Kingdoms of Africa – Bunyoro and Buganda


The Kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara is the remainder of a once powerful empire of Kitara. At the hight of its glory, the empire included present day Masindi, Hoima, Kibaale, Kabarole and Kasese districts; also parts of present day Western Kenya, Northern Tanzania and Eastern Congo. That Bunyoro-Kitara is only a skeleton of what it used to be is an absolute truth to which History can testify.

One may ask how a mighty empire, like Kitara, became whittled away to the present underpopulated and underdeveloped kingdom of Bunyoro-Kitara. This is the result of many years of orchestrated, intentional and malicious marginalization, dating back to the early colonial days. The people of Bunyoro, under the reign of the mighty king Cwa II Kabalega, resisted colonial domination. Kabalega, and his well trained army of “Abarusuura” (soldiers), put his own life on the line by mounting a fierce, bloody resistance against the powers of colonialization. On April 9th, 1899, Kabalega was captured by the invading colonial forces and was sent into exile on the Seychelles Islands.

With the capture of Kabalega, the Banyoro were left in a weakened military, social and economic state, from which they have never fully recovered. Colonial persecution of the Banyoro did not stop at Kabalega’s ignominious capture and exile. Acts of systematic genocide continued to be carried out against the Banyoro, by the colonialists and other foreign invaders.

Colonial efforts to reduce Bunyoro to a non entity were numerous, and continued over a long period of time. They included invasions where masses were massacred; depopulating large tracts of fertile land and setting them aside as game reserves; enforcing the growing of crops like tobacco and cotton at the expense of food crops; sanctioning looting and pilaging of villages by invading forces, importation killer diseases like syphilis that grew to epidemic proportions; and the list goes on.

Details of the horrific, genocidal acts against the Banyoro are well documented in “Breaking Chains of Poverty”, published by the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom Advocacy Publications; authored by the Hon. Yolamu Ndoleriire Nsamba, Principal Private Secretary to H.M Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I, Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara. This book is a “must read” for anyone interested in the History and welfare of Bunyoro-Kitara. It enumerates Historical events, plus practices, past and present, that made Bunyoro-Kitara “a kingdom bonded in chains of poverty”.

What Happened at the Population of Bunyoro–Kitara?

Excerpt of “Breaking Chains of Poverty” by Mr. Yolamu Ndoleriire Nsamba Dip. Ed. B.A., M.A. (M.U.K), M.Ed. (Hull), Principal Private Secretary of the Omukama


The British invaded Bunyoro–Kitara to control resources of the Kingdom. We shall see evidence is in the records of the agents of Britain who massacred large numbers of Banyoro. Lugard had estimated in 1893 Banyoro to number over 2.5 million people. He wrote, “Unyoro is probably more populous than (B) Uganda and Ankoli about equal to it. (Lugard, op. Cit.) Dunbar estimates the population was reduced to 400,000. Human rights violations left the remnants numbering only 100,000.(Dunbar, Ibid. p 68) in 1899 Reverend A. Fisher, said disease was killing many Banyoro because they worshiped the devil. (Byaruhanga Akiiki, Religion in Bunyoro, 1980. p 97).

Before Colville invaded Bunyoro-Kitara, there was a lot of trade, agriculture and livestock rearing. Seven years of military occupation stopped production. Famine, diseases and epidemics followed. In four years of British rule Gregory estimates that the population was reduced to a fourth,” (Dunbar, I bid p.88). Soldiers, historians and Kinyoro oral sources record looting of the Kingdom. The invaders ignored the sustained upsurge of popular resistance in the Kingdom. The population fought colonial military occupation for more than 30 years their determination could not be broken. (Morehead, Ibid, p. 151) It all started on 29th April 1872 when Baker built headquarters at Masindi preparing to prepare to annex Kitara to Egypt. The Banyoro were angry at Baker’s pride and rudeness imposing himself on the Kingdom ignoring their king and his chiefs. On 14 May 1872, he announced the annexation. He started buying ivory cheating the Banyoro Kabalega ordered his subjects to sell ivory only to the King. This monopoly over the ivory trade to protect his subject annoyed Baker. To provoke the King Baker demanded food from the Chiefs for soldiers daily. He ordered them to mistreat the Banyoro. On 7 June he sent Abdul Kader and Mounsuru to the King to demand food (Nykatura, John Anatomy of an African Kingdom: Translated by Uzoigwe p.120-121).

Killing Non Combatants in Cold Blood

Both Nyakatur’s and Allan Morehead say that Baker wanted to start trouble in Bunyoro and create an excuse to dominate Kabalega by force. (Morehead, Allan, The White Nile Hamish Hamilton, London, 1960, p 150). The wars to silence Bunyoro Kitara had no credit as military actions wrote Major Thruston.

