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Monday, May 30, 2011

Buganda Parliament: Tradition, Culture and History

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.


  1. This visit to the Buganda Parliament was an eye-opener for me. It made me realize once again how different our two cultures are. In the United States, we are a melting pot of cultures. I love the fact that here they have hundreds of years of history and traditions that are still practiced today. At first, I didn't think that the Buganda Parliament could be sustainable because they have no legal power, their funding is based on people renting land, and the leaders are unpaid volunteers. When looking at the facts on paper, cultural traditions aside, it doesn't seem possible that this system could be sustainable. But then I realized that it's not about the empty facts. It's not about the money, or the power, or any of the things we are trained to value in the United States. It is about the tradition, the culture, and the history. This system cannot be broken because it is the basis of the Buganda Kindom and the people would never let it fall apart.

    1. Absolute observation! You see the value system founded and maintained 'money', a current median of exchange is rather volatile. Buganda culture is unshakable! Many have tried including the British. It our pleasure and pride in when one is in the valey or mountain. It is our backbone and no amount money can purchase it. Thanks for your observation!

  2. I think what Evelyn said rings very true regarding the Buganda Parliament. The Buganda Kingdom provides a cultural background that serves as the basis for Bugandans’ values and morals systems, and as a guide for future generations. Most Americans have lost touch with their heritage—leaving a hole for junk food and Jersey Shore to fill. The Buganda kingdom, and other kingdoms in Uganda, are important for the Uganda people to have a connection to their cultural heritage and retain the values that have been instilled through generations of learning.

    I also found it interesting when the Minister showed us Winston Churchill’s quote on his observations of early Bugandans. He described them as extremely welcoming, well-behaved, and decently clothed, but as you look at Bugandans now, a large chunk of the population are down-trodden Urbanites dwelling in the slums of Kampala. I couldn’t help but think that the Western World’s influence is to blame for this negative change. Would it be different if we had left them to live just as Churchill saw them—a wholesome, agrarian culture free of Western stigmas?

    1. Let live Churchill out of Buganda! He means nothing to us. Ok a very high level of history, Buganda is in a state of emergency as it is conquered by the current leader, who is not Bugandan. That said there are numerous numbers in Buganda today who are not practicing the Kiganda morals though they fluently speak Luganda. What you saw are non Baganda who happens to speak the language

  3. @ Chantelle Mathany, you are so right dear, the West has really had alot of influence on our culture down here, unfortunately, its too late now, we can't turn back the times. However much, we try to fight to bring back our cultural values, a few things can be retained. One thing i know for sure is that if the Western people had not come here, we would be so far away in terms of development, coz the people down here were to developmental and inventive, problem is that the Western people blinded the people back then of how their cultures were richer and we tried to match up to them not knowing it was a wrong decision. But time is gone now. Nothing can really be done.

    1. We cannot lament what happened to us in the past. What I know for sure the Baganda culture is very strong and still standing and will stand for ever!