If a nation is defined by a common ancestry, common language and common religion, then Buganda doesn’t qualify as one. Buganda expanded from three counties of Busiro, Kyadondo and Mawokota to a large kingdom comprising people of different ancestries, different languages and different religions.
The expansion of Buganda began in the 17th century largely by invading and conquering neighboring territories and peoples of Ankole, Bunyoro and Busoga and subjugating the conquered people. Contact with Arabs introduced guns into Buganda that were used in her territorial expansion. It is reported that at one time Kabaka Mutesa I possessed 1000 guns. Guns together with Anglo-Buganda alliance during the colonization process enabled Buganda to acquire more territory by force at the expense of Bunyoro which has consistently demanded return of the ‘lost counties’.
Although Luganda is spoken in all parts of Buganda, many communities still speak their mother tongues particularly in the ‘lost counties’. Buganda is also a multi-religious society.
The designation of Buganda as an economic growth pole by colonial administration attracted many workers from within and without Uganda. Many settled in Buganda permanently. The political crisis in the wake of independence in Sudan, DR Congo, Burundi and Rwanda led to an influx of refugees into Buganda where they settled and have made Buganda their permanent home. Earlier the British allowed Nubians to stay permanently in Buganda. Around independence time, 40 percent of the population in Buganda was Banyarwanda. If you add on other communities you begin to get a picture of the demographic composition of Buganda. Because of this interaction a distinction has been made between Baganda and pure Baganda.
With the expansion of Kampala city which has become the biggest generator of Uganda’s national income many more non-Baganda have flocked into the city. Land grabbing in the Luwero Triangle by non-Baganda has also tilted the demography away from Baganda. As a result there could be more Baganda (anybody who speaks Luganda) than pure Baganda, contradicting some estimates that the population of Baganda has increased rapidly. We need a new census to determine the exact demographic strength of Baganda within Buganda. (Fearing that a federation or secession in Buganda could result in expulsion of non-Baganda some of them are registering as pure Baganda, speaking pure Luganda and adopting Kiganda names and culture, explaining in part why the population of Baganda has risen rapidly).
That Buganda has become a melting pot requires adjustment in the thinking of Baganda especially how they should be governed. Calling for secession or federation with the larger group dominating smaller ones (confederation might be better) may open a Pandora’s Box that could trigger disintegration as communities that believe are still colonized may demand independence.
This is the reality that can’t be brushed under the carpet. There are some Baganda who are complaining fiercely that we are criticizing Buganda too much without, however, drawing a distinction between constructive and destructive criticism. They prefer to let sleeping dogs lie and continue to live in the glorious past. They have threatened to withdraw political support to and attack viciously anyone that criticizes Baganda, creating conditions for appeasement offers by individuals whose only goal is to occupy a high political office in Uganda.
From all angles, the situation in Buganda is fluid and could go either way without warning if preventive steps are not taken without further delay. Thus, the issues of secession and federation need to be handled with great care and cool minds. Eric