Pictures of the Buganda Culture

Kabaka's Palace

Bulange (Buganda Paliament)

Enkima (Monkey)


Art in its various manifestations has always displayed a validity and truth during the long march from the dawn of civilisation. Like a cine-film you may arrest this march at any point and examine the picture. You will find in the still that a people have at that moment in history achieved the art that they deserved. This has been said of governments, it holds true for art too. And for this reason art in all its activities is trying in ever changing forms to give expression to the aspirations of mankind, trying to tell us something of man and the world he inhabits, both physically and spiritually and revealing something of the artist himself. The inter-relation of the artist and the community is close, for the artist is a member of society, and from that society he takes his tempo and his tone and the conditions which are imposed upon him. At one time he may do no more than scratch symbols on a rock, he may decorate the walls of a Parliament house or a palace, or curve a statue for a temple. He is part of society and its chronicler.


By Alirwana Mugalula-Mukiibi Saalongo

The story of Kabaka Kintu – The Origin of Buganda "Ekitiibwa kya Buganda kyava dda, naffe tukikuumenga." "The Glory of Buganda is immemorial, let us cherish it forever" -Extract from the chorus of the Buganda Anthem.

A long time ago there were no people in Buganda (Uganda) except one man called Kintu, and he had one cow which was very friendly with him and he lived on its milk and dung. They both lived a life of solitude.

Up in the sky there was a lovely kingdom called the Clouds-Land and the King was called Ggulu-literaly Sky or Heaven. Ggulu had many sons and daughters and these children used to wait for the rainbow to touch the Earth and they would slide down it and stay a little while below playing among the trees, but they could not stay for long for a rainbow very soon melts away in the hot sun and if they had waited too long they could not have climbed home to the Clouds-Land.

One day two of Ggulu's sons saw the rainbow touching the earth and they called their sister Nnambi to come with them. Nnambi was a very beautiful girl and the King, Ggulu, loved her very much. She went quickly with her brothers and slid down to earth and the part of the earth, the rainbow touched was Buganda; there they saw Kintu sitting alone watching his cow graze. At first they were rather frightened for they had never seen a man before on earth, but they soon made friendship with Kintu, and they stayed a long time talking with him. He told them how lonely he was and Nnambi, who had a tender heart, was very sorry for him and she said, "I will come back again and marry you, and then you won't be lonely any more in this beautiful country."

When they were on their way home the brothers reproved Nnambi: they said, "Why did you make a wild promise? You well know that our father Ggulu will never allow you to go away and marry Kintu." But Nnambi said, "I will go, I promised Kintu and my father would never wish me to break my promise. I will go home and tell my father and then pack up all my belongings and go to earth to live there always."

The children narrated to Ggulu the story about Nnambi's promise to Kintu. Ggulu, however, said they had better test Kintu before he consents to the marriage and he accordingly sent a mission and robbed Kintu of his dear cow. For some time Kintu was at a loss as to what to eat, but managed to find different kinds of herbs and leaves, which he cooked and ate. Nnambi happened to see the cow and recognised it, and complaining that her brothers wished to kill the man she loved, she went to the Earth and told Kintu where his cow was, and invited him to return with her to the Cloud-Land to take it away. Kintu consented to go and when he reached Heaven, he was greatly surprised to see how many people were there with houses, cows, goats, sheep, and fowls. When Nnambi's brothers saw Kintu sitting with their sister at her house they went and told their father, who ordered them to build a house for Kintu, and said they were to give a further testing to see whether he was suitable to marry their sister.

An enormous meal was cooked, enough food for some 100 people, and brought to Kintu, who was told that unless he ate it all he would be treated as an impostor and be killed; failure to eat it, they said, would be proof that he was not the great Kintu. He was then shut up in the house and left alone. After he had eaten and drunk as much as he wished, he was at a loss to know what to do with the rest of the food. Fortunately he discovered a deep hole in the floor of the house, so he turned all the food and beer into it and covered it so that no one would detect the place. He then called the people outside to come and take away the buckets; the sons of Ggulu came in but would not believe he had eaten all the food. They therefore searched the house but failed to find it, and they went to their father and told him that Kintu had eaten all the food. He said he must further be tested; a copper axe was sent by Ggulu who said, "Go and tell Kintu to cut for me firewood from the rock because I do not use ordinary firewood."

