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THE JOURNAL OF THE UGANDA SOCIETY
VOLUME 20, No. I MARCH 1956
Some Aspects of the History of Buganda
The Natural Vegetation of Buganda -
The Economy of Buganda, 1893-1903 -
Village Life and Customs in Buganda
Town Life in Buganda
Uganda Twenty-five Years Ago
Mutesa I-Was He a God?
The Inheritance of Land in Buganda
Rock-cut Mweso Boards
P. C. W.
M. LIND 13
H. BIRD 47.
M. GRAv 52
P. GALE 72
Kabarega's Embassy to the Mahdists - -
Aestivating Protoplerus - -
East Africa Royal Commission 1953-1955 Report W. ELKAN
Saben's Commercial Directory and Handbook of Uganda 1955-56
M. N. MAIN
The Trade of Lake Victoria (by V. C. R. Ford) H. FEARN
Swahili Lessons (by E. B. Haddon) W. H, WHITELEY
THE UGANDA SOCIETY
Price Shs. 10 (10s.)
OFFICERS FOR 1955-6
His Excellency Sir Andrew Cohen, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., O.B.E.
Dr. H. C. Trowell, o.B.e.
The Hon. Secretary
The Hon. Treasurer
The Hon. Editors
The Hon. Librarian
Mr. Lloyd A. Fallers
Mr. W. J. A. Harris
Mr. A. H. Stump, A.A.C.C.A.
Corresponding Secretary at Jinja:
Corresponding Secretary at Mbale
Corresponding Secretary at Serere
Corresponding Secretary at Fort I
Mr. D. K. Marphatia
Mr. S. W. Kulubya, C.B.n.
Mr. J. C. D. Lawrance
Mr. M. N. Maini
Mr. C. N. Mukuye
Mr. L. P. Saldanha
Mrs. K. M. Trowell, M.B.E.
Dr. K. P. Wachsmann
Mr. H. F. Morris
Mrs. M. M. Wallis
Dr. A. W. Southall
Mr. J. W. Pallister
Mr. N. D. Oram
Hon. Legal Adviser
Mr. C. L. Holcom
Mr. T. R. F. Cox, C.M.O.
Mr. F. Lukyn Williams
Mr. D. J. Parsons
H.H. Edward Mutesa II, Kabaka of Sir John Milner Gray
Buganda Sir Mark Wilson
R. A. Sir Tito Winyi Gafabusa IV, Mr. E. B. Haddon
C.B.E., Omukama of Bunyoro Mr. H. B. Thomas, o.B.e.
Sir E. F. Twining, G.C.M.G., M.B.E. Dr. A. W. Williams
33-34 Sir A. R. Cook, C.M.o., o.B.E.
34-35 Mr. E. J. Wayland, c.B.E.
35-36 Dr. H. H. Hunter, C.B.E., LL.D.
36-37 Mr. H. Jowitt, C.M.G.
37-38 Sir H. R. Hone,
K.B.E., M.C., Q.C.
38-39 Mr. J. Sykes, o.B.E.
39-40 Mr. N. V. Brasnett
40-41 Captain C. R. S. Pitman,
C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C.
41-42 Mr. S. W. Kulubya, c.B.e.
42-43 Mr. E. A. Temple Perkins
Mrs. K. M. Trowell, M.B.E. Mr
1943-44 Mr. R. A. Snoxall
1944-45 Dr. K. A. Davies, c.M.o., O.B.E.
1945-46 Mr. G. H. E. Hopkins, O.B.E.
1946-47 Mrs. K. M. Trowell, M.B.E.
1947-48 Dr. W. J. Eggeling
1948-50 Dr. G. ap Griffith
1950-51 Rev. Fr. F. B. Gaffney, w.P.
1951-52 Dr. A. W. Williams
1952-53 Sir J. B. Hutchinson,
1953-54 Mr. J. D. Jameson, o.B.E.
1954-55 Dr. Audrey I. Richards, c.B.E.
. B. K. Mulyanti
Mr. G. P. Saben
Secretary: Mrs. M. M. Wallis
THE JOURNAL OF THE UGANDA SOCIETY
DR. W. H. R. LUMSDEN
DR. A. W. SOUTHALL
MAJOR B. G. KINLOCH, M.C.
DR. AUDREY I. RICHARDS, C.B.E.
DR. K. P. WACHSMANN
(assisted in England by H. B. THOMAS, O.B.E.)
THE UGANDA SOCIETY
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY BRADLEY BROTHERS LTD
109 KINGSWAY LONDON WC2 AND ASHFORD KENT
Some Aspects of the History of Buganda
The Natural Vegetation of Buganda -
The Economy of Buganda, 1893-1903 -
Village Life and Customs in Buganda
Town Life in Buganda -
Uganda Twenty-five Years Ago
Mutesa I-Was He a God?
The Inheritance of Land in Buganda
Rock-cut Mweso Boards
DR. K. INGHAM
DR. E. M. LIND
M. B. NSIMBI
P. C. W. GUITIND
C. H. BIRD
SIR J. M. GRAY
DR. H. P. GALE
E. C. LANNINO
Kabarega's Embassy to the Mahdists
East Africa Royal Commission 1953-1955 Report W. ELKAN
Saben's Commercial Directory and Handbook of Uganda 1955-56
M. N. MAIN
The Trade of Lake Victoria (by V. C. R. Ford) H. FEARN
Swahili Lessons (by E. B. Haddon) W. H. WHITELEY
The idea of a special Buganda Number of the Uganda Journal arose out of a
course of lectures held early in 1955 under the joint auspices of the Uganda
Society and the Extra-Mural Department of Makerere College. The course was
entitled "The Kingdom of Buganda" and aroused widespread interest. The
Committee of the Society decided that it would be appropriate to make these
lectures the core of a special number of the Journal. The first six articles in this
number represent the substance of lectures prepared for this course, while
the Journal has been built up to its normal length by the addition of other
articles all of which relate to the same general subject.
The interruption of the series "The Fishes of Uganda" by Mr. P. H.
Greenwood, of which Part I appeared in the last issue of the Journal is regretted.
In order to bring the series up-to-date it is intended to include Parts II and III
in the September 1956 number.
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Kenneth Ingham. Senior Lecturer and Head of the History Department at Makerere
College; Member of the Legislative Council of Uganda; author of Europe and
Africa and Reformers in India.
Edna M. Lind. Reader in Botany at Makerere College; formerly a Lecturer at
Cyril Ehrlich. Lecturer in Economics at Makerere College; author of The Uganda
Company Limited the First Fifty Years.
M. B. Nsimbi. Education Officer, Uganda; author of Amaanya Amaganda (in
press); at present at Bristol University; was awarded the 1954 Margaret Wrong
Silver Medal for his book Waggumbulizi.
P. C. W. Gutkind. Research Fellow of the East African Institute of Social Research;
for two years studied the adjustment of the African population to urban conditions
C. Handley Bird. First arrived in Africal in 1920 when in business on the West
Coast; later spent three years in Mombasa and came to Uganda in 1931. He has
been President of the Uganda Chamber of Commerce; served on the Kampala
Township Authority for many years; retired from his Directorship of the firm
of Kettles-Roy and Tysons Ltd. in 1954; became Uganda's first Minister for Works
and Commerce in 1955.
H. P. Gale. Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Education, Makerere College; recently
appointed Head of the Arts Faculty of the new Royal Technical College, Nairobi.
He has made a detailed study of the history of the Mill Hill Mission in Uganda
from original sources.
Martin Southwold, of the East African Institute of Social Research, is studying
clan and village structure and leadership in Buganda.
SOME ASPECTS OF THE HISTORY OF BUGANDA
By K. INGHAM, M.C., M.A., D.PHIL.
T is not easy to link together the traditions of Buganda and the well-
documented history of more recent years. The former are far from detailed
and their accuracy cannot always be checked. On the other hand, there is a
wealth of written material in the diaries, letters and reports of the hard-
working missionary and administrative pioneers of the late nineteenth century;
and the twentieth century has recorded its full quota of historical evidence.
But this absence of balance is not the only problem. Further difficulties arise
from the fact that while the traditions are purely African, though sometimes
warped by alien interpreters, the greater part of the written sources is the work
of Europeans. In view of these obstacles and of the limits imposed by so brief
an article the most fruitful approach to the subject would seem to be an attempt
to distinguish the more important and trustworthy features of traditional history
and to discover the extent to which those particular aspects have survived or
been overlaid by more recent events.
Having adopted this approach it is immediately obvious that the title of the
article should be a history of the Baganda rather than of Buganda. For the
frontiers of Buganda only achieved their present wide extent some sixty years
ago. Before then the sole political significance of the country's fluctuating
geographical boundaries was the incentive they offered for aggressive wars.
Far more important than the occupation of any particular area of land was
the communal spirit of the Baganda, though it is true that certain clan lands
were cherished from the most ancient times. The focal point of the sense of
community was the office of kabaka, or king, and tradition maintains that
it was Kabaka Kintu who first united the scattered elements of the tribe into
one polity. Kintu, as Sir John Gray has suggested', is, in all probability, a
mythical figure. Like Adam in the Old Testament the truth of Kintu is
symbolical rather than factual or historical. He represents a period which it is
difficult to place accurately in time but which none the less witnessed important
developments among the Baganda. But although there is much similarity
between Kiganda tradition and the episodic records of the Old Testament there
is one fundamental difference. Whereas the latter tells of kings and their achieve-
ments, the true hero is God, and it is His prophets and priests who dominate the
earthly scene. The traditions of the Baganda contain nothing which can so
challenge the pre-eminence of the kabaka. There are gods, it is true, and there
are priests. But their influence is local or confined to certain aspects of life.
Their power is never all-embracing like that of the kabaka. Nor is there any
record of popular risings to mark the advance of political enthusiasm or the
consciousness of social injustice.
The central position of the kabaka is illustrated by Roscoe's detailed descrip-
tion of the Kiganda system of administration prior to the arrival of Europeans
1 Gray, Sir John. Early History of Buganda. Uganda J., 2 (1934-5), 265.
2 UGANDA JOURNAL
in the country2. The supreme executive power was in his hands; so, too, was
the judicial power though some of his authority in this latter field was leased
to the kabaka's chief minister, the katikiro. Legislation was the will of the
ruler, not, as in many other East African tribes, the custom of the people
expounded by the elders. It is no exaggeration to say that the chiefs whom
Speke saw attending upon the kabaka in 1862 were there neither to legislate
nor to advise, but to minister to Mutesa's pride3. No doubt it was useful for
the kabaka to have his chiefs close at hand so that they could not foment trouble
in the outlying districts, but this was a wholly subordinate reason, for the
Baganda did not normally promote sedition. Indeed, it would have gone ill
with the chiefs if they had attempted to do so. For they were the creatures of
the kabaka and his authority over them was absolute. So long as they served
him faithfully their reward lay in the gifts which he bestowed upon them. Not
the land itself, but the produce of the land and the labour of the people who
lived upon it were placed by the kabaka at the disposal of his chiefs. But the
grants might be withdrawn at any time for any reason which the kabaka might
care to put forward, or for no reason at all.
The complete and willing surrender of all individual rights, even the power
of life and death, to an arbitrary ruler suggests a whole-hearted acceptance of
the kabaka as the personification of Buganda and of the Baganda, and the
view is supported by the character of the nicknames given to him. The whole
theme of those titles is that of the uncontrolled power of the kabaka. He was
said to have long teeth which ate all the animals in the neighbourhood, for
such was his power over the lives of men. He was likened to the queen white-ant
which can devour any of the other ants. Or he was like the blacksmith's charcoal
which melts iron and moulds it into shape4.
It is impossible to say how old the practice of so completely identifying
Kiganda nationalism with the kabaka may be. No doubt it became more
pronounced as the country grew in size and strength for, until the nineteenth
century, Buganda was small in area and frequently at the mercy of its more
powerful neighbour, Bunyoro. This relative weakness did not prevent the
Baganda from raiding the territory of the Banyoro or even from trying to seize
some of the attractively adjacent land. The fertile province of Buddu, to the
south-west, aroused the envy of the Baganda on a number of occasions and
at least two kabakas are said to have lost their lives in fighting the Banyoro5.
Not all these warlike expeditions were unsuccessful, however, and Kabaka
Kimbugwe and his cousin, Katerega, who succeeded him, probably in the
seventeenth century, are said to have captured Mawokota, Bweya, Gomba and
In fact, relations with Bunyoro varied, but the Baganda were always on the
lookout for any sign of weakness in the widely-spread empire of their neighbour.
2 Roscoe, J. The Baganda, pp. 232-70. 1911.
3 Speke, J. H. Journal of the Discovery of the source of the Nile, pp. 331 et seq. 1863.
4 Mukasa, Ham. The Rule of the Kings of Buganda. Uganda J., 10 (1946), 136.
5 Kabaka Kaima and Kabaka Nakibinge. cf. Uganda J., 2 (1934-5), 267; and 4
SOME ASPECTS OF THE HISTORY OF BUGANDA 3
Towards the end of the eighteenth century that weakness became increasingly
apparent. Disturbances in the outlying districts sapped the strength of Bunyoro.
Busoga was the first area to be overrun by the Baganda in this new wave of
aggression and from the middle of the eighteenth century it continued as a
tributary state of Buganda from which taxes were levied at intervals whenever
the Baganda felt strong enough to enforce their authority. Next, Buddu, whose
chief appealed to the kabaka for assistance against his Munyoro overlord, was
incorporated within the boundaries of the growing Buganda. A few years later
Buwekula was captured and before the end of the eighteenth century Koki also
recognized the overlordship of the kabaka, a hundred years before it became
a saza of Buganda6. In the early half of the nineteenth century the influence of
Buganda spread still further southward and the rulers of Kiziba and Karagwe,
both now in Tanganyika, recognized the seniority of the kabaka.
It is fascinating to speculate about what might have happened to Buganda's
expansionist policy if the able Kabaka Mutesa I had crossed swords with the
warlike Kabarega, who became ruler of Bunyoro in 1869, before the pressure
of external influences had forced itself upon the attention of Buganda and
Bunyoro alike. Certainly during the earlier years of his rule Kabarega was
able to recapture some of the territory previously lost by Bunyoro. But before
any conclusion could be reached the arrival of Europeans in the country
resulted, in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century, in the complete decline
of Bunyoro. Buganda, for a similar reason, gained in importance in relation
to the surrounding states, but in doing so lost a large measure of autonomy.
Although trade goods began to penetrate into Buganda about two hundred
years ago it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century, in the reign
of Kabaka Suna, that the first Arab and Swahili traders set foot in the country.
These newcomers found no chink in the kabaka's authority and they were too
far from their base in Zanzibar to threaten the powerful ruler of Buganda or
to risk devastating the land as they had done among the weaker tribes of
Tanganyika in order to do a profitable trade in slaves and ivory. Instead, their
arrival with firearms and cloth as trade goods strengthened the position of the
kabaka and added splendour to his court. For he kept the traders under close
surveillance and saw to it that all transactions took place under his careful
Forces other than material now began to play their part, however. Suna,
and Mutesa I who succeeded him in 1856, displayed an interest in the Islamic
faith of the traders. But Mutesa, who had a shrewd mind, was astute enough
to appreciate the threat to his own position of a religion which called for
a loyalty to God transcending any loyalty to earthly rulers. When he saw that
Islam could not be twisted so as to minister to his own greatness he knew that
it must be controlled. For Mutesa not only took pleasure in the exercise of
despotic power. He recognized in that power the spirit which united the
Baganda against the outside world. Moreover, the pressure from the outside
world was being felt increasingly. Internal weakness must, therefore, be checked
at all costs.
6 Masaka District Records. Koki County Tour Book, vol. i, fos. 1-3.
4 UGANDA JOURNAL
The arrival of the first Europeans, Speke and Grant, at Mutesa's capital in
1862 was not, in the kabaka's eyes, an unmixed blessing. Speke's insistence
upon pursuing his way northward was, in fact, a source of grave concern to
Mutesa. He had heard rumours of slave raiders advancing southward from the
Sudan and threatening the countries immediately to the north of Buganda and
he was not anxious to see opened up a road which might act as an invitation
to these unwelcome invaders. In the years which followed, the part played by
Sudanese slavers in helping Kabarega to power in Bunyoro and the activities
of Samuel Baker in the same area in 1872 helped to impress upon Mutesa
the nearness of the menace to his own country. When, therefore, Colonel
Gordon began to send emissaries seeking to extend Egyptian influence into
Buganda Mutesa was glad enough to seize upon the suggestion of Henry
Stanley in 1875 that he should appeal to missionary societies in England to
send representatives to Buganda. In these foreigners from some distant but
powerful land Mutesa saw not the bearers of a new faith but a counterblast to
the southwards thrust from Egypt. But before the first agents of the Church
Missionary Society and of the White Fathers Mission had been in Buganda
very long the situation had changed completely. In the first place the
missionaries made it clear that it was not their intention to take part in military
activities and in so doing they forfeited their main potential value in Mutesa's
eyes. Furthermore, by 1879 Gordon had abandoned his plan for incorporating
Buganda in his great scheme for destroying the slave trade in East Africa
and had called in his southern outposts. With the outbreak of the Mahdist
rising the threat from the north was at an end.
The threat from Christianity and Islam was only just beginning, however,
and it was more dangerous because it came from within. It was more dangerous,
too, in the eyes of Mutesa because its main victim was not likely to be the
vague pagan theology of the Baganda but rather the near-divinity which
hedged the kabaka's position as the symbol of Buganda and its people.
It is improbable that the first missionaries fully appreciated the effect their
teaching would have upon the whole framework of government in Buganda.
Indeed, it was because of the strong and apparently orderly government of
Buganda that Speke6a and later Stanley had urged the suitability of Mutesa's
country as a sphere of missionary endeavour. In a sense, both Mutesa and
Mwanga, his successor, helped to precipitate the crisis. In their desire to keep
a close watch upon what the missionaries were doing and to ensure that any
prestige accruing from the presence of visitors in the country should be theirs
alone they restricted the missionaries' activities to the immediate vicinity of
the capital. But in the capital were all the chiefs, and the capital was the engine
which directed the whole machinery of Kiganda life, so that the missionaries'
teaching had immediate repercussions. For, though its content was theological,
its impact was political.
Mutesa was strong enough to handle this potentially dangerous situation for
the few brief years of life which remained to him. But Mwanga, who came to
the throne in 1884, was quickly driven into that state of panic which causes
6a C.M.S., C.A5/L1, Henry Venn to J. Rebman, 26 Feb. 1864.
SOME ASPECTS OF THE HISTORY OF BUGANDA 5
men to lash out indiscriminately at their opponents. Even then, it is unlikely
that the missionaries were fully aware of the reason for his opposition. For it
was not simply a case of the soul of Mwanga the man acting as a battleground
between God and the forces of paganism while Kabaka Mwanga looked on,
it was the kabaka himself struggling to maintain the old conception of his office.
What was, perhaps, surprising was the speed of Mwanga's defeat. For his
overthrow in 1888 by the joint forces of Christianity and Islam which he had
unsuccessfully attempted to exterminate was final. He returned to the throne
in 1890, it is true, but only! as the representative of one of the factions which
had undermined the omnipotence of his office. What happened in 1888 in
Buganda was, in fact, a more startling version of what took place in England
exactly two hundred years earlier, and in France in 1789 and the years which
followed; more startling because the powers of the kings of England and France
had never enabled either them or their ancestors to control so completely the
characters and destinies of their people. The fact that the struggle between
the supporters of Christianity and Islam lingered on throughout the 1890's and
that the former only maintained their political pre-eminence after their position
had been very seriously threatened by the revolt of Sudanese troops in 1897-98
was secondary to the violence of the revolution which had already taken place
in the life of Buganda.
The speed with which the old concept of the kabakaship was cast aside was
the product of both good and not so good forces. The good forces had en-
couraged individuals to question the state of affairs in which physical insecurity
and spiritual slavery had been permitted to masquerade under the guise of
strong government and national glory. The not so good forces stirred up
ambition for power in the hearts of individuals who had been starved of the
opportunity even to have control over their own destinies. The arrival of a
representative of the Imperial British East Africa Company in Buganda in
1890 and the declaration of a British Protectorate over Buganda in 1894 did
not radically change the situation although both events helped to provide the
setting of peace and order in which the new ideas could develop.
With a perversity characteristic of the period the British Government had
accepted Buganda as a sphere of influence but was reluctant to do anything
further about it. It was left to a handful of pioneers in whom the characteristic
referred to as 'practical' was not infrequently blended with a touch of genius,
both inspired and blind, to work out a series of agreements with Mwanga
and his successor which appeared satisfactory at the time but could only lead
to questioning in a more sophisticated or less confident age. The two treaties
signed by Captain F. D. Lugard on behalf of the I.B.E.A. Company in 1890
and 1892 differed from each other very slightly in spite of the fact that between
them there had been an outbreak of fighting between the Protestant and Roman
Catholic factions among the Baganda. This struggle had been stimulated by
Lugard's presence since he, however unjustly, was regarded by both sides as
belonging to the Protestant camp. The main object of the treaties was to place
the external relations and fiscal affairs of Buganda under the control of the
I.B.E.A. Company which had taken the responsibility for administering Uganda
from the shoulders of the Imperial British Government. As an acknowledgement
6 UGANDA JOURNAL
of the good intentions of the Berlin and Brussels Conferences clauses were also
inserted guaranteeing the freedom of legitimate trade and the exertion of every
effort to put an end to the slave trade.
Indicative of the change which had taken place in Buganda was the fact
that the 1890 treaty began with the words, "I, Mwanga, king of Uganda, do
hereby, after council with and with the full consent of the Chiefs of all parties
of my State, give my Royal consent and sanction to the Treaty herein con-
tained". Mwanga, as Lugard realized, was no longer all-powerful, and as an
additional guarantee that the treaties would be respected he obtained the
signatures not only of the kabaka but also of the leading chiefs of the country.
He had, moreover, no illusions about the one-sidedness of the negotiations.
"The Treaty was certainly obtained against his (Mwanga's) will-I have never
said to the contrary," Lugard wrote7. The treaty was, in fact, imposed by
Lugard and was accepted by Mwanga and his chiefs. This was not military
conquest, but the outcome was very similar.
Beyond the transfer of the over-riding authority of the I.B.E.A. Company to
the representatives of the Imperial British Government the treaties made by
Sir Gerald Portal and Colonel Colvile in 1893 and 1894 respectively made no
further fundamental change in the position of the kabaka. It is important to
realize, however, that although the British representatives were negotiating with
the existing authorities in Buganda, they did so in the full knowledge that those
authorities existed very largely by virtue of the support given by the British.
The action of the Protectorate authorities in deposing Mwanga when he
revolted against his subservient position and took up arms against his new
masters in 1897 makes it quite clear that, whatever the terms of the treaties,
the Protectorate Government itself was in no doubt as to its own right to
impose its authority upon the kabaka. That is why the 1900 Buganda Agree-
ment made by Sir Harry Johnston is inaccurately described if it is said to
have been simply an agreement between, H.M. Special Commissioner and the
kabaka, even setting aside the fact that the kabaka of that day was a tiny
child and a British nominee into the bargain. That it was to a large degree an
agreement and not merely a settlement imposed by a stronger power is true
enough. But it was primarily an agreement between the representative of the
ritish Government and the leaders of the party which had prospered by its
support of British authority and saw its future prosperity in the continuance of
that authority. It is significant that while it was Lugard who had demanded the
signatures of the saza chiefs upon his treaties it was Apolo Kagwa, not Sir
Harry Johnston, who urged the wisdom of obtaining the signatures of the saza
chiefs to the 1900 Agreement8. Again, although Johnston expressed the view
that "The natives . should be assisted and encouraged to govern themselves
as far as possible without too much interference on the part of European
officials," he frankly admitted that, fin consequence of the 1900 Agreement,
uganda had been divided into twenty counties, each administered by a chief
whose appointment was subject to the confirmation of "The Principal Repre-
sentative of His Britannic Majesty's Government," and that the kabaka,
7 Lugard, F. D. The Rise of our East African Empire, vol. ii, 41. 1893.
8 F.O. 2, 297. No. 58, 12 March 1900.
SOME ASPECTS OF THE HISTORY OF BUGANDA 7
ministers and saza chiefs were henceforward to receive their subsidies or
salaries direct from the Protectorate Government and were not allowed to
exact any further payment from their subjects9.
Another important feature of the 1900 Agreement and a contributory factor
in the establishment of the new order was the land settlement which it contained.
Land had always been one of the perquisites of political power. Lugard,
recognizing that political power in his time had come to rest in the hands of
the politico-religious factions, had divided up Buganda accordingly, allotting
the main portion of the country to the Protestants whom he eventually supported
as a political group. Portal followed a similar policy in the Agreement he made
with the heads of the Catholic and Protestant groups on 7 April 1893, though
he was more generous to the Catholics than Lugard had been. But it was Sir
Harry Johnston who took the final practical step which won the support of the
leading figures of his day by granting the inhabited areas of Buganda in
permanent freehold to the leaders of the country and to their descendants as
private individuals, not just for so long as they held office.
These grants of land were made largely in accordance with the extent to which
certain individuals were capable of controlling different sections of the public at
a critical moment in history. But Johnston's act did, in fact, recognize the emer-
gence of a new class of men exercising power by virtue of their own character
and ability, and not merely as minions of a despot who allowed the use of
land while it suited his arbitrary purpose. In the eyes of the historian this
was the consolidating factor in a radical revolution. Even the Committee
appointed by Lord Salisbury in 1900 to discuss the Agreement remarked that the
sections referring to land might well result in a very complicated system of land
tenureo. To Johnston, however, his action appeared simply as a practical
attempt to establish on a sound basis a ruling oligarchy which, under British
guidance, might do for Buganda what the landed aristocracy had done and was
still doing, in conjunction with the industrial magnates, to give stability to the
government of England. The young kabaka was treated with great respect by the
Protectorate authorities. But his minority, when the country was governed by
three Regents, helped to consolidate the oligarchical form of government which
for a quarter of a century was to be the basis of administration in Buganda. It is
little wonder that Johnston was able to write, "I think I may say that nothing
has tended to bring about friendlier relations between the European Admini-
stration and the native population than this adjustment of the land question"."
For the Baganda with whom he had had the greatest contact were primarily
those who had profited most from the 1900 Agreement.
Thus, while the traditional outward appearances of government were
retained, a new system of administration was being introduced. It was a system
foreign to Kiganda tradition but one which provided a natural means of
progress now that the penetrating influence of Christian respect for the
individual had made its impact upon the mental and moral squalor produced
by a semi-divine despotism. But, if the British accepted the new system without
9 F.O. 2, 462. General Report by Sir H. Johnston on Uganda. 10 July 1901.
10 F.O. 2, 297. No. 58. 12 March 1900.
11 F.O. 2, 462. General Report by Sir H. Johnston on Uganda. 10 July 1901.
8 UGANDA JOURNAL
understanding the revolution in which they had assisted and if the Baganda
leaders fell naturally into their new positions of authority, it is extremely
unlikely that the peasantry ever really understood what had happened,
harassed though they were by the many land adjustments which had taken
place and touched, at times deeply, by the power of the new religion.
The introduction of British government consolidated a change which was
already partially accomplished in the political framework of Buganda, but it
had more original effects upon the economic life of the country. For, compared
with the speed and character of such changes in other countries, the develop-
ments in Buganda were revolutionary.
A number of factors helped to give Buganda the economic lead in the Protec-
torate which was gradually extended over the whole of what is now Uganda.
The fact that European contact was first made with Buganda and that orderly
government was quickly established there was of first importance. The private
ownership of large areas of land, instituted by the 1900 Agreement, encouraged
agricultural development and particularly cotton growing. In the period when
communications were scanty Buganda's proximity to Lake Victoria made it
easy for the country's produce to be shipped away, and it was not until the
Busoga Railway began to play its part after 1912 that the Eastern Province was
able to challenge Buganda's supremacy in the economic field. But even more
important than Buganda's early response to economic stimuli was the magni-
tude of the change brought about by the abandonment of a precarious
subsistence economy which in the past had been subject to the unpredictable
ravages of the climate and of human and plant diseases.
The 1900 Agreement had stabilized the land situation in Buganda more
completely, perhaps, than had been intended, and continued to act as an effec-
tive barrier to large scale European intrusion. It was not just that the most
valuable half of the land in Buganda had been granted freehold to Baganda
chiefs. In spite of the restrictions imposed upon the alienation of mailo land
by the Buganda Land Law of 15 June 1908 there was no total ban upon the
sale of land to non-Africans until 1916. Furthermore, some of the earliest
European visitors, while recognizing the country to be unsuited to extensive
colonization, were confident that, provided African labour was forthcoming,
Buganda would be an excellent country for European planters with coffee,
rubber and cocoa as the chief crops. Nor did this view die easily, for although
the transfer of land in freehold to non-Africans was forbidden in 1916 it was
widely thought at the time and for some years afterwards to be merely a
temporary expedient12. In addition, because of its geographical position,
Buganda offered greater temptations to prospective planters than did the more
remote areas of the Protectorate. Discounting for the moment the greater
attractions of Kenya, however, two other factors checked European intrusion
into Buganda. First, the very slow rate at which the land was surveyed seriously
restricted the area available for sale; and second, the Baganda landowners
themselves, noting the attractions which their land seemed to hold for
12 Colonial Annual Reports. No. 1054, Uganda, 1918-19, para. 36; and Uganda Herald,
23 January 1920, p. 7.
SOME ASPECTS OF THE HISTORY OF BUGANDA 9
Europeans, raised their prices sharply and discouraged prospective buyers. As
a result, in spite of letters to the local press from frustrated speculators, the
number of inquiries for land in Buganda was never great.
The new system of landownership not unnaturally gave rise to a new relation-
ship between the owners and the peasant occupiers. Previously, when a levy
upon the usufruct of the land was the reward for the fulfilment of some
administrative office, the peasant was relatively secure in the occupancy of
his land so long as he provided his quota of tax-paid in produce-and labour
and, if necessary, of military service to his chief. Nor did the replacement of
one chief by another seriously effect the situation. There had been a consider-
able disturbance of the peasants during the 1890's when the country had been
divided and re-divided on the basis of the religious affinities of the chiefs. But
that had gradually ceased and the over-all position might not have been
changed but for the introduction of personal ownership of land. As a result
of the 1900 Agreement the man who held land in freehold could do what he
wished with his property and the security of the peasants living on the land
was no longer guaranteed. This state of affairs was not rectified until 1927 when
the Buganda Legislature passed the Busulu and Envujo Law which protected
the rights of the peasant occupier so long as he paid an annual rent of ten
shillings a year. If, however, he wished to grow cotton, coffee, and certain
other economic crops he was required to pay an additional sum which varied
with the situation of his piece of land.
The peasants were not the only ones to be disturbed by the land settlement.
In a country where land was of such an importance, both as the source of wealth
and the bulwark of social status, it had seemed right in 1900 that the chiefs
should be granted land in freehold. But, as the years went by, land which had
started off in the hands of chiefs was handed on to sons who were not chiefs,
in some cases to men who in every other respect were of relative unimportance,
and envy became another product of the new system. Concern was expressed,
too, at the beginning of the 1920's at the manner in which certain traditional
clan-lands appeared to have been swallowed up in private estates.
But on the face of things Buganda was a prospering territory. Material
wealth was accumulating on all sides. If the number of bicycles flooding the
country is any criterion of Buganda's prosperity then the frequent complaints
to the Uganda Herald in 1912 about the menace of cyclists to the life and limb
of the pedestrian public would suggest that Buganda was flourishing indeed.
Certainly the Baganda were enthusiastic enough to take advantage of the
economic opportunities open to them, though a number of leading Baganda
are reported as having refused a profitable offer of partnership with a European
in setting up a cotton ginning business in 1923. They were possibly a little chary
of entering a new field on the scale proposed-50,000 was the sum which their
prospective partner offered to put up-but as things turned out, the Protectorate
Government was not in favour of the scheme and a suggestion that the issue
might be raised before the British Parliament aroused no support among the
Baganda concerned1. But the Baganda were not unaware of the need to guard
13 This information was given to me by the European concerned but I have no con-
10 UGANDA JOURNAL
their interests and promote their prospects in the rapidly growing cotton
industry. In 1920 the Uganda Cotton Growers' Association, though small in
its origins, provided a means whereby the interests of African cotton growers
could be made known to the government. This association was the parent
body of the co-operative movement in Buganda, for in 1922, at the suggestion
of Mr. Lambert of Kawolongojo ginnery, the association under the name of
the Buganda Growers' Society became an agency for marketing cotton. The
members of the society were drawn from various parts of the province and
each in his own area began to build up local societies which in the 1930's were
to become affiliated to the Uganda Growers' Co-operative Union which was
established at a meeting of the primary societies in 1935. Co-operative legisla-
tion was delayed first because of the need to investigate the best means of
developing the co-operative movement in this new setting and then by the
outbreak of war in 1939. But the work bore fruit in the Co-operative Ordinance
of February 1946, and on 30 July 1947 the Namutamba Growers' Co-operative
Society Ltd. received from the hand of His Excellency the Governor the first
certificate of registration to be issued14.