There were not worth the name of a war he said. He summarized it in a French saying Chasse aux Negre. It was banditry to rob the country its cattle, ivory and well watered agricultural lands Lugard looked with greedy eyes at the elephants “most plentiful in Bunyoro, which is a well-watered country with large forest interspersed with large open tracts of elephant grass, affording good cover an inexhaustible food and water supply”. “The largest tusks are to be found in Bonior also, which country they seem by instinct to have chosen as the safest retreat in which they can find secure hiding places, where their enemy man would find it both difficult and dangerous to hunt them. (Wallis, H.R., C.M.G, Chief Secretary to the Government, The Hand book of Uganda Crown Agent for the Colonies, London, 1913, P.105). Since the country had its owners it was impossible to steal the ivory. The British plotted genocide to grab the wealth. Kabalega tried in vain to make friends with them. In March, 1891, his envoys called on Lugard to request for peace terms, which was refused. In March, 1892, Kabalega sent a second delegation that was also rejected. (Dunbar. Ibid. p.82)Lugard and Coolville had a fixation to kill the Banyoro. Macdonald, acting as British Commissioner of Uganda agreed with Owen to launch a full-scale military campaign against Kabalega. They had feelings of guilt. Sudanese troops ordered to raid southern Bunyoro for food turned it into lonely wild country. They reasoned: “Since Lugard refused Kabalega’s offer of friendship, he must be an irreversible enemy, embittered by the destruction of his country,” Major Thruston attacked Kabalega to fulfil Colville’s wish either to force Kabalega to fight, or to give him an opportunity to attack the British.” (Thruston Ibid. p.138).

“The Uganda Protectorate revenue in this and the previous year was chiefly obtained from the sale of ivory captured in expeditions in Bunyoro-Kitara” between 1893 and 1898. The IBEAC looted ivory worth 337,253 pound sterling. (Wallis Ibid. p.171) From 1904 to 1913 ivory from Bunyoro- Kitara brought to the Protectorate an income of 224,196 pound sterling. (Wallis, Ibid. p .166) Going by hearsay that “Kabala hid his ivory at Umruli (Mruli) near the place the Kafu joins the Victoria Niles, Gibb was dispatched” from Kampala with soldiers to find it. They searched for the ivory said to be hidden on island but there was no island and no ivory. They returned empty handed. (Thruston, I bin .p. 194-194).

The invaders used “scorch earth” tactics. People were killed all along military routes. Homesteads, crops and livestock were looted or destroyed. Colonel Ternan allowed carnage to be committed. He ordered soldiers to kill non-combatants. He got pleasure from killing the Banyoro. He wrote that after Foster escorted Kabalega’s mother taken captive. A porter, “killed by a Wanyoro, with a spear two miles from Masindi was avenged “As a village bearing a very unfriendly reputation was close to the scene of the murder, it was subsequently visited by a patrol under Foster and destroyed”. He concludes: “… the Wanyoro richly deserve all they get”. (Thruston Ibid. p)

Major Thruston confessed that he had, “to take to shooting the Wanyoro, and it was not long before the sport began”. (Thruston, Brevel Major A.B African Incidents, Personal Experiences in Egypt and Unyoro, 1990, p.155.). He moved around the country looking for the house of a chief loyal to Kabalega. “I burnt his village, destroyed his banana plantations” (Thruston, Ibid, 128). At a small village…”within a yard of the road there was a house, and coming up to it, I could see a blazing fire, and that three men were sitting round a fire and were smoking… I stopped and turning round I made a sign to the soldiers. As I did so one of the men got up and went to the door. But the soldiers had understood me well: they had fixed their bayonets. In a moment a dozen had run into the house and silently done their work….. The transaction I know comes very near to mere assassination”. (Thruston, Ibid, p. 225) British soldiers violated human rights of the Banyoro whom they describe in writing as savages. They killed for fun. The British Government was different to rumours that reached the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He rumours that reached the secretary for Foreign Affairs. He assured the House of Lords, Britain and never annexed Bunyoro-Kitara. Those natives were not under British protection. He telegraphed this statement to the British Military officers at Hoima. After they read it at the mess table they decided that the unprotected natives were to be shot on sight. (Dunbar Ibid. p .88)

A Syphilis Scare crow

The British said Banyoro died in large numbers because of “sexual immorality ignorance superstition and dirt “, said Katherine Cook, a missionary nurse. Sexual immorality made many people in Bunyoro-Kitara’s sick. The British did not see the ill effects of their colonial policies. (Doyle, Ibid p.7)  After conquest many babies were either born dead or died in early infancy. The state did not relate shortage of food for nutrition and population decline. Bunyoro- Kitara, Colville wrote in 1893, was “thickly populated”. Her people were well fed, nourished and healthy. (Colville, Sir Henry Edward. The Land of the Nile Springs, Edward Arnold, 1895, p.114) Returns of 1906 showed 8,572 births against 15,011 deaths. Deaths went on for more than 40 years. This made this Kingdom a lonely wild (Abating). Colonial Office in London acted to stop these deaths after three years had passed. The Banyoro say: (Oukitatwaliire nyina- if a beast has not grabbed your mother). A Commission was sent to Ugandan in 1980 he declared that 80% of the people suffered venereal syphilis. A venereal syphilis epidemic had broken out in the country. This he said was a result of a breakdown of social order. He blamed Christianity and colonialism that replaced native rulers. Too much freedom in the country gave Satan an opportunity to tempt promiscuous native women who engaged in acts of polyandry he said. (Brian, O’ Brian, That Coode Physician, 1962, p 164)