When Kintu went with the axe he said to himself, "What am I to do? If I strike the rock, the axe will only damage its edges or rebound and probably break." However, after he had examined the rock, he found there were cracks in it, so he broke off pieces, tied them in a big bundle and returned with them to Ggulu, who was surprised to get them. "Still", he said, "Kintu must be further tested before I give him consent to the marriage.

Kintu was next sent to fetch water and told he must bring dew only, because Ggulu did not drink ordinary water from wells. Kintu took the water pot and went off to a field where he put the pot down and begun to ponder where he was to go and collect the dew. He was very puzzled, but on returning to the pot he found if full of dew, so he carried it back to Ggulu. Ggulu was most surprised and said, "This man is a wonderful being, he shall have his cow back and marry my daughter." Kintu was told he was to pick his cow from the enormous herd and take it; this was a very difficult task like the others, there were so many cows that looked like his own, he feared he would make a mistake and take the wrong one. While he was thus perplexed, a large bee came and said, "pick the one upon whose horns I shall alight; it is yours." The next morning he went to the appointed place, stood and watched the bee which was resting on a tree near him; a large herd of cattle was brought before him and he pretended to be looking for his cow, but in reality he was watching the bee, which did not move. After a long time he said, "My cow is not there." A second larger herd was brought and he again searched but the bee did not move, and he again said his cow was not there. A third much larger herd was brought and the bee flew at once and rested upon a cow which was a very large one and Kintu said, "That is my cow." The bee then flew to another cow and Kintu said, "that is one of the calves of my cow," and so on to the second and third which he claimed as the calves that had been born during the cow's stay with Ggulu. Ggulu was delighted with Kintu and said, "You are truly Kintu, the Great, take your cows; no one can deceive or rob you, you are too clever for that." He called Nnambi and said to Kintu, "Take my daughter who loves you, marry her and go back to your home." Ggulu further said, "You must hurry and go back – before Walumbe (Death) comes, because he will want to go with you and you must not take him, he will cause you trouble and unhappiness."

Nnambi agreed to what her father said and went to pack up her things. Kintu and Nnambi then took leave of Ggulu, who said, "Be sure if you have forgotten anything not to come back because Walumbe (Death) will want to go with you and yet you must go without him." They started off for home taking with them besides Nnambi's property and the cows, a goat, a sheep, a plantain tree and a fowl – a hen – which is called Nnakizaalizi – Bearer.

On the way Nnambi remembered that she had forgotten her grain for feeding the fowl Nnakizaalizi, and she said to Kintu, "I will hurry back and get it without anyone seeing me." He said, "Your brother Walumbe will be on the watch and he will see you." She would not listen to her husband, but went back and said to her father, "I had forgotten the grain for my fowl, and I have come back to take it from the back of the door where I had put it." He replied, "Did I not tell you that you were not to return if you forgot anything, because your brother Walumbe would see you, and want to go with you? Now he will accompany you." She tried to 'steal herself away' without Walumbe, but he followed her; when she joined Kintu, he was angry on seeing Walumbe and said, "Why have you brought your brother with you? Who can live with him?" Nnambi was sorry, so Kintu said, "Let us go and see what will happen."

When they reached Earth, Nnambi planted her gardens and her plantain grew rapidly and she soon had a large plantain-grove at Mannyagala. They lived happily for sometime and had a number of children until one day Walumbe (Death) asked Kintu to send one of his children to cook for him; Kintu replied, "If Ggulu comes and asks me for one of my children what am I to say to him? Shall I tell him that I have given her to you to be your cook?" Walumbe was silent and went away, but he again asked for a child to be his cook and Kintu refused to send one of his daughters, so Walumbe (Death) said, "I will kill them." Kintu, who did not know what he meant asked, "What will you do?" in a short time however one of his children fell ill and died, and from that time they began to die at intervals. Kintu returned to Ggulu and told him about the deaths of the children and accused Walumbe of being the cause. Ggulu replied, "Did I not tell you when you were going away to go at once with your wife and not return for anything? Now you have Walumbe (Death) living with you; had you obeyed me you would have been free from him and not lost your children."