The expansion of Buganda was not only an economic expansion. In the
1890's as a reward for the assistance given to the Protectorate Government in
destroying the power of Kabarega, Buganda was granted large areas of land
to the north-west formerly belonging to Bunyoro. It was then that Buganda's
boundaries reached the widest extent they have ever known. In some ways
more important than this physical expansion, however, was the spread of
Kiganda influence throughout the greater part of the Protectorate in the first
quarter of the twentieth century. It is true that as a result of the 1900 Agreement
Buganda ranked as nothing more than one of the four Provinces of which the
Protectorate was composed. But the methods employed by the Protectorate
Government in extending its authority over the other provinces ensured that
Buganda should be primus inter pares. The Muganda general, Kakunguru,
drafted the pattern which the British authorities were to adopt and mould to
their needs as they extended the administrative frontiers of the Protectorate.
To avoid a clash with his powerful rival, Apolo Kagwa, Kakunguru had been
given administrative responsibility for Bugerere, the eastern part of the
province. From there he began in 1899 to extend his activities northwards into
Kumam, Teso and Bukedi, where he attempted to carve out a kingdom for
himself. Upon the foundations laid by Kakunguru, British authority was estab-
lished in the Eastern Province. The British also adopted his tactics of setting
up posts in the most strategic situations and placing in each a Muganda agent
whose duty it was to try to introduce a system of local administration not very
dissimilar from that now in force in Buganda. But whereas Kakunguru's agents
were intended to be permanent and their office the reward of faithful service,
the Baganda agents employed by the British were only a temporary expedient.
As soon as there emerged administrators native to the district and capable of
accepting responsibility the Baganda were withdrawn. Yet they left their mark,
not only in the contribution they made to orderly and peaceful government
14 Colonial Reports, Uganda, 1946, pp. 48-51 and 1947, pp. 44-9.
SOME ASPECTS OF THE HISTORY OF BUGANDA 11
but also in the way they modernized the outlook of other tribes in line with the
developments which had taken place in Buganda.
Meanwhile, in Buganda itself great changes were still taking place. The
1900 Agreement had in effect given birth to the Lukiko as a constitutional
force, wholly different in character from the levees of Mutesa I and his pre-
decessors. The members of the Lukiko were all nominees of the Kabaka, it
is true. But once again the period of regency and the Protectorate Government's
power of confirming the appointments of ex officio members of the Lukiko
reduced the importance of the Kabaka's role. Furthermore, the Lukiko was
granted powers of discussion by the Agreement far in excess of anything it had
dared to claim in former times. Sir Harry Johnston was not unaware of the
potential strength of this new body15. But it was because the members were
the natural leaders of the new Buganda that they held office and Johnston had
no regrets for what he had done.
Soon, however, a new factor began to disturb the new balance of power within
the kingdom. That factor was education. In earlier times education had
primarily consisted in sending promising youths to the homes of the local chiefs
or, in exceptional cases, into the royal household itself. There, as in the days
of chivalry in England, the pages, as they might well be called, learned the
ways of the country's rulers, became known to the influential people of Buganda
and in time became eligible themselves for preferment. But the education
introduced by Europeans, and in the first place and for many years exclusively
by the missionaries, was of a very different character. At its worst it was little
more than a clerical training fitting boys for the increasing number of minor
appointments in government offices. At its best it was education in the deepest
sense, designed to mould the character of the students and cultivate their minds
in preparation for the wider world in which they were to play their part. The
C.M.S., and the White Fathers' and Mill Hill Missions recognized the value
of educating the sons and daughters of the country's leaders to the highest
possible level; King's College, Budo, St. Mary's and Namilyango Colleges and
Gayaza High School were all founded with this as their first objective. Many
sneers were levelled at the semi-educated and wholly conceited products which
sometimes emerged from the missionary educational system. But that system
was of infinite value in taking Buganda along the road into the modern world.
The Protectorate authorities welcomed students at all levels of education
since it was only they who could fit into the increasingly complex pattern of
modern administration. So there began to emerge a new class, an aristocracy
of education, which in time tended to usurp the positions of importance formerly
occupied by the men who had led the religious factions in war and had won
their place in a peaceful land by their strength of character, by their experience
and by their powerful following. The new generation, acceptable enough to
the Protectorate authorities, were not, however, proven leaders in the eyes of
their own people. Some, indeed, showed that they possessed qualities of leader-
ship equal to those displayed by their predecessors. But not all were endowed
with the same strength of character, and their role became that of supporters
15 F.O. 2, 297. No. 58. 12 March 1900.
12 UGANDA JOURNAL
of bureaucracy in their major or minor offices rather than that of directors
of public opinion. Similar developments were noticeable in other parts of the
Protectorate but their effects were more quickly felt in Buganda. The period
when every schoolboy could easily obtain at least a clerical post was brief.
The numbers of those who had been to school but could not obtain clerical
appointments was swollen by those who were unacceptable for such work and
those who did not wish to fit into the established hierarchy either of the Buganda
administration or of the Protectorate administration. In this way there de-
veloped a body of opinion critical of government in Buganda, a healthy sign
if the criticism could be both intelligent and well-informed.
But in 1945 and 1949 the criticism took a violent form. On 1 October 1944,
the more direct control hitherto exercised over Buganda affairs on behalf of
the Protectorate Government by the Resident and his District Commissioners
was reduced, and as an indication of the change the title of District Com-
missioner was withdrawn. This weakening of the link between the Protectorate
Government and the Buganda Government was probably a contributory factor
in permitting the critics of the Buganda Government to become more active.
Once again a period of regency between 1939 and 1942 had provided an
opportunity for intrigue after power in spite of the firm government of the
Regents. This critical spirit gained strength from the background of discontent
caused by the lack of adequate representation of the people's views in the
Lukiko and in particular of the views of the educated classes and the peasantry.
Neither of these classes would have expected to air their views some few years
earlier, but Buganda was advancing along the road to modern government.
Prior to 1945 it was the kabaka's right, in accordance with the terms of the
1900 Agreement, to select sixty notables to sit in the Lukiko in addition to the
ex officio saza chiefs. Three were chosen from each of the twenty sazas. In
practice the names were usually submitted to the kabaka by his ministers and
and the saza chiefs. In 1945, therefore, in response to the demand for a more
representative form of government, the Law for selecting Unofficial Repre-
sentatives to the Councils was enacted. This provided that thirty-one of the
sixty notables should be, not officials-gombolola and miruka chiefs-as they
had previously been, but men chosen from among the elected unofficial repre-
sentatives of each saza. The number of 'unofficial members' as they came to
be called was later increased to thirty-six. In August 1950 a further amendment
raised the number to forty and in the same year extended powers were given
to the Lukiko.
But even these reforms could be regarded as no more than a further stage
in an uncompleted journey, and acceptance of the modified Namirembe
proposals in 1955 opened the way to the establishment of a constitutional
monarchy in Buganda, but at the same time left unsolved the problem of
Buganda's ultimate place in a united self-governing Uganda.
THE NATURAL VEGETATION OF BUGANDA
By E. M. LIND, B.Sc., PH.D.(LIV.)
THE kingdom of Buganda shows a remarkably uniform pattern of vegetation
especially in its southern part. Standing on one of the flat-topped hills near
Kampala, one sees in every direction other similar hills, rocky and rather
bare on top, the slopes covered within grass and at the foot a zone of elephant
grass, shrubs and small trees broken by banana gardens. In the valleys are
swamps, often with a thin line of swamp forest along the edge and in some
districts patches of high forest occur. There are also considerable areas of
forest, as for example the Mabira Forest, which are included in forest reserves
and in addition extensive plantations of Eucalyptus.
It is well known that among the factors contributing to the distribution
of vegetation in a given area are climate, the type of soil and the effects of
man and grazing animals. Throughout the parts of Buganda surrounding Lake
Victoria the climate is fairly uniform with a mean annual temperature of
79-7F. and a minimum of 63-1F., and a well distributed rainfall of 50-60
inches. Under these conditions and with deep fertile soil, there is little doubt
that the natural vegetation would be forest, and it is almost certain that at
one time forest did stretch right across Uganda to the east of Lake Victoria.
This is the region now characterized by elephant grass and cultivation. The
more northerly part of the country south of Lake Kyoga and the west beyond
Masaka is drier with a less well distributed rainfall of 35-45 inches and poorer
soil. Here are found extensive grasslands with scattered trees, or woodland
including thorny Acacias and succulent Euphorbias. In both districts swamps
fill the valleys, but in the north there is a tendency for swamp grasses to replace
the familiar papyrus of the Lake Victoria region.
The elephant-grass belt (Pennisetum purpureum), which is also a fertile
agricultural area, has a rich deep soil varying in colour from red to brown
according to the amount of humus present, and is heavily populated. In the
north, however, the shallower sandy soils support a shorter grass which is
suitable for grazing; but it is not good agricultural land and settlement is
scattered. The effect of soil variation can also be seen in the distribution of
vegetation on most of the hillsides. On the top, which is capped by quartzite,
granite or laterite and almost devoid of soil, there are usually only scattered
herbs, creeping semi-succulent plants and a few tufted grasses able to live on
poor soil as for example tete (Cymbopogon afronardus). Not only has soil
been washed away, but nutrients have been dissolved out and carried to the
base of the hill. Descending the slope, one passes through grasses and often
bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) to the level where soil and nutrients have been
deposited, and this is the fertile zone where cultivation takes place and the
natural vegetation is elephant-grass and trees.
The third factor to be considered is the influence of man and animals on
the vegetation, and this raises the whole problem of natural and semi-natural
14 UGANDA JOURNAL
vegetation. This lecture was entitled the 'Natural Vegetation of Buganda'
because it was intended to deal with wild rather than cultivated plants. But
in fact there is very little natural vegetation left if, by that, we mean vegeta-
tion which has not been interfered with by man. It has already been mentioned
that the lake area of Buganda was almost certainly at one time covered by
forest. But man, finding the forest soils deep and rich in humus has destroyed
the tree covering to make room for cultivation. In regions like the Sese Islands
and some parts of the lake shore where the human population has been removed
in order to control the tsetse fly, the land has quickly reverted to forest. For
countless generations the inhabitants have been practising shifting cultivation
and even now, when a garden is abandoned, elephant-grass soon establishes
itself and young trees and shrubs appear. Throughout the southern part of
Buganda we see a mosaic of cultivation, abandoned plots and plots reverting
to forest with here and there larger forest patches and swamps. Even the
Mabira Forest, 120 square miles in extent, is not in its primitive state but is
almost certainly at least a secondary growth over an area formerly populated.
It is interesting to speculate upon what it was that drove the tribes away and
allowed the forest to regenerate. Was it tribal wars, or tsetse or even the mbwa
fly (Simulium damnosum)? Odd forest trees such as Kirundo (Antiaris toxi-
caria), Mwafu (Canarium schweinfurthii) and Muvule (Chlorophora excelsa)
which have been preserved for shade or other purposes are often to be seen in
areas now devoid of forest.
Grazing by goats and many cattle has also profoundly affected the appear-
ance of the vegetation covering Buganda. The animals remove the fresh young
shoots of herbs and shrubs and prevent the growth of sapling trees. Grasses,
however, with their buds hidden at the base of the plant or on underground
stems soon grow again. If overgrazing takes place, especially where there are
periods of drought, the removal of grass exposes the soil to erosion when the
heavy rains return.
Fire is another factor influencing the distribution of vegetation. In most years,
usually at the dry period in January and February fires are started to destroy
the old plants of elephant-grass so that the fresh young shoots will be available
when the rains come. Not only are grasses burnt but also shrubs and trees which
were beginning to colonize the grassland. Some trees such as Kirikiti
(Erythrina abyssinica) and Nongo (Albizzia zygia) owe their prevalence to the
fact that they have al high resistance to fire. The same is true of a number of
plants with bulbs and tubers which burst into bloom with the first rains follow-
ing the fire, providing a wonderful show of colour in some of the drier
grasslands in the north and west of Buganda.
When considering the biotic factors which affect vegetation, the insects
must not be forgotten. Mention has already been made of drifts of human
population due to the tsetse and mbwa flies and, of course, the mosquito. Also
there are many insect pests which attack plants and make certain areas unsuit-
able for the growth of food and cash crops. A feature of the Buganda landscape
is the tall, conical termite mounds red or grey according to the nature of the
surrounding soil. Termites are renowned for their destructive activities, but
it must be remembered that these same activities, so trying to the householder,
THE NATURAL VEGETATION OF BUGANDA 15
when applied to fallen timber result in the return to the soil of valuable plant
foods. Also there is evidence that termites actually enrich the soil in their
mounds by accumulating calcium salts. In deforested areas such as parts of
the shores of Lake Victoria and Lake Nabugabo, the termite mounds often
appear to be the centres round which forest regeneration begins. Due possibly
to the protection their elevation offers against fire and grazing and partly to
the richer nature of the soil, trees appear first on the tops of the mounds and,
in their shade, smaller trees and shrubs become established and spread until
a forest patch is formed. These patches with a termite mound in the centre
are probably humid enough to resist fire and as they grow and coalesce quite
large areas of forest regenerate.
Having discussed at some length the ways in which the development of
truly natural vegetation is largely precluded in Buganda, something must now
be said about the two types of most nearly natural vegetation-forests and
swamps. Most of the larger forests are forest reserves where removal of timber
is controlled, and in some of these, experimental areas have been set aside
where research is being carried out into the best kind of forest management to
ensure the continued production of valuable timber. The evergreen forests of
Buganda can be classed as rain forest although they differ in some respects
from their counterpart in West Africa at the same latitude. They contain very
tall trees of a great variety of species with trunks at first slender but later
becoming thick and often buttressed. The branching is all at the top, and the
spreading crowns form a closed canopy through which little light penetrates.
Underneath are understory trees, saplings, shrubs and herbs but the ground
cover is not dense in a closed forest. Many epiphytic ferns and orchids are
found and tall lines grow up with the trees, developing leafless stems several
inches thick and flowering in the leafy canopy. When an old tree falls or is
felled, the lines are left festooned across the gap thus created, and with the
access of light a mass of young growth springs up making the forest very
difficult to penetrate. The flowers of the forest trees upon which their correct
determination depends are hard to find as they are hidden amongst the foliage
at a great height. Indeed it is necessary to use field glasses even to see the
shape of the leaves at 150 ft. and foresters often have to use a shot gun to
bring down the leaves and flowers for identification. One well-known forest
botanist is reputed to have trained a monkey for this purpose! A feature of
the Buganda forests are the strangling figs (Ficus spp.) which begin life as
epiphytes on other trees later sending down long roots to the soil. Once they
become established and self-supporting, their strangling effect hastens the
death of the host whose gradually decreasing foliage may be detected among
the increasing canopy of the fig. The forests produce many valuable timber trees
including Mukusu (Entandrophragma angolense), Mufumbi (E. utile), Nkoba
(Lovoa brownii), Muvule (Chlorophora excelsa).
Swamps represent the other widespread form of natural vegetation in
Buganda, where they are found fringing the lakes and also in all the river
valleys. Of all the plant communities, probably the reed swamps round the
lakes are most free from human interference except where landing places are
made for canoes. Floating rhizomes of papyrus and large grasses advance into
16 UGANDA JOURNAL
the water behind a zone of water-lilies and submerged water plants. Silt washed
down from the bank together with the fallen remains of swamp plants gradually
builds up the landward edge of the swamp which then becomes invaded by
terrestrial grasses and other flowering plants. Some of the small lakes near
Nabugabo are already filled with swamp vegetation as indeed is a large part
of Lake Nabugabo. In the so-called 'rivers' it is often difficult to see any flow
of water except where drainage channels have been kept open. The whole
valley is covered from bank to bank with a dense mass of swamp plants which
still further impede the flow of an already sluggish river. Though papyrus
is the commonest plant in both lakeside and valley swamps, some areas are
dominated instead by Salu, a tall grass with white mid-ribs to the sharp-edged
leaves and handsome purple plumes (Miscanthidium violaceum), while the
bullrush or Nantoke (Typha sp.), ferns and many members of the family
Cyperaceae are found in these water-logged habitats.
The swamp edges are often fringed with forest containing species differing
considerably from those of the rain forest described above and including the
wild date-palm (Phoenix reclinata). The forest seldom seems to spread right
across the swamp although conditions appear suitable. This is probably due
to the fires which frequently spread among the old papyrus killing off the
An account of the vegetation of Buganda would not be complete without
some reference to its wild flowers. A European coming to this country is
sometimes disappointed because he does not find the grassy meadows to which
he is accustomed or woods carpeted with bluebells or primroses. Many of the
most striking flowers are found on trees and shrubs, but in the first rains
following burning the grasslands also may be gay with brightly-coloured
flowers. Unfortunately there is as yet no book to help the amateur who wants
to become familiar with the flora and the appearance from Kew of further
parts of the new Flora of East Africa is eagerly awaited.
The natural vegetation of Buganda, though characterized by a uniformity
of pattern is nevertheless probably the richest in the Protectorate. The even
temperature, plentiful rainfall and good soils which are responsible for its
forests and grasslands are also the basis of its agricultural prosperity.
THE ECONOMY OF BUGANDA, 1893-1903
By C. EHRLICH, B.SC.(ECON.)(LOND.)
BEFORE I begin may I make two apologies. First, despite the title of this
.paper I shall occasionally step outside Buganda, or, as contemporary
observers called it, 'Uganda proper'. My excuse is that I have found it impossible
to regard Buganda as a genuine isolate. Secondly, in an attempt to illuminate
an argument I shall sometimes step out of period. This, I must confess, is an
occupational disease among economic historians. I trust that my wilder
chronological leaps will be forgiven.
"When I compared ... Uganda as I had known it in 1893 and as I found
it in 1900, I could not help asking myself why this colony had remained at
an absolute standstill for all these years. This condition of affairs strangely
contrasted with the astonishing progress accomplished in Rhodesia, and the
gradual development which had taken place in British Central Africa. I must
therefore drop Uganda, as I cannot speak of development when I saw
For M. Decle, the French explorer, the question was rhetorical; for us today
it remains interesting. Why did so little appear to happen in the Buganda
economy before the first cotton was planted in 1904? What had become of
the land of milk and honey about which Speke, Stanley, Mackay, Ashe, Emin,
Gordon, The Times, and the London Chamber of Commerce, to name but a
few, were so wildly enthusiastic?
There are simple answers: the Sudanese mutiny and constant fighting until
the final defeat and exile of Mwanga and Kabarega in 1899 (though it took
longer for Lango to be subdued), and famine in Busoga with no surplus food
elsewhere. "Supposing that I have money with which to relieve the Basoga,"
wrote Johnston to Bishop Tucker, "there is little or no spare food to be bought
in Uganda! I assure you we find it extremely difficult to feed our own people."2
Then came the sleeping sickness epidemic, and above all there was the
ruinous cost (about 200 a ton) of the 800 miles journey from the coast. Surely
there are excuses enough here.
B.ut a different answer is possible. Perhaps Eldorado never did exist save
for the casual observer of lush scenery, and in the wishful minds of business men
and politicians whose evangelical enthusiasm outran their business acumen.
I do not refer merely to the lunatic fringe and special pleaders who used
arguments like this:
"It is plain, therefore, that having put our hand to the plough, if only through
the agency of a chartered company, we are bound in honour not to turn back.
We are not less bound in policy, since our hopes of new markets for our wares
and employment for our workmen depend upon holding our ground in
1 Proceedings of the Royal Colonial Institute. Vol. 37, June 1906, p. 311.
2 Entebbe Archives. A7/6/Misc. Sir Harry Johnston to Bishop Tucker 19 April 1900.
18 UGANDA JOURNAL
Uganda."3 That was The Times on an imperialist jag. But I am also alluding
to the many enthusiasts who saw in the acquisition of Uganda something more
than a strategic necessity or a moral obligation. It was strongly held that the
value of the coast depended predominantly on the commerce of the distant
interior, and that control of the interior was essential if the coast was to be
worth a candle. "It was a strong conviction of this fact which suggested and
gave force to the 'hinterland' doctrine so clearly recognized by Great Britain
and Germany in the correspondence of July 1887."4
It is the argument of this paper that the Uganda-philes, like their many
successors who have contemplated undeveloped areas, were deluded by the
myth of untapped wealth. Buganda, at the assumption of the Protectorate, was
in fact, to borrow from a recent article by two Cambridge historians, 'the
bottom of the (Empire) barrel'.5 Admittedly by 1905 this bottom proved to be
a false one; released by the spring of Lancashire's new demand for Empire
cottons, it revealed a source of wealth on which the prosperity of Uganda has
been built ever since. But to read this fact back into the early years of the
Protectorate is to commit a vulgar anachronism.
Whatever the strength of the strategic and evangelical arguments for taking
over Uganda in 1893, there was little justification from any contemporary
economic viewpoint. The attitude of the liberal newspapers was therefore not
so silly as has sometimes been presumed. The Times, on the other hand, was
gloriously wrong-headed when it fulminated against the "cowardly and dis-
graceful nature of the scuttle we are asked to effect, in order to save at the
outside 40,000 a year until Administration becomes, as it probably soon would,
self-supporting."6 In fact Uganda was to continue to beg Grants-in-Aid from
the British Treasury until 1914, and the average annual figure was more than
three times that predicted by The Times.
All this may smack of easy wisdom after the event, yet I think it is essential
for us to realize the plight of Uganda at the turn of the century if we are fully
to appreciate the significance of cotton in the later economic history of this
country. I would even suggest that to the list of Uganda's heroes be added
the name of Mr. Sully, whose cornering of the American cotton market occurred
at a moment which was so propitious for the Protectorate.
Lancashire had felt cotton shocks before, notably during the American Civil
War which checked the supply of cotton from the country that provided 85 per
cent of the raw material used in Lancashire mills. After the Federal blockade
of Southern ports in 1861, cotton prices rose enormously. New Orleans which
sold at 9d. a lb. in 1860 reached 33d. by 1864; Upland, at 71d. in 1860, sold
for 32d. in 1864. The effects upon Lancashire were disastrous-3 million
were spent on poor relief. The Cotton Supply Association was formed in an
attempt to encourage alternative sources of supply. But after a few enthusiastic
years it came to nothing, defeated by the return of normal market conditions
3 The Times. 28 September 1891.
4 P. L. McDermott. British East Africa or I.B.E.A. London, 1895, p. 105.
s J. Gallagher and R. Robinson. The Imperialism of Free Trade, Economic History
Review, August 1953.
6 The Times, 1 October 1892. Quoted by A. Low in British Public Opinion and the
Uganda Question, Uganda J., 18 (1954), 84.
THE ECONOMY OF BUGANDA, 1893-1903 19
and Lancashire's devotion to laissez-faire. One gentleman, for example,
declined to join the C.S.A., "because he did not believe that it proceeded upon
a scientific basis. If they left the matter to the natural arbitrament of Supply
and Demand, they would have no occasion to fear a dearth of cotton".7
But at the end of the nineteenth century the scare was revived. World cotton
consumption was outrunning production. Prices rose steadily. Many mills in
the' United States, in England and on the Continent were running short time.
Mr. Benjamin Crapper, chairman of the East African committee of the Oldham
Chamber of Commerce made a speech in which he emphasized the danger
of Lancashire's reliance on American cotton. A committee was formed and
reported that "suitable cotton could be grown in various parts of the British
Empire". In June 1902 the British Cotton Growing Association was formally
inaugurated. Mr. Sully's cornering of the American market in the following
year stimulated the movement. By 1904 the question was of sufficient impor-
tance to be included in the King's Speech.
"The insufficiency of the supply of the raw material upon which the great
cotton industry of this country depends has inspired me with deep concern.
I trust that the efforts which are being made in various parts of my Empire to
increase the area under cultivation may be attended with a large measure of
success." It was Uganda's great fortune to enter upon the crest of this wave.
But I am digressing outside my period. What can be said about the Buganda
economy before 1904? In his great unfinished book The Historian's Craft,
Marc Bloch declared that "every historical book worthy of the name ought
to include a chapter, or if one prefers, a series of paragraphs inserted at turning
points in the development, which might almost be entitled: 'How can I know
what I am about to say?' . The sight of an investigation, with its successes
and reverses, is seldom boring. It is the ready-made article which is cold
Coldness and dullness are beyond my abilities to repair, but I can at least
attempt to follow Bloch's advice and confess my difficulties. I also have the
incalculable advantage of an informed audience with greater local knowledge
than my own, and, I hope, a willingness to pick holes where my fabric is thin.
For the history of Buganda there are abundant records of Government,
travellers, missionaries, and, to a lesser extent, traders; but they all suffer from
a basic deficiency. They give far more information on external than on internal
trade. This is to be expected as the primary commercial interest of these people
was in their own trade with indigenous peoples. 'Africana' abound with com-
plaints of extortion by chiefs, difficulties in dealing with primitive moneys,
and so on. Speke, for example, complains of having to carry six hundred
'majembe' (hoes) to be expended for 'board and lodging on the way'. Elsewhere
he refers scores of times to payments in the form of wire or other European
goods, but there is only one reference in his book to similar payments between
But this concentration on external trade and the absence of written records
of internal transactions should not lead us to underestimate their importance
7 Quoted in W. O. Henderson. The Lancashire Cotton Famine.
20 UGANDA JOURNAL
at least in Buganda itself. I must tread carefully here but perhaps I can venture
a few points. Markets were established wherever there was sufficient law and
order for them to be able to function. In July 1895 we find Major Cunningham
reporting that the establishment of a fort at Masindi had "plainly demonstrated
to the Wanyoro that Kabarega's power is effectively broken and has already
had the effect of impelling large numbers of them to ... settle down to their
cultivations. They have now established markets at... Masindi and Muruli".8
Ashe refers to the lower slope of Namirembe, or Market Hill, conspicuous by
the great tree which overshadowed the market place.9 This was probably
instituted by Mutesa. There are many other examples.10
The use of various media of exchange was also becoming firmly established.
Before the arrival of the first Arab traders, ivory discs were in use for this
purpose. As the killing of elephants and .possession of ivory needed special
permission from the Kabaka, and as only a few men had the special knowledge
required for making discs, there was a fairly adequate control of the issue.
Blue beads as a medium of exchange were brought in by the Arabs and later
came the ubiquitous cowrie. The first shells were valuable; two would purchase
a woman. Inevitably they depreciated as fresh supplies arrived, until in 1901
the approach of the railway threatened complete dislocation of the cowrie
monetary system and further import was forbidden. Existing stocks were burnt
for lime at Entebbe.
The products of the indigenous economy were more varied than is some-
times assumed, but they did not amount to much. Tanning was highly developed.
Soap was produced from banana-leaf ash (a technique probably imported from
the Sudan), candles were also manufactured. Pig iron was imported from
Bunyoro and had certain limited uses; some Baganda smiths had even learned
tinning and brazing from Zanzibar. Yet there were remarkable gaps in know-
ledge and enterprise, even among the Baganda. Although a crude saw was
in use for cutting ivory, it had never been applied to wood. Perhaps this was
because nails were unknown, lashing was used and Ganda carpenters preferred
the laborious method of gouging from the whole trunk. When Chaill6-Long
arrived in 1874 (the first of many American visitors) he amazed onlookers by
providing them with the flints they needed for their guns simply by picking
them up from the ground. The Ganda had received muskets and flints from
Zanzibar and were quite content to sit and wait for further supplies when
the flints wore out." To speak of them, as did several contemporary observers,
as the 'Japanese of Africa', was, perhaps, a trifle extravagant.
From the 1850's onwards this simple economy experienced the fourfold
invasion of trader, explorer, missionary, and soldier-administrator. The Arabs
were the first to arrive, bringing cloth, cowries, firearms and ammunition.
Kabaka Suna (c. 1831-56) was, it is believed, the first king to send canoes to
the south end of the Lake, but he restricted trade by refusing to allow the
s Entebbe Archives, Foreign Office Outward, A34/1, July, 1895.
9 R. P. Ashe, Two Kings of Uganda. London, 1890, pp. 81, 155.
10 cf. A. S. Diamond. The Evolution of Law and Order. London, 1951, an interesting
study of the relationship between law and economic development.
11 C. Chailld-Long. Central Africa. London, 1876.
THE ECONOMY OF BUGANDA, 1893-1903 21
common people to wear cotton. His son, Mutesa, removed this restriction and
a comparatively brisk trade began. The goods were bought with slaves and
ivory; no other goods could stand the cost of transport to the coast. The life
history of a typical trader would be something like this. Starting with no
capital he would find a dhow passage for a few dollars from his native Oman
to Zanzibar. Here he would probably join a richer friend and work his passage
in a caravan to the interior, financed by Indian merchants in anticipation of
future ivory. On the strength of a tusk or two from this trip and the prestige
of having made one successful mission he would then start his own caravan.
The interest he had to pay to Indian merchants would be very high, but then
the risks were commensurately great; not least the risk of his own trustworthi-
ness. After twenty years of this sort of life he might be able to return to Muscat
a rich man. He would have earned it.12
It is noteworthy that Indians did not venture inland for some years. Jackson
asserts that until about 1892 there was not a single Indian duka (shop) more
than two miles inland." Occasionally one or two bolder spirits would penetrate
a few miles in order to waylay a returning caravan and ensure delivery of their
ivory. More permanent establishment had to await regular caravans and the
beginnings of railway building. The first Indian trader to settle inland was
probably Adamjee Alibhoy, who established himself at Machakos in 1892.
Then many others, of various races followed; a charming rogues' gallery. There
was Stokes, the 'wild Irishman' with an endless supply of excellent Wanyam-
wezi porters guaranteed by his marriage to the daughter of their chief. He
had started as a lay member of the C.M.S., running their transport from
Sadaani on the coast opposite Zanzibar up to the south end of the Lake, before
the Masailand route to Uganda was established. He was executed by the
Belgians in 1895 on a charge of gun-running. There was Andrew Dick, ex-chief
accountant of The Imperial British East Africa Company, who by 1895 had
a complete chain of 12 stores established from the coast to the Lake, "princi-
pally to facilitate transport work". "I am in a position therefore to 'posho'
(sc. supply with maize flour) caravans right through," he wrote to Entebbe,
"and you can always depend upon sufficient food everywhere for even large
caravans."14 A few weeks later he was killed by Masai in the Kedong valley.
Outstanding among the merchant traders was Allidina Visram, perhaps the
greatest single figure in the economic history of East Africa. Historians are
becoming increasingly conscious of the dominant role of the entrepreneur in
economic development, the man who enters in response to the challenge of great
economic and social change and then forces the pace of that change. Such a
man was Allidina Visram the "charming little old gentleman" as Jackson
described him, "respected by everyone in the country, high or low, white or
black".15 An early advertisement proclaimed him 'dealer in provisions, beads,
piece goods, Brass, Copper and Iron wire, equipment of caravans, enamelled
12 cf. Sir J. Milner Gray. Ahmed bin Ibrahim-the first Arab to reach Buganda.
Uganda J., 11 (1947), 80-97.
13 Sir Frederick Jackson. Early Days in East Africa. London, 1930, p. 328.
14 Entebbe Archives A6/1. 2 July 1895.
15 Jackson, op. cit., p. 327.
22 UGANDA JOURNAL
ware, etc.'. 'Buyer of Ivory, Rubber, Hides, Skins and all kinds of East African
and Uganda Produce.' 'Importer of Merchandise from Europe, America and
India.' By 1901 he was supplying almost every small trader in Uganda with
goods and being repaid by monthly instalments. By 1904 his activities extended
from Dar es Salaam to Hoima, from Zanzibar to Gondokoro. There were over
thirty Visram branches. When in 1903 the Government wanted to experiment
with the export of alum it was Allidina Visram who took the risk, and lost.
If we want to trace the moving frontier of trade during this period we simply
have to look for his name. In the turbulent Lango district in 1908, before the
Muganda administrative agent had been established, one of Allidina Visram's
agents set up shop, and sold "little or nothing except to police and staff"
stationed there. The District Commissioner at Hoima commented "It would
appear that (the people) only cultivate sufficient for their own requirements,
and that they have no idea of the value of such little produce as they have to
dispose of ... for a few handfuls of sem-sem they expect to be supplied with
any article they choose to select from Allidina's stock".16 Here are the grass
roots of economic development.