Racial Prejudices

John Roscoe lied that there was a strange custom of polyandry among the Banyoro. He said this custom turned upside down ideas of morality common to most tribes in Uganda. Hospitality forced Banyoro to share wives with guests. (Roscoe, John, Twenty five Years in East Africa, CUP, p. 257) He did not mention the Banyoro who extended to him that privilege. He cited no evidence to support his claims. His words were biased notions to entertain and amuse audiences in Europe. It was a way of making money during Roscoe’s time. White people wrote about savages in distant lands and sold the stories. Nearly all 19th Century travellers, missionaries, soldiers or explorers in Bunyoro-Kitara sold stories about this Kingdom. The information about distant lands nowadays is got from radio, television and the internet. Printed fantasy and distorted fact in Roscoe’s time paid the writers a lot of money. Greed to grab the information market attracted Henry Morton Stanley to Africa. He wrote newspaper articles and a book about the journey. Members of his expedition signed an agreement not to publish anything until six months after his story had appeared “Business as well as politics had entered into African travel” (Morehead Ibid. p. 306) 19th Century men in Europe despised women. They also despised black people. Both Roscoe and Lambkin belong to that era. They lied about this Kingdom because they were gender blind and racialists. Both saw native women and perhaps all other women as “animals with strong passions to whom an unrestricted opportunities for gratifying those passions were suddenly afforded”(Doyle. Ibid. p. 11)Uncontrolled female sexual lust, they said, made Banyoro victims of venereal syphilis. This disease they claimed was introduced in the country ten years before Lambkin’s commission. (Vaughan, M. Curing Their Ills, Colonial Power and African Illness, Stanford, 1991, p. 134) For Bishop Tucker Bunyoro- Kitara Kingdom needed Christian teaching. Only the word of God was going to make native women stop fornicating, halt the syphilis epidemic and save a lot of people to die. (Doyle, Ibid. p. 11)

Anti Banyoro Policies

Major Macdonald says that the Colonial State of Uganda fed its troops by looting the Banyoro like, the IBEAC did before it. Lugard employed former soldiers of Emin Pash. They were 8000 people including their dependants (Lyns Ibid. P.72) the company had no money to buy the soldier food. He allowed them to raid for food in southern Bunyoro. “By the spring of 1893 they had laid waste 1,500 square miles of territory (plus) provinces of Kyaka and Kitagwenda“ (Macdonald, Major J.R.L. R.E. Soldiering and Surveying in British East Africa, Edward Arnold. London 1897, P. 174). They provoked Kabalega to defend his Kingdom. The British plot to destroy the power of the Omukama and rob the country started to unfold. The British made a military strategy to kill the fighting spirit of the population with hunger. Colonel Colville made this plot in 1894. Southern Bunyoro: Buyaga Bugangaizi, Buwekula and Singo suffered a double tragedy. It was looted a second time on Colville’s order to his solders and the chiefs he imposed to raid the country. He did this to escape responsibility to pay the people he employed. They killed the men, seized and raped the women and looted livestock. (Dunbar Ibid. p 87)They also grabbed land. Close to the village of Kited, In Guyana Kibaale Muliisamaanyi (the name means grabber) grabbed five square miles of land and was issued a land title. These areas came to be known as the lost counties. They were called lost counties because Colville made them part of the Kingdom of Buganda. Fertile agriculture land that produced a lot of food and livestock became a wild country. The villages surrounding Bujogoro, the location of Omukama Nyamuktukura’s tomb became will country. The servants of Colville become landlords but they found condition in the lonely wild country difficult and returned to their homes. They abandoned severely malnourished landless peasants. These lands remain undeveloped to this very day.

Colonel Colville drove a wage between Bunyoro-Kitara and Buganda Kingdoms. This wage did not last long because the two kings could not be kept apart for very long. The two kingdoms had a long history of working together. Having encouraged quarrels among the Baganda by fueling the religious wars Lugard posed as a protector of the Christian against the Moslems. He wanted money and turned his attention towards Bunyoro-Kitara. He planned an expedition to raid the kingdom for ivory that Baker had looked at with greedy eyes twenty years earlier. Relations between Bunyoro –Kitara and Buganda had been cordial for many years. Mutesa I., the father of Mwanga had assisted young Kabalega to become the king of Bunyoro-Kitara. He lent his an army that helped him to defeat his brother Kabigumire who was being assisted by Matambuko, the Omugabe of Ankole. (Nyakatura, Ibid. P.110) Lugard drew Kabalega into the Buganda conflict by forcing the Muslim army to seek refuge in Bunyoro-Kitara. Since Baker’s time the British had always looked for an excuse to break Kabalega’s power and control the wealth of this Kingdom. Lugard instructed Colville to attack Kabalega or to give the Omukama an opportunity to attack the British.

Colville in 1894 decided to march on Kabalega. His plan was to weaken the Banyoro with hunger. Fearing trouble during his absence by the Baganda soldiers that he never trusted he marched with the entire Buganda army to keep an eye on it as usual he did not have money to buy food for the soldiers. This suited his sinister plan, after crossing the border. He ordered the hungry army to raid for food. “The county was devastated for miles around, banana plantations cut down, sweet potatoes gardens torn up and houses burnt”. (Thruston, Ibid. p 132-136)

The Banyoro lost life, food and livestock. The forces devastated crops, granaries, herds of cattle and other livestock. Within two months there was no food in the Kingdom. The Baganda hungry deserted for home. Colville was forced to withdraw. This abuse of Buganda’s army failed to divide the Omukama Kabalega to fight British occupation. The two kings were captured and exiled together.