After further requests, Ggulu sent Kayiikuzi (Digger of graves) the brother of Walumbe, to assist Nnambi, and to prevent Walumbe from killing the children. Kayiikuzi went to Earth with Kintu and was met by Nnambi, who told him her pitiful story; he said he would call Walumbe and try to dissuade him from killing the children. When Walumbe came to greet his brother, they had a quite warm affectionate meeting and Kayiikuzi told him that he had come to take him back because their father wanted him. Walumbe said, "Let us take our sister too." But Kayiikuzi said he was not sent to take her, because she was married and had to stay with her husband. Walumbe refused to go without his sister, and Kayiikuzi was angry with him and ordered him to do as he was told. Walumbe however escaped from Kayiikuzi's grip and fled away into the earth and for a long time there was enemity between the two brothers; Kayiikuzi tried all possible ways to catch his brother Walumbe, who always escaped. At last Kayiikuzi told the people to remain in their houses for several days and not to let any of the animals out, and he would have a final hunt for Walumbe. He further told them that if they saw Walumbe they must not raise the usual cry of fear – an alarm – enduulu. The instructions were followed but for two or three days and Kayiikuzi got his brother to come out of the earth or underground and was about to capture him when some children took their goats out for pasture and they saw Walumbe and they called out. Kayiikuzi rushed to the spot and asked why they called out, and was told they had seen Walumbe. He was angry because Walumbe had again gone into the earth underground, hiding; so he went to Kintu and told him he was tired of hunting for Walumbe, and he wanted to return home; he also complained that the children had frightened Walumbe into the earth again. Kintu thanked Kayiikuzi for his help and said he feared nothing more could be done and hoped Walumbe would not kill all the people.

From that time, Walumbe (Death) has lived upon the earth and kills people whenever and wherever he can and then escapes into the earth at Ttanda village in Ssingo county.

In 'My African Journey 1908' Winston Churchil wrote The Memorable Humbling Homage To


The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk, and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.

Before their tribal chiefs, a complete and elaborate polity is presented. Under a dynastic King, an amiable clothed (in barkcloth), polite and intelligent race dwell together in an organised monarchy… with a parliament and a powerful feudel system.

An elegance of manners springing from a naïve simplicity of character pervades all classes.

The natives evince an eagerness to acquire knowledge and a very high observant and initiative faculty.

An elaborate ritual of friendly salutations relieves the monotony of the wayfarer's journey. Submission with or without servility or loss of self-respect, is accorded to constituted authority.

More than two hundred thousand natives are able to read and write. More than one hundred thousand have embraced the Christian faith. There is a Court, there are Regents and Ministers and Nobles, there is a regular system of native law and tribunals; there is discipline, there is industry, there is culture, there is peace. In fact I ask myself whether there is any other spot in the whole earth where the dreams and hope of the Black race, have ever attained such a happy realisation.


The society, tribe or people of the BAGANDA – singular a MUGANDA - live in the Kingdom of BUGANDA, do things in the KIGANDA or (EKI) GANDA way, speaking the language LUGANDA and found in the southern part of the country UGANDA, which lies astride the Equator in EAST AFRICA. The mighty River Nile, by first diving through the turbines of Nalubaale Dam, then Kiira Dam, both, respectively, on and by Lake Victoria (Nalubaale) in Buganda, starts its immemorial journey to the Mediterranean Sea. Buganda is therefore the source and cradle of the energy and life giving Nile.

The Baganda are ruled by a Traditional Hereditary Monarch the KABAKA of Buganda and are approximately six million out of Uganda's population of twenty two million.

The Kabaka's main Palace, Lubiri, is at Mengo, and the administrative Headquarters is in the Bulange a mile away on a hill thereby, also embracing the Lukiiko Hall, seat of the Kabaka's Buganda Parliament – The Great Lukiiko.

