The origin of Buganda kingdom is controversial among historians. Traditions from Buganda suggest that the founder of Buganda was Kintu who was an immigrant from mount Elgon region. He is believed to have organized the Buganda clans in one centralised organisation with himself on top of the administrative hierarchy. He is regarded as the founder of Buganda kingdom and the 1SI kabaka of Buganda kingdom. This theory is popular among the Baganda and is believed by about 14 clans.
The other theory that explains the origin of Buganda is the Kimera theory. Traditions in Bunyoro assert that Buganda kingdom was founded by a sub dynasty of the Babito. They argue that when the Chwezi Empire disintegrated, different provinces founded their own kingdoms This led to establishment of the sub dynasties of Rwanda, Ankole and Karagwe. Traditions say that the founders of Buganda kingdom was Kato Kimera a twin brother ofIsingoma Rukidi Mpuga, the founder of the Bito dynasty in Bunyoro Kingdom.
Whatever theory is correct and more reliable what's important is that by the middle of the
16th century, a kingdom was emerging in the area north of lake Victoria and what is clear is that this region was one part of the extensive Chwezi state (Bunyoro-kitara empire)
Kintu and Kato Kimera were both immigrants and they had already developed the idea of state formation. Kintu is believed to be the founder by the majority of Baganda that must have come from Bunyoro-kitara because this was the only area where state formation was developed. The ideas of state formation would have been copied from East because else where the societies were segmentary. It can therefore be concluded that Buganda kingdom might have' come about simultaneously with the other sub dynasties that were formed as a result of the collapse of the Chwezi Bunyoro-Kitara Empire. .
The earlier Bantu inhabitants lived in the present day counties of Busiro, Kyadondo and Mawokota. Inhabitants from Bunyoro, Ssese Island and Mount Elgon and beyond later joined these. These inhabitants were later on organised on clan basis and each clan had a clan head with considerable powers.
In the middle of the 161hcentury, the clans were brought together and it became a kingdom which started expanding in all directions. The original state was very small and easy to manage. However by the 181h century the state had expanded both in population and extent. During the reign of Kabaka Junju, Budu was annexed to Buganda in the early 19thcentury Buganda commanded a central position which enabled them to dominate the long distance trade in the mid 191h century.
Buganda kingdom was a highly centralised state under a king known as "Kabaka". He was referred to as "Ssabataka" i.e. head of Bataka, Ssabasajja (head of all men) meaning that he was above the Bataka and above all men. The system of succession in Buganda was matrilineal i.e. the Kabaka's sons took up their mother's clans thus giving opportunity to every clan to produce.a king.
In case the Kabaka died before naming his successor, it was the duty of the "Katikkiro" and Mugema (an important clan head) to make a choice from amongst the Kabaka's sons. This helped Buganda to have succession of able leaders.
The kabaka was the source of power, he could appoint, discipline and dismiss any official of the state at his will. This helped in inspiring a lot of loyalty not only in the subjects but also his chiefs.
For efficient and effective administration, the kingdom was divided into 20 counties each under a "Saza" chief. There' were further sub divisions into sub counties each under Gombolola chief The chiefs were appointed directly by the Kabaka.
The chief was the politicaJ and military leader of the area under his jurisdiction. He carried out the Kabaka's instructions regarding collection of revenues general administration and warfare. Militarily Buganda had no standing army it was the responsibility of every male adult to contribute to the defence of the state; that's why the chiefs were not merely administrative in function but military leaders in their region as well. In case of war it was the duty of the chiefs to call up all male adults to contribute militarily but there existed? royal bodyguard. This was maintained at the Kabaka's court for protecting him. The kabaka was commander in chief of the armed forces 'with a right to declare wars and cease-fire.
The central government of Buganda was in the hands of the kabaka assisted by three important ministers i.e. "Katikkiro", "Omulamuzi" and "Omuwanika". They were appointed by the "kabaka" from amongst most influential clans in Buganda. For easy administration the kabaka also had a council called "Lukiiko" which advised him on important state matters. It was composed of 89 members, i.e. Prime Minister, chief justice, six Kabaka' s nominees, 60 clan heads 20 county chiefs and treasures.
The lukiiko had an advisory role but at times the Kabaka ruled against its advice. But because it was made up of the most influential people in the kingdom, he sometimes found it necessary.
The kabaka had a well-developed system of maintaining relationship with the countryside chiefs. Most often he employed women officials to spy on his chiefs. Women provided information to the kabaka regarding the individual chiefs relationships with the kabaka.
The kabaka also had important women advisors namely "Namasole" (Queen ntother), "Lubuga" (Chief sister) and "Nabagereka" (Chief wife)
Land was also important political tool. The king controlled the whole land except for the
Bataka the king at his will could give• land. This practice ensured that with the subjects and
chiefs were loyal to the king.
Buganda was predominantly agricultural. The existence of fertile soils plus abundant rainfall enabled the Baganda to cultivate a variety of crops. Matooke was their basic food. Other crops grown included maize, sweet potatoes, cassava and beans. There was also keeping of some cattle, sheep, and goats but on small scale. The maintenance of food was an activity meant for women. This arrangement enabled men to have an opportunity to engage themselves in other activities like trade and raiding of necessary items from neighbouring societies.