It was colonial policy to deny Banyoro food. The British destroyed farms and pastures. This led to famine and poor nutrition for many years famine occurred many times. Some famines were named: Igorra, Kabakuli, Kiromere, Ky’omudaaki, and Zimyetaara (Dunbar Ibid. p 107, 109, and 124) food shortage increased as youth run away from forced labour. For 20 years every grown up man did two month a unpaid labour per annum for the British. Others resisted quietly saying; Ogw’omujungu guitar ataguhikireho (Whiteman’s work kills those who fail to report). Chiefs imposed by the colonial administration extorted land rent from every man annually causing the Kyanyangire rebellion in 1906. Healthy young men were conscripted to join the British forces in World War I robbing the Kingdom of vital labour to produce food.(Richards, A., East African Chiefs, Oxford, 1960, p.108) The British upset the lives of the Banyoro so much so that, “the delicate balance of the natural relationships between indigenous people and their disease causing pathogens was thrown into chaos  Violent changes in Human ecology, including famine, exhaustion and disease, resulted in increased stress and lowered resistance.” (Lyons, Ibid. p.65) Upsetting people’s lives was the way British rulers handled Africans throughout their rule and some of these bad methods of work were inherited by their successors. (Steinhert, E., Conflict and Collaboration: The Kingdom’s of Western Uganda, Princeton, 1977. 77)

Hesketh Bell’s Bad Policies

In 1904, a sleeping sickness epidemic that killed 200,000 people 200 miles away around Lake Victoria became an excuse Governor Hesketh Bell used to drive people from farm and grazing lands in Bunyoro-Kitara. Many domestic animals died especially cattle. He ignored the scientific advice Dr. Hodges, the Principal Medical Officer gave people were to cut the bush around homes. The flies that carry this disease would not come near them. Bell preferred to displace people completely. He wanted to “provide a new and understaffed colonial administration with….; highly authoritarian measures.” He did this to control the population. (Op. Cit.) The advice Dr. Hodges gave to Governor Hesketh Bell exposes this lie taken for granted and stated by the Ugandan Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities. It hid vendetta against the people of Bunyoro–Kitara. It was an excuse to make a huge area of 193,000 hectares of 772 square miles to be left without people in North Bunyoro-Kitara. This country was labelled a ‘sleeping sickness restricted area’, and in 1910 declared the Bunyoro Game Reserve extended in 1928 to include a block on the north bank of the river” (Op.Cit).

Uprooted Communities

The inhabited territory of the Kingdom remained only 1119 square miles. Governor Bell disorganized, controlled and effectively repressed the Banyoro. Passive resistance ended once clans were scattered. The passive resistance to colonial rule popularly called Kyanyangire (I have refused) rebellion ended.

It is not true that sleeping sickness killed 6000 people at Pajao. This is another lie told to give a human face to injustice penetrated when large parts of this country were made conservation areas.

The natives of Pajao, the Abakwonga or Bakibiro clan traditional grandmothers of the Omukama were scattered to Kitana, Hoima and Panyimur and Deyi, Nebbi.(Rubenda Kassim, Interview at Hoima on 12th March, 2000) The Ababyasi clan that thickly populated Kyangwali and attracted the Church Missionary society (CMS) to build the first church in Bunyoro-Kitara on a five square mile estate that has remained undeveloped to this day. Families and clans scattered were forced to leave their ancestral homes. The town of Baranywa and Mugabi hills were depopulated by a garrison stationed at it and are wild country to this very day. Thousands “were removed from northern Bunyoro forcing the abandonment of fishing grounds, fertile lands, cultivated gardens, including the Pabidi coffee shambas, that became part of the Budongo Forest Reserve. Knowledge of a vast area was lost. Removing cattle keepers and cultivators made room for forests, tsetse flies and wild animals to colonize formerly cultivated lands.” (Doyle, Ibid. p.4) The policy to make and keep Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom lonely and wild, stopping people to use it, was written in the Bunyoro agreement of 1933. It stated that natives were subject to the “provisions of the Sleeping Sickness Rules and all other Protectorate legislation from time to time in force” but Sleeping Sickness had ended 18 years before. (Uganda Protectorate, Bunyoro Agreement 1933, p.5) reserved to the Government of the Protectorate State of Uganda the right to appropriate and place under his direct control any area which he…. Required for a forest”, (op.cit) it is declared “control of all existing forests and all areas hereinafter declared to be forests vested in the Governor” (Op.Cit.)

Residues of Colonial Policies in Modern Uganda

People are still forced to leave their homes even today. Between 27th and 29th August 1999, residents of the villages of Mpumwe, Kibyama, Kirooko, Bunyama and Kahara were chased away from their homes and displaced by a Mr. Thomas Okora, Game Warden, in Charge of the Karuma Game Reserve. He evicted 580 households. He displaced 3000 people. There was no compensation for their land, houses burnt and crops destroyed. The British made the boundaries of the reserves and the poor people who lost their homes did not know about them. (Kyetume, Kasanga Information Officer, Masindi District Administration, September, 1999). Similar eviction was done to the inhabitants of a whole parish in the Sub-County of Biiso. The natives of Nguedo in Buliisa Sub-County also lost agricultural lands in equally high handed manner at the hands of the agents of the state in recent time.

Because wild life reserves cover more than fifty percent of the land area in Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom wild animals that destroy crops are numerous. No single village escapes the raids of crop vermin i.e. baboons, monkeys, chimpanzee’s wild pigs etc. Crops are destroyed daily. The farmers toil and labour is wasted.






The Founding of Buganda


The early history of Buganda has been passed down the generations as oral history. Unfortunately, as with many cases of oral history, the stories have taken on several different versions depending on the source. There are different versions of history detailing how the kingdom of Buganda was established, and these are given below.


The Coming of Kintu

Prior to the establishment of Kintu’s dynasty, the people who lived in the area that came to be known as Buganda had not been united into a single political entity. The people were organized into groups that had a common ancestry and constituted the most important unit in Buganda’s culture – the clan. Despite a common language and culture, the clans were loosely autonomous. The clan leaders (Abataka) ruled over their respective clans. There was no caste system and all clans were equal. This did not preclude the fact that from time to time, the leader of one clan might be militarily stronger than the others. In such a case, the leader could establish hegemony over the other clans for a time.