The Kiganda society has got qualities of a pyramid. The Kabaka being the apex, indeed pinnacle of the society, then comes the Abalangira and Abambejja (Princes and Princesses) the Katikkiro (Prime Minister), the Abatongole (the Kabaka's Officers), the Abakungu (the Territorial Chiefs), who in the past were royal appointees chosen in most cases among the hundreds of boys who were sent to serve as pages (Abagalagala) to the Kabaka. Then at the bottom of the pyramid occurs the Abakopi (those who hold no administrative posts and not necessarily peasants).

Inspite of all this elaboration of differences in power, there occurs no self conscious classes or status groups; the Baganda never believe in a homogeneous society, they entertain a sub-servient belief in them, and strong belief in promotion through merit. Faithful service being rewarded by the opportunity to acquire wealth, promotion and glory. The clan elders occur in all spheres of the society, causing a social harmony. Like most Bantu in Africa, the Baganda believed that there were supernatural forces and beings of several kinds, which were capable of influencing the lives of man.

All Baganda owe or pay their allegiance to the Kabaka and each clan has special duties to perform to the Throne.


The Baganda are divided into some 54 social kinship divisions each of which is called EKIKA, meaning CLAN, which the Baganda recognise as a family which traces its origin through the male line to one ancestor, and has a common totem which is called OMUZIRO. All the male and female clan members of the same generation are called brothers and sisters – ABOOLUGANDA.

Each clan has two totems; a principal totem OMUZIRO by which the clan takes its name and the second totem is called AKABBIRO. They are both held sacred by the clan members, who never destroy, consume or injure them; non-members could however do so without hurting the feelings of the clan, if it was done for a reasonable purpose.

The word OMUZIRO is derived from the root 'Kuzira', which means to refuse, with an ulterior motive, to do a thing; and the thing which is refused to be done or to be eaten is what is called OMUZIRO.

In the past, and even now-a-days a man could refuse to eat his wife's food if he was angry with her, and, similarly, children often refuse to eat food if they have a grudge.

What were the main causes of clans and their totems?

If a member of a family ate something and died from eating it, his relatives and his off-springs would boycott eating it forever; and if a relative or close friend was harmed or killed by an animal, or killed by eating the animal's flesh or a food, the people close to him would boycott eating that animal's flesh or the food.

The members of a clan are bound together by the rule of exogamy, by general obligation of mutual aid and to a certain extent by collective responsibility for the mis-deeds of their members, by participation in the various ceremonies which marked significant events in a member's life, and by the fact that inheritance was kept strictly within the clan.


The Clan-heads are known as ABAKULU B'EBIKA or ABAKULU B'OBUSOLYA, and have permanent names or titles.

The Omukulu We'kika who is the supreme head of the clan, is formally chosen by the clan members and is hereditary. He is styled the ancestor of the sub-clan – JJAJJA W'ESSIGA. He does not administer the clan affairs solely or single handedly, there is a string of subordinates who assist him. There are hereditary elders ABAKULU B'AMASIGA (ABAAMASIGA), Heads of Sub-clans. The sub-clan ESSIGA is a group tracing their descent to one of the sons of the founder of the clan. ESSIGA means literally a cooking stone, symbolically the stones on which the cooking pot rests. The difference however lies in that the Amasiga of clans are always greater in number than the three typical cooking stones.

Some clan-heads gave estates to some of their children and planted Barkcloth trees (EMITUBA) in them, a symbolic proof that the estates had been given to them to rule them. These children for whom the Emituba were planted became ABAAMASIGA. Other children of clan-heads would, when adult, settle in other places and would later be recognised as Abaamasiga. The Omukulu W'essiga is styled the ancestor of the consanguinity JJAJA W'OMUTUBA.

In the Amasiga occur the sub-divisions called EMITUBA, which are headed by the children of the Abaamasiga. The heads are called ABAKULU B'EMITUBA (ABEEMITUBA) heads of consanguinity. The Omukulu Wessiga is styled the ancestor of the sub-consanguinity – JJAJA WOLUNNYIRIRI.

In the Emituba occur the sub-divisions called ENNYIRIRI who are the sons of Abeemituba. These are sub-consanguinities. A sub-consanguinity (Olunnyiriri) is a group tracing their descent to one of the great-grandsons of the founder of the clan. The head of the sub-consanguinity, OMUKULU W'OLUNNYIRIRI, OWOOLUNNYIRIRI has many detailed duties to perform particularly in respect of succession, as he is styled the ancestor of the deceased.

