This afternoon we went and visited the Buganda Paliament where we got to learn about much of the tradition, culture and history of the biggest kingdom in Uganda. Today the Buganda Kingdom makes up about 25% of the country, and has an approximate population of 7.5 million people. The Buganda Parliament does not have any real power, but they have a large amount of influence over the Beganda people.
Uganda is filled with a rich heritage, and goes back over 800 years. When the British came to Africa in the in the 16th century they made Buganda a “protectorate” instead of a colony because of the sophisticated political and social structure that was in place. It is headed by the Kabaka, or king.
The system of governance is broken up into two different parts: civil and lineage sections. The lineage side is more cultural, and is broken down into clans. The most basic system is the household. Moving up it goes to sets of families that govern each other, to sub-sub clans, to sub clans, and then finally the clan heads. The kingdom is broken up into 54 clans, and every Beganda has their clan name as part of their name which is passed down through the father.
On the administrative side the kingdom is broken down into 18 counties. The most basic structure of a county is the village council, which would then report to the Miruka Council, which is a set of villages. From there they answer to a sub county council which then reports to a county council. From there both the 54 clan heads, and the 18 county councils answer to the Katikkiro, who is the prime minister, and his cabinet, who then answer to the Kabaka.
The kingdom of Buganda came up with many inventions that they are proud of, and led the British to believe that they were a sophisticated society. Such inventions include turning tree bark into a cloth, special treatments for animal furs, a rich music history, a unique style of housing to keep themselves cool, pottery, and metal work. They also have a long history of sport, including wrestling tournaments, and regatta canoes.
Some of the important ceremonies in the culture are the Okwanjula, and the Okwabya Olumbe. The Okwanjula is the introduction ceremony when a couple decides they are going to get married. This is where a woman of Buganda must introduce her fiancé to her family and members of the clan will bring gifts in celebration, almost like a coming out or engagement party. Another ritual or ceremony the Beganda celebrate is the Okwabya Olumbe, it is done a few months after a funeral and symbolizes the end of the grieving period. It is a ceremony to install the new heir of the family, which goes to the oldest male. They are often given a spear and a shield to show manhood.
There are also a few annual ceremonies of the Beganda. One is the coronation of the Kabaka, which is done on the 31st of July. This gives the king a chance to head out to another county and see the people. The birthday of the Kabaka is also a big holiday for the people, which the Kabaka will hold a large party of all of the ministers and clan heads of the kingdom. They also celebrate Bulongi Bwansi, which is a community outreach day where they all get together to make Buganda a better place. This is done on October 8th of every year.
In addition to this they also have the Ekitoobero festival which is a large musical festival for the people.
It has not always been peaceful times for the Buganda kingdom. During the reign of Idi Amin the king had to flee into exile, until they were invited back in 1993 by the NRM government. This was a large moral boost to the people, but the relationship between the Kabaka and the Government has been strained because of the people’s allegiance to the Kabaka.
Although the Kabaka does not have any real power, many of the Ugandan Parliament Members have pledged allegiance to him. They also have a radio station where they can express their views and have received much of their funding through renting out the Kabaka’s land for farming to the people, and through contributions from richer members that support the king.
After we got done learning about the history and the culture of the Buganda people, we received a tour of the parliament building. It was an old beautiful building which, in size, was bigger than the national parliament. We also tried to connect the Buganda Parliament to sustainability. The rich culture and heritage is something we don’t have in America, but tradition is something that is very sustainable. It gives the country unity, pride, and a sense of where they came from. On the other hand, if the Kabaka disagrees with the president, the people will be divided, and the culture will be one that is unsustainable. So as long as the Kabaka and the president can work together towards common goals, the rich Heritage of the Beganda will add towards the sustainable effort of the country.