The kingdom was also blessed by the presence of skilled artisans In the art of barkcloth making. Far and near the Baganda were admired for this work. In the initial stages, the kingdom had no blacksmith workers but at its apex of growth, Buganda acquired counties like Buddu and Koki from Bunyoro which areas were endowed with much minerals. The kabaka also got some skilled men to train his trustees at the palace In iron smelting. Consequently, the trustees took up the art and iron smelting industry which became stronger in Buganda and later provided the items of trade.
At the beginning of colonialism, Buganda economy was characterized by inter state trade. Barkcloth was traded in different territories e.g. Busoga, Bunyoro and lteso. With acquisition of Buddu and Koki counties iron products became some important trade items. Buganda also traded with lakeshore people of Buvuma and Ssese 1sland for fish. It should be noted that the exchange of these items at this time was by barter system of trade.
Besides this, at inter-territorial level by the mid 19th century Buganda had got actively involved in the long distance trade. Buganda had established close ties with Arabs and through this she acquired arms and ammunitions. Other items were cloth, beads, glass ware materials etc. these were exchanged for Ivory and slaves from the interior. Buganda also had established strong trading centers where she taxed traders in Long Distance Trade crossing her territory.
War booty, minerals and tributes also formed another important revenue source for the kingdom. After the acquisition of arms and ammunitions which Buganda actually monopolised she embarked on organising raids and wars against the neigbours. With the
raids locally referred to as "Entabaalo", Buganda looted cattle, iron works and beautiful
women from their neighbours. Besides being assets to the kingdom, the outcomes of war were used ae rewards to the subjects, chief and commanders of the kabaka. Moreover, the successful war conquests led to the acquisition of Buddu and Koki which were important sources of wealth in Buganda. In addition Buganda could obtain tributes from conquered states such as Busoga, Bukedi etc which they paid regularly as a sign of loyalty to the kabaka.
Note should be taken that all wealth obtained from the kingdom was under the close supervision of the king. With a centralised economy blessed with effective central government, Buganda became a very prosperous kingdom in the interlucastrine region.
The clan was the basic social political unit in the organisation of the kingdom. Clans provided a bond of unity in the kingdom. The clans were led by clan heads. These were the Kabaka's representatives among his people. Clan heads were also charged with settling disputes on behalf of the Kabaka. Members of each clan respected one another as close relatives and through intermarriages it was possible to maintain unity in the kingdom.
Some clans had specialised duties in the kingdom. For example, the "Mamba" clan formed the navy force which was led by a commander commonly known a Gabunga, "Ngeye" clan drummed for the kabaka, the "Mbogo" clan provided messengers for the kabaka, the "Ngonge" made barkcloth while the ''Butiko'' entertained the Kabaka.
Socially, Buganda was homogenous society with the Bantu whose language was Luganda. They also had the same way of dressing and dancing. This homogeneity in language and culture promoted unity within the Buganda society.
Another source of homogeneity in Buganda was the Kabaka who was the political and religious leader of the kingdom. He presided over most of the ritual functions in the kingdom.
Through intermarriages unity was forged. The Kabaka married from different clans hence creating unity between the royal family and all the clans he has married from. By maintaining the matrilineal succession it was possible for every clan to provide a king
.hence creating stability within the kingdom.
Despite this, Buganda was a class society. Tqere were three classes namely; "Abambejja" and "abalangira" (royal class), the chiefs and the peasants plus the Bakopi. The "Abalangira" and the "Abambejja" were of the royal class who enjoyed several privileges and other classes like the "Bakopi" were to support this royal class with all the needs.
The second class was made up of clan heads who were called Bataka and chiefs. These
were clan functionaries of the state and enjoyed some privileges e.g. owning land.
The third class was made up of peasants who were commoners and Bakopi. They were not allowed to own land. They also consisted of slaves and captives from conquered areas. It should however be noted that classes in Buganda did not create conflicts in the society. This was mainly because of the intermarriages and because of promotion on the basis of merit therefore there was social mobility even from the peasantry and captives' class one would rise the prominent position to be among the notables to the Kabaka.
Buganda was also religious society. The Kabaka was the spiritual head and overall mediator between his people and their god "Lubale". This god was consulted through mediums who were usually ancestors. Under "Lubaale" were minor gods "Nalubaale" responsible for women fortunes. "Ddungu" was for bunters, "Musoke" for rain, "Kibuuka" for war etc.
There were taboos of Buganda that helped in maintaining traditional cultures and maintenance of law and order.
By way of conclusion by mid 19th century, Buganda had evolved due to a number of advantages to become the most prominent kingdom in the interlucastrine region the pre- colonial era. It developed a highly centralised system of administration with a sound economy and respectable social structures. The productive capacity witnessed by cultivation of food crops and its commercial prosperity enabled Buganda to associate with foreigners which made It at its highest peak in all spheres of life by the coming colonialism.