Then, lastly, there occurs the divisions of sub-consanguinity, and they are called EMPYA, literally COURT YARDS, in fact the heads of the house holds. They are called ABEMPYA, one being OWOOLUGGYA.


Every clan has got clan Estates which are called OBUTAKA.

The Aboobusolya and the Abaamasiga have clan Estates in Buganda and are the true Bataka in Buganda. In 1900 land tenure system saw disappearance of some Butaka, for the land acquired a new modern demarcation among the Kabaka, chiefs and dignitaries.

Obutaka is the land on which the grandfathers of each clan settled when they reached Buganda. They are very important because the clan-heads and the important clan members are normally buried in them. In the past, no person of a different clan would be buried in these grounds except the wives who had got married to them. Please note that a woman adopts her husband's totem. A prince and princess adopt their mother's totem, so that the King can marry from any of the clans – thus short-circuiting envy in clans.

Estates as a rule were situated on some hill with the garden running down the valley, and on each estate was a chief who would be responsible for the conduct of the members of his clan-branch (Essiga), and he was called the father of it.


Each clan has its special drumbeat called OMUBALA GW'EKIKA. The drum is sounded following the rhythm and intonation of the words which have poetic rhythm and words are in short sentences.

Formerly the Mubala was sounded as means of assembling clansmen in emergency but now it has only a ceremonial usage.

The words accompanying the Mibala are not alike; there are even some clans which have different Mibala and therefore different words in the sub-clans (Amasiga).Old clans sometimes have two types of Mibala:- 1- A Mubala for clan-head. 2- A Mubala for the clan generally.

The words in the Mubala have many implications or meanings:- a) Some tell the clans-men not to eat their clan totems, b) Some narrate about the totems or things found in the clan estates, c) Some were derived from the sayings the clan-heads used to say, d) Some praise the Kabaka for the good things he did for the particular clan, e) And some praise the forefathers of the clan.

In the past – and contemporarily – the Mibala used to be sounded when a clans-mate had been appointed to a new office or whenever he was going or returning from war.

Whenever the chief was happy, especially after getting drunk, his drum would be 'pulled-down' and sounded with the clan's Mubala as well as with his Chieftainship drum beat. And whenever a chief was going to pay homage to the Kabaka, his clan's drum beat would be sounded.

During the ceremonies of ending the mourning for the deceased, OKWABYA OLUMBE, immediately after the installation of the heir, OMUSIKA, his clan drum beat would be sounded.

During the OKUSAMIRA (deity worshiping – invoking of spirits) in the shrines, the posessed's clan Mubala would be sounded – the clans-men being very happy to have found out that their clan Lubaale (Deity) was still with them and he or she had chosen himself / herself a clan member as the former's bearer – OMUKONGOZZI. And during the ceremonial naming of children – OKWALULA ABAANA – the Clan's Mubala is sounded.

Now-a-days the Mibala are chiefly sounded during the wedding ceremonies at homes of both the bride and groom.

Mibala are sounded during happiness and never during sorrow.

Omukulu Tamuzadde sounding the clan Dram-beat of Lugave(Pangolin) "Lwa Ndugwa Lwa Katende" At the Okwabya Olumbe Ceremony - 1973 Kitigoma, Kyaggwe


Each clan has a set of names for its male members and a separate set of names for its female members.

It is therefore possible, sometimes, to ascertain a Muganda's clan on hearing his or her name, although, however, we find that some names may occur in a number of different clans. This was caused by a number of factors.

The first factor was that of the proximity of estates of different clans or the sub-clans. The estates' chiefs used to jointly care for the deities in their adjoining estates and they used to be friendly. So that as some names were derived from the deities, the two chiefs of the different clans would each, rightly name his children according to their common deities – EMISAMBWA. The second factor was that of Blood brotherhood – OMUKAGO (About which I shall discuss below). The ABOOMUKAGO – CONFIDANTS could name their children with names from each other's clan – a sign of confirming the brotherhood.

Thirdly, members of clans having taken refuge in friends' clans during the atrocious decrees of the Kabaka to put to death a particular wronging clan, the refugees could take up the names of the clan they might have joined.

