Baganda people




Ganda / Baganda / Muganda

The Ganda people, or Baganda (endonym: Baganda; singular Muganda), are a Bantu ethnic group native to Buganda, a subnational kingdom within Uganda. Traditionally composed of 52 clans (although since a 1993 survey, only 46 are officially recognised), the Baganda are the largest ethnic group in Uganda, comprising 16.9 percent of the population.

Sometimes described as "The King's Men" because of the importance of the king, or Kabaka, in their society, the Ganda number an estimated 5.6 million in Uganda. In addition, there is a significant diaspora abroad, with organised communities in Canada, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Traditionally, they speak Luganda.

The Baganda are a Bantu-speaking Buganda people and the largest single ethnic group in Uganda. They occupy the central part of Uganda which was formerly called the Buganda province.

Baganda people map

Buganda which  means 'Bundles' is a subnational kingdom within Uganda. The kingdom of the Ganda people, Buganda is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda, comprising all of Uganda's Central Region, including the Ugandan capital Kampala.

These traders first arrived in Buganda in the mid-nineteenth century in search of slaves, ivory, as well as other merchandise. When the European colonialists eventually extended their hegemony over Buganda and the surrounding territories at the end of the nineteenth century, they used the Kiswahili term Uganda to refer to the new colony. On his visit to the country, the late Winston Churchill was so captivated by its beauty that he called it the "Pearl of Africa." The Baganda can therefore be found in the present districts of Kampala, Mpigi, Mukono, Masaka, Kalangala, Kiboga, Rakai, Sembabule and Mubende.

Buganda, like her neighbours, had a proud history extending back centuries before the arrival of the Arabs and Europeans. The ruling dynasty of kings was established in the mid-14th century AD. Unfortunately, the lack of a written history prior to the arrival of the Arabs and Europeans makes it difficult to establish important dates with precision. The first acknowledged king in this dynasty was called Kato Kintu. Since Kintu's reign, there have been 36 kings including to the current King, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. The Kingdom’s history of over 700 years, has had the Kabaka, as the supreme ruler and the Lukiiko as its Parliament. Buganda Kingdom is the oldest Kingdom in the country. Other kingdoms include Bunyoro, Busoga, and Tooro.

Custom and traditions are central in the lives of the Baganda. The Kabaka was a unifying factor of all the people of Buganda until 1966 when monarchy was abolished in Uganda. The Kabaka (Mutesa II) went into exile where he later died in 1969.

The years of political turmoil and civil strife in Uganda, and particularly in the Buganda (1966 – 1986), led to the collapse of the infrastructure, social services and the decay of morals and values. Buganda, like many other areas that had traditional and cultural institutions, lost her Kingdom status as well as her cherished cultural development, guidance and leadership. Traditional values including hard work were seriously affected. This coupled with the brain drain that ensued, crippled the economy causing hunger, poverty, disease, ignorance, crime, and despair among the majority of the society.


Buganda today

The Baganda had no King for over 27 years until 1993 when the current King of Buganda, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II (son of Mutesa II) was restored as a cultural leader without political powers. The lineage of succession has not been broken for over 700 years.

The Kabaka, is held in high esteem and commands great respect and authority among the Baganda (and among all Ugandans). The King uses his authority to mobilize people for development to ensure that the people of Buganda are united and are engaged in hard and productive work to uplift their social and economic well being. The years after the restoration of Kabakaship have had significant impact on the unity and social economic development of Buganda. The long forgotten “Bulungi Bwansi” (self-help spirit) is slowly returning to the people because of the Kabaka’s encouragement.



Buganda's boundaries are marked by Lake Victoria to the south, the River Nile to the east, Lake Kyoga to the north and River Kafu to the northwest. To the west, Buganda is bordered by the districts of Isingiro, Kiruhura, Kyenjojo, Kibale, Hoima and Masindi.


Culture and social structure

Ganda social organization emphasized descent through males. Four or five generations of descendants of one man, related through male forebears, constituted a patrilineage. A group of related lineages constituted a clan. Clan leaders could summon a council of lineage heads, and council decisions affected all lineages within the clan. Many of these decisions regulated marriage, which had always been between two different lineages, forming important social and political alliances for the men of both lineages. Lineage and clan leaders also helped maintain efficient land use practices, and they inspired pride in the group through ceremonies and remembrances of ancestors.

Most lineages maintained links to a home territory (obutaka) within a larger clan territory, but lineage members did not necessarily live on butaka land. Men from one lineage often formed the core of a village; their wives, children, and in-laws joined the village. People were free to leave if they became disillusioned with the local leader to take up residence with other relatives or in-laws, and they often did so.

As of 2009, there are at least fifty two (52) recognised clans within the kingdom, with at least another four making a claim to clan status. Within this group of clans are four distinct sub-groups which reflect historical waves of immigration to Buganda.


Family life

The family in Buganda is often described as a microcosm of the kingdom. The father is revered and obeyed as head of the family. His decisions are generally unquestioned. A man's social status is determined by those with whom he establishes patron/client relationships, and one of the best means of securing this relationship is through one's children. Baganda children, some as young as three years old, are sent to live in the homes of their social superiors, both to cement ties of loyalty among parents and to provide avenues for social mobility for their children. Even in the 1980s, Baganda children were considered psychologically better prepared for adulthood if they had spent several years living away from their parents at a young age.

Baganda recognize at a very young age that their superiors, too, live in a world of rules. Social rules require a man to share his wealth by offering hospitality, and this rule applies more stringently to those of higher status. Superiors are also expected to behave with impassivity, dignity, self-discipline, and self-confidence, and adopting these mannerisms sometimes enhances a man's opportunities for success.