There was no generally accepted overall leader however. The leadership would pass to whoever proved his might in battle. There were times when there was no common leader at all if none of the clan leaders could overwhelm the others. Some powerful leaders who are said to have established themselves for periods of time prior to Kintu’s arrival include: Sseguku, Buwumpya, Bukokoma, Bukulu, Bandi, Beene, Ggulu, Kyebagaba, Muyizzi, Bukuku, Bukadde-Magezi, Nakirembeka, Tonda, Maganda, Mukama, and Bemba. According to the most widely accepted version of history, Bemba was the acknowledged leader at the time of Kintu’s arrival.

Kintu came into Buganda as a conquering hero. It is seems that at that time, Buganda was very sparsely populated. There are said to have been a total of five clans in Buganda at that time, now called the original clans (bannansangwawo). These were the Ffumbe, Lugave, Ngeye, Nnyonyi Nnyange and Njaza clans. When Kintu invaded Buganda, he is reputed to have brought 13 clans with him. So it appears that the sheer force of numbers played a key role in Kintu being able to establish himself as king. Another factor may have been that Bemba was a harsh and ruthless ruler. His subjects were already primed to rebel against him and indeed some prominent clan leaders joined Kintu’s invading force. Key among these was Mukiibi, head of the Lugave clan, who was assigned command of the invading force. Follow this link for the complete list of the clans of Buganda.

As an interesting aside, Buganda was the name of the house in which Bemba used to live. This house was located at Naggalabi, Buddo. When Bemba was defeated in battle, Kintu slept in Bemba’s house as a sign of his victory. Thus Kintu became the ‘ruler’ of Bemba’s house. This name eventually came to mean all the territory that Kintu ruled. To this day, when a new king of Buganda is crowned, the ceremony takes place at Naggalabi, to recall Kintu’s victory over Bemba.


Site of the coronation of kings at Naggalabi, Buddo.

After the battle to oust Bemba, there was a general conclave of the clans and clan elders which was held at Magonga in Busujju county, on a hill called Nnono. This meeting was of great historic significance for it was at this meeting that Buganda’s form of governance, and the relationship between the clans and the King was formally agreed upon. Although it was unwritten, this constituted an understanding between the clans that has been followed since then. In essence it set down Buganda’s Constitution. These were the principal attendants at the meeting:


    1. Bukulu, from Ssese, who chaired the meeting


    1. Kato Kintu, who became King


    1. Mukiibi Ndugwa, of the Lugave clan, whose son Kakulukuku was the first Katikkiro of Buganda


    1. Kisolo, of the Ngonge clan, who also became a Katikkiro of Buganda


    1. Kyaddondo, of the Nvuma clan who was appointed Ssaabaddu


    1. Mwanje, of the Ngo clan


  • Balasi,


    1. Kagobe, of the Ffumbe clan


    1. Kayimbyokutega, from Kyaggwe and of the Mpeewo clan


    1. Kiwutta Kyasooka, of the Mbogo clan


    1. Nnyininsiko, of the Njovu clan


    1. Bakazirwendo Ssemmandwa, of the Ngeye clan


    1. Kakooto Mbaziira, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Bulimo in Kyaggwe county


    1. Nsereko Namwama, of the Kkobe clan


    1. Kyeya Mutesaasira, of the Ngo clan


    1. Nsumba, of the Mbogo clan


    1. Kisenge, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county


    1. Kyeyune, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county


    1. Mubiru, of the Mmamba clan, from Bumogera


    1. Mutasingwa, of the Mbwa clan


  1. Kayimbyobutezi, of the Njaza clan

After the meeting, Bukulu returned to the Ssese Islands. On completing his victory, Kintu established his palace at Nnono. It is here that he appointed his first government and awarded chieftaincies to his prominent followers. For this reason, Nnono is one of the most important cultural and historical sites in Buganda. It is also for this reason that when the people of Buganda talk about issues of deep cultural significance, they refer to them as being of or from Nnono (ebyennono).

In addition to military conquest, Kintu cleverly allied himself with the leaders of the original clans. For example, his principle wife, Nnambi Nantuttululu was the daughter of Bakazirwendo, the leader of the Ngeye clan. His Prime Minister (Katikkiro) Kakulukuku, was the son of Mukiibi, head of the Lugave clan and erstwhile military commander. Kintu was the first king in Buganda to share his authority with the other clan leaders. This may also have played a key role in getting him accepted as the king of Buganda. In organizing the kingdom, Kintu conceded to the clan leaders authority over their respective clans in matters of culture. Kintu then became arbiter between the clans in case of disputes, thus cementing his role as Ssaabataka, head of all the clans. The complete list of kings starting with Kintu is shown here.