And fourthly, the factor of OKUBBULA – to revive – the deceased relatives, paternal and maternal, one could in this process give one's child a name trying to revive one's mother's father or mother who are infact of different clans.

The clan names started in different ways. Some started through joking and imitating, some through praising and others through nicknaming.

There are names which originated from particular distinctive things found on clan estates. There are many names derived from names of hills, wells, trees, forests, rivers and big stones and there are those which are like clan totems or are connected with the totem name an those which partain to the particular clan's royal duties.

In the past naming a child was a very ceremonious occasion. It was a sort of confirming a child in his or her Luggya (Courtyard), Lunnyiriri (Sub-consanguinity), Mutuba (Consanguinity), Ssiga (Sub-clan), Kika (Clan) and above all the Tribe – EGGWANGA. The occasion was called OKWALULA ABAANA – To hatch the children.

A mother was expected to carefully keep the umbilical cord – AKALIRA – of her child until the naming ceremony took place, when it would be required from her to be used to test the validity of the child's being a true child of the mother's husband.

During the ceremony of the Okwalula Abaana one of the proofs of the validity of the faithfulness of the mother was seen, if, and only if, the akalira, previously sunk after smearing it with ghee – OMUZIGO – physically emerged and floated over the water in the basket. If the akalira did not emerge after being sunk or stayed at the bottom in the water in the basket, the child would, unfortunately, be doubted, although he would not be sent out of the family. This test was advantageous in married life in that it reduced the rate of wives going about with other men, because they feared the test would reveal their unfaithfulness.

Several days after birth the paternal grand parents would give a baby a temporary name called "ERINYA OMWANA KW'AYONKERA" – the suckling name. This was chosen from the baby's deceased relatives – a process called OKUBBULA OMWANA – revive the child's fore-parents. I mentioned this process Supra.

In naming the child the relatives would be very careful not to choose a name of a notorious deceased relative, say one who was a thief, murderer or one who committed suicide, in fear that the bad habits that the deceased might have had, might get revived in the child.

The males were given names of brave, diligent male patrilineal relatives, or relatives who lived for a long time and females were given names of their paternal aunts or paternal great aunts who were famous in the family or lived long.

Sometimes the first name – the suckling name – might be dropped and another one adopted, especially if the baby had a tendency of crying often, or had developed an inclination to getting ill or sick very often. The parents thought that the deceased owner of the name had not accepted the child.


The chief clan rule concerning marriage in the Baganda is that marriage must not take place between a man or a woman whose clan is the same as that of the partner's mother. This rule is still observed although a few tend to defy it.

In the past when people used to buy and to plunder women especially during battles, if a man found out that he had bought or plundered a woman of whose clan he was obliviuos, and later discovered that she was his mother's clansmate, he would instantly sell her off at any price offered. Thus the saying: "Eziva mu nnyoko tobuuza, ze bakuwa z'otwala" "You do not bargain for your mother, you take / accept any offer."

The second marriage rule is that which prohibits endogamy except for the large and numerous Lung-fish clan – Emmamba, but partners must be of different Masiga – Sub-clans, the Princely – Abalangira clan but not from the same family, and in the past it is said, in the Bush-back – Engabi and the Civet-cat – Effumbe clans.

The explanation for the endogamy in the Bush-back clan seems to be that, many neighbouring tribes of Buganda Kingdom had the Bush-back animal as one of their dominant clan totems, so that a Muganda of this clan could, with impunity could marry a Musoga or a Munyoro of the same clan. Another cause of the Bush-back clan's endogamy came about when a certain clan, to evade a Kabaka's wrath temporarily joined another safe clan, and adopted the latter's clan totem and clan names. The two amalgamated clan members were allowed to inter-marry.

However, most clans are exogamous. Sexual intercourse with a member of the same clan or with a woman of the mother's clan is called EKIVVE, and would in the past be punished by the death of both partners.

