Why and how Buganda expanded from three to twenty counties

Gordon Kamugunda Kahangi a former teacher and administrator of Uganda schools and universities tells us that Buganda started with three counties of Mawokota, Busiro and Kyadondo. Later it incorporated parts Butambala, Busujju, Bulemezi and Ssingo. In the 19th century Buganda added Kooki, Mawogola, Buwekula and Buruli.

Kahangi stresses that the expansion of Buganda was achieved at the expense of Bunyoro, not so much because Buganda was gaining in military strength but because Bunyoro was declining (when the British arrived Bunyoro was in the ascendancy and regaining the territories it had lost to Buganda but Britain stopped that expansion). “As Banyoro became weaker, Baganda became stronger and acquired more territory from Bunyoro” (Kahangi 2003).

Baganda are believed to have come from the Mt. Elgon area through Busoga in 1200 AD with Kintu (Kahangi 2003) but found some Bantu that had settled in the area around 1000 AD (Benson Okello 2002). Other Baganda came to the area with Kimera either from the north or from Bunyoro-Kitara (Benson Okello 2002).

Since the 1920s Buganda has been the magnet attracting people from the Horn of Africa and from the Great Lakes region in search of work and security. By 1959 Baganda constituted half of the total population in Buganda. With the influx since Museveni came to power it would not be surprising if we found that some 60 percent of the people living in Buganda are non-Baganda, a point to be taken into serious consideration when Baganda think of secession.

Buganda expanded by conquest; surrender and by a large reward of Bunyoro conquered and colonized territory from British. Regarding Bunyoro territory Robin Hallettt (1974) writes “In 1894 Bunyoro was invaded by British and Ganda forces and the ruler, Kabarega, driven from his kingdom. The Ganda were rewarded for their part in the victory by a large slice of Nyoro territory, an award that created an issue – the fate of the ‘lost provinces’”. The reward from Britain to Buganda of Banyoro land doubled Buganda counties from ten to twenty.

The methods of expansion varied. As noted already Buganda expanded by getting a reward of Bunyoro territory from Britain that had defeated and colonized Bunyoro. Some counties perhaps by virtue of weakness militarily simply surrendered like Kooki. Others were acquired my massive military force.

Katerega played a big role in the expansion of Buganda but was a dictator who used violence and almost wiped out a whole clan. Then came Mawanda who conquered some counties including the invasion of Busoga where many people were killed, houses burnt and property looted. Kimbugwe also invaded Busoga.

The Arabs and Swahili entered Buganda with guns that helped Buganda to expand. By 1880 Kabaka Mutesa I possessed one thousand guns. “The possession of guns as well as the Anglo-Buganda alliance strengthened Buganda and enabled her to acquire more territory from Bunyoro …, and from Ankole (Kabula in the 1890s”(Kahangi 2003).

It is important to note that Buganda has succeeded to expand and sustain herself because of external help. The decline of Bunyoro helped. The arrival of Arabs and Swahili with guns helped. The arrival of Britain with guns helped. The support of Obote helped Mengo get rid of Kiwanuka. Amin helped Baganda get rid of Obote and Museveni helped Baganda get rid of Obote.

There is virtually no record of Buganda acting alone and facing tough competition. You see Baganda now rallying behind Sejusa whom they see as assimilated Muganda to help them get rid of Museveni.

Baganda are not interested in leaders that don’t have military backing. That is why Baganda are also in favor of military means because they are not able to command strong political support in the rest of Uganda.

Most of Buganda kings ruled ruthlessly. The example of Mutesa II will suffice. “He [Kabaka Mutesa] had power of life and death over his people and maintained his authority by severe and brutal punishments, such as the destruction of houses and property, the selling of his subjects into slavery, mutilation, burning offenders alive or hacking them to pieces”(Arthur Tuden and Leonard Plotnicov 1970).

Is this the society and traditions Michael Mutagubya want Baganda to return to?

We urge Baganda and others to be careful about that group of Baganda led by Mutagubya with his ideology or else you could end up under conditions similar to those that prevailed during Mutesa I time. This is part of our civic education.

Eric Kashambuzi