Allidina Visram died in 1916. The Omuwanika wrote to the Governor, "I
hope the Government found him useful. He was very good to us. Sir Apolo
Kagwa, Katikiro, K.C.M.G. and myself attended his funeral on behalf of all
Baganda."'7 In a famous lecture Sir Keith Hancock has said "It is better to have
'palm-oil ruffians' to pioneer a thriving commerce than to have no economic
pioneers at all."18 It was Allidina Visram's unique achievement that he
pioneered without being a ruffian.
Government's attitude towards traders betrayed a typical ambivalence. Trade
was a good thing because it brought in revenue. But it must be tidy. The middle-
man and the petty trader, ugly sisters in every Government pantomime, must be
discouraged. Anyone could trade, but first he must take out a licence for
Rs. 150 (about 10). This was in 1901! In reply to complaints from a British
trader the Secretary at Entebbe wrote, "In regard to traders' licences, this was
meant to safeguard the genuine trader, as the small native could not trade or
undersell the genuine trader, since he had to take out the same licence. The
Commissioner's object was to remove the small pettifogging traders, whose
object it was to undersell the genuine trader. Do you not think this has been
partly attained?"'9 In its passion for orderliness, Government tended to over-
look the fact that by discouraging the 'pettifogging' trader it was stultifying its
declared aim of helping the spread of a money economy.20
Uganda in the 1890's therefore, might be described as a garrison-tourist
16 Entebbe Archives. S.M.P. 872/09. Monthly reports on Lango District. Report for
17 Entebbe Archives. S.M.P. 4832. Zakaria Kizito Kisingiri, Omuwanika, to Sir
Frederick Jackson, 7 July 1916.
1s Sir Keith Hancock. Wealth of Colonies. Cambridge, 1950.
19 Entebbe Archives. A/7/Misc. 13 February 1901.
20 Since this was written the Report of the East Africa Royal Commission 1953-55 has
appeared. Chapter 7 of the Report contains a brilliant analysis of regulations and restric-
tion in East Africa.
THE ECONOMY OF BUGANDA, 1893-1903 23
economy superimposed on a fairly primitive indigenous society. By garrison-
tourist, I mean the type of economy, of which Malta and Gibraltar are modem
examples, in which many of the inhabitants live largely by selling goods and
services to people whose incomes originate overseas. Clearly the stimulus of
this external demand is of considerable importance in the development of a
"This fact," wrote Archdeacon Walker from Namirembe in November 1897,
"has done more to change the conditions of the work done in the country than
any other. There are 1,500 Soudanese soldiers in Uganda who receive about
Rs. 8 each per month. Then there are some 80 or more Europeans in Uganda,
all of whom spend a good deal in the country.
"Formerly there was no paid labour in the country, and there was no sale
of food. Now labour is paid for by the Europeans and sometimes by the chiefs,
and a great quantity of food is bought by the Soudanese and the Europeans.
Potatoes were absolutely unsaleable a few years ago, now an old woman living
near me made 900 shells in a short time by selling food that would otherwise
have rotted on the ground."
But for this stimulus to be adequately felt, the demand for cash had to be
sufficiently elastic, and, as in 16th century England or in any backward
economy, this was not generally so. Walker echoed the complaint of many
an early English factory master.
"Owing to the incoming of the Europeans a new market has been formed
and old people can now sell what was unsaleable before and can get much
better prices for goods that have always been objects of barter .. ." but, "the
requirements have not kept pace with the better payment for labour, therefore
the people can supply all their simple wants with a small amount of labour
and spend the rest of their time in idleness".21
At first troops and porters were paid in kind. But they preferred to receive
trade goods, or cowries, with which to barter for their needs: the Swahili
porters were particularly adamant about this. "No matter how small the issue,"
wrote Lugard, "they always manage to make it go for double. They start a
score of little markets of food, vegetables, dried fish, firewood, etc., and each,
by buying one thing in bulk, gets more. So when they receive their posho in
cowries, they turn them over and over, till they manage to make a wonderful
living out of it; and with an allowance which is quite insufficient to feed a
Soudanese, a Swahili will feed himself, buy firewood and extras for his meal
and have something over with which to hire boys to build his house and fetch
his water."22 Not a few African traders today could well take a leaf out of
But quite apart from Swahili preferences and abilities there was a strong
Government case for payment in cash. In his first general report on the con-
ditions of trade and industry in the Protectorate in 1897, the Commissioner
21 C.M.S. Archives, Salisbury Square, London. G.3/A7/01. 12 November 1897.
22 F. D. Lugard. The Rise of Our East African Empire. Edinburgh and London, 1893,
vol. ii, p. 407.
24 UGANDA JOURNAL
"There can be no question ... that the competition among traders to supply
the needs of the administration or to sell to its employees when we shall be able
to pay all wages in cash, will always keep the local market value of goods
below those at which the Administration could import such goods on its own
account for distribution . hence the Administration will, without any
increases in the wages paid, reap, as it has already begun to do, import duty
on the trade goods brought in to meet the requirements of its employees, and
as the local wages bill of the Administration, hitherto paid on the spot in
trade goods, does not fall far short of 20,000, this item is of some importance."2
Thus we can trace the interaction between the two economies. The indigenous
economy in the 1870's exhibited the symptoms of what modern economists
dolefully call a 'vicious circle of poverty'. Low real incomes and negligible
money incomes meant that there was little incentive to produce for the market
in so far as a market existed. Trifling production meant, in turn, low incomes.
The export-import relationship was similarly limited. This vicious circle was
constantly being hammered by the advancing trader, missionary, and govern-
ment frontiers. The trader had goods to offer for which a demand existed but
the demand had to be made effective. What, apart from ivory and slaves,
could Uganda offer in return? This became really urgent by 1902, with the
arrival of the railway at Kisumu. What was it to carry? Johnston pinned great
hopes on rubber, sending specimens for classification to Kew gardens and
making detailed arrangements for its collection.
The dashing of those hopes belongs to another chapter of Uganda's history
but it may be worth mentioning here that rubber has always been a marginal
crop in Uganda, succeeding only when the Japanese over-ran Malaya. At the
turn of the century there was much talk of other crops: sanseviera, coffee, and
others. But the truth was that ivory was still the only viable export. As late as
1903 the value of ivory exported from Mombasa was approximately twice
the value of all other goods exported. The supply of elephants was not unlimited.
There were, of course, garrison-tourist invisible exports, and Johnston actually
tried to interest Thomas Cook and Sons, but not even Switzerland can exist
on: invisibles alone. Johnston's views on cotton at this time are interesting. In
April 1900 he wrote to the Foreign office.
Local cotton "is of good quality and long staple, but except for local purposes
it is not worth consideration as it would probably never pay to export it over
the railway to the coast".24
The poverty of Uganda during this period can perhaps best be appreciated
by an examination of Government's attempts to raise revenue. Article 11 of
the 1894 treaty had given Government control over all local revenue, but little
was forthcoming. In 1896 the Commissioner suggested" that it was still "some-
what early to endeavour to obtain any assistance from native local revenues.
Although the general prosperity of the country is improving and local admini-
stration is gradually being brought more into harmony with civilized ideas,
23 Entebbe Archives. Foreign Office outward. A.34. 2 November 1896. This paragraph
did not appear in the printed version of the report, F.O. No. 1844 of 1897.
24 Entebbe Archives. Foreign Office outward. 27 April 1900.
25 Entebbe Archives. Foreign Office outward. A.34. 31 October 1896.
THE ECONOMY OF BUGANDA, 1893-1903 25
the revenue of which the local authorities dispose is still a somewhat indefinite
quantity and does not go far beyond their own requirements. In great measure
it is still represented by 'labour' and by contributions in native produce, and
some little time must yet elapse before it can be brought into such definite
shape as permits of our calling upon the king and chiefs for specific and regular
contributions towards general expenditure." . "I think it would for the
present be practically impossible to levy any taxes, and understandably any
effort to do so would yield a result quite incommensurate with the trouble
involved, besides militating very seriously against our main object which is to
gain the confidence of the natives and to use our influence to encourage them
to trade, and cultivate and to keep peace among themselves "
By December 1899 Johnston was recommending the introduction of taxa-
tion. "However," he wrote, "I should not be proposing this step were I not
fully satisfied that in all the districts which I have as yet visited the people are
able and willing to pay the taxes to which I have alluded above. At present,
of course, only a small proportion of them will be able to pay in money, though
the rupee has circulated much more widely through the Uganda Protectorate
than is probably known, but in default of money the Administration would
for some time to come accept other saleable produce, or two months' labour".26
Johnston's views on the ethics of taxation are also interesting. They recall
the words of a great American judge: "of course I pay taxes willingly, for with
them I buy civilization."
"I think" wrote Sir Harry to the Foreign Office in 1900, "it will be found
here as in British Central Africa that as soon as the native becomes alive to
the advantages of good government, he will pay his taxes willingly enough ...
the truthful historian would record the fact that we entered upon the administra-
tion of Uganda first of all out of pure sentiment... also we hold on to Uganda
now, not because at the present moment it returns a rich reward to British com-
merce, but because our honour is pledged to maintain peace and order among
the natives for the benefit of the natives. Therefore it should be a cardinal point
of our policy that this condition be brought home to the natives, and that they
should be induced to come forward, and by a very trifling degree of labour
and self-sacrifice, contribute a local revenue which may go far towards meeting
the expenses of a Protectorate that exists mainly for their benefit."26a
By 1901 revenue was nominally nearly 82,000 against an expenditure of
252,000. I say nominally because the declared value of the hut tax far exceeded
its eventual cash value. Only about two-thirds of the nominal 82,000 collected
was in ivory or cash. The rest had to be accepted in young zebras, wild pigs,
young elephants (worth Rs. 3,000), young hippo, rubber, food stuffs, and
labour. Most of these were not easily turned into money although attempts
were made to get cash by auctions at Entebbe. In outlying areas gluts at collec-
tion points led to a catastrophic fall in values. The following year things were
more carefully organized. Collectors were asked to forward lists of the articles
which they considered might be taken in as Hut Tax and which could be
26 Entebbe Archives. Foreign Office outward. 24 December 1899.
26a Entebbe Archives. Foreign Office outward. 27 April 1900.
26 UGANDA JOURNAL
readily disposed of. They were also to attach local prices for all such articles
to their lists; local prices could then be fixed.
"Thus sheep which are worth Rs. 1 in Ankole are worth perhaps Rs. 6 at
Naivasha, or hoes worth 8 annas in Ankole, may only be 4 annas in Uganda"27
But collection in kind was an unsatisfactory and unremunerative business.
Cash was needed and cash somehow had to be earned; but how? There was
no answer until cotton was established. Meanwhile the British treasury paid
up. Perhaps we can sympathize with Johnston when, in a lyrical moment, he
wrote to Bishop Tucker:28
'T' is the most distressful country that the world has ever seen,
For every day some fresh disaster adds to our chagrin.
In 1891 Lugard had written from Mengo to the Administrator General of
the Imperial British East Africa Company:29
"As regards the value of Uganda to the Company, I hold the opinion, which
seems to me to be shared by the English and French missionaries, the Germans,
and Messrs. Jackson and Gedge, that Uganda, per se has been much overrated.
At present there appear to be few or no products suitable for exportation except
ivory, and that almost entirely comes from the tributary states."
Twelve years later little more could be said. It was perhaps, to use the
language of Government reports, a period of consolidation. At no stage for the
British administration was it a question of 'how much can we get out of this?'
Always the problem was 'how can we save the British taxpayer from putting
too much in?' Perhaps the clearest picture of the Uganda economy before
cotton is provided in an innocent business letter in the Entebbe archives. It
is addressed to a Bristol firm.
"In reply to your letter dated May 18th 1901, asking us as to whether there
is any opening for bicycles in the Protectorate, I regret to have to inform you
that at the present time there is none.
"No doubt as roads improve and settlers come permanently, such a demand
may be created, but at the present time I am afraid that I can hold out but
little prospect of immediate sales."
Three years after the marketing of the first cotton crop in 1904, 237 bicycles
were imported. Six years later the figure was 1,539. Few were bought by
27 Entebbe Archives. Circulars and Regulations 1895-1903. 16 August 1901.
28 Entebbe Archives. A7/6/Misc. Sir Harry Johnston to Bishop Tucker, 19 April 1900.
29 Africa No. 4 (1892). Report by Captain Lugard, 13 August 1891.
VILLAGE LIFE AND CUSTOMS IN BUGANDA
By M. B. NSIMBI
GREAT writers such as John Roscoe, Sir Apolo Kagwa and others, have
already recorded much about the Baganda and their customs. But it may
be a good thing to remind readers of some of our customs and traditions.
Misunderstanding between people of different races in Buganda and elsewhere
is often due to lack of knowledge of other people's ways of life.
The seventy-five years which have passed since the Baganda came into
contact with the West and East have brought about many changes in their
village life, social customs and traditions.
Some of these changes have been on the whole for the good of the Baganda
while others have disorganized village life and made it difficult for people in
the same village to live as happily together as they used to do before. It is hoped
that the adverse changes in village life will soon be replaced by something
better. For it is no good pulling down an old house if you cannot build a new and
a better one in its place.
Today what we call 'village life and customs' are a mixture of old Baganda
traditions and new social customs from the West and East. I am going to deal
mainly with conditions, as they are said to have been, about seventy-five years
ago. Where necessary, however, I shall stress the good as well as the bad
changes that have taken place in the customs and traditions of the Baganda.
Occupations of Men
Men used to have eight important occupations:
Bark-cloth making. Plenty of bark-cloths were needed in the country. They
were the main articles of dress for men and women; they provided bedding;
they were used to wrap up dead bodies before burial; they were used as screens
in houses; they were given as presents to the mothers of girls who were to be
married. From time to time the king would demand bark-cloths as tax. Bark-
cloths were therefore an item of wealth.
Blacksmithing. Spears, knives, hoes, axes, needles for basket work and for
sewing bark-cloths, also bells for children and dogs were made by people
engaged in blacksmithing.
Pottery. This was essential work. Cooking pots and earthenware vessels of
all sorts were required in the homes. A few women could also engage in pottery
making although in Buvuma and Koki pottery was exclusively the work of
Woodwork. Canoes, troughs for brewing beer, wooden mortars, boards for
the game of Mweso, frames for shields, and handles for hoes, knives and axes
were made by people who engaged in woodwork.
Fishing. People fished in the lakes and in the rivers. Enkejje, a kind of small
fish, was the most important fish, not because of its good taste but because it
28 UGANDA JOURNAL
was an essential dish at all tribal feasts. In Buganda anyone who frequents all
gatherings of people is likened to the enkejje.
House Building. Every man had to build a house for himself. Houses for
chiefs were built by the people they ruled. Houses were built with poles, reeds
Administration. There were many chiefs of different ranks in the country.
Their principal work was to decide cases.
Fighting. Kings frequently sent men to fight neighboring tribes for two
(a) To bring wealth into the country in the form of cattle, goats, women
(b) To beat back enemy attacks. Every man kept a spear and a shield in
In most of the services mentioned above, particularly in bark-cloth making
and in house building, men in the same village worked together as members
of a team, thus giving mutual assistance to one another. This made work for
them easy and interesting.
Occupations of Women
The main occupation of women in Buganda was the growing of food and
its preparation. Preparation of food included fetching water and collecting
firewood from forests or bushes. It was considered a very bad thing for a man
to do cultivation or to prepare food. If a man was known to be in the habit of
cooking food for himself this would disqualify him from getting a wife. Young
boys were strictly forbidden from going near the cooking place in the house.
A woman even if she was the only wife in a house, was expected to feed all the
people in her home. Baganda women are reported to be so good in feeding
their men that in all our legends it is the men who felt the shortage of food
most during times of famine.
One of such legends runs as follows: "Once upon a time, there was a big
famine in Buganda. A certain woman prepared food for her husband and
children. When the food was ready she dished it out, but she then served the
children first. Her husband, on seeing that children were served first, got up
and went away in anger. His wife followed him requesting him to come back
and have food. The husband refused to return. He went away crying 'Give it
to the, children, give it to the children'. Now that man was changed into the
bird known as Mpaabaana. To this day the cry of this bird is Mpaabaana which
is the Luganda for 'Give it to the children'."
They also went to the swamps to prepare a kind of salt from certain weeds
(olusa). The salt was eaten with food and other things.
In Buganda it is considered ill-breeding for a woman to say in front of her
husband that she is hungry. A woman is expected to suffer hunger without
complaining to a man.
The other major occupations of the women were: to look after the children;
to make baskets used for food and other things; and to cut grass for thatching
new and old houses. They also cut a different kind of grass known as tteete
for spreading on the floors of houses.
VILLAGE LIFE AND CUSTOMS IN BUGANDA 29
The Great Change in Occupations
For the first time in the history of Buganda men started to cultivate when
cotton was introduced as an economic crop about the year 1904. Before this
some men would cultivate small plots of tobacco in private enclosed places
so as not to be seen by many people.
The present economy of Buganda depends largely on agriculture for cash.
It is for this reason that men and women now grow many different kinds of
cash crops in Buganda. In addition to agriculture there are many new jobs for
men and women, some arising from the traditional occupations mentioned
The great change in occupations has brought many blessings to men and
women. By taking to agriculture every able-bodied man or woman is now
able to obtain cash easily by growing such cash crops as groundnuts, cotton,
coffee and maize. Many men now help the women with the production of food,
fetching water, getting firewood and looking after the children. Very few women
now cut grass for thatching houses.
One bad change in occupations is that the idea of mutual assistance is rapidly
dying, as people are beginning to live as individuals instead of as members
of a community or a village. Everybody is trying to work for money to satisfy
his own needs.
Baganda men and women spent their leisure time in different ways. Let us
take the men's leisure pursuits first.
This was the most important of men's pursuits. Antelopes of all kinds,
edible rats, bushbucks and other animals were hunted for food. Sometimes
women joined the men in hunting. It was a common belief that an animal seen
by a woman while it was hiding itself was sure to be killed when hunted.
People hunted with spears, sticks and nets. Hunting was so popular in Buganda
that one of the rites connected with the succession to the throne of Buganda
- consisted of ritual hunting by the new king. He was required to hunt an oribi
(Mpeewo) before he could be set on the throne. Kimera one of the early kings
of Buganda who ascended to the throne from Bunyoro is said to have come
hunting all the way from Bunyoro. Traditionally then, the hunting by the new
king was done in memory of King Kimera. One important rule in hunting is
that hunters must not quarrel among themselves, nor must they have any
grudge against one another. Hunters shared their meat almost in the same way
all over the country. Anyone who found hunters dividing their meat was sure
to get a piece given to him. Even if it was very small he was bound to take it.
Hunting thus taught co-operation and patience. The increase of occupations
for men and the decrease of game in Buganda has reduced the fun of hunting.
The only beer then known in Buganda was made from the bananas known
as mbidde. It could be made fairly strong, but no one made beer for sale.
30 UGANDA JOURNAL
Beer parties were more or less organized. Anyone who made beer expected
to receive a large number of guests from his village who would come to drink
at his house. Some few friends from the neighboring villages would also come.
On the day when the beer was ready for drinking people would assemble
about 2 p.m. The host would give all the people of his village one big calabash
of beer. This was obligatory. To the rest of the people he would give as much
beer as he could find. The great rule was that anyone who called at the place
where people were drinking must be given some beer to drink even if the caller
was a stranger of no importance. A chief received his share in his home and
people went to drink with him as they pleased.
A few women attended beer parties occasionally but they sat alone in their
own place even if they went with their husbands. The host and hostess attended
them well. Children did not go to beer parties. Anyone who gave beer to a
young boy or girl and made him or her drunk would be prosecuted before
Public beer parties stopped between 5 and 6 p.m. and at this time most
people returned home. After supper a private beer party would start in the
home where beer was made. This was attended by very close friends from
the neighbourhood. Singing, drum beating, hand clapping and dancing took
place at the private beer parties. Men and women danced but usually only
one man or woman at a time. It was an offence for a junior person to get drunk
before his seniors or masters. It was also shameful for a chief to appear drunk
before his people.
Today the changes in beer parties are many and generally they are cause
for anxiety. All sorts of strong drinks are made for sale. Most men and women,
boys and girls drink anything any day at any time and anywhere. The conse-
quences are clear to everyone.
Going to the Chief's House for a Chat
Men of all ages used to go to the chief's house at all times. They would hear
the chief decide cases. Many of them took presents to the chief in the form of
goats, fowls, food, beer and other things.
Chiefs generally ate very good food because they were better off than the
peasants, but people of all ranks were welcome to the chief's meal. Hospitality
to all people was indeed counted as one of the virtues of a chief. In fact a
chief who did not give meals to his people soon became unpopular. One
Luganda proverb which proves that chiefs give free meals says: Nantakiika nti
eby 'embuga biriibwa baganzi. Translated this means: "He who does not go
to see the chief says that the good things at the chiefs house are eaten by the
chief's favourites only."
Chiefs were also believed to be wiser than the people they ruled. By going
to the chief's to chat and to hear cases people learnt to be wise. To show that
it was necessary to go to the chief if one wanted to be wise, a song was started
about the reign of Mwanga. The first words of the song run as follows: Akiika
embuga amanya ensonga. Translation: 'He who goes to the chief for a chat
learns to be wise.' AKIIKA is now the name of the Buganda Government
newspaper published in Luganda twice a month.
VILLAGE LIFE AND CUSTOMS IN BUGANDA 31
Nowadays people do not frequent the homes of chiefs nor do they care
much to have meals at the homes of chiefs. This is creating a gap between
chiefs and their people thereby lessening friendship and understanding between
them. A Muganda friend of mine wrote me a letter some weeks ago in which
he stated that today a muluka chief talks to a muluka chief only, a gombolola
chief to a gombolola chief and a saza chief to a saza chief. It is true he exag-
gerated facts. Nevertheless going to the chief's house has ceased to be a duty.
Further, chiefs cannot now afford to give frequent free meals to their people
because they no longer receive many free presents from them. This is again
due to the new system of economy of the country.
The Game of Mweso
This was a very popular time-killing game. It was played by people of all
ranks, from the king down to the peasant.
A champion in the game of mweso was also believed to be good in deciding
cases and in defeating his enemies. This is one of the reasons why the king
during his accession ceremonies at Budo picked up one counter from Budo.
This counter from Budo was always used at the king's palace in the mweso
in which the Katikiro played while deciding cases. This counter signified that
the king was always able to decide all the cases brought to him by his people.
Pastimes for Women
Women had less leisure than men.
Princesses, wives of the king and wives of big chiefs played the game of
mweso like men. Wives of the ordinary peasants spent any spare time they had
during the day in visiting and talking to their women friends in their neighbour-
The best time for the women was at night after supper about 7 p.m. They
would collect in one home with the children and start telling traditional stories
and legends, and they would play riddles. Some of these stories required the
group to move to and fro from one friend to another. Story-telling by women
and children lasted until late in the night. This is how the children learnt about
the traditions, customs and fables of their country.
This kind of pastime has given way to other forms of entertainment, such as
the new beer parties, dances and concerts which are, at present, not properly
organized and they are not as healthy morally nor perhaps physically as were
the pastimes of the old days.
TRIBAL FEASTS OR TIMES OF REJOICING
Ceremony for the birth of twins. Nobody in Buganda wished to have twins,
but once some parents had the fortune or misfortune to have them they did
not do anything to get rid of them. The birth of twins meant fortune for their
parents because they were elevated to a special rank in society. The father
of twins received the name of Salongo and the mother of twins became Nalongo.
If the king had twins born to him he also became Salongo. But because as king
he is greater than the fathers of twins he always has the name of Sabalongo.
This means that he is above the fathers of twins.
32 UGANDA JOURNAL
When the fathers and mothers of twins or when twins themselves died, they
were buried late in the evening, instead of during the middle of the day like
other people. The father or the mother of twins was buried in a special way.
One long narrow strip of bark-cloth from the dead body was stretched from the
grave and left lying outside on the grave.
People were not allowed to weep for the death of twins. The death of twins
was referred to as 'flying' or "going to fetch firewood'. Twins were not buried
in the same place as other members of the house or clan, because they were
thought to have died a different kind of death.
I said that it was unfortunate to have twins. This is because they were never
wished for. However, once twins had come, all that was to be done was to
observe the necessary obligations and perform the accepted rites to make sure
that twins did not bring down misfortunes to their parents, relations and friends.
The obligations were, however, very many and exacting, and this is what made
people hate the idea of having twins.
It was believed to be safer to have a boy and a girl as twins (this is what is
known as white birth: meeru) than to have twin boys or girls (known as black
birth: maddugavu). People thought that of a twin boy and a girl if the boy
wanted to kill its mother the sister would refuse. Similarly if the girl wanted
to kill its father the brother would stop her. On the other hand twin boys
might easily decide between them to kill their mother and twin girls to kill
their father i.e. if they did not observe the necessary obligations or carry out
the prescribed rites.
The feast for the birth of twins was a costly affair. Cattle, goats, fowls and of
course the famous enkejje, had to be obtained. Relations from far and near,
friends and neighbours attended the feast. There was much singing, dancing
and drum beating. The feast lasted for four days.
Thanks to Christianity and education which are removing the taboo con-
nected with the birth of twins it is now said that twins are more common
Ceremony for the naming of children. This took place any time during
childhood. The ceremony consisted of proving that the children were not
children of other men, that is to prove that wives did not have them as a result
of having had relations with other men.
The tests could not prove anything, but since they knew no better many
people believed sincerely in them. Once children were proved to be children
of the house, they would be given clan names and other names taken from
their popular dead ancestors. Relations, friends and neighbours came to the
feast and many good things were eaten. One thing that was never missing at
these feasts was the famous enkejje. The enkejje proved that the children in
whose honour the feast was given were Baganda.
Ceremony to ordain a priest or priestess to a tribal or clan deity. Relations,
friends and neighbours also attended these feasts, which were very popular.
They lasted until the person became possessed.
Ceremony to end mourning for a dead person. When a grown-up man or
woman dies his or her relations, friends and neighbours go into mourning. They
stay at the home of the dead person for two days and then go back to their
VILLAGE LIFE AND CUSTOMS IN BUGANDA 33
homes. After about one month the official ending of mourning is arranged.
Relations of all kinds, friends and neighbours are expected to attend. If anyone
missed the burial he must attend this ceremony as his last token of connection
with the dead person. During the first night of the ceremony songs are sung
and drums are beaten. The important thing at this ceremony is to put up a
successor to the deceased person. This is done the next day. An heir must be
a son or a nephew or a brother or a grandson to the deceased. For a woman
the heiress must be her sister or a daughter of her brother. The important thing
is that an heir or an heiress must be of the same clan as the deceased. An heir
is raised to his seat by an elder in the clan. He is handed a spear, a shield and
a gourd with beer in it. The spear signifies bravery and readiness to fight for
the king. The gourd of beer signifies hospitality. An heir must have a mimic
wife known as lubuga. The idea of the lubuga is to show people that the heir will
welcome people to his house since he has a wife that will never leave him
(the lubuga being of the same clan as the heir).
An heiress is handed a knife which signifies readiness to prepare food for
people. All relations and friends of the dead person introduce themselves to
the heir and advise him to behave well. They throw down money to him as
they introduce themselves.
If the dead person was a rich man, cattle and goats are killed and eaten
that day. This feast lasts for two days. On the last day the heir is handed a
big knife and an axe and a grooved wooden mallet for bark-cloth making.
These signify service to the king and chiefs. The idea of an heir is to fill
the place of the dead person and carry out his or her responsibilities, for example
becoming father or mother to the children and so on.
Of all tribal feasts, this is the only one which is still kept in very much the
same way as it was kept in the old days. For every grown-up man or woman
who dies, this ceremony must take place. The only exception in the past was,
when a man was condemned to death by the king or when he committed suicide
or when a man or woman died a confirmed bachelor or spinster. In the case of
a Salongo no new rites were performed. Only an heir was proposed. This was
because all the rites connected with the ending of mourning had been carried
out at the feast to celebrate the birth of twins.
One thing about this ceremony to end mourning is that very many strangers
go to it at night and very often drinking is done in excess. However, where
there are people to control the gathering, all goes well.
The marriage feast. In the old days brides arrived late in the night. The
rejoicing and drinking that followed their arrival took place at night.
Some time after a woman has been married she goes back to her parents
and brings to her husband some fowls, a goat, mushrooms and food. All these
things are cooked the next day. Many people come to the feast.
Welcoming important visitors. The brothers, father, uncles and nephews of
one's wife were the most important visitors. They always expected the best
treatment. To them nothing counted so much as a cock and a calabash of beer.
Friends, near relations and neighbours came to rejoice with these visitors.
Even a dog from the wife's side received very good treatment. The best language
was to be used when talking to visitors from the wife's side.
34 UGANDA JOURNAL
Many of the feasts mentioned above have become obsolete but one wonders
whether it would not have been better to retain and improve those that were
not bad. With the present lack of occasions for traditional rejoicing, and the
dying away of many personal occasions for feasting, life is much duller for
many Baganda. To some extent this may be the reason why many people
are beginning to join in less healthy gatherings of all sorts including beer parties
At the same time there is clearly a consciousness of the need for substitutes
for the old village activities and the growth of voluntary societies and the
efforts of, for example, the Community Development Department may be
pointing the way to future developments.
RULES FOR SOCIAL CONDUCT
I shall mention only the most important rules.
Greetings. The rule of greeting is perhaps the most important of all rules
for social conduct. Every morning people must greet one another with morning
greetings. One is expected to greet every person one meets whether he is known
to him or not. If you do not greet someone who comes to your house, he at
once understands that you do not want him in your house. As a rule juniors
greet their seniors first. Greeting somebody means that you are kindly disposed
towards him. It also shows good breeding.
If you address a request to a Muganda without first greeting him he at once
believes that you have no manners and if you are not his master he will very
likely not attend to you. A Muganda bus driver, a shopkeeper, a woodworker,
etc. wants to be greeted first before you tell him what you want him to do
for you. People who ask for their way in towns and villages should always
remember this, if they want immediate assistance from Baganda.
Greetings vary according to the degree of relationship, friendship and
intimacy between the people greeting one another. Very intimate friends and
relations who had not met for a long time used to embrace one another when
they met. Children would sit upon the laps of their mothers. Members of the
royal family always did this and the king always sat on the lap of his mother
when he greeted her. Fathers of twins are greeted in a different way. The
greetings for the fathers of twins are: (1) Gawuga; (2) Gasamwe. The king is
also greeted in a different way from the ordinary people.
The only times when greetings are cut out is when one goes to tell others about
news of the death of someone related to the family; and when one finds
But in the latter case greetings begin as soon as the meal is over.
Attending the burial of people and visiting the bereaved. Digging the grave,
and providing bark-cloths in which to wrap the dead body are always done
by relations, friends and neighbours. The tradition in Buganda is that when
a dead body is being carried to the grave the feet go in front. A very true friend
or relation must attend the burial, or if the news of death comes too late
for him to attend the burial, he must come to the place as soon as possible after
the burial. Any one failing to do so shows that he or she was not really friendly
VILLAGE LIFE AND CUSTOMS IN BUGANDA 35
with the dead person. It also shows that he has no sympathy with the relations
and friends of the dead person.
This explains why some Baganda employees will give up work if they are
refused permission to attend the burial or to call at the place where a relation
or friend has died.
Visiting the sick and the afflicted. When someone is sick or when his house
is burnt down or when he has met with misfortune of any kind, people who
count themselves to be his friends must visit him.
The absence of many Baganda at the sick beds and at the burial of many
Europeans and Asians and the absence of many Europeans and Asians at the
sick beds and at the burial of Baganda believed to be their friends indicates,
in my opinion, that the members of each of these races do not understand
clearly how each race behaves on these occasions.
Running to the rescue of people where an alarm has been raised. Everyone
was bound to run to the assistance of anyone who raised an alarm. On hearing
an alarm a man would rush out to the scene of the alarm with his spear, shield
and stick. If the alarm was for a house burning he would try to save people
and property from the burning house. If he found people fighting he would
intervene and try to act as an arbitrator. This was sometimes done at the risk
of his own life. An alarm was raised by special cries or by certain drum beats.
Anyone who did not run to the place where an alarm was raised would be
reported to the village chief who would deal with him.
Rules of sexual behaviour. Girls were married at about the age of fifteen.
The highest honour a girl would bring to herself and her parents was to be
found a virgin by her husband. She would be praised by her husband and her
father-in-law and mother-in-law. The father-in-law would give her parents a
goat to thank them for guarding their daughter against bad men. He would
give another goat to the girl herself to eat. For this reason unmarried girls did
not allow themselves to have relations with any man. It was quite easy for
girls to look after themselves because they always lived in the parents' houses
and they often had people to look after them when they went to other places
from their homes.