The Kiganda proverb – "Ebukojja tekuli lubu, buli avaayo maama" "At one's maternal side, occurs no relationship – you refer to all as mother" Stresses that one is forbidden to marry one's mother's relatives or clan-members. In addition, one is not allowed to get married to one's aunt's daughter called KIZIBWE, and one is not allowed to touch her, inspite of her not being of the same clan! Probably the no-touching of the Kizibwe restriction was intentionally laid down to syphon off the apparent temptations of both people, since they do not belong to the same family and are not of the same clan.


When, for special reasons, two men wished to be united by a sacred bond, they performed or made a blood-brotherhood – OKUTTA OMUKAGO – and the clans to which they belonged acknowledging the sacredness and the binding of the ceremony; each called the other his brother or MUNYWANYIWE – CONFIDANT after the rite was performed. Blood brotherhood could be made between Baganda of different clans or between two men of different races.

It was a most sacred bond and the bleach of it was expected to be followed by sickness and death. The two principals met with their witnesses, representatives of each clan, and sat opposite each other on the barkcloth. A dry coffee berry was then divided into two, each man took half of the berry, made one or two slight cuts in the flesh of his stomach which he pricked for the purpose, rubbed the half berry in the blood and put it in the palm of his hand, upon where the other man took it from the palm with his lips and swallowed it whole. After the reciprocal 'actions' the two men promised to be faithful to each other, to help one another in every possible way and to care for each other's children. A sacred meal followed in which all the witnesses were asked to join and the ceremony ended.

From that time onwards until the death of one of the parties the two clans had a special bond of friendship, though they could intermarry when they wished to do so. If a member of the clan injured a member of the other, he had at once to pay in full a sum assessed by the judge or to take the consequences from the ghost of the ancestors of the injured man.

In the past people of different clans never used to fight between themselves; it was infact almost impossible because there were many family links or ties between different clans especially the ones of marriage. An important man could marry many wives from many different clans, and on top of that, likewise, his sons would marry many wives from other different clans, and so on and so forth – not mentioning daughters who would get married to men of many other clans. These were indeed strong chain-links between clans and they caused the clans to stay friendly. This is one of the advantages of polygamous marriages.

The important occasions which assembled the members of a clan and others were death occasions, Okwabya Ennyimbe – ceremonies of marking the end of mourning for the deceased, whereof the heir would be installed, Okusamira – Deity worshiping – and Okwalula Abaana – Naming ceremonies.

The useful role of the clans in the Kiganda society could be summarised in their mutual assistance in different circumstances for example disease, death, marriage and paying fines for offences.

A non-Muganda could be admitted to any clan so long as he passed through an important clan member – wittily in most cases.


In typical Kiganda homes one always finds an embroidered work of art hanging on the wall in the living or sitting room, with inscriptions about the household head's clan totem, and a small or medium totem is always naively drawn as well as, sometimes, the picture of the Akabbiro.

They normally read "Nannyinimu yeddira ki? Ky'olabako ky'obuuza?" "What is the clan-totem of the house-hold-head? Do you have to ask about what you can see (the picture of the totem)?

And usually additional inscriptions occur, such as – in my case; "Nnyina wa Mmamba" "His mother is of the Lung-fish clan" "Omukyala wa Namungoona" "The wife is of the Crow clan"

And illustrations of the additional relatives' totems are always put there, but they are smaller than the house-hold head's totem picture. These embroidered works of art are traditionally known as EMMOTO – a Lugandanised word from the English MOTTO.

In day-to-day life one always hears people shouting out their clan totems when exclaiming. This mostly happens when one has just been frightened. Some people do not shout out their own totems but those of their mothers and sometimes of their lovers or dear ones. I have a relative who always exclaims, "Olugave!" whenever he may have got frightened or excited – the Olugave – Pangolin being our clan totem.

When some people want to assure their friends that they are telling the truth they always say, for example "Okulya Emmamba!" "To eat the Lung-fish!" By saying that they mean that they would rather eat their clan-totem than to tell a lie.

Many times a boy or a man may fall in love with a girl or a woman, and when he/she discovers that they belong to the same clan, they regard themselves as brothers and sisters. This is a very good example to show how respected clans are. In day-to-day conversations one may say, "Ennaku zino omwenge muziro gwange kubanga ensimbi sizikwatamu" "Now-a-days beer is my totem, because I no longer have money (broke)." Meaning that he is unable to buy and drink beer, just as one does not eat one's totem.

