The oral history transcribers at buganda.com tell us many things. They have made it simple: log on and Buganda’s history and culture come alive. We are less and less inclined to books, which is unfortunate, but the Internet inspires hope for our Baganda nation which began as a united nation with Kato Kintu over 800 years ago.
One version of Baganda oral history says that when Kintu arrived in Buganda, he found five clans of bannansangwa (natives) already there. There was no Kabaka, and each clan leader was its ruler. He brought 13 clans with him, which according that version, permitted him the upper hand that made him Kabaka.
He and the other clan leaders gathered on Nnono, a hill at Magonga, in Busujju County. Up emerged a system by which Baganda would be ruled. “Eby’ e Nnono” (of or from Nnono) gave birth to Ennono (Baganda’s laws, traditions, and customs). And, as the oral history transcribers at buganda.com say, we say eby’ e Nnono when we mean something of deep cultural significance.
Our clan structure falls among eby’ e Nnono because it links the lowliest to the highest in the kingdom. Abataka, between the kabaka and his subjects, are the chain that completes this clan system.
When I was a child, my mother jibbed (as if a boxer avoiding a punch) at the facts of life (children come from sex). I was so eager to learn about this, but she would not yield. At long last, when I was a young adult, she told me that one purpose of our clan system is to defend against the lethal diseases associated with in-breeding.
A law under Ennono bans marriage between persons of the same clan who share consanguinity; that is, a bloodline, because of fear of the diseases from in-breeding. Essiga is where consanguinity begins. And one of okulanya’s benefits is to help enforce this law.
Imagine this: A small gathering. Much excitement. And they notice each other with their lustful eyes. Then, okulanya. It reveals that they share consanguinity. They cannot liaise; they are brother and sister.
Our tradition is that all men of your clan who are in your father’s generation are your father’s brothers. In that same way, bamaama are women of your mother’s clan and generation. It does not end there.
The generation above you, regardless of clan, are your surrogate parents. If they are blood relatives, you call them maama omuto, taata omuto, ssenga, kojja and so on. They send children like you to each other for brighter futures.
For example, a child in a village graduates from primary school, but there is no secondary school nearby. However, there is an uncle in the city who is well-to-do. So, she goes to stay with him, to attend secondary school for a brighter future. This mirrors an ancient Baganda custom under Ennono.
In the past, it was common for Baganda to send their children to artisans—those potters, blacksmiths and others—to become artisans themselves. Aloysius Muzzanganda Lugira writes that Stanislaus Mugwanya’s parents sent him to the royal courts to become an administrator. He became a judge and so good at it that Baganda of a certain age call him “Omulamuzi.”
Sir Apollo Kaggwa, another commoner, excelled at treasurery (eby’enkuluze) at the royal courts. He would become katikkiro to Ssekabaka Daudi Ccwa II. He later became an author. Royals by themselves were insular and would not have made an administration that understood abakopi and how we live.
Ennono brought new blood into Baganda’s administration, and the British colonialist could not stand this. He might not have stuck around if he did not drool at our land, and it is on it he could not wait to get his hands. Baganda who believe he wanted to help educate us, for example, need real education.
If one reads the record carefully (not the way the colonialist has written it), Ssekabaka Danieri Basammula-Ekkere Mukasa Mwanga II became a big thorn in the colonialist’s side. In my opinion, it is the real reason why the colonialist ousted him and placed baby Ccwa on his father Mwanga’s throne.
The baby was helpless; he was unable to make his own decisions. Then, the British colonialist put the icing on his cake; he used Baganda to grab our land. First, he appointed Kaggwa, Mugwanya and Zakariya Kisingiri regents to Ccwa, and we Baganda clapped our hands. Do not ignore the fact that Kaggwa, Mugwanya and Kisingiri got miles and miles of land to be Ccwa’s regents, a role we all pretend they played simply because they were loyal to Ccwa and Buganda.
The British colonialist picked Kaggwa to sign the 1900 Buganda Agreement. “But he was the katikkiro,” you say? Why did Kaggwa, of the three—Kaggwa, Mugwanya and Kisingiri—get the lion’s share of land? If one thinks about it seriously, the 1900 Agreement is by which foreigners keep grabbing our land, and we are caught up in wrangles such as “akenda.”
But we have not helped ourselves either—unscrupulous Baganda have facilitated some of this. We sell obutaka (ancestral land) with ebiggya (family cemeteries) within. And we are distorting our history.
At okwanjula some years ago, I witnessed a speaker try to dodge Prince Kalemeera, Ssekabaka Kimera’s father, and Bunyoro. He pursued an elaborate theory about Kimera’s connection to Bunyoro: “His grandfather sent him there…,” the speaker claimed.
