population). Baganda’s influence was solidified during the colonial era, with the British favoring their recruitment to the civil service. During the chaotic Obote/Amin years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Baganda monarchy was abolished; it was restored in 1993, and the current King (Kabaka) is HRH Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II and the queen (Nabagereka) is HRH Silvia Naginda although it has no political power.

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