By the way, this reminds me of our English professor of Fine Art, when being shown a drawing of an elephant by our fellow student, the student told him, "This is my mother." He was so surprised but he later learnt that all the student meant was that his mother's clan totem is an elephant.

PLEASE NOTE It is vital to note that the Kabaka can marry from many clans, enabling the entire clan spectrum to, rightly so, claim relation to the Monarch and as he customarily adopts his mother's clan, this makes him belong to many different clans; so that no clan can claim superiority over others – thus equality. In addition as every clan has duties to perform to the throne, this in all ways gives a feeling of equality before the Kabaka.

The duties each clan has to render to royalty, effectively renders the throne to be looked at as an apex, a focal point, a corner stone, indeed the fulcrum of the entire society and a unifying pivot of the Baganda.

So that the Baganda look at him as their Kitaffe – Father, Nnyinimu – House-hold-head, Bbaffe – Our Husband, and in day-to-day life the spirit of working for the Kabaka – "Ku lwa Kabaka" reigns supreme.

A hunter for example customarily exclaims "Ku lwa Kabaka!" "For the Kabaka!" after effectively spearing an animal, the chase, and the government tax is always referred to as : "Omusolo gwa Kabaka" "The Kabaka's tax" as though it directly goes into the Enkuluze – the Royal personal Treasury.

What about the names the Kabaka is always called! So full of praise, respect and love they are: -

  • SSAABASAJJA: Head of all men
  • SSABATAKA: Head of all clan-heads
  • SSEGGWANGA: The Cock
  • EMPOLOGOMA: The Lion
  • SSAABALONGO: Head of all twin-fathers
  • NNAMUNSWA: Queen of termite
  • NNYINIMU: House-hold-head
  • KALEMA-ENSINJO: As strong and as powerful as the 'Ensinjo',the metal that cuts other metals; likewise, the Kabaka defeats all the princes or chiefs or any clan-head who may rebel against him.
  • SSEMANDA: The Black-Smith's forging charcoal which make a tool and at the same time melts it; likewise, the Kabaka can appoint and oust chiefs-hire and fire.
  • OMUFUMBO: The married one.
  • CUUCU: A type of grass which is very itching if rubbed against one's body, and is therefore feared.
  • MUFUMBYAGGANDA: The cook that extravagantly uses much firewood without being sympathetic with those who collect it. The Kabaka, being so powerful, could send to war his people, without caring for their parents.
  • NNANTAJEEMERWA: He who is never rebelled against.
  • MUSOTA: The Snake.
  • LUKOMA NNANTAWETWA: The palm tree that is never flexible.
(Aliruweta aliba ani?) (Who will ever flex it?) Let me give some proverbs which are said about the Kabaka and his people.

  • Kabaka akira Oluganda. The Kabaka is better than a relative.
  • Kabaka nnyanja, temanyiirwa. The Kabaka is like a lake, you never get familiar
  • with it. Kabaka afugira wala. The Kabaka rules from far, (However far he may be, he still rules over Buganda – through the chiefs.)
  • Kabaka tasobya. The Kabaka never wrongs.
  • Weebuuza Kabaka ggye? Are you in doubt about the Kabaka's Army? (All the Baganda are his army)

The Baganda's love for their Kabaka being so deep-rooted in them, every Muganda endeavoured to work hard and loyally, and chance permitting, achieve a royal recognition in the society. He would achieve promotion and bring pride to his clan.

The Baganda traditionally refer to themselves proudly as Abasajja ba Kabaka - The King's Men - Tuli basajja ba Kabaka - We are the King's Men.

In respect to, and honour to mothers and women in general, the Baganda refer to themselves as Abazzukulu ba Nnambi (Nantuttululu) - the first Wife/Queen of the first Kabaka Kintu - the Ancestor of the Baganda.

The clean spirited struggling for social recognition contributed to constant progress in Buganda.

Please allow me to wind up with the proverb. "Omuddu awulira y'atabaaza engule ya Mukamaawe" "The obedient subject carries the Kabaka's shield to war." (Leads the Kabaka's army)

Please remember A KING IS FOR ALL.