The control of parents over them was very great and sometimes it was
excessive. Today the control of parents over their daughters is not as great
as it used to be. Many girls now make long and often unnecessary journeys
unaccompanied by anyone. This I think is what has led to the lowering of the
moral standards of many girls in Buganda.
When a married woman was pregnant or when she had an unweaned child
she was strictly forbidden to meet any man or even to touch him, for fear of
bringing down sickness to the child or to herself at the time of her delivery.
When a man went to war his wife or wives would avoid any unnecessary
contact with men, for fear of doing anything wrong with them which might
cause the husband to be killed.
It was also believed that if a married man who had a child had relations
with another woman who was not his wife he would bring down illness or
even death to his own child.
The attempt to sweep away many observances as pagan practices and the
36 UGANDA JOURNAL
dying of others as a result of changing conditions, has given too much freedom
to the people. It is no wonder that the standard of sexual morality has been
lowered. The lowering of moral standards is being hastened by the need for
money, especially by the unmarried women in the towns.
It is good to see that Christianity is filling the gap. Nevertheless I am inclined
to think that many of the good old traditions and customs were given up too
soon, before people knew well enough what is good in Western and Eastern
traditions to replace their own traditions and customs.
The rule for keeping friendly relations with neighbours. A man's safety
depended largely on his being friendly with his neighbours. And a man was
expected to know all the people in his village. When fire broke out or when
thieves came in or when there was work to be done and when sickness came,
neighbours were always expected to help.
If a man went away on a long journey he would entrust the care of his home
to one of his neighbours. There are many proverbs which show the high regard
that people had for their neighbours. I shall mention two of them:
(a) A neighbour is like a relation. When he dies you do not go out to
(b) You must not eat your cock without inviting your neighbour. (A cock
was very important in the home of the Baganda.)
Owing to differences in religion, tribal origin, and standards of living and
education, relations between neighbours now leave much to be desired.
I have already referred to the advantage of knowing other people's ways of
life, and in conclusion I want to emphasize this point by giving my personal
Twenty years ago when I was in Tabora in Tanganyika I greatly offended
my immediate neighbour through my ignorance of the ways of his country.
We were talking together in his house when his wife brought in food on a tray.
The food, I think, was in the form of maize flour. As I had no need for a meal
I at once got up and went to my house. My friend asked me to stay and have
food but I refused. The next day this friendly neighbour accused me before
another friend. He made a case that in declining to have a meal with him I
despised his food which I had seen. It was then explained to me that in his
tribe it is wrong to look at another man's food and refuse to eat it.
I think it is to help Baganda to avoid getting into embarrassing situations
when they go to England, that the British Council arranges special lectures
for people going to the United Kingdom. I think it would be advantageous to
give lectures on these lines to people coming to work in Buganda from the
United Kingdom and other parts of the Commonwealth.
However, I feel strongly that the more one knows about other people's
traditions and customs the more likely one is to get on well with them. I believe
that by understanding the customs and traditions of other people we can greatly
improve our relations one with another.
TOWN LIFE IN BUGANDA
By P. C. W. GUTKIND, M.A.
THIS paper will not be as broad in scope as the title suggests, but will deal
with some preliminary observations of research1 carried out from July 1953
to May 1955 in the 'suburb' of Mulago.
Mulago is located to the north of the Municipality of Kampala. Administra-
tively it is styled Mutuba IV by the Buganda Government. Mulago comprises
one of fourteen parishes (miluka, pl. of muluka) in this particular sub-county
(gombolola) which is referred to as the town (kibuga). The sub-county is
administered by a chief whose title is that of 'Elder', or 'Chief of the Town'.
Our study of town life in Buganda, as elsewhere in Africa, is complicated by
the absence of any adequate definition of what constitutes a town. There is
a tendency to assume that town life is exclusively the resultant of European
contact, European stimulus to commercial and industrial development, and
European imposed values. Although it is broadly true that many urban centres
have grown up as a result of this contact during the last seventy years, we must
not forget that numerous urban areas in Africa are considerably older than the
mere seventy years or so when European influence has played a prominent
part. We should, for example, consider such important centres of trade, com-
munication and thought as the West African cities of Benin, Kano and
Timbuctoo, not to mention the early Arab settlements on the East Coast about
which we know so little. There also remain the imposing ruins in Central Africa
which point to the achievements of its early inhabitants. Sir Mortimer Wheeler
has recently referred to the deserted city of Kua on Mafia island as a possible
Pompeii, and that the East Coast of Africa had been a great meeting place
of nations, i.e. of Greek, Egyptian and Arab traders.
These early concentrations of populations are themselves a definition of the
concept of a town and town life. For town life stands in direct contrast to
village life. Life in the latter rotates around the daily pursuit of agriculture,
whereas the town dweller devotes himself to scholarly, commercial and
industrial activities. Town populations meet their subsistence needs from the
agricultural surplus of the countryside. A town population usually is diverse
in terms of ethnic composition, occupation, education, habit and thought; not
to speak of its social stratification in terms of the scholars, traders, and the
social dlite on the one hand, and the workers on the other. It may however be
argued, quite rightly too, that widely dispersed and mainly agricultural popula-
tions bear the same composition of occupational specialization. I believe the
answer here would be that such specialization is the mark of all societies but
that it is found in far greater concentration and of a different order in urban
For example, a sketch map of Mengo Hill, the capital of the great Mutesa I,
1 The research was carried out as part of the Kampala Social Survey by the East
African Institute of Social Research.
38 UGANDA JOURNAL
shows a cluster of some 1,271 huts. This indeed can hardly be thought of as
a 'village', particularly in view of the fact that the Kingdom of Buganda was
administered from this focal point, and further, that in order to meet the needs
of the people who occupied Mengo Hill certain simple services must surely
have developed. In short, I do not think that the development and growth of
Kampala dates from the time when Lugard was granted land on Old Kampala
Hill in 1890 by Kabaka Mwanga. For at that time not only had Mutesa I
established the capital on Mengo Hill, but before 1890 the Catholics had
established themselves on Rubaga Hill and the Protestants on Namirembe
Hill, with the Moslems setting up their mosque on Kibuli some years later.
Soon after the arrival of Lugard, the development of Kampala's seven hills
was rather rapid. Although Lugard had to repulse an attack on Kampala in
1892, buildings for Government servants were constructed soon after the
Imperial British East Africa Company withdrew from the administration of
the territory in 1893. Before the evacuation of the Old Fort, a new one was
constructed on Nakasero Hill. This fort served as a prison for many years
until prisoners were re-housed in Luzira in 1929. Nakasero became known as
Kampala and Lugard's first settlement as Old Kampala.
During 1903 the Entebbe Road was constructed. The Bombo Road was still
a narrow cart track, but during the same year Government Square was set
aside for future development. The first shop on Nakasero was opened in 1905.
A Department of Agriculture had been set up in 1900, and in 1904 the Uganda
Company commenced the planting of cotton. The railway from the coast,
constructed mainly by Indian artisans and African labourers, reached Kisumu
in 1901, Jinja in 1928 and Kampala in 1931. Since then many more, and
sometimes imposing, Government offices and commercial premises have been
erected. This had been done at considerable cost by the draining of swamps
and laying down of roads which made the rapid development of Kampala
possible. Although I have no reliable figures, it is quite clear that the increase
in population has been tremendous over the last twenty years. In 1928, for
example, the District Commissioner's office estimated that there were 6,389
Africans, 2,000 Asians and 400 Europeans in what is now the Municipality.
The 1948 Census returned 1,297 Europeans, 10,996 Asians and 11,905 Africans,
and there has been a very heavy further increase since then. Today there is
considerable overcrowding particularly among Asians, many of whom live in
the Municipality. The growth of commercial and industrial undertakings, not
to speak of essential public services to meet the needs of this working popula-
tion, has been tremendous. In fact, today, we have a modern municipal
machine which attempts, sometimes with success, to plan and order this
manifold development. Before very long the Municipal area will surely have
to expand as the demand for further suitable building land is felt. It will then
be most desirable that this development, which should be carefully guided
by the Government Town Planner, shall be orderly and bring into being a
healthy and co-operative community with adequate provision for leisure and
Mulago, and the many other parishes which surround the Municipality to
the west, north and south, such as Katwe, Makerere and Kibuli, serve to house
TOWN LIFE IN BUGANDA 39
the considerable populations which have concentrated in response to the rapid
development and increasing labour market which the Municipality of Kampala
provides. Our research has shown that there is a dense belt of population which
almost rings the Municipality in a five to six mile radius from the centre of
the town. Early in the morning hundreds of cyclists stream into town. Some
workers come in cars, others walk. In the late afternoon the process is reversed.
One of the interesting pieces of research my colleague, Dr. Southall, and I
have done is to study these workers who come into town every morning and
find out as much as possible about them, such as their occupation, income,
tribe, religion, residence and education. We found that the better the person's
job the further out of Kampala he lives, and the better his general social
condition and material wealth. This information might suggest, among other
things, that few Africans wish, even if they were able, to live close to their
place of work. Why? Surely one simple reason is that land is scarce around
the Municipality: and consequently if a man can obtain a plot it will be such
a small one that it will be difficult for him to grow any food or commercial
cash crops. In addition, there is little privacy because people live densely packed
together. Could this desire to move away from the town areas also reflect a
general desire for small village life? However, we have also found that it is
increasingly the practice for wage earners to maintain two houses. One, their
town house which they occupy during the greater part of the week, and
secondly, their 'country house to which they withdraw over the weekends.
Let us now turn to the 'suburb' of Mulago which more clearly highlights
the process of urbanization in Buganda. Mulago has its own history. Although
this history is rather unclear, and I have collected a number of contradictory
accounts, we can say with considerable certainty that Mulago Hill was
propelled into greater prominence when Kabaka Suna II, also known as Suna
Kalema, the father of Mutesa I, built his palace there. It has also been suggested
that Kabaka Semakokiro lived on Mulago Hill, and that Mutesa I was born
there, but so far I have only suggestions of this rather than substantial proof.
To this day, however, there are residents living in or close to Mulago who
remember a song which was sung in the time of Suna II and which their
fathers and grandfathers passed on to them. Part of it runs like this:
'A piece of hard banana
saved me from starving at Mulago,
Kalema's generation are
I shall come to see
the sons of Ggolooba.'
In addition there are a number of place names which suggest royal occupa-
tion of Mulago Hill such as a mound known as Kyekulidde said to have been
raised by Suna II possibly as a lookout post, and a number of wells which
bear the names of important personages in the royal household. To the north
of the parish is a small river which is known as Nsoba, a Luganda word
meaning, 'I who walk stealthily'. This refers to the fact that one of the kings
living on Mulago Hill ordered anyone who dared to approach or enter the
palace from the north and east to be put to death.
40 UGANDA JOURNAL
From the limited reconstruction of Mulago's past we know that the residents
on the hill were men of considerable status. The first accurate map I have of
the area, which was made soon after 1900, shows the division of the land
holdings. The names of those who appear in the land register are important
chiefs or heads of clans who had plots of land on Mulago. These important
personages treated their residences on the hill as their 'town houses' which
they occupied during those days of the year when the Kabaka wished to see
them or when other business of state had to be conducted, such as meetings
of the Great Lukiko. Today the picture is very different. I know of no
important chief or member of the royal household who currently lives on
Mulago's recent history is more intimately tied up with the development of
the famous hospital which dates back to about 1910 when, as a small dispensary
for the treatment of venereal diseases, it was supervised by Dr. G. J. Keane.
His energy soon built this lone medical outpost into a small one-ward hospital,
and by 1913 the activities and research of the small medical staff were reported
in the Annual Report of Uganda's Medical Department. In 1920 the Protec-
torate Government selected Mulago Hill as the future site for a large African
hospital. Since then its development has been piecemeal. Many people come
to live in the parish of Mulago while visiting their relatives who are patients
in the hospital. There is consequently a large transient population in the parish
who have no roots there and as such are not interested in the activities of
The ecological pattern of Mulago bears certain urban features. In the first
place one is struck by the closeness of the houses. What a change that is from
the traditional village pattern! Secondly, most people buy their food rather
than grow it themselves. For many people who come to town this is
perhaps the hardest of all adjustments to make. Quite a number of the poorer
paid workers, the porters and the sweepers and generally the unskilled, spend
at least half to three-quarters of their pay on food needs. Little is therefore
left over for clothes, recreation and incidentals, particularly after rent has
been paid, which averages Shs. 15/- per room per month. Thirdly, over 65 per
cent of the householders in Mulago are tenants, only 34 per cent owning their
own homes. This high percentage of tenants is no doubt due in part to the
shortage of building land and the great concentration of people many of whom
are immigrants. These immigrants find it difficult to obtain land for a number
of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the landowners require a con-
siderable premium before they are willing to lease a plot often hardly large
enough for construction of a house. In addition many immigrants do not stay
for very long in one place and are consequently reluctant to invest considerable
sums of money in house construction even if the land was available. Moreover,
the mobility of people in urban areas is high as is evident from a study which
showed that 40 per cent of the people we had originally interviewed had left
Mulago six months later when a second survey was conducted. It is difficult to
find out where these people go, but some simply drift to other parishes around
Kampala. The frequent inability to pay house rent at the end of the month
is one of the contributing factors to this mobility. Others no doubt leave
TOWN LIFE IN BUGANDA 41
Kampala altogether and return to their villages as the long lines of Rwanda
making their way to Port Bell testify. They will take home with them their
meagre savings, some new clothing and cooking utensils, and other com-
modities which they have purchased. The problems facing such immigrants
have recently been studied.2
Finally, Mulago has distinct ecological zones. The first of these zones is the
main street, lined on either side with shops and other small traders most of
whom are Ganda. Then follows the immigrant belt with its many illegal beer
bars. In this area few residents own the houses they live in, and only a few
lucky ones have small plots on which to grow some of their food. In the next
zone, which is more rural in character, live many Ganda artisans who own
their own homes and more often than not have small plots of one acre or more.
Finally, there is a considerable area to the north of spacious plots and large
and well-constructed houses belonging to officers of the Protectorate and
Let us now turn to a consideration of the composition of the community of
Mulago. I have used the term community, which ought to suggest a certain
feeling of cohesion and co-operation. Although old bonds of kinship and
obligation are sadly disturbed, new corporate groupings, activities, and
symbols are emerging. Mulago has not yet reached the stage, so common in
our highly industrialized Western European and American cities, where
individuals tend to pursue an isolated life with little or no contact with their
neighbours. The authority of the chief is still generally respected although his
duties and social position in the community have changed considerably.
Unlike fifty years ago, when Mulago was a dominantly Ganda community,
today there are members of some thirty tribes living there. This is perhaps
the most important mark of urban development over the last twenty-five to
thirty years. Kampala, like other urban areas in Africa, has acted like a magnet
in drawing to itself people from all over the Protectorate, many other parts of
East Africa, the Congo, the Sudan and even from Central and West Africa.
(Recently we interviewed an Ibo from Nigeria who had been working in
Kampala for the last three years.) In Mulago only 46 per cent of the total
population are Ganda. The Ganda are no longer, at least in certain areas,
the statistically dominant group. This coming together of members of many
and varied tribes has in itself caused tremendous problems of language and
communication, behaviour and custom. In Mulago, for example, the contact
between the Bantu-speaking peoples and the Nilotic-speaking peoples is
restricted. Not only are there linguistic barriers but the adjustment that people
have to make towards one another as a result of diverse cultural backgrounds
is considerable. This is true, I believe, in all the major urban centres in Uganda.
Linguistic and cultural differences, however, seem often to be overcome by
new forms of association which are distinctly urban in character springing from
economic, commercial, political, and social activities. Furthermore new
mediums of communication such as the radio, newspapers and the cinema, not
to speak of the widespread use of Swahili, all tend to develop new cross-tribal
2 See Audrey I. Richards and others, Economic Development and Tribal Change.
Heffer, Cambridge, 1954.
42 UGANDA JOURNAL
and cross-educational bonds. On the other hand, tribal welfare and political
organizations have also grown up which counter balance cross-tribal contacts.
Most immigrants seeking employment and occupational and social advance-
ment must and will adopt some of the customs of the Ganda, namely those
which the immigrants find most important in their attempt to ingratiate them-
selves with the members of the dominant group. In this respect the Bantu-
speaking people have a great advantage because, among other things,
linguistic and cultural differences are not so considerable. The parish chief told
me that, apart from collecting poll tax, one of his major problems was to train
or to help the immigrants to practise and understand Ganda customs. Of course,
the immigrants themselves have certain attitudes towards this process although
they are reluctant to speak badly about their 'hosts'. Some rebel against this
procedure of forcible 'Ganda-ization' but most of them accept it as a matter
All over Africa where urban development is intense the ratio between the
sexes is shown to be rather uneven, with more men than women living in
the towns. This often results in considerable competition for the few women
who venture into the towns. In fact this competition, quite naturally, leads
to friction. The institution of marriage, and the customary relationship between
the sexes, undergoes change in structure, function and attitude as a result of
conditions which have been thrown up in the urban context. Whereas in the
village context, as Mr. Nsimbi points out,3 adolescent girls were carefully
watched lest they got into trouble, and the institution of marriage followed
age-old traditions, in the urban setting there are an increasing number of
irregular and varied unions adapted to the needs and circumstances fashioned
by town life.
In Mulago the ratio of men to women both over the age of sixteen, is 642 to
436 or 1-5 men to every woman.4 In the age group 16-30 it is 363 to 259 or
1-4 men to every woman. Men between 16 and 30 comprise 34 per cent of all
males; women in the same age group make up 48 per cent of all females. Almost
half the female population are therefore within marriageable age, a condition
produced by the relative youngness of the total population. Those under 16
comprise 19-8 per cent, those in the 16-45 group 72-3 per cent, and those over
45 only 8-9 per cent. Generally the women are younger. Nearly 46 per cent
of the total population over 16 consider themselves married according to one
form or another, not including the many 'friendships', often of surprisingly
If these ratios are worked out according to tribe the following picture
emerges. Only the Ganda show a ratio in favour of women, i.e. 1-25 women for
every man. All the other tribes, whose tribal areas are further away, have 2-5
men to every woman. The Luo 2-66, Toro 2-47 and Rwanda 2-42. Only the Kiga
have a quite abnormally high ratio of men to women, this being 7-11 men to
every woman. This is due to the tremendous migration of jobless Kiga men
3 P. 35 ante.
4 This may be compared with the situation in Mengo-Kisenyi, studied by Dr. Southall,
where the comparable ratio was 1,008 to 709 or 1-4 men to every woman. It appears,
therefore, that the ratio of the sexes cannot in itself explain the greater stability of
marriage in Mulago than in Mengo-Kisenyi.
TOWN LIFE IN BUGANDA 43
to Kampala as a result of the heavy over-population of southern Kigezi. Few
of these men bring their wives with them.
It has often been suggested that African urban development could perhaps
be controlled in a more orderly manner if and when stable marriage contracts
emerged. Although this might well be true, this assumption leaves out of
consideration a whole series of problems such as provision of adequate housing
for men and their often very large families, and the need to increase minimum
wages for unskilled labour which, in the case of Uganda, stands at a minimum
of Shs. 33 per month, and, at the time of writing, had not been revised since
1950. Further, there is the undesirability of luring large numbers of women
away from the land where they continue to form the backbone of food produc-
tion. Then there are the problems of housekeeping and looking after children
in a context devoid of kinship help and obligations, not to mention the
tremendous problems which would result if already overstrained medical and
recreational services had to be considerably increased. Against these argu-
ments is placed the pressing need to create a large and efficient working
population without which neither industry, commerce, public services or
government can function. It is assumed that such a working force can only
be established when men are willing and able to bring their families with them.
A man who constructs his own home, or for whom a home is provided, has
clearly a more permanent stake in the community.
There are a great variety of clearly definable sexual unions between men
and women. They range from commercial unions, accepted but non-traditional
temporary unions, and simple 'friendships', to tribal and Christian marriages.
The latter is rare for a number of reasons two of which are the considerable
cost of such marriages, although they confer social status, and the potential
complications which arise when such marriages are broken. The exact
statistical percentages of all these unions remain to be tabulated. However,
the bulk of the married population contract tribal marriages recognized by
the community and the native courts but not defendable as legal in the Pro-
tectorate courts. A Christian marriage is recognized by both legal systems,
but can, in the case of breakdown, only be dissolved in a Protectorate court.
For those who have had a tribal marriage it has become fairly common
practice subsequently to have another ceremony, sometimes years later, this
time a Christian one. It is indeed a strange sight when a middle-aged man
with many children, some of whom already are married, 'takes a wife'.
Furthermore, Christian marriages themselves are a strange mixture of the old
and the new. After the church service and ceremony are over the couple and
their relatives and friends withdraw to the home of the groom where a
traditional ceremony and merry-making takes place. The manner in which
these two systems of marriage intermingle is perhaps an indication that many
Africans continue to live in the twilight of the past.
I am also impressed by the changing pattern of material wealth of the people.
Perhaps this is not only true of the distinctly urban areas, for even further
from Kampala one is also struck by the rapid accumulation of material wealth
within the last few years. In house construction more permanent materials
such as bricks, plaster, cement and iron sheets, window-frames and solid doors
44 UGANDA JOURNAL
are used. Inside the house a definite attempt is made at a division of rooms
according to their functions in contrast to the all-purpose room of the past.
Separate kitchens are frequently seen nowadays. Tables and chairs and particu-
larly beds have made their appearance in large numbers. In fact, as everywhere,
it is a mark of social distinction to have a well-constructed and well-equipped
home. It is not unusual to see in at least some of the homes of Mulago residents
a radio, gramophone or newspapers and, occasionally, a car or motor-cycle
parked outside a house, not to speak of the universal bicycle. Other household
items such as paraffin stoves, knives and forks, plates, cups and glasses, are
in common use. I do not wish to suggest that all these material changes are
consequent on urban development, for many of them are the result of the great
general changes in the educational and social field.
Taking a brief glance at the wide range of commercial activity which is
pursued in Mulago, we find the following: although 35 per cent of the working
population over sixteen years of age are unskilled wage earners, there are many
independent retailers of plantains, charcoal, firewood, fish and beer. In
addition, there are the semi-skilled traders such as butchers, tailors, black-
smiths, milk suppliers, general shopkeepers, builders and restaurant keepers.
In fact, there is quite a range of specialization of trades, surely a great deal
more than in the villages which these men and women left behind. In addition
there is a sexual division in commercial activity as the small retail trade in
plantains, charcoal and firewood, and the more profitable beer trade, is
frequently in the hands of women. In point of fact, the place of women in the
commercial life of Mulago is perhaps one of the best examples of the great
changes which have been brought about. During the day women are often
seen serving in the shops while the menfolk go about their wage-earning tasks
in the nearby hospital or in Kampala. Some of the largest houses in Mulago
are owned by women who live on the proceeds of the rent they collect from
hiring out rooms. These 'economic women', as I sometimes call them, are surely
a new development in Ganda society and consequent on the development of
cash crops and the mailo system of land ownership. No doubt such commercial
activities are thought of as worthwhile and profitable by these women who
enjoy their newly-won independence and have turned their backs on the
labours and boredom of digging the soil.
On the surface the commercial activities of Mulago seem impressive, at least
judging by the number of shops and outdoor traders. But in actual fact,
although some traders do well, the great bulk scrape by with rather a miserable
existence. Mulago is too close to Kampala where people can buy better goods,
better displayed and selected from a greater variety. Neither has Mulago
attracted those shopkeepers and traders who have either had some commercial
training or have any serious interest in their business. In this respect it is
worthwhile noting that one of the most successful enterprises is that of two
brothers who had received five years' training each at Kampala Technical
School, and who have established a profitable and even expanding carpentry
and furniture business. As in other areas of Uganda, many traders enter their
activities with high hopes, but little capital, and soon find themselves forced
out of business and their aspirations of quick success shattered.
TOWN LIFE IN BUGANDA 45
In local government the changes are just as marked as in the area of com-
mercial activity. Today the traditional system of parish administration is
shown to be in need of drastic revision if it is to deal effectively with the
numerous administrative problems in urban areas, and if it is to meet the
needs of the parish with its diverse population. It is probably this one single
factor, the heterogeneity of the community in terms of diverse tribal back-
grounds and varied educational standards, which makes it virtually impossible
to carry over into the urban context the remains of any traditional system,
or to devise an acceptable new system of administration which is not totally
The parish chief and his ward-headmen administer the parish. The number
of headmen who thus assist the chief varies from parish to parish. In Mulago
there are eight headmen. Unlike the chief they receive no official pay, which
accounts more than anything else for their unwillingness to aid the chief in
collecting poll tax, and keeping law and order in the respective areas assigned
to them by the parish chief. All the headmen, with one exception, are employed
as retailers or wage-earners which also means that they look upon their official
duties as secondary. The traditional system held that the headmen were local
landowners, or their representatives, but in Mulago today only two of the
headmen are local landowners; four of them rent small plots from other land-
owners but own their own houses, one other had his own home but does not
even rent a plot and the other lives in rented rooms. The system of unpaid
service leads to flagrant abuses of their position vis-h-vis the residents.
Apart from collecting poll tax, executing the orders of the Buganda Govern-
ment and maintaining law and order, the parish chief holds a council meeting
every Saturday afternoon. After official matters have been dealt with the chief
presides over a 'court' at which 'legal cases' arising from drunkenness, personal
frictions and failure to meet contracts are heard. This 'court' is purely a court
of arbitration and has no rights to enforce legally binding sanctions. Hence
the chief's judgment may or may not be accepted by these disputants. Should
the disputants accept the advice and judgment of the chief and his headmen,
the case is considered settled, social equilibrium is restored and daily life
continues. On the other hand, should the disputants be unable to accept the
judgment and advice, the parish chief will write a letter to the next higher
court, whose sanctions are legally binding, and ask the parties involved to
report there. In really serious cases the parish chief will call for Buganda
Government or Protectorate police.
The frequent need and the methods employed of restoring equilibrium in
the community as a whole, and among individuals in particular, might in itself
reflect the great tensions and strains of urban life. I would emphasize that it
is the frequency of the cases, rather than the cases themselves, which dis-
tinguishes the urban from the rural setting. Although some of the cases which
are brought forward are almost farcical in nature, it is important to understand
that this system of solving everyday disputes among individuals is of vital
importance. Were this system not to exist the higher courts of the Buganda
Government would be heavily overworked and men and women would take
the law into their own hands without reference to a traditional tribunal. It is
46 UGANDA JOURNAL
this danger, and the frequency with which it occurs, which further distinguishes
the urban picture from its rural counterpart. For in the rural areas it still
remains true that men and women pay respect to traditional obligations and
good manners. I am very interested in the working of these urban 'courts',
not only for the light they throw on matters of law and order, but also for what
they tell us of conflict situations which are often highlighted when people
bring their problems to the chief. It is indeed unfortunate, as Mr. Nsimbi
points out,5 that more and more residents in urban areas tend to pay less
attention to the chief, that the personal qualities of those appointed chiefs has
deteriorated, and that people order their lives according to a variety of new
norms and sanctions which have so far not been institutionalized. It is not
enough to say that the functions of chieftainship have undergone considerable
change. A chief today finds himself at the point of maximum contact and
articulation between a traditional system and a colonial power whose objects,
varied as they may be, are to see that the complicated machinery of govern-
ment flows smoothly from the top. The result of this has been, at least in
numerous cases, that a wall of resistance and an attitude of suspicion has been
created between the chief and the African peoples. Going around to have a
talk with the chief is no longer considered a worthwhile way to pass the time
of day, for time is money and money is desired and needed above all else.
These remarks give a general picture of certain aspects of town life. However,
I would like to suggest that the characteristics which I have enumerated do
not by themselves set off urban areas in Uganda from village life. It seems
rather a question of degrees of difference, and the greater concentration of
certain common features in the urban areas. So far I do not think that any
single and clear-cut pattern of urban life has emerged except the heterogeneity
of the population, and the great range of behaviour, customs and thought which
can be observed. In this respect it is dangerous to generalize at the present
stage, for I do not believe that we can say more than that certain trends have
appeared. These trends should not be unfamiliar to the administrator, particu-
larly if he is acquainted with the traditional culture of the Ganda and some of
the other tribes. It is however for the administrator to take a close look at these
trends, to puzzle out what they might suggest in terms of future development,
and to order and channel these developments in those directions which will
be most rewarding for the whole community.
In conclusion, I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the residents
of Mulago for their unfailing and often devoted co-operation in this study.
5 P. 31 ante.
UGANDA TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO
By C. HANDLE BIRD, C.B.E.
IT is not easy to recall clearly the real conditions and physical aspects of
Kampala and Uganda twenty-five years ago; and it is still more difficult to
realize the enormous gap between then and now, socially, physically, politically
Let me try to recall some of the men whose names were very familiar in
those days, and whose activities had such a profound influence on the progress
of the Protectorate.
Sir William Gowers, the Governor, who pressed for major land reforms in
Buganda and brought the railway through to Kampala in 1931. He also insisted
on the opening up of the Western Province with a road programme of the then
enormous sum of 60,000.
Dr. and Mrs. Cook-later Sir Albert and Lady Cook-truly beloved by all
in Uganda in those days. Today they are a tradition, but 25 years ago he was
a hardworking general practitioner, surgeon and hospital superintendent.
Martin Luther Nsibirwa, Katikiro 1927-41, probably the finest administrator
and disciplinarian that the Buganda Government has ever had.
Ham Mukasa, full of vitality and enthusiasm, was a well-known personality
with a fund of memories of the religious and political wars that tore Buganda
Mr. Serwano Kulubya, who is happily still with us and active, was
Omuwanika. He was one of those who went to England to give evidence to the
Joint Parliamentary Commission on Closer Union.
Dr. H. H. Hunter, Michael Moses and George Ishmael, active and vocal
members of the legal profession and of the business community.
Mr. A. J. M. Cameron, General Manager of the Uganda Company, nursed
that great organization successfully through the shocking slump conditions of
Douglas Tomblings, Headmaster of Makerere College before it became a
University College, whose training of youth was so outstandingly successful.
Messrs. Cannon, Stafford and Naylor, the leading agriculturists to weather
the storm during those difficult years-real pioneers and developers of the
great tea, coffee and tobacco industries.
Mr. Borup was still an active and well-loved personality, entertaining all
and sundry who would visit him at his estate at Kawanda.
Sir Charles Griffin, the Chief Justice, was an outstanding character,
exercising an influence for good far beyond the confines of the Courts.
Monseigneur Streicher was in semi-retirement at Villa Maria but he had
been responsible for immense development and consolidation of the Roman
Church. He, too, continued a power in the land with a happy outlook on life
that encouraged the younger generation.
Bishop Willis was an outstanding man, cultured in every sense of the word.
He had an imposing presence, which he knew how to use. I have seldom
48 UGANDA JOURNAL
met a man in authority with such human understanding and humble kindliness
of heart towards all and sundry.
I do not pretend that this list is exhaustive, but have mentioned the first few
that come to mind as of men with whom one came into contact in one's normal
life, whether that life was commercial, professional or official.
To the non-African Kampala even then included what has come to be called
'Old' Kampala; but among the African community very large numbers still
distinguished Kampala (i.e. 'Old'.Kampala) and Nakasero. This was not sur-
prising because the Nakasero centre ended at South Street. Between that
frontier and Namirembe and Mengo was grass and bush, except for a very
Many of the then old-timer Africans still spoke of being Feranza (French)
or Ingereza (English) instead of Roman Catholic or Protestant.
Imagine Kampala as starting with the Arya Samaj now opposite the wide
entrance to the modern railway station. Even that building was half in the bush.
The golf course covered the Jubilee Park, tennis courts and land where now
are streets and houses below the Kampala Club. The English Church was
often called irreverently the Tin Chapel, being a corrugated iron building in
Nakasero Road. To the west of South Street was a swamp through which the
Nakivubo wandered and was crossed by a narrow one-way bridge where the
Entebbe Road came in. The plot on which the Hon. Mr. Maini has built his
town residence was the shamba of Smith Mackenzie's house, the last house
on Queen's Road.
Between the X-Ray building and the present Golf Club House was a huge
area covered with agricultural experimental grounds, mostly coffee and rubber.
The present Kitante valley was a wild swamp. The Railway Station was just
below the Customs office, while the goods yard consisted of two or three
sidings. Engines had to go back as far as the crossing of the Nakivubo, where
the first big Jinja Road roundabout now is, to get to a turntable next door to
what was known as the Press House.