The following is the complete list of officers in Kintu’s adminstration appointed at Nnono:




Kakulukuku Lugave Katikkiro
Kisolo Ngonge Deputy Katikkiro
Kyaddondo Nvuma Ssaabaddu
Kiwutta Mbogo Ssaabagabo
Ssebukyu Nkima Ssaabawaali
Kalibbala Nseenene Musaale
Mubiru Mmamba Navy Commander
Kawungu Ffumbe Head Fisherman
Mabingo Kkobe Head Smith
Kalumamba Nseenene Tuner of Royal Drums
Mutaawe Ngabi Head Herdsman
Kafuuma Nnyonyi Roaster of Royal Coffee
Kayimbyobutezi Njaza Chief Hunter
Mwanje Ngo Palace Chief


Alternative Versions of Kintu’s Story

Version 1:

Prior to Kintu’s time, Buganda used to be called “Muwaawa”. The head of the Ffumbe clan, who was called Buganda Ntege Walusimbi, had leadership over other clans. Walusimbi had several children including Makubuya, Kisitu, Wasswa Winyi, and Kato Kintu. When Walusimbi died, his son Makubuya replaced him as ruler. On his death, Makubuya in turn was replaced by his brother Kisitu as ruler. During Kisitu’s reign, a renegade prince called Bemba came from the area of Kiziba (now in nothern Tanzania) and established camp at Naggalabi, Buddo. From there he sought to fight Kisitu and replace him as ruler of Muwaawa. Bemba had a reputation of being cruel and ruthless. Apparently Kisitu was easily intimidated and in his fear, he vowed to give his chair Ssemagulu to whoever would succeed in killing off Bemba. (This Ssemagulu was the symbol of authority.).

On hearing his brother’s vow, Kintu gathered some followers from among his brothers and some of the various clans and attacked Bemba. Bemba was defeated in the ensuing battle and he was beheaded by one Nfudu of the Lugave clan. Nfudu quickly took Bemba’s head to Kintu, who in turn took it to Kisitu. On seeing Bemba’s head, Kisitu abdicated his throne in favor of Kintu with the words that “Kingship is earned in battle”. Despite his abdication, Kisitu wanted to retain leadership of the Ffumbe clan, so he told Kintu to start his own clan. He also told Kintu that the kingdom should be renamed Buganda in memory of their common ancestor Buganda Ntege Walusimbi. Thus was the royal clan separated from the Ffumbe clan. Kintu established a new system of governace in alliance with the other clan leaders as we saw earlier.

Version 2:

Other stories suggest that Kintu was not indegenous to Buganda. Some assert that he came from the east, near Mt. Elgon. Kato Kintu came with his elder brother Rukidi Isingoma Mpuga. Rukidi conquered the lands of Bunyoro where he established himself as king. According to this version, the area that formed the core of Buganda was in fact a remote outpost of the kingdom of Bunyoro. Rukidi sent his brother Kato to govern this outpost but on reaching the area, the younger brother essentially broke away from Bunyoro and established his own kingdom that came to be known as Buganda. Another version gives essentially the same story but instead suggests that Rukidi and Kato came from the nothern area around Madi. They landed at a port called Podi, which was in the country of Bunyoro. From there Kintu reached Kibiro with many of his followers. They were: Bukulu and his wife Wada; Kyaggwe and his wife Ndimuwala; Kyaddondo and his wife Nansangwawo; Bulemezi and his wife Kweba; Mazinga and his wife Mbuubi.

Some suggest that Rukidi’s brother Kato was called Kimera rather than Kintu. According to this school of thought, Kintu was merely a mythical figure and Kimera is the one who established the royal dynasty of Buganda. The Baganda strenuosly resist this theory, and instead assert that Kimera was a grandson of Kintu. Kimera is counted as the third king in the dynasty, rather than its founder. More will be said about Kimera later.

Version 3:

Another version of Kintu’s story suggests that he was born in Ssese on Bukasa island. According to this version, Kintu’s father was Kagona, and his mother was Namukana. Bemba was ruler on the Buganda mainland but he was very unpopular. He alienated the clan leaders in his efforts to establish his authority over them. Mukiibi, head of the Lugave clan, was one such leader who rebelled against Bemba. Bemba was not amused by Mukiibi’s rebellion and he attacked him. Mukiibi fled to Ssese to save his life. There, he allied himself with Kintu and they raised an army that attacked Bemba and deposed him from the throne.

It is notable that the kings of Buganda never established direct rule over the islands of Ssese like they did with other areas under their dominion, although it was well accepted that the islands formed part of the territory of Buganda. Indeed Ssese was only made a county and given a county chief under the 1900 agreement. The Ssese islands were referred to as the islands of the gods. All the original clans, as well as those that came with Kintu have important shrines in Ssese. For this reason, some have suggested that wherever Kintu came from, he must have come through Ssese to get to Buganda. Ssese was thus the springboard from which Buganda was created, and consequently was never subjected to direct rule in recognition of this pivotal role.

Version 4:

In his book “Ssekabaka Kintu ne Bassekabaka ba Buganda Abaamusooka” (in Luganda, published by Crane Publishers Ltd.); Chelirenso E. S. Keebungero presents a cogent case for the argument that Kintu was indigenous to Buganda rather than an invading all conquering hero. The book reports extensive research among clan elders asserting that Kintu was in fact born in Buganda. Kintu is said to have been the son of King Buganda (after whom the kingdom took its name). That King Buganda did indeed exist is fairly well established and his shrine is known to be at Lunnyo, near Entebbe in Busiro. According to this version, King Buganda was deposed by his brother Bemba. As stated elsewhere Bemba was a ruthless and unpopular ruler. So the clan elders concocted a secret plot to take the late king’s young sons out of the country. They were sent to the Masaaba mountains to the east (now Mt. Elgon) and there looked after by royal attendants until they had matured enough to lead an army into battle. When the time was judged to be right, the elders sent messengers to Masaaba who returned with Kintu the prince. They then joined Kintu in the successful battle to oust Bemba. According to this version, the chronology of the kings that preceded Kintu is as follows:




Muntu   Bwera, Mawogola
Bukadde Bukokoma Muntu Naggalabi, Busiro
Ssenkuule Bukadde Bukokoma Naggalabi, Busiro
Beene Bukadde Bukokoma Mitwebiri, Busiro
Mukama Bukadde Bukokoma Katoolingo, Busiro
Buganda Mukama Lunnyo (Entebbe), Busiro
Bemba Mukama Naggalabi, Busiro
Kintu Buganda Nnono, Busujju

The ease with which Kintu was accepted by all the clan elders, and the elaborate power sharing arrangement that was established after his accession to the throne would appear to support the contention that indeed he was a returning native born prince rather than an unknown foreign born invader. Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done in unearthing the early history of Buganda.


