The Founding of Buganda


Introduction

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.

Outline

The Coming of Kintu
Alternative Versions of Kintu's Story
Kintu the Person vs Kintu the Legend
What About Kimera?


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.

Nnamulondo

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
  2. Kato Kintu, who became King
  3. Mukiibi Ndugwa, of the Lugave clan, whose son Kakulukuku was the first Katikkiro of Buganda
  4. Kisolo, of the Ngonge clan, who also became a Katikkiro of Buganda
  5. Kyaddondo, of the Nvuma clan who was appointed Ssaabaddu
  6. Mwanje, of the Ngo clan
  7. Balasi,
  8. Kagobe, of the Ffumbe clan
  9. Kayimbyokutega, from Kyaggwe and of the Mpeewo clan
  10. Kiwutta Kyasooka, of the Mbogo clan
  11. Nnyininsiko, of the Njovu clan
  12. Bakazirwendo Ssemmandwa, of the Ngeye clan
  13. Kakooto Mbaziira, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Bulimo in Kyaggwe county
  14. Nsereko Namwama, of the Kkobe clan
  15. Kyeya Mutesaasira, of the Ngo clan
  16. Nsumba, of the Mbogo clan
  17. Kisenge, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county
  18. Kyeyune, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county
  19. Mubiru, of the Mmamba clan, from Bumogera
  20. Mutasingwa, of the Mbwa clan
  21. 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:

Name

Clan

Office

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

Back to outline


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:

King

Father

Capital

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.

Back to outline


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!

Back to outline


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.


Retun To: | Top of This Page | Outline | Buganda Home Page |