The present Police Training College and grounds were swamp. There was
not a yard of tar on any of the roads, nor was there any storm-water drainage
other than wide and deep drains cut on both sides of the road. It was widely
rumoured that the days following the Caledonian Dinner and St. George's
Ball were the busiest periods for the local garages. The first experimental strips
of tarred road in Kampala were laid outside the Post Office, along the Bombo
Road and on the ascent from the Nakivubo up the Namirembe Road.
The dust of Kampala had to be seen and breathed to be believed. If such
conditions obtained today it would be considered a major medical scandal.
The water supply of the time was embryonic, which did not help matters.
There was, of course, no electrical supply; that did not come till 1936, and at
the time was considered a venture of doubtful commercial success. Incidentally,
I did not get electric light in my house till 1943, and then only as an act of grace
after much agitation, as I lived 200 yards outside the then Town boundary.
Dust with its accompanying evils, perpetual and all pervading dust; dust on
the main roads, dust in the towns, dust in the shops and houses, and the air
always full of dust; penetrating red dust that coloured one's home, clothes,
UGANDA TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO 49
food and body. Such conditions did not help the building up of physical
resistance to other ills.
It is impossible to realize today the panic or fatalistic acceptance of death
caused by the ever-present threat of sleeping sickness and bubonic plague and
blackwater. Smallpox had been defeated, but so recently that no one was sure
whether the defeat was final.
The country had such a bad reputation that when it became known in
Mombasa that I was moving to Uganda most of my friends advised me NOT
TO GO as I would be sure to lose my health and such reputation as I had
built up. Today one complains vociferously if a mosquito is seen in Kampala!
Blackwater was a very serious menace, particularly in the Eastern Province.
I believe that this disease, which was-rightly or wrongly-attributed to the
prevalence of malaria, was responsible for much of the delay in developing
that area. Those of us who have seen and realized the dreadful effects of these
widespread diseases are naturally convinced that the principal efforts of the
Medical Department have been and are rightly concentrated on preventive
medicine and hygiene. In a day-to-day outlook the work is not spectacular,
but if one makes an honest appreciation of the situation over the past 25 years
one can only be astonished at the amazing results achieved. But make no
mistake, a slackening of effort, a wide dispersal of effort and funds into the
supply of drugs and cough mixtures might well result in the cure of stomach
aches and temporary relief of colds in the head at the expense of thousands
Mulago, even in those days, was a great institution, though nothing like
its present size nor of the same status. Mulago Kidogo at Masaka was on the
drawing boards awaiting the provision of finance.
Try and think of Uganda in years of trade slump. No money in the Treasury.
No worthwhile world price for our raw materials, cotton and coffee. Yearly
bankruptcies in the Bazaar amounting to serious proportions. The closing down
of several of the more important European firms such as Mengo Planters.
Uganda Company's shares down to 2s. or 2s. 6d. each. Tin at a price that did
not actually warrant continuing production. And so the story went on. Locusts
and drought added to the depression. Can you imagine today swarms of locusts
so dense that they were swept in masses into the Imperial Hotel and other
buildings? Golf was suspended and the streets, such as they were, lined with
trenches filled.with dead and stinking locusts. The railway trains were arriving
twenty-four hours late because the engine driving wheels would not bite on
the rails. Vast areas of mtama were destroyed in the Eastern Province. Branches
of trees were broken down with the weight of the beastly things. Think of the
disaster that such an invasion would cause today with the enormous acreage
of maize, and the destruction of coffee plantations and sugar fields.
The position was counted so serious that even civil servants had a 10 per cent
cut in their pay, and there were widespread retrenchments of staff in practically
every department. There were no surplus funds, but there was a loan debt
of 2,000,000 at 6 per cent. Employment outside Government depended entirely
on the profit-making ability of the employer. In my own case I was brusquely
informed of a 10 per cent cut in my salary, the suspension of all privileges such
50 UGANDA JOURNAL
as wife's passage, and notice that if my branch at Kampala did not show a
profit by the, end of 1931 it would be closed and I would be out of work. At
that time there were about two million unemployed in Great Britain.
This serious slump affected the European community most, and above all
the planters. The African population at that time did not suffer from these
conditions to the extent that it would suffer today. Then there was practically
nothing but subsistence agriculture. The African middle class, upper civil
servants, commercial and professional men and even noisy politicians, had not
emerged. Such men were very few, as was the European population which then
amounted to barely 2,000 in the whole Protectorate.
Twenty-five years ago Africans in trade, except as hawkers or salesmen
dependent on Indian suppliers, were practically non-existent. Transport activity
was just beginning. The desire to trade in imported goods hardly existed.
Indeed it could be said to be a war-time growth. This statement, of course, does
not cover the natural and enormous amount of market trading that has been
a feature of Uganda for a century or more, particularly in Buganda, and the
West and South.
The official policy of Government was to discourage development and to
retain the African population in its old tribal ways. Active people with
initiative and a willingness to push their ideas and schemes were disliked
with an intensity that it is hard to believe today.
Even in the Township of Kampala this attitude was clear. Though nominally
the Township Authority had control, that body could do nothing that Heads
of Departments had not approved in Entebbe. I know of many decisions made
that were arbitrary to the extent that the Head concerned had not even
troubled to examine the site nor the papers. A trip to Entebbe was something
of an ordeal because of the dust or mud, and additionally because of the wild
driving and dangerous corners and bends.
Legislative Council was merely a pretence and facade behind which Govern-
ment officials carried out preconceived ideas without paying the slightest
attention to anything said by the three unofficial members. Sittings of Legisla-
tive Council took place at the Entebbe Secretariat. But at least the country was
governed, even though the Government was carrying out a policy of socialism
under a benevolent autocracy. The legal reforms following the Bushe Com-
mission started the slide down the slope, to the surrender of liberty to licence
and of justice to law.
No one should think that those days were the 'good old days'. To every
generation comes its own problems and policies. Each generation will produce
its own leaders. Many who were active and influential in their day have left
but a vague memory or have been forgotten. But it is valuable to look back
sometimes to see the road that has been travelled; to spot wrong turnings taken
and abandoned, so that one can learn from past mistakes; and above all to
take hope and renewed faith. So much has been done; so much good has been
achieved; so much progress made; so much that was considered impossible
is now an accepted and accomplished fact, that one is encouraged for the future
in spite of alleged frustration and impatience.
Today there are endless opportunities for everyone who will give honest
UGANDA TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO 51
thought and toil in his daily endeavours. Above all, there are opportunities for
youth. But youth should beware of the falsity of the verse:
Oh tell me not of names great in story
The days of our youth are the days of our glory
And the myrtle and ivy of young two and twenty
Are worth all your laurels though never so plenty.
There are lessons to be learnt from the past. If these are well learnt and the
knowledge thus gained faithfully applied, then the days of youth can be still
more glorious and laurels can be harvested in due course to complete the
By SIR JOHN MILNER GRAY
D OUBTLESS not a few people were surprised at the events which took place
at Mbale, Mawokota, and on Mutundwe Hill, near Mengo, in January and
February 1955, and which culminated in the prosecution of a former motor
driver on a charge of murder. Hence, I am not particularly concerned with
that trial or with the words and deeds of the accused man, beyond the fact that,
although he bore a Christian name, he is alleged to have claimed to be the
medium, or living manifestation, of the lubale Kibuka and to have preached
the abandonment of Christianity and Islam and the return to the worship of
the "ancient gods". The story of the lubale Kibuka and of his cult recalls a very
interesting episode in the early history of Buganda, regarding which tradition
gives us a remarkable amount of detail, throwing an interesting light upon
life in Buganda in olden times. Furthermore the tradition is in this case corrobo-
rated by a certain amount of "real evidence" which goes to suggest that the
main points in those traditions have a substantial foundation of fact.
Kibuka is said to have lived during the reign of Nakibinge, who according
to Roscoe (Baganda, p. 217) was the eighth ruler of Buganda. Kibuka is said
to have died at or near Mbale in the present-day county of Kaima. As pointed
out by A. H. Cox (Uganda J., 14 (1950), 153), this chief's name denotes that he
was a herdsman to the Kabaka and in the early days of Buganda was in all
probability a palace official rather than an administrator. It is not until the
reign of Semakokiro, the eighteenth Kabaka, that Sir Apolo Kagwa records
in his Empisa a regular succession of county chiefs of Mawokota bearing the
title of Kaima.
One writer in Munno (1917 p. 24) says that in Nakibinge's days the land
near Mbale "was a kitobereze (piece of patchwork). Here was a Muganda and
there a Munyoro". The stories of Kibuka himself and of the origin of the
saying "Nze ndi Muganda we Mbale" (I am a Muganda of Mbale) tend to
confirm this statement. The traditions of the Sheep Clan suggest that, shortly
before the incidents about to be narrated, there had been a number of immigra-
tions of members of that clan from the Sese archipelago into Mawokota.
According to K.W. it was not until the reign of Nakibinge's grandson,
Kimbugwe, that Mawokota was finally wrested from Bunyoro by Buganda
(Kagwa, Ebika, p. 67; K.W., Uganda J., 4 (1936-7), 80).
Nakibinge himself would appear to have tried to launch out on a policy of
expansion. According to the Ebika of Sir Apolo Kagwa (p. 86) he sent an army
under a chief of the Hippopotamus Clan to fight the Bunyoro chief Namuyonjo,
who then was in possession of the whole of Kyagwe. Namuyonjo was success-
fully driven out, but as it was not until the reign of the sixteenth Kabaka, Juko
(fl. 1680), that the first Sekibobo (or county chief) of Kyagwe was appointed,
one imagines that the Banyoro were not permanently evicted from that county
in Nakibinge's time.
One gathers from other traditions that Nakibinge had far too many other
preoccupations to allow of his seriously attempting to consolidate his position
in Kyagwe. At a very early date in his reign his succession was disputed by a
rival, Juma, son of a prince named Kyabainze, who was the son of the mulangira
Wampamba. Nakibinge's father Kabaka Kaima, was also a son of Wampamba,
but Wampamba had been debarred from succeeding to the throne because it
was alleged that his marriage with Kyabainze's mother was incestuous. When
Kabaka Kaima died, Juma asserted that during his lifetime Kaima had agreed
that Juma should succeed him and that Nakibinge should succeed to the inheri-
tance left by Kyabainze. It was impossible to settle the dispute amicably and
civil war broke out. The first clash between the parties was at Musaga.
Nakibinge was defeated and, like his descendant Mwanga II several centuries
later, fled to the island of Bulingugwe. Like Mwanga later on, he launched a
counter-attack from Bulingugwe and defeated Juma, who fled into the county
of Busiro. Thereafter Nakibinge was able to perform his father's funeral rites,
but for several years to come Juma remained at large in Busiro. Juma invoked
the assistance of the Banyoro and Nakibinge's hold on his kingdom was
exceedingly precarious. As he evicted from their butaka various landowners
in Kyadondo, Mawokota and Busiro, who claimed that ancestors had been
settled there since the days of Kintu, and put in their places various of his
supporters, he doubtless raised up a fifth column against himself inside his own
dominions. In addition to the Banyoro the malcontents invoked the aid of the
Basoga. (Kagwa, Basekabaka pp. 17-8: Munno (1922), p. 127.)
After several years, owing to the treachery of one of his followers, Juma was
killed by some Banyoro. His death was followed a few days later by that of
his son Lunyenje, who fell into a hole concealed by bark cloth, which his father's
murderer had specially prepared for him.
Traditions are conflicting as to when these two murders were committed,
but Sir Apolo Kagwa tells us in Ebika (p. 68) that there was one stage at
which "the war died down" (olutalo lukakanye), only to be revived by another
incident which he next proceeds to describe. The simplest explanation of this
lull in the hostilities would appear to be that, after the murder of the rival
claimant to the throne of Buganda and of his son, the Mukama of Bunyoro,
who, according to K.W. (Uganda J., 4 (1936-7), 79), was Olimi I Rukidi
Rwitamahanga, the fifth ruler of the Babito dynasty, no longer had a sufficient
motive for prosecuting the war with vigour and that, except for an occasional
flare-up on the borders of the two countries, hostilities came temporarily to
Nevertheless Nakibinge decided that he must try to deliver a knock-out blow
to the Banyoro. With this object in view he consulted a mulaguzi (seer). He
was told that, if he banned the manufacture of mwenge (beer) in his realm, he
would speedily gain the victory. He accordingly instructed his Katikiro to
impose and enforce the ban. "But," we are told, "the Katikiro suffered greatly
from thirst, and devised a plan, whereby he brewed mwenge secretly in
bimpukumpuku (mash-tubs). After drinking, he used to become intoxicated
but, when he saw he was intoxicated, he stayed at home and never went in front
of the Kabaka." One day, however, it so chanced that some Banyoro traders
proceeded along a path which he had closed because it led to the place where
he concealed his mwenge. The Katikiro was drunk at the time. When he saw
54 UGANDA JOURNAL
the Banyoro, he asked them what they meant by proceeding along a path which
he had closed. They apologized, explaining that they did not realize the path
was closed, but the Katikiro would not listen to them and seized and killed all
of them, except one man who escaped and went and told the Mukama of
Bunyoro what had happened. The Mukama at once launched a full-scale
invasion of Buganda. Nakibinge, who knew nothing about the Katikiro's
misdeeds, was taken by surprise. Once again he was defeated in battle and had
to escape into hiding. (Ebika, pp. 67-8.)
Nakibinge's next move is best described in the words of the story as told
in 1882 to one of the first White Fathers to reach Buganda.
"He said, 'there are too many Banyoro living all round me'. He asked
his uncle Gabunga if he knew of any man who could prophesy. Gabunga said
he would take him to such a person. The two went together with the queen
mother, a slave and a dog. Nakibinge also took two spears with him. They came
to the seer, who said to them, 'Seek out a man who is going to Sese to trade.'
"Whilst they were still sitting there, some Banyoro came to consult the seer.
Nakibinge climbed up into the loft where the bananas were kept. The queen
mother hid behind the door. Gabunga went into the kitchen. The dog remained
on the ground and the seer covered it with a bark-cloth. The Banyoro then
entered the house. The seer said to them, 'I prophesy for those who are below
and for those who are above. Go, my prophecy is ended. The Baganda will
kill you.' So they went away. Then Nakibinge came down from the loft and
sat on the ground. He said to the seer, 'Prophesy for me.' The seer said, 'I
have already prophesied. I told you to go and seek out a man, who is going
to Sese to trade at Wanema's place. There dwells a young man called Kibuka.
It is he who will conquer the land of Bunyoro. Go, seek out nine women, nine
slaves, nine head of cattle, nine loads of cowrie shells, nine goats and nine
bundles of bark-cloth. Take them to Wanema so that he may give you the young
man Kibuka.' So Nakibinge departed and came to the lake. A trader acted as
his guide. He reached Wanema's place and they greeted him. Nakibinge said
to them, 'Back in the country, whence I am come, the Banyoro are near at hand.
Give me one of your sons so that he may go and conquer the Banyoro for me.'
Wanema said, 'So be it. Go to Mukasa's place and he will tell you about the
young man, whom you want.' Nakibinge departed. Mukasa was a bachelor.
He said to him, 'What sort of a young man do you want?' He chose Kibuka,
who was playing on a harp and had a birthmark on his shoulder. Nakibinge
then produced the presents and handed them over and they gave him the young
man. They said to him, 'Bring us your father.' So he brought Gabunga. Then
they said to him, 'Bring us a princess' and he brought Naswa. They said, 'Bring
an umbilical cord' and he produced Kakoma's umbilical cord and gave it to
him. Then they said to him, 'You have taken our young man, but he must never
sleep in a house where there is a Munyoro woman.' Then they took Naswa,
Kiwewa and the umbilical cord and gave them to Gabunga saying, 'If our
young man dies, bring all these things to us.' "(Le Veux, pp. 328-9.)
There are a number of variants of this story. Many of them are only as to
relatively minor details. Others will be dealt with at somewhat greater length
hereafter. Certain facts, however, appear to emerge indisputably from the story
as above recorded. In the first place, Nakibinge and Wanema were clearly
dealing with each other as equals and not as a Kabaka dealing with an ordinary
county chief. In other words, Sese had not yet become part of the kingdom of
Buganda. Secondly, the presents of nine women, nine slaves, and nine of various
other commodities were intended as a douceur to induce Wanema to enter into
negotiations. Nine of course is a mystic number, and is always cropping up in
religious and magical ceremonies, not only in primitive Africa but also in other
continents. For example, when a Mukama of Bunyoro died, nine of his wives
and nine of his slaves accompanied him into the grave. Thirdly, the alliance
between the ruler of Sese and the ruler of Buganda had to be cemented by
something resembling a treaty, which guaranteed to Wanema that he should
not be the loser by the transaction. It is to be noted that there was no stipulation
for any cession of territory. Nakibinge had to agree to insure Wanema against
the loss of his son in battle and the premium to be paid was a heavy one. A son,
a daughter and his umbilical cord were to be given as pledges for Kibuka's
safe return. Nakibinge's children were not to be retained by Wanema as
hostages, but were to be handed over to Gabunga as a kind of stakeholder. The
story calls Gabunga Nakibinge's uncle. Apparently he was a brother or near
relative of Nakibinge's mother, Nababinge of the Lung-fish Clan. The post of
Gabunga, which was hereditary in the Lung-fish Clan, was the equivalent of
that of admiral of the Kabaka's canoes, including in later times the canoes of
the people of the Sese archipelago. Although he was not the administrative
chief of any territorial district, he eventually became as important a person as
any county chief. He himself lived on the mainland, but in addition to a number
of estates there he had other property on the islands in Lake Victoria. In the
days of Nakibinge his office was probably not so important as it ultimately
became, but it would appear that he was chosen as stakeholder to the parties
because he was a prominent person, who could act as a go-between betwixt
the rulers of Buganda and Sese. Moreover, as a member of the Lung-fish Clan
he was of the kindred of the mothers of both Nakibinge and Kibuka (Munno
(1917), p. 23) and therefore the most likely person to act impartially between
the high contracting parties in the event of any subsequent dispute.
As already said, Wanema had driven a very hard bargain, but Nakibinge
was under duress, "Because he was oppressed by the war" (olwokuzitowererwa
kwentalo), he had no option but to agree (Empisa, p. 34). To have perforce to
surrender children for possible slaughter or enslavement by Wanema was bad
enough, but worse still was the enforced surrender of his umbilical cord, which
was called his mulongo or twin. Every Muganda-and in particular the Kabaka
-was expected to preserve his umbilical cord intact throughout his life. After
the death of a Kabaka it was buried with him. Its loss was something more
than the loss of a twin brother; it meant the loss of half the life and being of the
Kabaka himself. Sir Apolo Kagwa tells us (Empisa, p. 34) that, when Nakibinge
was bidden to hand over his mulongo, he put off the evil day by explaining that
he had left it at the place where he was sleeping. On his return home, he con-
sulted his people and it was agreed that the surrender of a part only of the
umbilical cord would satisfy his treaty obligation. Accordingly a portion was
cut off the mulongo, and handed over as a pledge for Kibuka's safe return.
56 UGANDA JOURNAL
The severed portion was evidently wrapped up in the appropriate covering
for an umbilical cord and accordingly passed muster as the entire article,
when thus handed over.
According to the story recorded by Le Veux, the son who was handed over
was called Kiwewa, which was the title conferred upon the eldest male child
of the Kabaka. According to constitutional practice, Kiwewa could never
succeed to his father's throne. Doubtless therefore Nakibinge considered him
to be the most obvious child to surrender in this fashion. But according to Sir
Apolo Kagwa (Ebika, pp. 97-8) Nakibinge either did not surrender Kiwewa
or else subsequently changed his mind as to who the victim should be. Accord-
ing to one story, on his return from Sese to Buganda Nakibinge assembled
his wives and told them that he had promised to hand over one of his sons
as a pledge for Kibuka's safety. He then asked which of the women would be
prepared to hand over her child. At first they all remained silent. At length
Bukirwa Nanzigu of the Buffalo Clan, who was pregnant, said that she would
hand over the child, to whom she was shortly to give birth, if Kibuka were
killed. When her husband heard this, he ordered that special honour should
be bestowed upon her and directed that after his death his successor should
continue to accord to her the like honour. After Nakibinge's death his
successor decreed that she should be given the regal title of "Wanema's wife"
together with a special lubiri (palace) and a special household. After the death
of the first holder of the title, it devolved successively on other women of the
Buffalo Clan right up to the restoration of Mwanga II to the throne in 1889.
When the bargain had been struck, we are told that "Nakibinge set out on his
way home. They gave him Mwanga as a mulongo and said to him, 'As you
can see for yourself, this man Mwanga is a full grown man. He will go with
you and our son to Buganda.' They put him in a bag and carried him on their
heads. Whilst they were on their way, they forgot about him (and left him
behind). A fisherman found him and set him down at the entrance to a hut,
where they beat out bark-cloth, and went and told his friends. When he came
back, he found that Mwanga had become a human being with a shield and
spears. The fisherman said, 'Oh! A miracle! The bag, which I found by the
riverside has become a man! Let us go and tell Kibuka.' So they went back
and told Kibuka. Kibuka said, 'This is our companion whom we left by the
wayside. Let us go and fetch him.' But Mwanga refused to come, saying, 'I am
a grown-up man, who came here with my son, and you have gone and left
me by the wayside. Give me a girl as compensation.' So they produced aj girl
and gave her to him. Then he departed and came to Kibuka." (Le Veux, p. 330.)
We are not told whether this contretemps happened in Sese or after the
party had reached the mainland, but according to one tradition Nakibinge and
Kibuka parted company either before leaving Sese or else soon after their arrival
on the mainland. Kibuka landed at Makokobe on the lake shore of Mawokota,
whence he proceeded inland to Mbale. On arrival there "he saw that the
villages were exceedingly good. He found there certain chiefs, who called
themselves Baganda of Mbale, namely, Buvi, Nakatandagira and Kituma. Then
Kyobe Kibuka took possession of the land. After that he went to Nakibinge
at Bumbu (in Kyadondo) and said to him, 'if we win the war, I shall build at
Mbale and the whole of that land shall be mine.' Nakibinge said, 'Very good,
let it be as you say. Your boundary shall be at the village Wankata.'"
(Ebika, p. 69.)
As during Nakibinge's absence in Sese his Katikiro, the peccant Kagali
Nalukulala, had been defeated and killed by the Banyoro, it seems clear that
Kibuka was trading upon Nakibinge's necessity and seeking to carve out a
kingdom for himself. In the circumstances Nakibinge could not choose but hear.
"After they had made this agreement, Kibuka chose Buvi, Nakatandagira
and Kituma to go to the war, because they were brave men. After choosing them,
they went out and fought the Banyoro and they defeated them every single
time." (Ebika, p. 69.)
Eventually the tide turned. There is more than one version of the manner
in which disaster overtook the Baganda. The following is recorded by the
same White Father in 1882.
"Next morning at daybreak they went and fought and killed the Banyoro.
They seized a woman and took her to their camp. They went and told Kibuka,
'We have seized a woman. You do not know how beautiful she is!' Kibuka
said, 'Bring her to me so that I may see.' They said, 'No, no. We were told
that you must not look on a Munyoro woman.' Then Kibuka arose and went
to see the woman. He said, 'So this is it! This is the woman whom you wanted
to hide from me.' He bade them remove her from the stocks. So they removed
her from the stocks. Then he took her to his place. Two days passed and then
he told her, 'When I go forth tol fight, I go up intd the air.' He then wrapped
himself round with skins and began to fly. The woman saw him do this. After
four days she escaped and went back to her own place. She said to her own
people, 'The person who is killing us goes up into the air. Seek for an arrow
and shoot it into the air.' They found arrows and shot them into the air and
smote Kibuka. They saw the blood flowing from him and the woman said,
'You have shot him.' Kibuka fell to the earth at Mbale and died." (Le Veux,
Sir Apolo Kagwa gives us two versions of the story, one of which closely
resembles that just recorded. They are best given in the words of Sir Apolo,
together with his comments thereon.
"They (sc. Nakibinge and Kibuka) left Bukasa and set out to fight. After
leaving Bukasa they slept by the way. After fifteen days they arrived at the
capital (sc. of Nakibinge) at Bumbu. After a few days they attacked the Banyoro
and fought and defeated them. These are the men of Nakibinge who fought
in that war-Kavuma, Jita (Kago of Kyadondo), Sikagya and Namalanga. They
fought and killed many Banyoro and also many Basoga who were in Buganda;
for the Banyoro and the Basoga had divided the land between them. After
driving back the Banyoro, Nakibinge slept at Kasangombe. After leaving
Kasangombe he slept at Nakitembe. Then he fought hard with them again."
(Basekabaka, p. 20.)
"But one day when they were fighting they defeated Nakibinge, and slightly
wounded his man, Kibuka, with a spear. When he saw that he had been
wounded, he (Kibuka) wanted to take refuge on the lake in the canoe in which
he had come. When he reached Mbale, the Banyoro were close at hand, and he
58 UGANDA JOURNAL
was weary because of the spear wound which they had inflicted on him. So
he climbed a muvule or a kirundu tree. When he had climbed up, he used his
vantage point to fight the Banyoro and shot at them with his bow without their
being able to see him. During two days he drove them back a little distance.
At the end of that time Nakatandagira had captured a Munyoro girl and came
with her close to the muvule tree. The Munyoro girl realized that Kyobe Kibuka
was up in the muvule tree. Next day at daybreak the girl escaped and went and
told her menfolk, 'When you were' fighting, you failed to see that there was a
tree there. Do not think that you are only fighting with men on the ground.
Your conqueror is up in the tree which you see and uses it as a vantage point
to fight you.' When they came to the muvule tree, they all let fly with their
arrows into the branches and killed Kyobe, but they did not realize that they
had done so because there was a mist.'
"That is the story of Kibuka. But there are others who say this. When Kibuka
was fighting, he used to fly up in a cloud, whence he was able to repulse the
Banyoro every day. That is why he is called Kyobe Kibuka-because of the
manner in which he fought. But there was a Munyoro girl, who had been taken
prisoner and who told the Banyoro, 'The person who is fighting you is flying
in a cloud. When you see him, kill him.' They. accordingly did so and fired
into the clouds and wounded him. When he was wounded, Kibuka fell down
into a muvule tree at Mbale. That is where Nakatandagira found him. This is
what some people say."
"I who write these words, have written down both stories which have been
told to me, because there is much suspicion that they are not true." (Ebika,
Sir Apolo was undoubtedly right in disbelieving this latter tale, but one
feels that ha was rather over-sceptical about the other story. It seems to ring
true and to give an entirely credible account of what actually happened. The
association of the dead hero's name with the verb ku-buka (meaning 'to fly')
may well account for subsequent embellishments of that tale.
According to some accounts Nakibinge fell in battle at the same time and
place as Kibuka; according to others he survived him and was eventually
killed in some other part of Buganda. Once again we must leave it to Sir Apolo
to tell the story of his death.
"After the Banyoro had speared Kibuka, they attacked Kabaka Nakibinge
and fought hard with him ... (Basekabaka, p. 20). One day when Nakibinge
was fighting, Nanono, who was a musebei (secondary wife), was with him.
When they came to the field of battle, they fought hard with the Banyoro,
but the spears of the Baganda came to an end. When this woman saw that her
husband's men had nothing wherewith to fight, .she cut and sharpened the
points of reeds and gave them to them. Then they fought on until their Kabaka
was killed. After that Nanono fled with those of her husband's men who
survived. They reached the capital at Bumbu. This woman lived there as if
she was in the place of the Kabaka and ruled for three Kiganda years (sc. about
eighteen months). When the Kabaka went to war, Nanono was pregnant. After-
wards she was delivered of a girl child, who died young. Then the chiefs decided
to find a successor to the throne and they chose Mulondo (an infant son of
Nakibinge by another wife) to be Kabaka. Nanono remained at her head-
quarters at Bumbu (in Kyadondo), which has remained her butaka (family
estate) until this day. But if the child, who was born to Nanono, had been a
boy and had not died, they would have given him the kingdom. That is why
they delayed in choosing another king." (Empisa, pp. 34-5.)
According to the traditions of the Banyoro, Nakibinge was killed in the
county of Bulemezi. Those traditions further assert that the Mukama of
Bunyoro, Olimi I Rukidi Rwitamahanga, wanted to take advantage of the
interregnum following upon his death to seize the throne of Buganda for himself.
But his chiefs and medicine men said to him, "It is not good to take over
Buganda, because it is the throne of twins. Your forefathers Isingoma Mpuga
Rukidi and Kato Kimera were twins. If you destroy this kingdom, your kingdom
will be destroyed also." So Olimi held his hand. (K.W., Uganda J., 4 (1936-7)
79; Nyakatura, p. 90.)
But we must return to Mbale, Mawokota, and to the events which followed
on the death of Kibuka. Once again Sir Apolo Kagwa must be left to tell the
"When the Banyoro had killed Kibuka, they won a complete victory. But
when Kibuka was killed, his body did not fall to the earth but remained in
the branches of the tree. Kituma came back after the Banyoro had departed
and, looking up from afar off, saw; where Kyobe Kibuka was. He went to the
spot and saw that he had been killed and that his bow had fallen to the ground."
"His companion, Nakatandagira, came and climbed up the tree in order to
remove the body. When he had climbed up, the body fell down to the earth.
Regarding this fall the Baganda have the following saying, 'You, Nakatanda-
gira, do not know how to tend a child'. By this it is meant that Nakatandagira
did wrong to throw the body of Kyobe Kibuka down to the earth; if it had
been his own child, he would not have lowered him by throwing him down,
but would have lowered him in a proper manner. After Kituma and Nakatanda-
gira had taken down the body, they sent to inform Kabaka Nakibinge that
Kyobe Kibuka had been killed. They thought that Nakibinge was still alive.
When the messengers came back, they told them that Kabaka Nakibinge had
disappeared and could not be found, that his body had disappeared and it
was believed that he had been killed." (Ebika, p. 70.)
As might be expected, the dead man's chiefs wanted to give their fallen master
honourable interment, "but one of their number who surpassed them in wisdom,
named Muzingu of the Lung-fish Clan, arose and said, 'This warrior Kibuka
told me during the night when I was asleep, "Do not bury me. I command you
to say what I have to say" and he bade me to go to war against the Banyoro
who had killed him.' Next day at daybreak, he became inspired and spoke in
front of them all. He was exceedingly brave, as Kibuka had been, and Kabaka
Mulondo, who succeeded Nakibinge was very well pleased with him."
"This man Muzingu fought with the Banyoro when they came to Buganda
and drove them out. When the fighting subsided all the bataka (landowners)
of Mbale arranged to prepare the corpse of their warrior Kibuka and they
wrapped it up in leopard skins and also lion and hyena skins and they laid
it on its bed and they built a fine house and placed it inside. Before he died,
60 UGANDA JOURNAL
this man Muzingu was the foremost in every war during his lifetime and it
was agreed that he should be th. leader in every war which was talked of."
(Empisa, p. 218.)
There were other signs that Kibuka was no ordinary mortal. After his death,
his sisters had been brought to Mbale. They wanted to send for Nende, the son
of Kibuka's brother Mukasa, to take his uncle's place. Nende arrived in due
course, but the dead Kibuka-whether by appearing to somebody in a dream
or by speaking through his medium Muzingu is not stated-refused to have his
nephew as his successor. So Nende went off and settled in Kyagwe (Le Veux,
p. 331), where he became a war god of somewhat less importance than Kibuka.
According to another story, when Kibuka was fleeing from the Banyoro,
he dropped his shield. The Banyoro found it and took it away with them.
Shortly afterwards they began to fall ill of a kind of plague. So they sent the
shield to Kabaka Nakibinge, who in his turn sent it to Mbale to be placed with
Kibuka's body. (Roscoe, Kibuka, p. 163.)
The news of Kibuka's death had to be broken to his father Wanema. On
hearing the news, Wanema demanded that Nakibinge's bond should be
honoured. The Baganda must either produce his son's slayers or else the
pledges, which Nakibinge had undertaken to surrender if Kibuka fell in battle.
But the Baganda chiefs were too preoccupied with trying to settle the question
of the succession to the throne to deal with the matter.
"When Wanema heard this, he was greatly grieved because of his son... He
sent for his Katikiro Bosa Wakikunga and said to him, 'It was you who sent
your son Kalyesubula to fetch Nakibinge so that he might take away my son.
You see he has been killed. Well, give me your son so that he may be killed,
just as my son has been killed.'
"... When Bosa took his son Kalyesubula to Wanema in Sese, Wanema said
to him, 'I do not want to look at your son. Take your son to Mbale, where they
have buried my son-and kill him there.' So Bosa took his son Kalyesubula to
Mbale and handed him over to be killed. ."
"There was a dispute amongst the Bataka, to whom the body of Kyobe
Kibuka had been entrusted, as to who should be chief guardian of the tomb.
