Buganda is the largest of the five subnational kingdoms in present-day Uganda. Due to the lack of written history, there are several popular versions of the alleged origin of the kingdom. The most trustworthy belief is that the first king – Kato Kintu, unified several clans that inhabited the area into a single state in the early 14th century.
Brief History of the Kingdom of Buganda
Originally, it is believed that there were a total of five clans in the region that would often have a generally accepted leader from the most powerful clan. At the time of Kintu’s arrival, this leader was the ruthless Bemba. Kintu allegedly invaded the region with a large force of over a dozen clans which were later joined by native clan leaders who rebelled against Bemba.
Once Bemba was defeated in battle, the clan elders organized a conclave at a location known as Nnono, in Busujju County that had the sole purpose to decide the future of their people. It was there that Kintu was officially accepted as king and where he later established his palace.
A different version of the story suggests that Kintu was the brother of Kisitu who held the lead over the five clans. According to this version, Bemba was a renegade prince who invaded their territories from the north. Thus, Kintu defeated Bemba in the name of his brother who then abdicated his throne and gave Kintu the power to lead.
Unfortunately, no written sources that could confirm either of the stories exist. For all we know, the only confirmed data we have are the names of all the kings of Buganda until the present days. This is also why there is almost no other historical data of the Buganda Kingdom until the days of the Scramble for Africa, otherwise known as the European colonization of African territories that begun in the late 19th century.
The Kingdom of Buganda in the pre-colonial and colonial eras
In the early to mid-19th century, Buganda became the dominant kingdom in the region through a series of military campaigns and expansions. The first official contact with Europeans, however, occurred decades later under the rule of Mutesa I (1856-1884) in 1862.
In the following years, the king was visited numerous times by explorers who praised the structure of governance of Buganda and how open natives were to foreigners. King Mutesa I was intrigued by the newly introduced religions of Christianity and Islam and invited Christian missionaries to Buganda.
The rule of King Mwanga II (1884-1897), son and successor of King Mutesa I, put the kingdom in turmoil. He attempted to ban all foreign religions at a time when there were already large numbers of Catholic and Protestant converts. This lead to a prolonged civil war during which he was, in fact, forced to flee the kingdom in fear.
Finally, in 1892, the Kingdom of Buganda became part of the larger British protectorate of Uganda. As a reward for the active military aid to the British, Buganda was also granted self-government and was considered the most important region in the protectorate.