Wannyana of the Nseenene Clan, a Munyoro and one of the wives of Winyi Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, is Kimera’s undisputed mother. Kalemeera’s encounter with Wannyana occurred after Ssekabaka Ccwa I Nnabakka, Kalemeera’s father, levied a hefty fine on him. Here is how it happened.
You see, Kalemeera had taken to following Ccwa Nnabakka everywhere, fearing that he would lose him. He had heard that Kintu had disappeared. Of course, he had not disappeared; he had died.
The elders, considering Nnabakka’s tender age, feared national instability and decided to announce that Kintu had disappeared. My theory for this (I may have heard this somewhere) is that potential pretenders to the throne would then have expected that the feared Kintu might appear suddenly to deal with them. Kalemeera, of course, did not know any of this. He simply followed his father everywhere not to lose him. The old man was embarrassed.
Walusimbi, Nnabaka’s katikkiro, devised a plan. He accused Kalemeera of sleeping with his wife. Nnabakka convicted Kalemeera and sentenced him to a hefty fine. So, he sought out his uncle Winyi for help. While in Bunyoro what did he do? He liaised with Wannyana, and Kimera was born. Winyi wanted to kill the baby.
Katumba of the Nkima Clan, a potter and Wannyana’s friend, convinced Winyi to throw the child away. Katumba recovered the child and hid it, and he became known as mugema (inoculator). By his act, the Nkima Clan are called bagema.
Kalemeera fled but died of illness en route to Buganda. Being Nnabakka’s only son, the throne sat empty on Nnabakka’s death.
Thus, Walusimbi became caretaker, not kabaka, but was very unpopular. Ssebwaana, the next katikkiro, was very popular. He sent for Kimera and he and Wannyana led an entourage (oluseregende) of 28 clans that joined the 24 clans then in Buganda. We got 52 clans.
We learn about these facts through oral history, a tradition under Ennono. You can hear this oral history, which is not mere myth, narrated at the royal tombs. But you can hear it also at okwanjula were its modern version not mere pantomime (omuzannyo obuzannyo).
A myth is that legend we believe but cannot prove. We believe, for example, that Kintu and Nnambi came down from the heavens. But can we prove it?
Christopher Wrigley writes that our oral history is mythology. He says that we can prove mythology through our oral history. Some of this is centered around the royal tomb.
Charles William Hattersley, with tongue in cheek—for he says some of our royal tombs emerged suddenly one day—tells us that a royal tomb is the former palace of its occupant. His bed chamber becomes ekibira (forest) where he goes okubula (to die).
In the Buganda dynasty’s line, we have Kintu, Nnabakka, Kimera, Ttembo, Kiggala, Kiyimba, Kayima, and so on. Each has his own royal tomb, except four.
Ssekabaka Omukaabya Walugembe Sayid Muteesa I built Muzibu Azaala Mpanga. It became his royal tomb.
Mwanga II had his palace at Mmengo. The British colonialist deposed and deported him to the Seychelles in 1896, and the colonialist turned his palace into Ccwa’s palace. Then, Mwanga died in exile in 1901, and his remains were returned to Buganda in 1911.
Suddenly, because Ccwa’s palace was where Mwanga’s royal tomb should have been, the colonialist was in a pickle. Being sagacious (mukalabakalaba), he just broke Ennono’s law governing royal tombs. He heaped Mwanga on Muteesa in Muzibu. Thus, he had started the illegal custom of heaping kabakas on top of each other in Muzibu. We gave in just the way we keep doing.
“Speak English,” our friends bark at us. We have a right to speak Luganda, but we do not stop to think, we humbly switch to English. Someone remind me: Why do we punish children in school for speaking Luganda which we refer to as “vernacular?” We speak Luganglish: Nkumisinga. And we seem to have given up on Luganda orthography altogether.
I wonder: Is His Majesty Ssaabasajja or Sabasaja as our friends say? The author is Kaggwa; Kagwa is a tiny rope. Is the man’s name Musaazi or Musazi? The county is Kyaddondo, or is it Kyadondo? Anyway, it is where amazzi of the river Mayanja flow. Amazzi is water; or is it spelled “amazi?”
J.S. Kasirye’s Abateregga ku Nnamulondo ya Buganda (1959), teaches Buganda’s history and Luganda orthography. A book like Edward K.N. Kawere’s Zinunula Omunaku (1961) teaches about Baganda’s traditions and customs. These—history, orthography, traditions, customs and other values—are things we must learn. They are what we call eby’ e Nnono. They are things of significant cultural significance we must teach our children and grandchildren, because these are Buganda’s lifeblood.