Buvi said, 'I am the eldest amongst you.' Nakatandagira said, 'I climbed the
muvule tree and took down the body of Kyobe Kibuka. Therefore I should
be the chief guardian.' Kituma spoke in the same manner. So all three quarrelled
and were unable to settle their differences. They then arose and went to Kibuka's
funeral rites. They said to those who were at the funeral rites, 'Friends, settle
these differences of ours. We are disputing about the headship. Do you settle
who should be the chief guardian of this tomb.' But the people who were at
the funeral rites were unable to settle their dispute."
"Then when they were wanting to fight over the chieftainship, the prisoner
Kalyesubula, the son of Bosa Wakikunga, asked them, 'Sirs, what is the matter
about which you three are disputing?' They told him what was the matter. He
replied, 'If I were not your prisoner, I could settle this matter.' They replied,
'Even though you may be a prisoner, it would be a good thing if you would
tell us how you would settle the matter, if you were not a prisoner, because
we have been quarrelling about it very much indeed.' Next day at daybreak
the chiefs called the prisoner Kalyesubula to settle their dispute for them. When
Kalyesubula came, he bade them sit dow. and then asked them what were
the matters about which they were quarrelling."
"When Kalyesubula had understood everything he said to them, 'Well, if
Buvi was your elder in bygone times, he should have the chieftainship of
Sabaganzi. Nakatandagira should be chief Kabona and Kituma second
Kabona.' Then he went to those who had come to the funeral rites. When the
disputant chiefs heard Kalyesubula's decision, they accepted it, because they
realized that it was a good decision. So then the matters in dispute came to
"When the people at the funeral rites heard the good decision which had
been made by Kalyesubula, they decided to pardon him. They said, 'This
youth is a clever man to settle these difficult matters in this manner. If he were
our kinsman, we would have given him the post of Katikiro of this shrine,
because we know he has tried this case well and not in a very bad manner.'
"After they had arranged to set him free, they gave him the post of Katikiro
of the shrine. They also gave him the name of Lwomwa because he was the
head of the whole clan. Up to the present time he is the head of the whole clan.
Up to the present time he is the head of this clan. (sc. the Sheep Clan.)" (Kagwa,
Ebika, pp. 71-2.)
As will be realized from Kalyesubula's story, a cult of Kibuka came into
being very shortly after his death. A large temple was built close to the mnuvule
tree in which his body had been found; it stood on a hill surrounded on three
sides by a forest sacred to Kibuka. On the fourth was a large open space. The
principal building was a hut called Bugyabukulu, which was of the conical type
with a thatched roof in the style common in Buganda until fairly recent times.
In accordance with his expressed wishes, Kibuka's body was not buried. His
jawbone and certain other relics were placed inside Bugyabukulu.
Next to this temple was a house called Bagambamunyoro. According to Sir
Apolo Kagwa this name means "Tell the Munyoro not to come to Mbale",
because it was forbidden to a Munyoro to enter his temple. When they saw him
there, they at once caught him and killed him, because he belonged to the race
which had killed Kibuka. Hence comes this saying, "I am a Muganda of
Mbale". No Munyoro could enter the temple itself, and when they caught a
man who appeared to be a Munyoro, he could say, "Do not catch me", and he
would bring witnesses to confirm that he was a Muganda indeed. (Empisa,
Adjoining this hut was a third one, called Namirembe, which was used as
an audience chamber and also as a place of detention for prisoners intended
for human sacrifice. (Empisa, p. 219.)
The mortal remains of the dead warrior rested in Bugyabukulu in regal state.
Kibuka had his ten wives to attend to his wants. They were drawn from many
clans and were not all selected from amongst families living in the immediate
vicinity of Mbale. Thus, Nagalemede was the daughter of Mbaja of the Lung-
fish Clan, whose butaka was at Namayambe in Bulemezi. Nakitabaja belonged
to the same Clan. Her father was Kitabaja, whose butaka was at Suka in
Busiro. (Empisa, p. 220.)
62 UGANDA JOURNAL
Kibuka likewise had his court officials. Chief of these was his Katikiro,
Kalyesubula Lwomwa, who was gven the post for the reason already stated.
According to information obtained by Roscoe (Buganda, p. 303) the second
name by interpretation meant "it is beautiful" and was bestowed upon him,
because during his captivity he did not cut his hair, but left it long like a
mourner's. After his death' the post became hereditary in the Sheep Clan.
Next in rank to the Katikiro came Sabadu. He was Nansumbi of the Civet
Cat Clan and filled the role of executioner. Sabagabo, whose duty was to
preserve Kibuka's shield, likewise came from the same clan. He bore the title
of Nakabango. (Empisa, p. 330.)
The Sabawali was Nakatandagira of the Sheep Clan. As seen, he had been
one of Kibuka's companions in arms and it was he who removed the dead
body from the tree. The post was evidently awarded to him by the judgment
of the first Lwomwa, when he decided that he should be chief Kabona (priest).
(Empisa, p. 330.)
Kituma, another of the companions of Kibuka, was given the post of
mukongozi, to whom fell the duty of bearing Kibuka upon his shoulders. In
the case of the Kabaka of Buganda this duty was performed by members of the
Buffalo Clan. Like Nakatandagira, Kituma belonged to the Sheep Clan. The
post was apparently awarded to him by Lwomwa at the time when he declared
him to be the second Kabona (priest) of Kibuka. As he had assisted in carrying
Kibuka's body to its final resting place, the post of mukongozi was very
appropriate. (Empisa, p. 330.)
Sir Apolo Kagwa says the title of Kasuju was bestowed upon Buvi the
third of Kibuka's companions in arms. (Empisa, p. 220.) Like his three com-
panions, he belonged to the Sheep Clan. As already seen, he was awarded
the title of Sabaganzi, or chief of the household, by Lwomwa. He and his two
companions had settled at Mbale prior to the coming of Kibuka, having
migrated from Sese where their ancestor, Sekoba, was the servant of Wanema.
(Ebika, p. 67-9.)
Other posts were filled by officers whose employment recalled incidents
in the life of the living Kibuka. Thus, when Kibuka set out from Sese for
Buganda, Kasomba loaded his equipment into a canoe. During the voyage
some of the property got wet and Nkunyi dried it. (Ebika, p. 69, Empisa, p. 221.)
It was the duty of Kasambandege Omugunja to look after the arrow which had
killed Kibuka. Balikumwa guarded yet another arrow called Kitonyawagulu,
which may be anglicized as "the thing which rains from heaven" and was
possibly one of the arrows used by Kibuka in his last battle. (Empisa, p. 221.)
According to Sir Apolo Kagwa, Kibuka had a second mulongo. The chief
of these was known as Serutega, a name which suggests that in fact it was not
an umbilical cord, but a tendon at the back of the knee (cp. lutega). This was
entrusted to a chief named Nsimbi. The secondary mulongo was called
Kalangwa and was entrusted to a chief named Kiguli. Kalangwa would appear
to anglicize as "the little thing which has dried up" (cf. ku-kalanga) and there-
fore far more likely to have been the real umbilical cord than Serutega. As
already explained, every ruler of Buganda had his mulongo buried with him.
(Empisa, pp. 220-1.)
Only a few of the names of the officers of Kibuka's household have been
given here, but enough has been said to show that the lubale Kibuka lived on
a truly regal scale. The Kabaka of Buganda recognized him as an equal. Sir
Apolo Kagwa tells us that "the county of Kaima (Mawokota) resembled the
bwesengeze (private fief) of Kibuka and other balubale because, when Kaima
was at the place where Kibuka was, the Kabaka was unable to summon him,
unless he had first shown Kibuka that he wanted him to go to him, and if
his request was refused, he (Kaima) could not go to him. This lubale was,
moreover, called a Kabaka and the stool upon which he sat was called
Namulondo", as was that of the rulers of Buganda. (Empisa, p. 222.)
When Kibuka's resting place Bugyabukulu had to be rebuilt the Kabaka
had to send a bullock and eighteen (twice nine) loads of reeds. The bullock was
slaughtered and its hide cut into strips for use as rings for the poles to the
ceiling of the new hut. When these rings were ready, they began building the
new hut by bending the reeds to the framework. Nakatandagira was entrusted
with supervision of this task. When it was done, they caught a number of people
and placed them in the stocks. The Kabaka also sent other prisoners to Mbale.
All of these were taken to the sacrificial place at Mpumude and killed on
completion of the building of the hut. (Empisa, pp. 219-20.)
According to information given to Roscoe, the building operations extended
over a period of fourteen to sixteen months, because the builders worked for
two days at a time and then rested for another two days. During that time
nobody was allowed to pass along the adjacent roads whilst building operations
were in progress. If anyone was found doing so, he was arrested and eventually
became one of the victims at Mpumude on final completion of the building
(Baganda, pp. 303-4.)
When the building was ready for use the sacred fire had to be rekindled
and brought back into the temple. This task was entrusted to a person called
Kazina, who held the post of musoloza (collector). It was alleged that he
obtained the fire by striking a near-by rock with a tuft of grass. . Be that as
it may be, he afterwards carried the fire into the new building, where it was
kept continuously alight until the Kabaka of Buganda died, when, like the
sacred fire at the Kabaka's palace, it was extinguished. After the new
Kabaka had ascended the throne, the fire was once more re-kindled and
kept alight in the temple. After bringing the sacred fire to the temple
Kazina slept the night in the temple. (Roscoe, Baganda, p. 304; Kagwa,
Empisa, p. 220.)
Next morning Kituma fulfilled his duty as mukongozi and the role performed
by the first of his name by bringing Kibuka's remains from their temporary
resting place and setting them down in front of the door of the temple. The
builders of the temple were then allowed to look upon them. All that they
saw was a large conical-shaped object, thickly wrapped in bark-cloth. About
noon Kituma carried his burden into the middle of the temple to a dais upon
which were spread the skins of a lion and a leopard. In front of this dais was
a row of spears, which had been presented to the lubale by various rulers of
Buganda. One of these spears is said by Roscoe to have been nine-bladed. It
was in all probability of the type of a number of other spears, which were
64 UGANDA JOURNAL
collected many years ago from the shrines of other balubale in Buganda and
are now to be seen in the Uganda Museum, that is to say, a multi-pointed spear
with a group of nine small blades springing from the neck of the socket. It
was clearly not intended for use in warfare but for some ceremonial or magico-
religious purpose. (Trowell, pp. 240-1.) There were also two shields of the
usual lozenge-shaped type to be found in Buganda. One of these was called
Lugyamirembe and was said to have been used by Kibuka personally. It had
two bosses and in the centre was a small bell. The other shield was smaller and
had only a single boss. There were other personal relics of Kibuka, such as
the paddle which he used when crossing from Sese to the mainland. There
was also his nkiga (fly-whisk), a copper axe, a knife and a harp called Tanalala-
bankondwe. Close to the bark-cloth bundle, which was said to contain the dead
hero's body, was a stool which was carved out of one piece of solid wood. This
stool reposed upon a leopard's skin, which, like that of the lion, was that of
a royal beast and was therefore the most fitting article for the remains of a
former king to rest upon. Instead of the usual seat, the top of the stool consisted
of a circular basin. The supports to this basin, or rather legs of the stool, con-
sisted of four quadrangular pillars. Inside the basin reposed a number of
personal relics of Kibuka. These included his jawbone, after-birth, navel string
and genital organs. Each of these was stitched into a leather case which was
decorated with cowries. (Kagwa, Empisa, p. 218; Roscoe, Kibuka, p. 173;
Baganda, p. 305.)
A battery of thirty drums was played throughout the time that Kibuka's
remains were being conveyed from their temporary resting place to the new
temple. For less extraordinary occasions the number of drums in use was
apparently three. The chief drum of all was called Naku, which was beaten on
occasions of rejoicing. Kababembe was beaten when one of Kibuka's mandwa
(mediums) was selected to accompany the army to the war. The third, Nalubale,
was beaten every day. Roscoe mentions yet another drum, which bore the
onomatopoeic name of Tatata, which he says "was beaten by Lwomwa when
Kibuka took possession of the medium Kainja and instructed him to catch
and kill people", but I am disposed to agree with the late Allan Lush that
Roscoe has confused the sound of the drum beat (ekikasa) "ta-ta-ta" with the
name of the ekikasa, Kababembe. As Lush says, Kababembe had an interesting
history. It was said to have been obtained by Kibuka from Sekalala of Bugoma
in Sese. After his death it was taken to the wars. Whenever the Baganda heard
it, they would rush furiously upon the enemy. It sounded Tulimuloja and was
beaten by a man called Majuluba. At the end of the war it was brought back
to Kibuka's temple at Mbale. (Kagwa, Empisa, p. 219; Lush, Uganda J., 3
(1935-6), 14-5, 18; Roscoe, Baganda, p. 305.)
In his capacity of Lubale Kibuka played the dual role of lord spiritual and
temporal. His temporalities were safeguarded by his Katikiro, Lwomwa. Others
of his officers, such as Nakatandagira and Kituma, were both spiritual and
temporal chiefs, there being no clear-cut dividing line between those of his
servants who served him in a temporal capacity and those who served him
in a spiritual capacity. The most important persons of his priestly hierarchy
were the mandwa. Roscoe says they numbered forty, but Sir Apolo gives the
names of only fourteen, which is probably nearer to the mark. Mandwa was
only one of the many names bestowed upon a medium of a lubale. Musamize.
mulaguzi, and mulubale were other names given to the mouthpiece of a lubale.
As already seen, Muzingu of the Lung-fish Clan became Kibuka's first mandwa
very shortly after his death, but his successors in title appear to have been
relegated to the very minor post of temple servant. It became his duty to bring
water for the god daily from the well Nakaliga. He wore a zebra-skin mantle
and had two long gourds in which to carry the water, which he mixed with
white earth and poured into vessels in the temple, one of wood and the other
of pottery. Sir Apolo Kagwa, however, names him first among the list of
mediums. In all probability therefore he still upon occasion became inspired
by Kibuka despite his somewhat menial occupation. According to Roscoe
Najambubu of the Bird Clan was latterly Kibuka's chief medium and Nankangu
of the Leopard Clan his second medium. (Roscoe, Baganda, p. 303; Kagwa,
Empisa, p. 221.)
The official uniform of the medium was a robe of barkcloth with goat skins
fastened round the waist and leopard skin slung over his back. His emblem
of office was a fly-whisk. (Kagwa, Empisa, p. 221.) A mandwa may have had
somewhat menial duties to perform in connection with the maintenance and
upkeep of the temple, but his all important duty was to practise divination or
to prophesy (ku-lagula). In order to perform this duty, he had to become
inspired or possessed by the lubale (ku-samira). Just as the priestess of Apollo
at Delphi had to chew the sacred bay before she could make her oracular
utterances, so Kibuka's medium had to have recourse to a narcotic before he
could practise divination. Being a male, he smoked a pipe, which was one of
the sacred vessels of the temple. The contents of the pipe are unknown to me,
but after smoking them the medium became the mouth-piece of Kibuka.
(Roscoe, Baganda, p. 305.)
One of the duties of the medium Kainja of the Civet Cat Clan was to give
the order for the killing of the prisoners on completion of rebuilding the temple.
As previously mentioned, these victims were either those who had transgressed
the law forbidding persons to pass on the roads near the temple whilst it was
being built, or else persons sent by the Kabaka for the special purpose of
being sacrificed. Before they were led off to the place of slaughter, there was
the formality of a trial at which one of the intended victims pleaded their cause,
but the justice appears always to have been of the Jeddart type. None of the
victims was allowed to escape; all were led off to execution.
The principal duty of the mediums was, however, to foretell when a war
would take place. When the army set out to fight, one of the mediums accom-
panied it, taking with him the drum Kababembe. When the army encamped,
the medium had a hut built near to the general's headquarters, so that he
might be ready to divine for him, whenever necessary.
But the medium, with all his powers of divination and all his powers of life
and death, was not the master in the temple. The temple itself and its contents
were entrusted to other persons, some of whom bore the title of Kabona
(cf. Lunyoro, kubona 'to see').
A Kabona was in charge of all the temple property. As seen, this title was
66 UGANDA JOURNAL
the one originally bestowed on two of Kibuka's three companions, Nakatanda-
gira and Kituma. They were responsible for the temple's maintenance and
general upkeep and for renovation or replacement of its contents. They had
a host of ababezi (assistants) under them, to each of whom was allotted an
individual task. Thus, it was the duty of Kazimba to wash Kibuka, whenever
necessary; Sebawatu prepared Kibuka's bark-cloth and Sabatamu wrapped it
round him. Namunyi thatched the temple roof, Mukamula brewed Kibuka's
beer and Walubwe herded his cattle. Others guarded and kept in order various
personal relics of Kibuka, including his shields and his arrows as well as his
umbilical cord. (Roscoe, Empisa, pp. 220-1.) According to Roscoe a prince
with the official title of Namwa was assigned as a servant to Kibuka together
with two princesses, named Nagalemede and Namirembe. Namwa was said
to have the menial task to perform of tending the sacred fire in the temple and
of cutting the fuel for it with a copper axe. The princesses together with another
woman called Nakitabaja, lived in the temple enclosure and were treated with
great honour, but I am disposed to think that the information given to Roscoe
was wrong. Sir Apolo Kagwa makes no mention of Namwa. Whilst he mentions
Nagalemede and Nakitabaja as being the wives of Kibuka, he does not say
that they were princesses (bambeja). Namirembe is the name given by Sir
Apolo to the hut in the temple enclosure in which the prisoners destined for
execution were detained. (Roscoe, Baganda, p. 307; Kagwa, Empisa, p. 219.)
It is true that Wanema had stipulated for the surrender of a prince and
princess in the event of Kibuka being killed in the war and that Nakibinge's
wife, Bukirwa Nanzigu, had offered to surrender her son, when born, for this
purpose, but Sir Apolo tells us that the son Nzigu "was not sent to Wanema
to satisfy the debt, because the leading chiefs had given him the children of
chiefs and the dispute was settled". (Ebika, p. 93.) When in about 1887 Charles
William Rehani, a Muganda educated by the U.M.C.A. at Kiungani in
Zanzibar, told the story to the Swahili scholar, A. C. Madan, he said it was
Nagalemede who first discovered the dead body of Kibuka in the tree (Madan,
p. 102). If this was so, there was an obvious reason for according especial
honour to her and her successors in office and for bestowing upon them the
dignity of being Kibuka's chief wife.
According to Sir Apolo Kagwa, Kibuka was exposed to public view once
in every month when for purposes of renewal they removed the leopard skins
and barkcloth curtains and coverings which concealed his remains. After these
coverings had been removed, there was a solemn levee which was attended by
all the members of his Lukiko (council), as well as his wives and his mediums.
There was a most elaborate order of precedence at this assemblage, which Sir
Apolo sets out in detail. (Empisa, pp. 220-1.) It would appear tohave been an
exclusively private view of the relics. According to Roscoe, the only occasion
on which ordinary members of the public were permitted to see these was
when the relics were being translated from their temporary resting place to
their newly rebuilt temple. On that occasion the people who had been building
the temple were allowed to see them. (Baganda, pp. 304-5.)
Kibuka's cult was in fact a very exclusive cult. Roscoe tells us that "only
the wealthier people could consult Kibuka on private affairs. His consultation
fees were too high for the poorer classes. He required a cow or several goats,
and beer when the person enquired of him, and another fee when the boon
asked for had been conferred". (Kibuka, p. 163.)
The cult of Kibuka flourished until the very last years of the nineteenth
century. When Stanley visited the court of Mutesa in 1875, he was told the
story of Nakibinge and Kibuka and afterwards set it down in Through the
Dark Continent (i. 350-1). The missionaries, who followed shortly afterwards in
Stanley's wake, learnt that the dead hero had been metamorphosed into the
god of war. But Mbale lay off the track of the European missionary and
explorer as well as of the Arab and Swahili trader. The Kabaka of Buganda
kept a jealous eye on all such persons as these. In so far as possible, he restricted
their movements to the immediate vicinity of his capital. If they were allowed
to go further afield, they were not allowed to stray far from the well-trodden
path. Consequently none of them ever visited Mbale.
It was not that the Kabaka or any other inhabitant of Buganda had any
desire to conceal the cult. It was no better and no worse then than the cult of
many another lubale. In the words of Charles Rehani, the people of Buganda
"were filled with the same spirit as the dead warrior, a warlike spirit", which
more than once led them to victory in their wars against neighboring tribes.
But when all that can be said has been said in its favour, it was with its accom-
paniment of frequent human holocausts an extremely barbarous cult. It was
no more than the traditional expression of a racial characteristic, which was
accompanied by none of the redeeming virtues which are taught by such
faiths as Christianity and Islam. Though the seeds of these two religions were
being sown at the royal court, their adherents were relatively few and they had
not yet carried their doctrines with them into outlying districts such as Mbale.
There were therefore no alien forces at work outside the capital to change
the racial character in this respect.
After 1888, however, there came a sudden change. First of all, Mwanga II
plotted to destroy the new religious forces at work in his country by massacring
Christians and Muslims alike. The adherents of those faiths combined to drive
Mwanga out of his kingdom. Then the Muslims turned on the Christians and
tried to destroy them with the result that for the time being many of the
Christians had to take refuge in Ankole and elsewhere. Eventually the
Protestants and Roman Catholics decided to restore Mwanga to the throne.
At the end of 1889 they successfully defeated the Muslims and drove them
out of the country. In October of that year Mwanga came into his own again.
After Mwanga's restoration the principal chieftainships were divided amongst
the adherents of the two Christian parties. When the fortunes of the Christians
had been at the lowest ebb, some of these persons had taken temporary refuge
in the county of Buddu and the adjacent counties. Much of the fighting, which
led to the ultimate victory, had also taken place in those regions. The result
was that after Mwanga had bestowed the chieftainships of these outlying
districts upon his Christian supporters, Christianity began to spread from the
capital to those regions.
Roscoe was told by one of the former priests of Kibuka that his temple
had been destroyed by Muslims during the Muslim supremacy. (Kibuka, p. 163.)
68 UGANDA JOURNAL
In Uganda J., (14 (1950), 38), I accepted this as a fact, but in the light of the
further evidence, which I am about to give, I now believe that the information
given to Roscoe was inaccurate. Sir Apolo Kagwa's version of the affair is
"When I, the writer, asked the bataka who used to guard Kibuka's body
where they had put him, they said, 'a party of Christians belonging to Serwano
Mazinga, who was then Mukitagobwa, brought some soldiers from (the
neighboring county of) Butambala and they took Kibuka's body out of the
hut and threw it outside.' When I asked the members of that party about this,
they said, 'When we unwrapped the leopard skins, which were round Kibuka,
they took them away so as to wrap them around him again and we fought
with them. We did not see any corpse. All we saw was a very long piece of
dried meat, in which there were no bones.' For that reason I believe that the
bataka of Mbale buried Kibuka's body and that afterwards they falsely told
their companions that Kibuka refused to be buried, so that they might enhance
his reputation. Perhaps, when they wrapped up this piece of dried meat, they
called it the body itself. If in former days, the body was not buried, perhaps they
took it from the lubale shrine (sabo) and kept it in the bush or else in their
huts. This is what I think, but the bataka of Mbale assert positively that it was
a corpse (which was taken out of the temple)."
Sir Apolo's scepticism is very understandable, but in the light of certain
other facts which came to be known later he may have done the bataka of
Mbale an injustice. It was the practice to embalm the bodies of the deceased
rulers of Buganda (Roscoe, Baganda, p. 104) and the body of Kibuka, as a
person of kingly rank, may well have received similar treatment. Certainly the
Christian zealots, who fought with the bataka for the contents of the leopard
skin, were not in a position to be positive as to whether "the dried piece of
meat" contained bones. The evidence which I am about to mention tends to
show that they were wrong.
As in the days when Gideon cast down the altar of the ancient god of Israel,
there were ia Mwanga's days men of Mbale who were ready to plead for the
ancient god and even to fight to preserve his relics. The temple was built of
highly inflammable material and was easily consumed with fire, but some of
the relics were carried off and hidden. Some years later the priest, who had
charge of those relics, found himself in debt and decided to approach the
Rev. John Roscoe of the C.M.S. with a view to selling them. As he was anxious
to raise money, he doubtless deemed it tactful to assert to the prospective
purchaser that the destroyers of Kibuka's temple were Muslims. Roscoe pur-
chased the relics and in due course presented them to the Museum of Ethnology
at Cambridge. Examination of them showed that they were a leopard skin,
the stool upon which the relics had reposed, two shields, a two-edged sword,
a knife, and three small bundles, stitched up in cloth and decorated with cowrie
shells, which were found to contain a human jawbone, umbilical cord, and
genital organs. (Roscoe, Kibuka, pp. 164-5.) There seems to be no reason to
doubt that the relics were what the seller alleged them to be, to wit, the relics
of a real man, who at one time lived and moved and had his being on this earth,
who in his lifetime was accounted by those who knew him to be a mighty man
of valour and whose exploits were commemorated after death by apotheosis
as a lubale.
The question may be asked, "If Kibuka was in reality a man, when did he
live?" I venture to think that we have more than one clue to the answer.
As K.W. informs us (Uganda J., 4 (1936-7), 78-9), the Mukama of Bunyoro
who was contemporary with Nakibinge and Kibuka was Olimi I Rukidi
Rwitamahanga. We are further told by K.W. that, after routing the Baganda,
Olimi set out to conquer other lands. Invading first of all Busoga, he proceeded
by way of Kavirondo along the eastern shores of Lake Victoria to Usukuma,
Kiziba and Karagwe. From Karagwe he entered Karokarungi, otherwise
Ankole, where he drove out Nyabwigara, the ruler of the land. He looked upon
the land of Karokarungi and saw that it was good. So he decided to settle
there. After he had been there some time, "the whole land was darkened and
it was said that the sun had fallen out of heaven onto the earth. When he
(Olimi) saw this, he took counsel with the leading chiefs and soothsayers
because he wished to learn what had brought about this darkness. They debated
the matter with him and then announced to him that it was because he had
killed the Kabaka of Buganda, notwithstanding that their ancestors were twins,
and because he had driven out Nyabwigara, who was his herdsman. Hence this
marvel. They advised him to return to his own country and to offer sacrifices
so as to put a stop to this marvel." (Uganda J., 4 (1936-7), 65.)
From the foregoing account of Olimi's peregrinations it may be surmised
that this eclipse in all probability took place some years after the deaths of
Nakibinge and Kibuka. Through the good offices of Captain E. M. Persse,
formerly District Commissioner, Bunyoro, I have been able to obtain the
following additional information regarding this eclipse from Olimi's present
successor in title, Sir Tito Winyi Gafabusa.
"The Mukama Olimi I lived at many places in Ankole, but the two main
ones were at Ibanda and Mhorro. People say the eclipse was seen at Biharwe.
The Mukama was going that way to Karagwe and, when he was at Biharwe,
the eclipse was seen. After the eclipse his chiefs and soothsayers forced him
to go back to his own country, Bunyoro." Biharwe would appear to equate with
Bihalrwe, a place on the Masaka-Mbarara road about ten miles east of Mbarara.
According to the map Bihalrwe is situated in latitude 0' 301' South and longi-
tude 30 45' East.
In an endeavour to calculate the approximate dates of Olimi's reign we have
a terminus a quo inasmuch as we know that Kamurasi, the grandfather of the
present Mukama, died in or about 1869. Kumurasi was a lineal descendant
in the thirteenth generation from Olimi I. If we make the customary allowance
of three generations to a century, this suggests that Olimi I died in or about
1436, but this estimate may be an over liberal one.
Turning to more scientific data, according to T. R. Oppolzer's Canon der
Finsternisse there were in the fifteenth century two eclipses of the sun in which
the path of the eclipse crossed longitude 30 East at the latitude of the Equator.
The first of these was an annular eclipse which occurred in the afternoon of
10 October 1462. The second was a total eclipse which occurred at noon on
21 October 1492. If the eclipse seen by Olimi occurred at the earlier of these
70 UGANDA JOURNAL
two dates, we must allot 31-32 years to each generation of the family of the
Bakama of Bunyoro. If the eclipse occurred at the latter date, then we must
allot 29 years to each such generation. If it is legitimate to infer that Olimi's
eclipse must have occurred at one or other of these two dates and if also it is
legitimate to make one's choice between the two dates, my personal selection
would be 1492, firstly, because in that year the eclipse was a total, in contra-
distinction to an annular, one and, secondly, because it is the more conservative
But I must make it clear that the assignment of 1462 or 1492 to Olimi's
eclipse is dependent upon a number of hypotheses, any one of which may
hereafter be upset by some person with further and better information than I
now possess. In the first place, was the eclipse seen in the vicinity of the present-
day Bihalrwe? Secondly, assuming that an eclipse was seen at that place, was
it the one which Olimi saw? In his Bukya Nibirwa, p. 15, H. K. Karubanga
Omubito, former Kimbugwe of Bunyoro and a member of the royal family,
tells us that the eclipse, which was seen at Bihalrwe, occurred during the reign
of Chwa I, who was the great-great-grandson of Olimi I. Herd therefore there
is a conflict in traditions, which cannot be entirely ignored. Thirdly, if we try
to calculate the date from one or other of two termini a quo in the
chronology of Buganda, viz. the total eclipse of the sun which occurred in
1680 during the reign of Juko, or the death of Suna II in 1856, we can only
assume that if the eclipse occurred in 1492, some 47 or 35 years must be
allotted to each generation. The first of these estimates is certainly excessive
and the latter can hardly be called conservative. Therefore, if we accept one
or other of the termini a quo provided by the history of Buganda, we must
search for our eclipse at some date in the middle of the sixteenth century.
Oppolzer supplies us with a number of dates at which the path of the eclipse
crossed latitudes several degrees either to the north or to the south of the
Equator, but none of these crossed the latitude of the' Equator during that
century. Accordingly, if the eclipse which was seen by Olimi occurred in
that century, it was therefore in all probability only a partial eclipse.
Finally, the paths of each eclipse as given by Oppolzer are curves drawn
from data for sunrise, noon and sunset, which, I am given to understand,
are somewhat less accurate than data which could be supplied today. There-
fore his calculations as to the paths of these particular eclipses may be
subject to considerable error. I am further told that the calculations for
the plotting of the path of an ancient eclipse are fairly heavy and that
practically nobody except the people who make the calculations for the astro-
nomical almanacs have ever made them.
Having endeavoured to set out the pros and cons for my own view as to
their date of the eclipse of the sun, which occurred shortly after the deaths of
Nakibinge and Kibuka, I must leave it to others to arrive at their own
conclusions in regard to that matter.
Cox, A. H. The Growth and Expansion of Buganda. (Uganda J., 14 (1950), 153-9.)
Kagwa, Sir Apolo. Ekitabo kya Basekabaka be Buganda na be Bunyoro, na be
Toro, na be Nkole. (Kings of Buganda etc.) (1st ed., Mengo, 1901; 2nd ed.,
London (Luzac), 1912; 3rd ed., London (Sheldon Press), 1927.)
Ekitabo kye Bika bya Baganda. (Clans of the Baganda) (1st ed., Mengo,
1908; 2nd ed., Mengo, 1912; 3rd ed., Kampala (Uganda Bookshop and
,Ekitabo kye Mpisa za Baganda ezeda era nempya. (Customs of the Baganda)
(1st ed., Mengo, 1905; 2nd ed., Mengo, 1911; 3rd ed., Kampala (Uganda
P. & P. Coy.), 1918.)
Karubanga, H. K. Bukya Nibirwa. (Nairobi, 1949.)
K. W. Abakama ba Bunyoro-Kitara (Kings of Bunyoro-Kitara). Uganda 1., 3
(1935-6), 149-54; 4 (1936-7), 65-74; 5 (1937-8), 70-84.
Le Veux, R. P. Manuel de langue luganda. (1st ed. published anonymously, 1882;
3rd ed. Maison-Carrde, Alger, 1914.)
Lush, Allan J. Kiganda Drums. (Uganda J., 3 (1935-6), 7-19.)
Madan, A. C. Kiungani, or Story and History from Central Africa. (London, 1887.)
Nakalya, Timotheo B. Bukulu ne Mukazi we Wadda balubale gye bavwa.
Nyakatura, J. W. Abakama ba Bunyoro-Kitara. (1947.)
Oppolzer, T. R. Canon der Finsternisse. (Vienna Academy of Science (1887),
Roscoe, Rev. John. Kibuka, the War God of the Baganda. (Man, 7 (1907),
.The Baganda. (London, 1911.)
Stanley, Henry M. Through the Dark Continent. (1st ed. 1878; new ed. (London),
Tobi, K. W. Atalukugendera akusibire ya Menvu. (Munno, 1917.)