Kintu the Person vs Kintu the Legend

The legend of Kintu is told by the Baganda as the story of the creation. According to this legend, which we will detail in a moment, Kintu was the first person on earth. Unfortunately, many writers of the history of Buganda have confused the two people called Kintu; i.e. Kintu the first king of Buganda, and Kintu the alleged first man on earth. This confusion has led some to conclude that there was never a king called Kintu, and that Kintu is merely a legend. What Baganda scholars assert however, is that Kintu was indeed a legend relating the creation of man. Creation stories abound in all cultures and that there should be a creation story among the Baganda is not surprising. Thus the Baganda regarded the Kintu in this legend as the father of all people. It appears that when Kato established himself as king, he gave himself the name Kintu, a name that he knew the Baganda associated with the father of all people. Thus Kintu was in effect trying to establish his legitimacy as ruler of the Baganda by associating himself with the legendary first person in Buganda. It is for this reason that he also named his principal wife Nambi. With that in mind, let us now detail the legend of Kintu the first person on earth.

Kintu the Legend

Long long ago, Kintu was the only person on the earth. He lived alone with his cow, which he tended lovingly. Ggulu the creator of all things lived up in heaven with his many children and other property. From time to time, Ggulu’s children would come down to earth to play. On one such occasion, Ggulu’s daughter Nambi and some of her brothers encountered Kintu who was with his cow in Buganda. Nambi was very fascinated with Kintu and she felt pity for him because he was living alone. She resolved to marry him and stay with him despite the opposition from her brothers. But because of her brothers’ pleading, she decided to return to heaven with Kintu and ask for her father’s permission for the union.

Ggulu was not pleased that his daughter wanted to get married to a human being and live with him on the earth. But Nambi pleaded with her father until she persuaded him to bless the union. After Ggulu decided to allow the marriage to proceed, he advised Kintu and Nambi to leave heaven secretly. He advised them to pack lightly and that on no condition were they to return to heaven even if they forgot anything. This admonition was so that Walumbe, one of Nambi’s brothers should not find out about the marriage until they had left, otherwise he would insist on going with them and bring them misery ( walumbe means that which causes sickness and death). Kintu was very pleased to have been given a wife and together they followed Ggulu’s instructions. Among the few things that Nambi packed, was her chicken. They set out for earth early the next morning.

But while they were descending, Nambi remembered that she had forgotten to bring the millet that her chicken would feed on. “I have left my chickens’ millet on the porch, let me return and fetch it,” she begged Kintu. But Kintu refused and said, “Don’t go back. If you do, you will meet Walumbe and he will surely insist on coming with you.” Nambi, however, did not listen to her husband, and leaving him on the way she returned to fetch the millet. When she reached the house, she took the millet from the porch, but on her way back, she suddenly met Walumbe who asked: “My sister, where are you going so early in the morning? Nambi did not know what to say. Filled with curiosity, Walumbe insisted on going with her. Therefore Kintu and Nambi were forced to go to earth together with Walumbe.

It did not take long for Kintu and Nambi to get children. One day, Walumbe went to Kintu’s home and asked his brother-in-law to give him a child to help him with the chores in his (Walumbe’s) house. But remembering Ggulu’s warning, Kintu would not hear of it. Walumbe became very angry with Kintu for refusing him the simple favor he had asked. That very night, he went and killed Kintu’s son. Naturally, this caused a deep rift between them. Kintu went back to heaven to report Walumbe’s actions to Ggulu. Ggulu rebuked Kintu, reminding him of the original warning he had disregarded. Kintu blamed Nambi for returning to get the millet. Ggulu then sent another of his sons, Kayikuuzi, to go back to earth with Kintu and try to persuade Walumbe to return to heaven or if necessary return him by force.

On reaching earth, Kayikuuzi tried to persuade Walumbe to go back to heaven but Walumbe would not hear of it. “I like it here on earth and I am not coming back with you” he said. Kayikuuzi decided to capture Walumbe by force, and a great fight broke out between them. But as Walumbe was about to be overpowered, he escaped and disappeared into the ground. Kayikuuzi went after him, digging huge holes in the ground to try and find his brother. When Kayikuuzi got to where he was hiding, Walumbe run back out to the earth. Further struggle between the brothers ensued but once again Walumbe escaped into the ground. The famous caves that are found today at Ttanda in Ssingo are said to be the ones that were dug by Kayikuuzi in the fight with his brother Walumbe. (Kayikuuzi means he who digs holes).

