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Buganda Culture

These are a Bantu-speaking people who make up the largest Ugandan ethnic group and also representing approximately 20% of the Ugandan total population. The baganda occupy the central part of Uganda which was formerly known as the Buganda province.

The name Buganda means ‘bundles,’ and is their subnational kingdom, the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present day Uganda spreading out in the modern districts of Kampala, Mukono, Mpigi, Masaka, Kiboga, Kalangala, Rakai, Sembabule, Mubende and Rakai.

Their language is Luganda and they refer their own customs as the Kiganda customs. Sometimes the term “Ganda” is used for all the above and Buganda is home to the nation’s commercial capital city, Kampala; and also the country’s main international airport Entebbe airport.

‘Uganda’ is a Kiswahili word meaning ‘Land of the Ganda’; the name used by the Arabs and Swahili traders at the East African coast to refer to the Buganda kingdom.

The traders first arrived in Buganda in the mid-19th century in search of African slaves, ivory and other merchandise. When the European colonialists extended their colonies over Buganda and their surrounding territories at the end of the 19th century, they used a Kiswahili term Uganda to refer to it as a new colony.

Uganda is a stunning country with lush, evergreen and its temperate climate that make it a haven on earth. On a visit by the late Winston Churchill to the country in the 1940s, he was so captivated by the beauty that he called it “Pearl of Africa”, a moniker that has stayed over years.

The Rubaga hill in current Kampala back in 1840′s was a capital of Buganda kingdom. The name Kampala comes from an expression used by the Baganda in the area then who used to call it “Akasozi k’empala” meaning “hill of the Impalas” referring to the Impalas (a slender antelope that is similar to the gazelle) which was common on Mengo hill one of Kampala’s seven hills which has acted as palace headquarters for Buganda Kingdom since the 1840’s.


Buganda Kingdom’s history of over 700 years has had Kabaka, as a supreme ruler and Lukiiko as its Parliament. The Kingdom is the oldest Kingdom in the country and other kingdoms include Bunyoro, Rwenzururu, Busoga, and Tooro.

Baganda had a centralized rule system of government which by 1750 was one the most organized in the great lakes region. The head of state in the Buganda kingdom was the king known as Kabaka. However previously the Bataka had more of political influence as the enjoyed a position almost similar to that of the Kabaka.

After 1750, Kabaka assumed a position of political importance superior to ranks of Bataka. Kabaka’s position was hereditary though it wasn’t confined to any one clan because the king would take the clan of his own mother. Kabaka used to marry from as many clans as he wished and this encouraged loyalty to the throne in sense that each of the 52 clans hoped that it would give birth to the king.

The other people who occupied positions of political and social importance included: the Prime Minister who was known as the Katikkiro, a royal sister known as Nalinya, a Queen mother known as Namasole, the Naval and Army commanders were known as Gabunga and Mujasi respectively.

The kingdom was also divided into several administrative units known as the Amasaza or counties which further sub-divided into Amagombolola or sub-counties and these were still sub-divided into parishes or Emiruka which were also further subdivided into sub-parishes.

The smallest units known as Bukungu which is a village unit and all the chiefs at all levels were appointed by Kabaka and they were directly responsible to him. The kabaka could appoint and also dismiss any chief. After 1750’s, the chieftainship was no longer hereditary but was accorded on a clan basis only to men of merit and distinguished service. Kabaka was a unifying factor of all the people in Buganda until 1966 when the monarchy system was abolished in Uganda. Kabaka Mutesa II went into exile where he later died in 1969. The subsequent years of political and civil strife in Uganda and particularly in the Buganda region in 1966-1986 led to the collapse and decay of moral values.

Baganda had no King for about 27 years up to 1993 when the current King of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II was restored as a cultural leader but without political powers. However the lineage of succession has not been broken for over 700 years up to date.

Kabaka is held in high esteem and command, respect and authority among the Baganda as he uses his authority to mobilize people for development to ensure that the people of Buganda are united and engaged in hard and productive work to lift their social and economic wellbeing.

Although Baganda have for long regarded marriage as a crucial aspect of life, their ceremonies have traditionally been relatively simple. In the past centuries, parents initiated marriage for their children by choosing spouses for them without consent of the children. However over time, boys started getting their own mates with approval of parents to avoid courting relatives or people with undesirable family and social traits.

A Muganda woman typically wears a busuuti which is a floor length and brightly colored cloth with a square neckline and short puffed sleeves. This garment is fastened with a sash that is placed just below the waist over the hips of the lady and two buttons on the left side of a neckline. However traditionally, the busuuti were strapless and also made of bark-cloth and was worn on all festive and ceremonial happenings.

The staple food of the Baganda people is matooke a plantain/tropical fruit in the banana family that is steamed, boiled and commonly served with groundnut/peanut sauce or meat soups. The Baganda have three predominant dances and these include Bakisimba, Nankasa and Muwogola all inspired by their own daily life. All the Kiganda dances involved flawless circular movements of the waist coupled by tip toeing movements of the feet with hands spread out from the shoulder but bent forward/up-words at the elbow joint depending on the type of dance.

Even today, baganda are people who are still proud of their own background and they take every chance to practice their own customs right from birth, to initiation, to marriage and even death and all under the leadership of their royal King Kabaka.

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