Trowell, Margaret and Wachsmann, K. P. Tribal Crafts of Uganda. (Oxford,
I am also indebted to Messrs. J. Jackson of the Cape Town Observatory; R. G.
Miller, formerly of the Land Office, Entebbe; J. Sykes, President of the Uganda
Society in 1938-9; and A. D. Thackeray of the Solar Physics Observatory,
Cambridge, for information regarding solar eclipses in East Africa.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD?
THE ENIGMA OF KIGANDA PAGANISM'
By H. P. GALE, B.A., PH.D.
WHEN Mutesa I died in October 1884 I have always felt that a funda-
mental change came over the Kiganda scene. It was not merely that a
great man had vanished, to be replaced by an unstable and untried youth; it
was not that his passing basically endangered the progress which the Christian
Missions had suffered so much to attain, for both Christian Missions were
delighted at Mwanga's succession;2 rather it was something which the Missions
felt intuitively but could not. express. We can feel it in Mackay's surprising
comment, for whereas in his life he had called Mutesa a "murderous maniac",
in death he calls him "our friend and protector", while it is Ashe who writes
his epitaph. "He looked upon religion as an amusement and a recreation,"
he comments; adding that "there was much that was good and loveable in
him, but his education had been a training in cruelty, brutality and lust".3
Could any comment be more surprising than that? No less than three world
religions had been trying to win the soul of this pagan monarch-Islam,
Protestantism and Catholicism. All of them spoke with certainty of the life
to come. Yet, when death finally came to Mutesa, he wanted none of them.
For to him Religion was but an "amusement and a recreation"; an intellectual
exercise which remained in the field of speculation; a way of setting
missionaries against one another; an instrument of rule. He neither accepted
nor rejected it. He despised it.
I am going to suggest, perverse as it may sound, that it was precisely this
aloofness, this superiority to Religion, which won him the respect and fear
of the Missions. Never once did he discuss religion with them except as an
equal. He admired Mackay for the brave man that he was; he warmed to
Lourdel above all other missionaries; he understood that Islam meant power.
Yet he never sunk to the level on which Ashe placed his successor Mwanga,
that of a "wayward" mission boy learning his letters.4 He remained to the
end, Buganda in person, Lord of Life and Death, Master of himself and
his People, their only true Religion, their covenant with the supernatural
That is what I meant by saying that with Mutesa's passing a fundamental
change came over Buganda. Up to his death, he was himself the Religion of
his people. He was the last true Kabaka of Buganda. For centuries the Baganda
had lived within the magic circle of their ancient religion, at the heart of
which lay their divine monarchy. So secure was that inner, secret heart that
1 A Paper read to the Makerere College Arts Society.
2 Ashe, R. P. Chronicles of Uganda. (London, 1894), pp. 67-8.
3 Ashe, R. P. Two Kings of Uganda. (London, 1890), p. 82.
4 Ashe (1890), p. 101.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 73
Mutesa felt himself strong enough to permit foreign religions to enter his
country. Religion, as he knew and understood it, was Power, and what he
wanted was to find out the source of power which lay in the new religions
which came, as it were, knocking at his door, and to use what he could learn
to increase his own might. He was not entirely indifferent to the claims of the
Spirit, but to yield to them was impossible, for the Kabakaship was essentially
a religious office, linked with the living and the dead, with worlds visible and
invisible, with the very soul of Buganda; to have yielded, would have meant
the spiritual annihilation of the kingship. Mutesa never yielded and he kept
intact the spiritual integrity of the monarchy. In so doing he kept Buganda
intact. That is important, for the Kabaka is Buganda in person. That must be
understood, for it is a part of Kiganda religion. Thus the disintegration of
Buganda under Mutesa's successor, Mwanga, was not, I think, due to the
new Kabaka's personality, vices or persecutions, for the Baganda expected
and admired such attitudes and such violence in their rulers; nor was it
primarily due to the powerful leaven of Christianity working through its
converts; nor even to the determination of Islam to take the country by force.
It was a psychological disintegration caused mainly because the world
religions had by their teaching, irreparably damaged the monarchy. The great
mass of the Baganda were still pagan and they sensed intuitively the spiritual
reality behind Mwanga's flight from Christianity in September 1888. So
too did the Christian parties, and yet it was they who helped to restore him
despite the fears and warnings of the Missionaries of both Christian Missions.
WMwanga's restoration in 1890 was indeed a classic example of the way in
which the old pagan monarchy retained its spiritual hold over the Baganda.
As Ashe records, Christians and pagans alike invited Mwanga to return.5
When he did return, it proved impossible either for the Imperial British East
Africa Company, or later, for the British Administration to rule through or
with him. The reason for this was, I believe, that neither Lugard nor Portal
really understood the true significance of the Kiganda monarchy. Colvile, I
feel, came nearer to understanding it than either of them, which was why
he came nearest to effecting a solution of the religious problem. His solution
indeed was not unlike Mutesa's in some very general respects. It was to let
people embrace the religion they liked without legal penalties; to balance the
adherents of one religion against the others, and to leave the Kabaka to
exercise his authority in as social a way as possible without splitting too many
hairs over the basis of this power. After all, not all the Baganda had by 1894
embraced Christianity and Colvile did not like the missionaries acting and
speaking as if they and their converts made up all Buganda. There were, as
he pointed out to Bishop Hirth .. "the adherents to the aboriginal beliefs of
this country who have no Europeans taking a special interest in them,"6 that
is, the pagan masses of Buganda. What were the aboriginal beliefs of Buganda?
What was the pattern of Kiganda Paganism? Can Paganism be said to have
a pattern? How came Mutesa or any other Kabaka to be considered as God's
5 Ashe (1894), p. 124.
6 To Hirth, 29 May 1894; Entebbe Archives; Correspondence Staff and Miscellaneous:
74 UGANDA JOURNAL
Vicegerent? These are some of the questions I must try to explain, before
I can ask you to think of Mutesa-the-Divine as Divus Augustus.
The most difficult thing to understand about primitive religion is, as
Dawson points out, that it has no focal point from which the whole thing
springs, but "is a spiritual chaos in which good and evil, high and low, rational
and irrational elements are confusedly mingled."7 The phrase might well have
been written of pagan Buganda, for it was precisely this confused mingling
of impressive external order, with so much beneath it that reeked of blood
and vileness, that characterized the country and made Portal refer to it as "a
whited sepulchre concealing the festering bones, the foulness of iniquity, and
the hideous decay behind the pleasing surface".8 For my part I do not like the
phrase "primitive religion" because I think that Mannoni9 is right in stressing
that all religion has its roots in the primitive part of us all, that is in the deep
waters of the unconscious mind. I want, however, to quote Dawson once more
because he puts things very clearly. "The essential difference between the
religion of the primitive and that of civilized man," he says, "is that for the
latter the spiritual world has become a cosmos rendered intelligible by
philosophy, and ethical by the traditions of the world religions," and he goes
on to add that writers on primitive religion have continually gone astray,
"through their attempts to reduce the spiritual world of the primitive to a
single principle, to find a single cause from which the whole development may
be explained and rendered intelligible".10
I think in those comments, there are expressed fairly clearly, the strength
and weakness of paganism. It is strong because it is primitive, and links with
the primitive in all of us. It is stronger still, because it has no central focus which
can be disproved logically or questioned historically. You cannot reason or
dispute with it from premise to conclusion, as Mackay found. Its further
strength is that it is elusive, and its greatest mystery is that it expresses itself
in understandable acts of natural worship with apparently nothing behind them.
The mistake is of course to look for something behind it. One should look into
one's own heart as Ashe puts it when, sick of the Kiganda blood lust, he writes,
.. "it is well to remember that there are none to whom the fearfullest crimes
are not more than possibilities, for in every human heart are all these things,
and out of any human heart they may proceed at any time"."
Now, the Baganda were not a primitive people and that is the reason why
their aboriginal religion had achieved a focus. The focus was, without much
doubt, the monarchy and we can examine that historically. At the centre of
their barbarous civilization sat the monarchy like a spider at the centre of
a web, and fed upon the blood of its subjects, taking men's lives as Speke puts
it12 "like those of fowls". The Kabaka and his great chiefs on the slightest
pretext killed, maimed and mutilated their fawning subjects who unresistingly
7 Dawson, C. Christianity and the New Age. (London, 1931), p. 36.
8 Portal, Sir G. The British Mission to Uganda in 1893. (London, 1894), p. 141.
9 Mannoni, O. La Psychologie de la Colonisation. (Paris, 1950.)
10 Dawson, C., op. cit., pp. 36-7.
11 Ashe (1890), p. 83.
12 Speke, J. H. Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile. (London, 1863),
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 75
came dumb to the slaughter. I will not cite examples, many can be found in
all the accounts from Speke's to Portal's, but I think the situation, and one of
the truest descriptions of the Baganda in the early days of European contact
with them, comes from a missionary, one who had lived in the country and seen
behind the mask. "Stanley," writes Bishop Livinhac in the Rubaga Mission
Diary for 23 January 1881,13 "represents the Baganda as cunning rascals (des
rusis chenapans), thieves, sly to a degree; and Mutesa scarce able by the utmost
severity to restrain them within reasonable limits. May not one on the contrary
say, that the Baganda far from being born with an uncontrollable urge to rapine
and murder as a means of self-enrichment, are born with an urge which leads
towards religion and civilization? but with their better natures frustrated and
enslaved, and encouraged in all their worst instincts, they find in their king,
far from a guide and a powerful factor for good, an obstacle, indeed an almost
insurmountable obstacle in the way of civilization. This people has noble
instincts which only need to be rightly directed."
I believe that to be a true picture of Mutesa's time and you can find corro-
boration for it from Mackay or Ashe on the Protestant side. We see then the
Baganda as a sound people, corrupted and enslaved in the monstrous abuses
of power practised by their kings. The absolute power of the Kabaka was
imitated and even surpassed by the great chiefs who ruled in his name the
ten provinces into which the country was divided, and under them by the lesser
chiefs, so that Portal rightly noted that "the religion of the peasant is that of
his immediate superior, that is of the man who has most power to cause him
constant inconvenience."14 Touching the nature of this 'inconvenience', he adds
that in Mutesa's time, "executions on the most trivial pretext were of daily
occurrence not only in the capital and by command of the king, but all over
the country at the mere will of the 'batongole', or district chiefs." If you combine
those two ideas, that of religion being something propitiatory, a kind of chain
of fear reaching from the lowest peasant to the Kabaka, and the tremendous
power of death behind it all, then you will not find a comment by Sir Frederick
Jackson in 1901 as shocking as it sounds. Describing the principle under which
missionaries were constrained to work against such a background he calls it
"winning over a chief first, who in turn brings over with him a host of converts
on the principle of follow-my-leader".15 I remember reading a fascinating book
by Hugh Ross-Williamson, called The Arrow and the Sword in which he sub-
mitted that the religion of the Manichees lingered long in Europe, not as a
separate religion but closely integrated with Christianity and forming a sort
of occult faith secretly held by the Hierarchy. Thus he classified the death of
Thomas of Canterbury as a quite voluntary ritual sacrifice. I do not ask you
to see the Baganda martyrs in that light although I cannot myself, whenever
I read Thoonen's account, rid myself of a heavy sense of sacrificial immolation
for the Kabaka as much as for Christ. I do not think the missionaries quite
saw this, but if you read the scene as Thoonen describes it, you have first the
13 Diaire du Poste de Rubaga (unpublished).
14 Portal, op. cit., pp. 199-200.
Is Jackson to Sub-Collector Jinja, 23 October 1901; Entebbe Archives, Corr: Busoga
(Sept. 1901-May 1906).
76 UGANDA JOURNAL
appalling reply of one chief to Mwanga when he sought confirmation of his
decision to have the Christian pages burnt . "kill them and we will give
you better ones,"16 although among the pages was the Katikiro's son and the
sons of other chiefs; then, most strikingly, you have the absolute refusal of these
boys to run away or to dodge the issue. Ashe makes a great point of this. "The
Christians were suspected of disloyalty and sedition," he writes,17 "Now the
most prominent of them would not run away nor go into hiding. They appealed
to the laws of their country and were prepared kuwoza musango, to plead for
judgment before the proper tribunal. It was this spirit and this confidence in
the righteousness of their cause which so puzzled the rulers, and which made
the Christians such a power in the country." The martyrs may simply have been
rendering to Caesar his due, but I cannot escape a feeling that running through
it all is a strong vein of pagan ritual sacrifice. Paganism is, as I stressed, diffuse,
but strong, and we have it here again as it were clouding over and distorting
Christianity, a point I want to go into again later. Ian Suttie notes of the ancient
African Church that in its obsession with sin and guilt it represented St.
Augustine's concept of the religious life as 'God versus man and evil' and there
is much in the propitiation of the Old Gods by the Baganda and in the propitia-
tion of the Kabaka by human sacrifice that clouds the mind and sickens the
heart. With reverence for those young martyrs I can only say that deep down
I feel that their joy and happiness in face of death was somehow linked with
the fact that death came to them by the will of Mwanga, the Kabaka.
Thoonen aptly compares the Kabakas to the Pharaohs of old Egypt "without
whose commandment no man shall move hand or foot in all the land".18 The
Kabaka had uncontested rights over all his subjects and was a law unto himself.
He was Lord of Life and Death. He was Buganda in person. "Every man courts
the favour of a word with his king," says Speke of Mutesa, "and adores him
as a deity,"'9 while Burton relates that Kabaka Suna called Lubare the
Almighty One.20 "The former kings of the country appear also to be regarded
as demi-gods, and their graves are kept with religious care," writes C. T. Wilson
the first C.M.S. missionary in Buganda;21' and hence the Kabaka always ate
alone, and in secret, for his divine rank rendered eating unnecessary.22
The origin of the Kabaka's divinity lay significantly in the origins of the
Baganda themselves, and was preserved in the legend of Kintu the first Kabaka.
Kintu, who came out of the north, found favour in the eyes of Gulu, the Sky
Father, or Lord of Heaven, who, having tested him, gave him Nambi his
daughter in marriage. Thus, as Roscoe comments, since Kintu married the
daughter of the Sky Father, divinity hedged the Kabakas who traced their
16 Nicq, Abb6. Le P&re Simdon Lourdel. (Alger, 1932), p. 337; Thoonen, Rev. J. P.
Black Martyrs. (London, 1942), p. 179.
17 Ashe (1890), p. 225.
18 Thoonen, J. P. Black Martyrs. (London, 1942), p. 16.
19 Speke, op. cit., p. 302.
20 Burton, R. F. The Lake Regions of Central Africa. (London, 1860), ii, p. 191.
21 Wilson, C. T. and Felkin, R. W. Uganda and the Egyptian Sudan (London, 1881), i.
22 Tor Istam. The King of Ganda. (Stockholm, 1944), p. 80.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 77
descent from him23. It is only too easy to speak of the devotion and veneration
with which the Baganda regarded their monarchy and cherished the remains
and spirits of past kings, as a kind of fetishism, but the fact must be clearly
understood that their king was to them the active principle of their religion,
or-if you do not like the word God-then at any rate the living symbol of
their covenant with the supernatural world.
There had been a time when they had believed in One Supreme Being, that
same Gulu or Lord of Heaven, who by means of Nambi had given them life
and being, and whom they also called Katonda (Creator), or Mukama (Master).
However, by the time the first C.M.S. missionary was installed in Buganda in
1879 he found Katonda but one God among many: "they offer no worship to
him, as they consider him too exalted to pay any regard to mankind" he wrote.24
Dr. Williams of the Anthropological School of Boston University suggests that
the recognition and worship of Katonda faded away, simply because he was
God the Good and Beneficent who required no fearful propitiation,25 or as the
Baganda put it, Katonda tatta-Katonda killeth not.26 With this belief in one
God, the Baganda had also acquired belief in the survival and immortality of
the soul.27 A careful analysis of the legend of Kintu led Gorju to conclude that
"the Baganda were Christian in origin" and to suggest that they had received
a corrupted form of Christianity from Abyssinia,28 while Sir Harry Johnston
noted that "the Bahima civilizers of Uganda brought with them . ideas of
religion and magic which must have had their origin in Egypt, or perhaps more
correctly, in Nubia".29 Bishop Tucker speaking of Lubare worship, or the
practices of religion connected with the Balubare or Gods-which incidentally
greatly puzzled the early missionaries precisely because it seemed the practice
of religion with no clearly known origin behind it-commented that there were
features in it which indicated that it had once been in contact with Christianity.
For instance a day of rest every seventh day was not an unknown idea in many
parts of Uganda where Christianity never penetrated.30 Another missionary,
O'Flaherty of the C.M.S. Mission, wrote of Lubare worship as "a mixture of
Alexandrian Gnosticism and Ancient Egyptianism, in which Lubare incarnate
takes the place of Christ, and the whole system the place of corrupted
Christianity".31 Cunningham in his book on Uganda, records that the priests
of the God Mwanga, in Buganda "used the sign of the Cross . after the
manner of the Eastern Church".32 It thus seems probable that Kintu, whom
H. M. Stanley, "from his character", describes as "probably a priest of some
23 Roscoe, J. The Baganda. (London, 1911), p. 186.
24 Wilson and Felkin, op. cit, i, p. 206.
25 Williams, J. J. Africa's God. Anthropological Series, Boston Graduate School,
No. VI, Uganda.
26 Thoonen, J. P., op. cit., p. 30; Roscoe, J., op. cit., p. 312.
27 Gorju, P. J. Entre le Victoria, I'Albert, et I'Edouard. (Rennes, 1920), pp. 261-2.
28 Gorju, op. cit., pp. 261-2.
29 Johnston, Sir H. H. The Opening up of Africa. (London, 1925), pp. 111-2.
30 Tucker, A. R., Bishop. Eighteen Years in Uganda and East Africa. (London, 1908),
i, ip. 84.
SCited Tucker, Ibid. 1, p. 85.
32 Cunningham, F. Uganda and its Peoples. (London, 1905), p. 216.
78 UGANDA JOURNAL
old and long-forgotten order"33 brought to Buganda some ideas of what perhaps
was Greek or Monophysite Christianity, which lingered on in the North Sudan
despite Moslem influence until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and survived
until much later in the inaccessible mountains of Abyssinia and the dense
forests of the Upper Blue Nile.34 In the sixth century, the Empress Theodora
despatched a Monophysite Christian Mission to Abyssinia. The Monophysites
held that there was but one nature in Our Lord, the Divine, as opposed to the
orthodox view that both the human and the divine elements were fully present
in His person. That is of extraordinary interest to me, for we shall find a kind
of duality in Kiganda religion, the Creator remaining, as we have seen, aloof
and remote, while Creation remains alive, malignant, and in need of constant
propitiation. Dr. Williams of Boston University in his book on Hebrewisms of
West Africa, advances the theory that the primitive monotheism of most African
people was due toi the original Diaspora of the Jews and that this concept of
one God was that "of the Yahweh of the Hebrews of pre-exilic times .. that
was to pave the way for Christianity".35 What is clear, however, is that by reason
of its geographical position, many religious influences had impinged on
Buganda and the fact is that they centred on the Kingship. As I see it, God,
invisible and Pure Spirit, had become vague, impersonal, and half-forgotten,
whereas His representatives, the kings of Buganda, had in proportion become
all-powerful, omnipotent and divine. Among the early missionaries, Alexander
Mackay stumbled upon some of this when he endeavoured to find out from
Mutesa what the Lubare was, and was told that it was "Spirit" (Pepo in
Kiswahili and in Arabic Jini) together with "some story about the remains of
his ancestors being preserved by certain persons who were either regarded as
holding converse with the departed spirits of kings, or were themselves
possessed of certain spirits".36 He was also told by natives, that Katonda and
the Lubare were one and the same, but "those who profess to know better,
affirm that when Katonda created all things, he handed over the government
and preservation of everything to the Lubare, who is therefore feared and
worshipped by all".37 Here again we have this duality, or as Mackay put it,
"they divide the God of creation from the God of providence".
Historically, this division was much accelerated by Kabaka Nakibinge,
eighth Kabaka in the line according to Kagwa.38 In one of the constant wars
which the Baganda waged against the Banyoro, Nakibinge called to his assis-
tance the sons of Wanema, descendants of Kintu, who inhabited the Sese
Islands.39 The war resulted in the death of Kibuka, one of these semi-divine
personages, and Wanema bade Kabaka Nakibinge build temples to his sons.
So began the cult of the descendants of Kintu as demi-gods. Most important
of all, their worship was brought under the immediate control of the king,
33 Stanley, H. M. Through the Dark Continent. (London, 1878), i, p. 145.
34 Johnston, op. cit., pp. 111-2.
35 Williams, J. J. Hebrewisms of West Africa. (New York, 1930.)
36 Mackay, A. M. Mackay of Uganda by his sister. (London, 1892), p. 148-9.
37 Mackay, ibid., p. 175.
38 Kagwa, Sir Apolo. Ekitabo kye Mpisa za Buganda. (Mengo, 1905), p. 33.
39 Ashe (1894), p. 97 note.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 79
while their function was to protect the king and the state.40 Temples were
appointed for them by the Kabaka, and put in charge of the chief of the clan
of the district in which they were situated, and in this manner the whole of
Buganda became fettered to these national gods through the clan structure.
"When a happy chance brought the lubare on to the national soil," comments
Gorju, "royal policy confided it to the great families of the country and by the
same master-stroke made it an instrument of rule."41 Thus, whichever way we
turn, we find the kingship at the heart of the Baganda, whether by direct descent
from Nambi, daughter of heaven, or because the sons of Wanema, also
descended from Kintu, had in the fullness of time been deified. So that when
we find that the Kabakas consulted these gods on occasions, sending them
gifts and listening to their mediums, yet at the same time alone possessed the
right, if angered or offended by them, of looting their temples and estates,42 it
becomes clear that at any given moment there was in Buganda but one God
and one King, the reigning Kabaka. For all practical purposes he was the
God of Providence, since he alone controlled all that Katonda had created.
Roscoe notes indeed, that Kabaka Suna, dying of small pox, had the priests of
the Lubare slain as a pack of charlatans, and adds that Mutesa changed the
status of the Gods, and reduced the power of the priests.43 Thus the bewilder-
ment of the first missionaries is easily appreciated and is well exemplified in
the attempt which Mackay made on one occasion to reason Mutesa out of
his intention to receive the medium of the God Mukasa at Court. Mukasa was
the God of the Nyanza, according to C. T. Wilson,44 the Neptune or Poseidon
of the Lake, who, says Roscoe45 "sought to heal the bodies and minds of men
and never asked for the life of any human being". Using the argument that if
Mukasa were only a man then there were two Kings in Buganda, and were
he a God, then there were two Gods, he received a reply which in the very
nature of things he misunderstood . "What you say, Mackay, is perfectly
true and I know that all witchcraft is falsehood."46 Far from being a step towards
conversion, this remark was but an expression of what Mutesa, better than
anyone, knew to be true of the Balubare, who were but an insubstantial emana-
tion of his own kingship. Yet neither then, nor on any occasion, did he reveal
his own Olympian status to the puzzled missionary. Nor, by the same token,
could he ever yield to the message either of Christianity or Islam, for he was
Religion himself, and also sat above Religion, and so, without facing spiritual
annihilation, could only strive to remain aloof and in the traditional royal
pattern seek to control the practice and expression of these religions among
his people. Even so, Mackay's attempt at finding out what Lubare was is of
the greatest value.47 When Mutesa catechized his chiefs on the subject, they
said: "Lubare is a bull (maandwa); maandwa is a wizard or sorcerer (mulogo);
40 Roscoe, op cit., p. 273.
41 Gorju, op. cit., p. 219.
42 Roscoe, op. cit., p. 273.
43 Roscoe, op. cit., p. 229.
44 Diary C. T. Wilson, 1878-9 (unpublished) 2 vols. 3 April 1878.
45 Roscoe, op. cit., p. 290.
46 Mackay, op. cit., p. 161.
47 Mackay, op. cit., pp. 148-50.
80 UGANDA JOURNAL
mulogo is a man (muntu)." Lubare may thus have been a man who was priest
of the Bull-the ancient Mithraic symbol, a fascinating speculation once again
leading us back to the past.
By now, I think I have said sufficient to give a picture of Mutesa's status as
Kabaka. Somewhere in the past all kinds of religious ideas had penetrated into
Buganda and had become absorbed by the monarchy, which in itself had a
semi-divine origin. We ourselves are familiar enough with the theory of the
Divine Right of Kings. We know, too, how the Roman Emperors tolerated all
kinds of religions so long as they received formal divine honours. Even under
the Christian Roman Empire, both in the east and the west, the Emperors had
a kind of ecclesiastical status; indeed the Holy Roman Emperors went on
claiming a veto in the election of Popes, right up to the nineteenth century. In
the particular field with which I am dealing, it seems clear that what made
Buganda a unity was precisely this combination of civil and religious office in
the Kabakaship. Mutesa ruled over the Gods; he descended from them; he
was of them.
It is this which makes his dealings with the world religions in the last ten
years of his reign so fascinating, and before I complete this paper I want later
on to touch upon his relations with Islam, and with Catholic and Protestant
Christianity. I have said that what he wanted from them was the secret of their
power, and we must bear in mind that to him, politics and religion were the
same thing. By alternating threats with friendship; by inclining now to one
and now to another; by raising false hopes and by downright wickedness, he
kept them all in suspense and at the same time fostered and kept active the
ancient paganism of his people. Livinhac has left us an admirable description
of his methods. "First," he writes, "through the agency of people who have an
air of letting you into confidential secrets, he lets you know that he is delighted
at the arrival of his new guests, and wants nothing to do with those who preceded
you as they have let him down. He knows, however, that you would never do
such a thing, and it is your friendship that he wants. He knows, too, that your
religion is the only good one, and that is why he wants to learn all about it...
and adopt it. His slaves are sent to salute you, and to offer presents. He gets you
to join in religious discussions with other strangers . in the country and
decides arguments in your favour."48 How warmly he welcomed Stanley in
1875 and listened to his discussions on Christianity on the basis of which the
C.M.S. despatched its mission. Yet he only did that as a counterblast to his
earlier flirtation with Islam which ended in his burning of all the Moslem
converts he could lay his hands on. Then when the Protestant Mission was
established and was beginning to put pressure on him, how skilfully he diverted
their energies into conflicts and discussions with the Arabs concerning Islam
and the Koran. Then came the French missionaries in 1879 and as soon as
Mackay made the grand tactical error of revealing to him that they and their
Church were anathema to evangelical Protestantism, how warmly he welcomed
them so that soon he had three religious forces to manipulate and set one
against the other. Since however two of the religions taught the basic Christian
48 Nicq, op. cit., p. 269.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 81
message, he soon learnt to retreat into Paganism and to evade the lot of them.
It is not the astuteness nor yet the Machiavellian regard for power behind these
tactics that I want however to stress, but the reasons for this behaviour. The
prime one was that control of religion was the natural thing to a Kabaka.
Secondly, because he was Kabaka, or Religion in person, he could not
accept the teachings of any of these religions, for to do so would have been
to damage irreparably his own status; it would have meant limiting his absolute
power, abandoning his Godhead, and putting himself under the tutelage of
foreigners, none of which were remotely possible. Were he to become pious, his
reign would have ended in confusion and disaster. It would have been an
unpardonable weakness in a Kabaka.
Together with this, it must be realized that in flirting now with one Mission
and now with another, Mutesa was playing a dangerous game. To the north
of Buganda lay Egypt which stood for Islam, and which he had mightily
offended by his burning of the Moslem converts. There in the Khedive's name
ruled Gordon the Englishman. No sooner had he admitted the English
missionaries to his country than he found that they were in close touch with
Gordon. The Arabs quickly warned him that the English would "eat Buganda".
The English missionaries never tired of referring to the power of their Great
Queen or of their Consul at Zanzibar while they warned him against the French
as dangerous intriguers and anti-royalists. The Arabs spoke with increasing
threats of the power of their Sultan and the sword of Islam. On the other side
the old Katikiro and the Kabaka's mother strongly supported the old ways and
the old Gods. Yet despite this, Mutesa remained on top of it all, intelligent,
crafty, malicious, the last God-Emperor of Buganda.
The first world religion to break into the secret circle of Kiganda Paganism
was Islam, brought in when Kabaka Suna invited Arab traders to visit him.
On one occasion when the Kabaka had ordered a Kiwendo or large-scale
execution of his subjects to propitiate the Lubare, one of these visitors dared
to rebuke him, saying that it was a grievous sin to destroy those whom Allah
had created. That one should have displayed in his presence such incredible
temerity, aroused Suna's interest and he asked to know more. According to a
native source, he read the first four chapters of the Koran before Sheik Ibrahim
returned to the coast.49 In Mutesa's time more Arabs came to Buganda and
found the Kabaka ready to hear more about Islam. Kagwa states that he intro-
duced the Muhammadan Calendar, made it an offence for his subjects not to
greet him in Moslem fashion and had twelve of them executed for not knowing
the appropriate greeting.50 When his subjects were slow in following this new
interest, more executions followed so that, as Kagwa puts it, "all the chiefs
learnt that faith". They had to, for the Kabaka was Religion. "Everything which
comes from royalty, whether by accident or design has to be adored" says
Speke in an unsavoury context concerning Kiganda customs, and that sums
up the position. Although the Baganda had a horror of mutilation, which, except
49 Apolo Kagwa and Henry Wright Duta, Mengo Notes IV Uganda J., 11 (1947), 110;
Sir John Gray, Sheik Ahmed bin Ibrahim-The first Arab to reach Buganda. Uganda J.,
11 (1947), 82.
so Kagwa, Sir Apolo. Ekitabo kya Basekabaka be Buganda. (London, 1927), p. 129.
82 UGANDA JOURNAL
as a punishment designed to send them mutilated into the next world, was
prohibited among them,51 Ashe, on not very reliable evidence, tells us that "the
King's pages were circumcised by the score". There was no question of the
King being circumcised as death would have been the due of anyone who caused
him pain.52 Then, abruptly, Mutesa turned against Islam when some of his
subjects, who had evidently embraced it sincerely, refused to eat meat killed
by the King's butcher. Two hundred converts were burnt alive and Islam
suffered a crushing set-back. It had shown itself powerful enough to break
through old Kiganda custom and in doing so it had intruded on the Divinity
of the Monarchy. To follow the Kabaka was loyalty: to exceed him was
'insolence' and merited death. The action which Mutesa took in burning the
converts had, however, great danger for him. Mackay places it between July
1874 and April 1875, and in the July of 1874 Gordon's envoy, Chaill6 Long had
tricked Mutesa into ceding to Egypt the headwaters of the Nile. Trouble with
Egypt seemed inevitable, when in the April of 1875 there burst into Buganda
that "new phenomenon in the field of East African exploration"-Henry
On 5 April 1875 Mutesa received Stanley and in a very short while realized
that the newcomer had brought the answer to his quarrel with Islam. Stanley
both terrified and fascinated Mutesa for he seemed the epitome of power. He
brought two things to Mutesa, the Bible, and the power of firearms, and he
left Mutesa with the firm conviction that the one was inseparably linked with
the other, and that both contributed to the power of the White Man. I would
like to say a little more about that, for the point I want to make is psychological
and not religious. When Stanley left Buganda, he waged a private war on the
natives of Bumbire Island in which his "elephant rifle with the explosive bullets"
had about the same moral effect as would a heavy bomber against an open city.
The roar of that rifle indeed went out across the Nyanza to the corners of
Europe. "His proceedings," wrote Sir John Kirk, Consul at Zanzibar, to the
Foreign Office, "will prove one of the principal obstacles that future explorers
and missionaries will have to meet when following his track".53 Yet Mackay
the missionary writes that from the time of Stanley's visit, "people in Buganda
dated the commencement of leniency and law in place of the previous reign
of bloodshed and terror."54 In a word, Stanley frightened the wits out of Mutesa,
yet at the same time left him with a burning desire to acquire this vast power,
which he thought was linked with the Christians' Book.
I should like next to consider that curious scene in which Stanley persuaded
Mutesa to sit in judgment on the two Books, the Koran of the Arabs and the
Word of God, and to opt for the latter. It is, of course, the occasion which
led to the later dispatch of the C.M.S. Mission and raised such false hopes and
withered promises. I want to do so for one reason only, to illustrate once again
the power of paganism, and the divine status of Mutesa.
When Stanley and Mutesa first met, Stanley writes ... "We talked about many
51 Wilson and Felkin, op. cit., i, p. 185.
52 Cameron, V. L. Across Africa. (London, 1877), i, p. 154.
53 Coupland, R. The Exploitation of East Africa, 1856-90. (London, 1939), p. 329.
54 Mackay, op. cit., pp. 217-8.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 83
things, principally about Europe and Heaven. The inhabitants of the latter
place he was very anxious about, and was especially interested in the nature
of Angels." Obligingly, Stanley drew on the Bible, Paradise Lost, Michaelangelo
and Gustav Dor6 and described angels, as he says, "in bright warm colours".