The struggle went on for several days and by now, Kayikuuzi was close to exhaustion. So he went and talked to Kintu and Nambi as follows: “I am going back into the ground one more time to get Walumbe. You and your children must stay indoors. You must strictly enjoin your children not to make a sound if they see Walumbe. I know he is also getting tired so when he comes out of the ground, I will come upon him secretly and grab him.” Kintu and Nambi went into their house, but some of the kids did not go in. Kayikuuzi once again went underground to find Walumbe. After a struggle, Walumbe came back out to the surface with Kayikuuzi in pursuit. Kintu’s children who were outside at the time saw Walumbe coming and sreamed in terror. On hearing the screams, Walumbe went underground once again. Kayikuuzi was furious with Kintu and Nambi for not having followed his instructions. He told them that if they did not care to do the simple thing he had asked of them, he was also giving up the fight. Kintu in his embarrassment had nothing more to say. So he told Kayikuuzi “You return to heaven. If Walumbe wants to kill my children, let him do so, I will keep having more. The more he kills, the more I will get and he will never be able to kill off all my children”. Ttanda, where the fight between Walumbe and Kayikuuzi allegedly took place is figuratively referred to as the place of death (i.e. Walumbe’s place).

So that is the legend of creation, and how sickness and death started. Nonetheless, Kintu’s descendants will always remain as Kintu said in his last words to Kayikuuzi. Hence the Kiganda saying “Abaana ba Kintu tebalifa kuggwaawo”. Which means that Kintu’s children (i.e. the Baganda), will never be wiped off the face of the earth.

Kato Kintu the first king used this saying to his advantage, by taking on the name of the reputed father of all people in Buganda. However Kintu the legend and Kato Kintu the first king are distinct and should not be confused with one another. Kintu the legend was reputedly the first person on earth and therefore could not have been a king since he had no people to rule over!


What About Kimera?

Most historians agree that there is a close relationship between the royal families of Buganda and Bunyoro. What is debatable however is the nature of the relationship, and when the two became separate. Various versions of this story have already been given above. Here, we will address the issue of who Kimera was according to the oral tradition of the Baganda.

When Kintu died, his officials did not want to make this public knowledge in the fear that this might cause instability in the kingdom. So Kintu was buried secretely at Nnono, and the officials put out the word that the king had disappeared. After some time, the officials chose Ccwa, one of Kintu’s sons to become king in his father’s place. Ccwa had only one son called Kalemeera. Kalemeera was only a young boy by the time his father ascended the throne. As he became older, Kalemeera began to understand the significance of the story that his grandfather Kintu had disappeared. He became apprehensive that Ccwa his father might also disappear in the same way. Thus Kalemeera began following his father around everywhere he went, fearful of letting him out of his sight. Eventually, Ccwa became exasperated with his son’s behaviour and he concocted a plan that would force Kalemeera to leave his father’s side.

The scheme that was concocted involved Walusimbi the Katikkiro (Prime Minister), falsely accusing Kalemeera of having had an illicit affair with his wife. When the case was brought before Ccwa, the king ruled against his son, and he fined him heavily. Kalemeera was forced to go to Bunyoro to seek the help of king Winyi in paying off the fine. (According to this version of history, Winyi was the son of Rukidi Mpuga Isingoma, founder of the Bunyoro dynasty. But since Rukidi was Kintu’s brother and Kintu was the father of Ccwa, it follows that Winyi was Kalemeera’s uncle and he was in a position to help him out at this hour of need). Bunyoro at that time was the only source of iron implements in the whole region and Kalemeera’s plan was to import some of these into Buganda and use the profits to help pay off the fine.

The story continues that while in Bunyoro, Kalemeera had an affair with Wannyana, one of Winyi’s wives. When it became evident that Wannyana had become pregnant as a result, Kalemeera decided to return to Buganda quickly to escape Winyi’s wrath. Unfortunately for him, Kalemeera took ill on the way home and he died. His attendants took his skull and buried it at Sserinnya in Busiro. Since then, a memorial house for Kalemeera has been maintained at Sserinnya.

In the meantime, Wannyana came to term and gave birth to a baby boy who later came to be called Kimera. Kimera grew up in Bunyoro, under the care of Katumba, of the Nkima clan, who was a close friend and advisor of Wannyana. (Katumba had tricked Winyi into having the baby thrown away rather than have him killed as would otherwise have happened. He then secretly rescued the boy.) Back in Buganda, Ccwa continued to rule as king. At his death, Ccwa had no male heir to succeed him since his son Kalemeera had already died. So Walusimbi, of the Ffumbe clan was given stewardship of the throne. Walusimbi proved unpopular however, and he was soon replaced by Ssebwaana, of the Lugave clan. Since neither of these was of the royal lineage, they are considered to have been only stewards rather than kings. The throne was in need of a royal occupant so the clan leaders decided to send for Kimera in Bunyoro, whom they had been informed was a son of Kalemeera. When Kimera left Bunyoro to come to Buganda, he knew he was going to become king and he brought many people and a lot of property with him. Wannyana his mother, and her friend Katumba were among the many people who came with Kimera. A total of 28 clans are said to have come into Buganda at Kimera’s time. Katumba was given the nickname Mugema (meaning he who prevented trouble) because he prevented Kimera’s death as a boy. Katumba was head of the Nkima clan, and ‘Mugema’ became his official title. Because of his role in rearing Kimera to maturity, and guiding him to the throne of Buganda, Mugema is regarded as one of the most important clan leaders.

The royal lineage from Kimera’s time to the present king is unbroken despite the interruption of 1966-1993. Because he filled the great void that occurred after the reign of Ccwa I, Kimera is held in great awe by the Baganda, second only to that with which Kintu, the dynasty’s founder is regarded. Indeed, a prince ascending the throne is always told that he is succeeding Kimera his ancestor. This had special resonance for Mutebi II the present king, because he also came to the throne after a period when the royal reign had been interrupted. This led the clan leaders to go beyond the ritual reminders, and actually name him Kimera at the coronation.

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