His description, he adds, received "earnest attention and I do believe, implicit
faith". I do not know why Mutesa was so interested in angels, except perhaps
that ghosts and spirits played so large a part in Kiganda religion; even less do
I know what Stanley meant by "implicit faith". It can only really have meant
that Mutesa knew what he was talking about and believed him. Then,
astonished at Mutesa's intelligence and led on by what he calls Mutesa's
"enthusiasm when the wonders of civilization were broached to him"-he fell
to discussing Christianity. The way in which he did so, I cannot help feeling,
roused echoes of old forgotten things in Mutesa; things which he had heard
from the Arabs and things which, as I have tried to show, had filtered into
Buganda long ago. For Stanley as he puts it, spoke of "the simple story of
the Creation as related by Moses, the revelation of God's power to the
Israelites, their delivery from the Egyptians, the wonderful miracles wrought
on behalf of the Children of Abraham, the appearance of prophets at various
times, foretelling the coming of Christ: the humble birth of the Messiah, his
wonderful life, woeful death, and triumphant resurrection."55
Now, what Mutesa wanted more than anything, was "delivery from the
Egyptians". He detained Stanley who set about translating "sufficient out of
the Bible to form an abridged sacred history, wherein the Gospel of St. Luke
was given entire". When that was done, Mutesa called together his Chiefs,
not to discuss Christianity as such but to administer the coup de grdce to
Islam. I would like to quote the scene in its entirety, and to try and interpret
it against the Kiganda royal background.
"When my work of translation was complete, Mutesa mustered all his
principal chiefs and officers, and after long discourse in which he explained
his state of mind prior to my arrival, said: 'Now I want you, my chiefs and
soldiers, to tell me what we shall do. Shall we believe in Jesus or in
Mohammed?' One chief said: 'Let us take what is best.' The Prime Minister
with a doubtful manner replied: 'We know not what is best. The Arabs say
their book is best, while the White Man claims that his book is best. How shall
we know which speaks the truth?' The courtly Steward of the Palace said:
'When Mutesa became a son of Islam, he taught me, and I became one. If my
master says he taught me wrong, now having more knowledge, he can teach me
right.' Mutesa then proceeded to unfold his reasons for his belief that the White
Man's book must be the true book, basing them principally on the difference
of conduct he had observed between the Arabs and the Whites, that the chiefs
gave their promise to accept the Christians' Bible, and to conform as they were
taught to the Christian religion. To establish them in the faith which they had
embraced, it only rested with me to release Dallington my young translator from
my service, that he might keep the words of the Holy Book green in their hearts,
until the arrival of a Christian Mission from England."
55 Stanley, D. The Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley. (London, 1909), p. 312.
84 UGANDA JOURNAL
The most striking thing about the scene described, is the clear pattern of
religious loyalty to the Kabaka which runs through it. The chiefs, seeing that
Mutesa is going to change over to patronage of another religion, make it easy
for him to do so, and change with him. Notice the adroitness of the Steward
who has quickly to justify Mutesa's adherence to Islam and his forcing of it
upon his people, with his present desire to accept the Christians' Book. Notice,
too, that both Christianity and Islam are presented as religions of Books, and
the discussion remains on the level of which is the better Book, although
neither Mutesa nor his chiefs have read either of them. As a scene, it represents
to me, far from being a basis on which to assume that Mutesa was interested
in Christianity, a clear illustration of the power of Paganism centred on the
Divine Monarchy which controlled it and held it together.
It is thus no accident at all that from the start of Christian influence in
Buganda, the concept was formed that the Christian religion is a Book; it is
easy to understand, since all the national Gods had their fetishes, and evidently
the fetish of the Christian, as of the Moslem God, was a Book. Mackay dis-
covered that later on, and wrote "Even our religion is looked upon by many,
if not all, as only another sort of witchcraft. I have heard them always speak
of Islam and Christianity as being merely new kinds of customs or practices,
while they call our Book a 'charm' or jembe (idol)".56 Equally significantly
Bishop Livinhac noted in the Rubaga Mission Diary in August 1880, "Le Roi
ne se spare plus de sa Bible. II a donn6 ordre a tous les Grands a qui les Anglais
ont done ce livre de lui apporter. Probablement il veut avoir le monopole
de la Sagesse, et come il croit qu'il suffit de consulter la Bible pour r6soudre
les questions les plus difficiles, il a peur que les Grands ne l'6galent."57
Portal, in 1893, also writes of the Baganda . "that, as regards their deep
religious fervour and the extensive purchase of religious reading-sheets sold
by the Anglican Mission, which was so triumphantly quoted by the Protestant
missionaries as a proof of the progress of their religion ... these things merely
proved once again that the bakopi would at once adopt any religion favoured
at the moment by their masters, and would eagerly spend their cowrie shells
in purchasing these or any other 'fetishes' which might appear to them to be
connected with such religion."58
Stanley's description too, always seems to me to strike a false note when
he gives as Mutesa's reason for embracing the Book, "the differences in conduct
he had observed between the Arabs and the Whites". If we include Stanley
himself and Linant de Bellefonds, who arrived in Buganda while he was there,
Mutesa had seen only three other white men, Speke, Grant and Chaill6 Long.
Strange, restless and powerful people, they must have seemed, but none of
them spent more than three months in his kingdom. The Arabs he had found
friendly, courteous, and full of religious wisdom. In its context, Stanley's state-
ment seems to imply that Mutesa, by the better conduct of the Whites, was more
inclined to favour them: far more significantly it suggests that Mutesa was
capable of inferring that this 'better conduct' was derived from a superior
56 Mackay, op. cit., pp. 174-5.
57 Diaire du Poste de Rubaga. August 1880.
58 Portal, op. cit., pp. 197-8.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 85
religious belief. In view of Mutesa's carefree attitude to religion, and the
violence of his reactions against those of his subjects who had begun to practise
Islam, I believe the implication to be nonsense. Only one form of religious
conduct or behaviour was acceptable to Mutesa, that which the scene so clearly
illustrates-religious acceptance of the fact that everything the Kabaka did
Stanley, however, does not say that he converted Mutesa to Christianity,
but that he and his chiefs, "gave their promise to accept the Christians' Bible",
and it is improbable that he could have interpreted his own sentence against
the real background of Kiganda religious customs, any more than the Kiganda
chiefs could remotely have conceived that their acceptance of the Bible and
their promise to conform to Christian teaching, implied reversing their scale
of human values, shattering their social system, and undermining their supreme
object of veneration-the kingship.
Thus it fell out, that when on 2 July 1877 after appalling hardships, C. T.
Wilson and Shergold Smith of the Anglican Mission finally reached Mutesa's
court, Mutesa after first asking them whether they had seen the flag which
he hoisted because he believed in Jesus-but which was really to annoy the
Egyptians in which it succeeded admirably-began on the very next day to
press them to make powder and shot for him, a thing which he never ceased
to do for the rest of his life. When the two men naturally refused and threatened
to leave his country, he asked if they had come to teach his people to read
and write. On being assured that such was the case and that his people would
be taught "whatever useful arts we, and those coming, may know", he became
more friendly, saying "England is my friend. I have one hand in Uganda and
the other in England"; and then went on to ask who was the greater, Queen
Victoria or the Khedive ..59 It was clear that he was still looking for added
power with which to oppose Egypt.
Before concluding this paper, I want to refer briefly to Mutesa's attitude to
the Christian missions up to his death in 1884. That he did not annihilate
them, or openly persecute them, may seem strange after what I have said. I
think, however, that he learnt a lesson from the Moslem persecution of 1874,
and in the last ten years of his life he was a sick and ailing man. Felkin of the
C.M.S. Mission notes that his ill-health made him more merciful, and quotes
the oft-heard remark made by the Baganda of the time, . "If Mutesa were
well you would soon see some executions"!60 The curtailment of his physical
energy may well have brought home to him that there was a new field open for
his self-aggrandizement in controlling and using the new forces that were
gathering around him. He did the thing in traditional Kiganda way, for it
must be realized that the missionaries were confined to the narrow world of
the royal court and he would get Mackay to dispute with the Arabs and, later,
Lourdel to argue with Mackay in his presence. Then, in the full royal pattern,
he would 'give judgment', a ruling which was of course, to the Baganda,
final and absolute and that ended the audience. These discussions were thus
quite unlike what we regard as debates or arguments and the surprising thing
59 Stock, E. History of the C.M.S. iii, pp. 101-102.
6o Wilson and Felkin, op. cit., ii, p. 23.
86 UGANDA JOURNAL
is that the Missions accepted them. They had, of course, no alternative and it
was impossible to resist Mutesa's malice and his skill in promoting them. My
point, however, is that consciously or unconsciously the Missions were placed
in the position of merchants spreading out their wares at the feet of the Kabaka
which he criticised favourably or adversely, but never bought.
During 1879 Mutesa dissipated Mackay's energies against Islam, giving
judgments in his favour until little more could be done without raising Mackay's
hopes too high. Then Mackay, feeling that progress was being made, launched
an attack on the Lubare and pressed Mutesa so hard that ... "he gave a verdict
which pleased them all. .. He said that they would now leave both the Arab's
religion and the Muzungu's religion and would go back to the religion of their
fathers". "I was asked," added Mackay, "why we came here and what we came
to do. I replied that we had come in response to his own request to Stanley,
that he wished white men to come and stop with him, and teach his people
the knowledge of God. He said that he understood that we came to teach them
how to make powder and guns, and what he wanted was men who would
do so."61 That was not Mutesa's only weapon for twice in the years before his
death he formally reverted to Islam, first in 1880 and then in 1881. It was on
the latter occasion that Lourdel challenged the Arabs to walk through a fire,
Koran in hand, if he would do likewise with the Gospel, a challenge which
Islam refused. Between 1881 and 1884 Mutesa's attitude towards the Anglican
Mission slowly degenerated, and by the end of 1883 Ashe writes, "The shadows
and suspicions had grown deeper and darker, and our position was daily
growing more precarious."62 More and more was Mutesa inclined to believe
the Arabs when they stated that the English mission was but a forerunner of
an English invasion and conquest of Buganda.
Increasingly he showed favour to the French Roman Catholic Mission, until
in 1882 the handful of French missionaries abruptly withdrew from Buganda
leaving the Anglican Mission to face alone the full blast of Mutesa's suspicions
and the odium of the Arabs. In so far as Mutesa had listened to any Christian
message he had done so with least hostility and suspicion towards the French
missionaries. He did not feel that they were secretly engaged in plotting against
his country. In addition they had a friend at court in the person of Tori or
Toli, a coast negro who had been a cabin boy in a French vessel and had
actually been to France. Thirdly, the violent hostility displayed towards them
by Mackay encouraged Mutesa progressively to side with them as his relations
worsened with the C.M.S. Mission. Thus it was that after the C.M.S. Mission
presented him with an ultimatum in June 1879, and he finally let Wilson and
Felkin leave his country, he sent for Lourdel and Livinhac on 13 July 1879
and, revealing to them his deep fear that this quarrel with the C.M.S. would
result in renewed aggressions against Buganda by Gordon, suggested that one
of them went to France with envoys from him to place his country under the
protection of the French Government. He was amazed and astonished when
they refused, for it had never apparently occurred to him that politics and
religion were not one in the European mind. He had his revenge, however, over
61 Mackay, op. cit, pp. 164-5.
62 Cited. Mackay, op. cit, p. 306.
MUTESA I-WAS HE A GOD? 87
what he considered to be a refusal to help him, and it was a revenge so monstrous
and so pagan that it almost defies description. I give it to you in the words
of the Diary of the Rubaga Mission. . "Nous n'avons plus de doutes a avoir
sur le motif qui pousse les Baganda a venir ici a instruire de notre sainte religion
.. c'6tait peut-8tre pour fair le mal avec nos enfants. Pour arriver plus facile-
ment et plus sOrement a leur fin, ils ont gagner et s'assurer nos enfants en leur
donnant quelques bagatelles et en pratiquant sur eux la Sodomie."63 In other
words, since he could not get at the Catholic neophytes through pressure on
their missionaries, he introduced among them corrupt young men to defile them
with the practice of sodomy. The vice played a great part in Mwanga's reign
and is generally said to have been brought to Buganda by the Arabs. That it
existed under Mutesa is shown by another entry in the Rubaga Diary for July
1882, two years before Mutesa's death or Mwanga's accession. "Le Roi," runs
the entry, "non content de ses femmes, et non content des mignons qu'il a pour
Sodomie, veut que chaque Mganda ait son Sodomite. Aussi ce vice, parait il,
a l'ordre du jour partout, m6me dans des Kialos."64
With that citation I close my survey of Kiganda paganism. I give it to show
the atmosphere at the end of Mutesa's life, and to demonstrate that while the
sun shone brightly in the Kiganda heaven, there was darkness at noon.
I have tried to sustain that Mutesa was a God, and a God in the pattern of
Kiganda paganism. Cruel, intelligent, brutal and remote, he passes from the
scene in the darkness of ignorance and superstition. I wish I could say that
with his passing came light. Yet Mwanga was even worse, for he lacked his
predecessor's intelligence. It was left to the British Administration to solve the
problem. They did it in the only way possible, when on 14 August 1897 the
child Daudi Chwa, a baptized Protestant, was put on the throne, the chiefs
being called upon to declare him King.65 Thus in the seat of the mighty was
placed a child, in the hope that under the wise guidance of councillors and
missionaries the old dark atmosphere around the throne of Buganda would
vanish for ever.
(1) Diaire du Poste de Rubaga. The Diary of Rubaga Mission: from June 1879 to
March 1880 it was kept by Pere Girault; Bishop Livinhac continues it until
13 January 1881; Pere Lourdel takes it to 27 December 1881; and Pere Girault
resumes until November 1882. Citations are by permission of Archbishop
J. L. Cabana, W.F.
(2) Diary of Nsambya Mission 1895-1898. By Father Thomas Matthews from the
day he left Mill Hill on 9 May 1895 to 22 January 1898. Citations are by
permission of Bishop J. Greif.
(3) Diary of Rev. C. T. Wilson. 1878-9 (2 vols.) (by courtesy of A. Low, Esq.).
(4) Entebbe Archives: Correspondence Staff and Miscellaneous. 1893-5.
63 Diaire du Poste de Rubaga. 25 October 1882.
64 Diaire du Poste de Rubaga. 30 July 1882.
65 Diary of the Mill Hill Fathers' Mission, Nsambya. May 1895-January 1898. Saturday,
14 August 1897.
THE INHERITANCE OF LAND IN BUGANDA
By MARTIN SOUTHWOLD, B.A.
THIS paper' attempts to describe the current practice governing the inheri-
tance of land in Buganda. The inheritance of other kinds of property
(ebintu in Luganda) is not specifically dealt with, partly because the records,
unlike those dealing with land, are not kept together at Mengo, and partly
because it may be assumed that if a man leaves no land he is unlikely to have
other property of value to leave.
Every Muganda, whether man or woman, when he dies, unless he is con-
sidered too junior, has to have a successor (omusika) appointed. The appoint-
ment is formally made at the kwabya olumbe (removing death) ceremony, and
the successor is introduced to those present as having taken the place of the
deceased. Thenceforth the kinship terms used with reference to him are those
appropriate to the deceased, and he may also take the name of the deceased-
though nowadays, in practice, this rule is not generally observed except in the
case of the head of a clan or lineage.
The successor does not however take all the property of the deceased; he
usually takes about half, and the remainder is distributed among others. In
order to keep the distinction clear, I refer to the person who succeeds to the
place of the deceased (in Luganda the musika) as the 'successor', and to anyone
who receives part of the deceased's property as an 'heir'; this does not of course
correspond exactly with the normal usage in English.
The only law relating to inheritance and succession in Buganda is the
Buganda Government's Wills Law of 1916, which provides that a will shall be
accepted as binding if it is signed by the testator and two witnesses. In the
schedule to the law is set out a model form for wills, but this is optional and
is in fact rarely used. In practice wills are set out in a great variety of ways:
some are entered in a printed booklet sold for this purpose, some are written
in ledgers or exercise books, others are written or typed on loose sheets of
paper. Some are brief-Moslems for instance usually follow the law of Islam
in appointing the Sheikh to divide the property; others are very detailed, some-
times listing all the household property down to the cups and saucers, or
specifying precisely where each heir is to take the portion of land bequeathed
to him, and some go into matters of family history to explain the reasons for
the bequests. Most, however, follow more or less closely an ideal form of this
1. Place and date.
2. This is my will (which cancels any previous will).
3. I am of........clan, of ......siga, of .......mutuba, of........lunyiriri;
my grandfather was........, my father was........
1 I should like to express my gratitude for information and help in gathering material
to Oweek. P. N. Kavuma, the ex-Katikiro: to the Rev. K. Kagwa, head of Ndiga clan;
and to Mr. H. M. Bosa. They are not however responsible for any opinions expressed
in this paper.
THE INHERITANCE OF LAND IN BUGANDA 89
4. I have begotten (so many) children as follows:
(the names of the children listed in order of birth, stating whether boy or girl).
5. My property is as follows:
6. ........ will be my successor after my death.
7. I distribute my property as follows:
(the successor will get so much; the other heirs, listed one by one, will get so
much each.-Usually only the amount of the bequest is given, without specifying
the exact place of the land or character of the other property.)
8. The following will be the guardians (bakuza) of my children:
(These guardians are appointed to look after the interests of any young children
of the deceased; they are usually friends of the deceased and not necessarily
9. I have written this will while in full possession of my faculties, and have signed
my name to it.
in our presence
The introduction of the mailo system under the Uganda Agreement of 1900
brought with it a new conception of rights over land, and when the original
grantee died there was confusion as to how this land should be inherited. Some
decisions of the clan councils, which decided the inheritance in cases of
intestacy, were felt to be unjust, and after much discussion the Buganda Govern-
ment decided to stabilize the position. An order (Ekiragiro ekyo Busika ekyo
Mwaka 1926) was drawn up in 1926 and signed by the Kabaka; however it did
not receive the Governor's assent and hence did not pass into law. It will be
seen however that its provisions are very closely followed in practice, and it
may be said to have the force of custom if not of law. The following are its
1. It shall govern the inheritance of all immovable property (in practice only the
inheritance of Mailo land is brought before the Kabaka for confirmation).
2. If there is a will, and it is correct according to the provisions of the Wills Law
1916, its dispositions must be followed. However no one may appoint a non-
clansman as his successor, though he may bequeath him land or other property.
If there is property not bequeathed by the will, or if the bequests cannot be met
from the estate, the clan council shall make the necessary adjustments.
3. The head of the lunyiriri2 shall enquire of the father, brothers, or other close
relatives of the deceased, whether there is a will; if one is found he shall send it
through his superiors in the clan to the head of the clan, who shall examine
it to see if it is valid. If it is found to be invalid, the clan council arranges the
succession and inheritance as though there were no will; otherwise the head of
the clan proceeds to make arrangements to bring the case before the Katikiro.
2 Every clan (ekika) is divided into amasiga (s: essiga), every essiga into emituba
(s: omutuba), and every omutuba into ennyiriri (s: olunyiriri). The head (omukulu) of
the lunyiriri is the head of the lowest-order lineage formally recognized in the clan
system. Each clan and each lineage has a council which assists the head.
90 UGANDA JOURNAL
4. If there is no valid will, the clan council shall appoint a successor and divide the
property according to the following rules:
a. The head of the lunyiriri shall ask a father or elder brother of the deceased to
recommend a successor, or shall do so himself.
b. Where there is male issue the eldest son shall be the successor and shall take
a larger share of the property than any other heir; the remainder shall be
shared equally among his brothers.
c. If there is no male issue a son of a brother of the deceased shall be chosen to
succeed; but any daughters of the deceased must be consulted in choosing the
successor, and shall be given a share of the property.
d. Where there is a son, brother, or brother's son of the deceased, the successor
shall be chosen from among the male agnatic descendants of the deceased's
father's father; and the distribution of the property shall be made among the
members of the same group.
e. The deceased's widow, and his mother if still alive, are entitled to a share
of the property. Apart from them and the successor, if the deceased had
children they alone are entitled to a share of the property.
5. The Great Lukiko may reject the recommendations of the clan council if they
do not follow the above rules, and may direct it to make fresh recommendations.
When a person dies in possession of mailo land, however small the piece
may be, the successor and other heirs have to be confirmed by the Kabaka. The
clan council lays its decisions, including those made in accordance with the
will if there is a valid one, before the Katikiro, and if he approves them, the
Katikiro takes the head of the clan, or his deputy at Mengo, together with the
successor and other heirs, before the Kabaka on the day appointed for them
to be confirmed; such confirmation ceremonies are usually held about four
times during the year. The successor and other heirs are introduced to the
Kabaka, who confirms them in their succession and inheritance. The documents
referring to all such cases are kept on file at the Lukiko at Mengo; they include
the letter from the head of the clan to the Kabaka setting out the facts of the
case and the decisions of the clan council; the covering letter from the
Katikiro; the will if there is one; and any other relevant letters.
When there is no land to be inherited, the succession and inheritance are
decided by the clan in a similar way; but as these do not have to be confirmed
by the Kabaka, no records of such cases are kept at the Lukiko.
I examined in the files at the Lukiko all the cases of inheritance of land
which were confirmed in a single recent year. This does not mean that all the
deaths occurred within a single year; on the contrary, as can be seen from
Table I, there is considerable variation in the period between death and the
confirmation of the heirs. In some cases more than thirty years has elapsed;
such long delays are probably due to failure of the potential heirs to get in
touch with the head of their lunyiriri, or of their mutuba, who alone has power
to set the machinery in motion.
The cases examined provide a sample illustrating the present practice in
matters of succession and inheritance. There were 106 cases altogether, in 11 of
which the deceased was a woman; unless otherwise stated these 11 cases have
been ignored in the following analysis. In the remaining 95 cases where the
THE INHERITANCE OF LAND IN BUGANDA 91
deceased was a man, a valid will was left in 28 cases (29-5 per cent), an invalid
will in 11 cases (11-6 per cent), and no will in 56 cases (58-9 per cent).
It is natural to ask why so many people do not avail themselves of the
opportunity of making a will. The chief reason is probably that in Buganda,
as in other countries, people do not like to make arrangements for their own
death, and consequently postpone making a will until it is too late. There is
evidence that some at least of the wills were made when the writer was seriously
ill. This however does not explain why some people make wills while others
fail to do so. One might suggest that it is the people who cannot write who
do not make wills; while this may be so, it is found, however, that some of the
wills are written by a friend and marked with a thumb-print by the testator;
illiteracy alone is not therefore an insuperable obstacle. Again it may be that
the people who die a sudden death are forestalled before they can make their
wills; but though the cause of death is given in the records, it is not sufficiently
precise for such a distinction to be made. Or it might be supposed that failure
to make a will betrays relative indifference: for instance a man who has no
sons of his own might be less concerned with the fate of his property. If reference
is made to Table II it will be seen that at first sight the figures do seem to
support this hypothesis; however when they are tested for significance it is
found that the value of X2 does not reach the 5 per cent level of probability,
and the case remains unproven.' Again, one might argue that the more property
a man has the more he will be concerned with what happens to it after his
death. Tables III A and B relate the size of the estate left with the presence or
absence of a valid will. The value of X2 for Table III A exceeds the 1 per cent
level of probability, and it is fair to conclude that the larger estates are more
frequently left by will than the smaller; though whether this reflects greater
concern, or the fact that richer people are normally better educated and more
sophisticated, cannot be decided.
There are too few cases of rejected wills for any correlations to be attempted.
The reason given by the clan council for rejecting the will is in every case the
absence of the signature of either the deceased or the required witnesses. Some-
times however this reason is given when all three signatures appear on the will:
in these cases it would appear that there are doubts about the genuineness of
the signatures, or that the testator fully knew what he was doing when he signed.
In some cases the will was made very shortly before death, and the failure to
comply with the requirements of the law is probably attributable to haste. In
other cases where no attempt has been made to obtain the signature of witnesses,
the probable explanation is ignorance of the law.
Table IV shows in the form of percentages what kind of kinsman was chosen
as successor. In about a third of the cases someone other than a son was chosen;
apart from one aberrant case, this was because there was no living son. In about
one-seventh of the remaining cases a son other than the eldest was chosen; of
these nine cases, in three the eldest son of the Christian wife was preferred,
and in one the eldest son was passed over because he had already succeeded
3 The symbol X2 stands for a formula which provides an estimate of the probability
of an apparent difference between two sets of data being due to something more than
92 UGANDA JOURNAL
the father of the deceased. The remainder are cases of testamentary succession.
Of the cases where there was a valid will, in one quarter (seven cases) a
successor other than a son was chosen. In one of these no information about
relationship was given; another was the aberrant case already referred to, where
a grandson was chosen in preference to the sons-this case was however
peculiar in other ways. In the other five there was no male issue. Of the cases
where a son was chosen, in one third (seven cases) the eldest son was passed
over. In one, preference was! given to the eldest son of the Christian wife; in
one, the eldest son had already succeeded the deceased's father; in two cases
the deceased explained in his will that he was passing over his eldest son on
account of serious offences he had committed against his father; and in three
cases no reason was stated in the will. Otherwise, in the remaining fourteen
cases the eldest or only son succeeded. Of the six cases where there was no
son, the successor chosen was in four cases a son of a brother, and in
one a classificatoryy) grandson; in the remaining case no relationship was
Of the eleven cases where the will was rejected as invalid, in one there was
no male issue and the clan appointed a brother's son, and in one the eldest
son of the Christian wife was chosen. Otherwise the eldest or only son was
chosen-even in one case where the invalid will had specifically excluded him.
Where there was no will, in about 40 per cent of the cases the deceased had
no son. Where there was a son, in one case (out of thirty-three) the clan chose
the eldest son of the Christian wife to succeed. In all the other cases the eldest,
or the only, son was chosen. Even where the eldest son had already succeeded
his father's father he was still chosen by the clan, and he then wrote a letter
declining the succession on these grounds,4 and it was taken by the next son.
(These cases-of which there were three where no will was left and two where
the will was found to be invalid-have been counted as choice of the eldest
son.) Of the twenty-three cases where there was no son, in one the son's son
was chosen (the son himself having died); in seven cases a brother; in nine a
brother's son; in five a brother's son's son; and in one the eldest daughter-this
was stated to be "according to the custom of the pastoralists" (mu mpisa ya
Balalo), and the case came from Koki-it could not happen in Buganda proper.
Of the eleven cases where the deceased was a woman, in nine she was
succeeded by her brother's daughter, and in one by her father's brother's
daughter. The remaining case was of a Munyoro princess with land in Buganda;
here her brother's son was chosen to succeed her as there were no brother's
daughters-such a case is odd, since a man cannot properly take the place
of a woman. The daughter of a woman is never chosen to succeed her, since
she would normally be of a different clan.
The way the property is divided between the children eligible to inherit
varies considerably according both to the amount of property and the number
of children. Except in the Kibuga, where land is much more valuable, pieces
of less than one acre are not given, and where there are a great many children
4 Since the successor takes the place of the deceased, if a man were allowed to
succeed both his father and his grandfather he would be in the impossible position of
being his own son.
THE INHERITANCE OF LAND IN BUGANDA 93
there seems to be a desire not to split up the estate too far. In most cases,
however, as can be seen from Table V, the successor gets the largest share
of the land; most of the remainder is divided among the other children. Usually
the sons get a little more than the daughters, and the eldest of the sons (other
than the successor) gets rather more than his fellows; usually the share of the
eldest daughter is a little larger than that of her sisters. Where there is not
enough land, or too many children, for all to get a share of the land, those
who get none are compensated where possible by being given a larger share
of the other property. Where all the children receive a share of the land, the
other property (houses, vehicles and bicycles, cattle and goats, household goods,
and cash) are divided in a similar proportion as the land.
The Order of 1926 allows the widow to receive some of the land; in fact she
rarely does, though she is often given a cow or goats. The same applies to
the mother of the deceased in the few cases where she survives her son.
Brothers and sisters of the deceased are sometimes given bequests in the
will, but int the absence of a will the clan never gives them a share where the
deceased had children. In some wills there are bequests to friends, but they
never receive anything when the clan makes the division. Where cattle or
goats are left, an ox or some goats are frequently reserved to provide meat
at the kwabya olumbe ceremony; and sometimes a cow or goats are taken by
the head of the clan or of the siga.
Where land is left in a will to daughters, they are sometimes specifically
forbidden to sell or give it outside the clan: in one case it was stated that this
land was to be kept on behalf of daughters of men of the lineage. In any
case, as stated above, it could never be inherited by the children of the
daughters. Sometimes a similar condition is placed on bequests to sons: the
land must not be sold as it is to be kept as butaka5 land. The order of 1926 lays
it down that (in cases of intestacy) butaka land is always inherited on such
Table V shows the average proportion of the deceased's land which was
taken by the successor. For all cases the figure is 53-6 per cent, though this is
somewhat inflated by the cases where there was only one son, who naturally
received all the land, apart from portions going to any sisters he might have.
Where the successor was the eldest son, he got on the average about 40 per
cent of the land; it seems that he fares slightly worse where the disposition
is made by will. The proportion is much the same where a son other than the
eldest is chosen, but considerably greater where the heir is not a son-this is
because in most of these cases there was no son, and so generally few or no
daughters to take a share. After making allowance for differences in the
5 A butaka is the estate attached to the office of a head of a clan or lineage. Before
1900 such an estate could not be taken away from the clan, and the clan or lineage head
was normally the hereditary chief of the area, with powers similar to those of a chief
appointed by the Kabaka. In the strict sense today a butaka means such an estate,
although the lineage head is usually not the owner of the mailo and has no control over
it. But many mail owners like to refer to their mailo as their butaka, although such a
usage is not strictly correct; for just as no lineage of lower order than the lunyiriri is
formally recognized in the clan system, so no estate attached to such a lineage can
properly be called a butaka.
94 UGANDA JOURNAL
individual circumstances, it can be seen that the figures are mutually consistent,
and that the differences between dispositions by the clan and those made by
will is very slight.
Briefly, then, the present position with regard to succession and inheritance
of land is as follows. The successor is the eldest son where there is one, and
he gets on the average about 40 per cent of the land. As far as possible the
other children of the deceased are also provided for, and receive roughly equal
portions. Such variations as there are, are mainly to be accounted for by
differences of circumstances: in similar circumstances similar dispositions are
made, whether by will or by decision of the clan council; and this despite the
fact that the law gives no guidance. The provisions of the Order of 1926, which
is not law, are very closely followed, not only in dispositions made by clan
councils but also in cases of testamentary disposition which the Order did not
attempt to regulate. Apart from the few cases where a son of the Christian
wife is preferred to the first-born son, there is only one major respect in which
there is deviation from the provisions of the Order. The Order states that
where there are sons they alone shall share the inheritance; but in practice
daughters receive a share on almost equal terms, and there are cases where
an elder daughter has received a portion while a younger son has not.
The present position however is not of long standing; and it would seem
that it is not familiar to many Baganda. Before the time of Mutesa I the proper
successor was a son of a brother; it is said that the object of this custom was
to bind together the relatives, who then as now were often widely dispersed
through the country. Mutesa ruled that this custom should be abandoned,
and the successor chosen from among the sons of the deceased. Normally
however the eldest son was not chosen, since he had to perform a ceremony
at his father's funeral which prevented him from succeeding. By the turn of
the century it seems that Moslem and Christian influence had made sufficient
headway to indicate the eldest son as the proper successor. Before 1900, of
course, only butaka land was normally inherited, and this was passed on
without division. Other kinds of property were divided between the sons,
daughters, brothers, and sisters, of the deceased. As has been indicated, after
1900 the position became confused, and was not stabilized until after the issue
of the Order in 1926.
Baganda frequently say that a man's successor is unknown till after his death,
and that this leads to rivalry and quarrels among his sons; but that it is most
important that their father should not let them know whom he wishes to succeed
him, lest this lead to jealousy and ill-feeling. Yet in fact, as has been shown,
the successor can be predicted with considerable certainty; there are only three
cases where a son other than the eldest has been chosen without reason shown-
and the fact that no reason was shown in the will does not necessarily mean
that no reason was known to the sons. In maintaining that the choice of the
successor is an open question, it would seem that people are thinking in terms
of a situation which no longer exists.
It is also sometimes said that the clans still have considerable power because
of their control over succession and inheritance. Undoubtedly they have
authority in these matters, and perform a great deal of work; but clearly their