Authoritarian control is an important theme of Ganda culture. In precolonial times, obedience to the king was a matter of life and death. However, a second major theme of Ganda culture is the emphasis on individual achievement. An individual's future is not entirely determined by status at birth. Instead, individuals carve out their fortunes by hard work as well as by choosing friends, allies, and patrons carefully.

Ganda culture tolerates social diversity more easily than many other African societies. Even before the arrival of Europeans, many Ganda villages included residents from outside Buganda. Some had arrived in the region as slaves, but by the early 20th century, many non-Baganda migrant workers stayed in Buganda to farm. Marriage with non-Baganda was fairly common, and many Baganda marriages ended in divorce. After independence, Ugandan officials estimated that one-third to one-half of all adults marry more than once during their lives.



The traditional Ganda economy relied on crop cultivation. In contrast with many other East African economic systems, cattle played only a minor role. Many Baganda hired laborers from outside Buganda to herd the Baganda's cattle, for those who owned livestock.

Bananas were the most important staple food, providing the economic base for the region's dense population growth. This crop does not require shifting cultivation or bush fallowing to maintain soil fertility, and as a result, Ganda villages were quite permanent. Women did most of the agricultural work, while men often engaged in commerce and politics (and in precolonial times, warfare). Before the introduction of woven cloth, traditional clothing was manufactured from the bark of trees.



The Baganda use "classificatory" system of kinship terminology which seems common to virtually all the Bantu peoples of Central and Southern Africa. Similar systems of kinship terminology can be found, for example, among the Ndebele of Zimbabwe, the Zulu of South Africa, the Ngoni and Tumbuka of Eastern Zambia.

In this system, all brothers of the father are called "father", all sisters of the mother are called "mother", all their children "brother" and "sister". In male-speaking terms, father's sister's daughters (cross-cousins) are called cousins. But they are terminologically differentiated from parallel cousins and from sisters. A total of 68 linguistic terms of relationships are used by the Baganda.

The Baganda have a very important aspect of the social or family structure; "the consanguinal kin group" or "blood line" which is a line of descent traced through the male members of the family or patri-sib. "By combining the patrilocal rule of residence with consanguinal descent, the Baganda have built a formidable system of clans."

Among the Baganda, the clan has remained the most important kinship entity. The clan is linked by four factors. First, two animal totems from one of which the clan derives its name. Second, an identifying drum beat used at ceremonies. Third, certain distinguishing personal names. Fourth, special observations related to pregnancy, childbirth, naming of the child, and testing the child's legitimacy as clan member.

The existence of patriarchy and the patrilineal system among the Baganda might suggest that individual men have the most dominant social status. But quite to the contrary, the clan seems to have a more supreme influence. For example, when a man dies among the Baganda, his power over the property ends. The clan chooses the heir. "The clan assumes control of inheritance; the wishes of the dead person may or may not be honored. ....The eldest son cannot inherit."

The Baganda practice the levirate custom. The man who is the heir to the widow has the additional family responsibility of adopting the widow's family. He ....."also adopts the deceased person's children, calling them his and making no distinction between them and his own children."


The Ganda Clan (Ekika) System

In the Ganda context, a clan is a socio-family group based on a patriarchal lineage of descent. There are 53 recognised "ekika" (clans)  that constitute the system. The group or clan identifies itself in terms of a symbol referred to as a totem (omuziro), generally in form of a particular animal, a bird, a type of fish, a particular insect, a particular plant or mushroom. Each Muganda must necessarily belong to a clan, that is, to one of thosefifty-three. The importance attached to that belonging by the Baganda can be measured through several Ganda proverbs such as: Nnyoko abeeranga omugwiira,,naakuzaala ku kika ! (Foreign may your mother’s origins be, so long as she delivers you into a clan !) or, Oguzzanga ku busenze, n’otoguzza ku kika !(Rather offend your neighbourhood, than your clan !).


History of the Clans

The Clans would appear to pre-date the Kingship system in Buganda. Their existence can be traced to the first known generation of kingship known as the Tonda Kings. This generation is supposed to have lasted from about the years 400 to about 1200 AD. King Bemba Musota was the last monarch of this first generation of kingship in Buganda, a country which was then known as Muwawa. That generation was replaced by the second and current generation, the Abalasangeye, tracing its blood relationship from King Kintu; he was the first monarch of that second generation of kingship. His Majesty Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II is therefore a direct descendant King Kintu. The total sum of the clan system is generally grouped into four major groupings as follows:
a) On the arrival of Kintu (said to have come from the North), there were Six clans already established and recognized in the geo-political and cultural State,Buganda. These are referred to as the Nansangwa or the indigenous. These clans are: i) eFumbe ii) oLugave iii) eMamba iv ) eNgeye v ) eNjaza, vi ) eNnyonyi
b) A group of sixteen clans came with King Kintu. That group is composed of the following clans: i) Abalangira ii) ekkobe iii) eMamba iv) eMbwa v) eMpeewo vii) eMpologoma viii) Namung’oona ix) eNgo x)eNg’nge xi) eNjovu xii) eNkejje xiii)eNkima xiv)eNtalaganya xv)eNvubu xvi)eNvuma
c) Another eleven clans are known to have arrived in Buganda along with King Kimera, traveling from Bunyoro. These are a mixture of clans which went into exile from Buganda during the troubled days of King Bemba Musota during the kingship generation of Tonda, joined by other ally clans in the course of the exile or as they traveled back. They are: i) oBugeme ii) oButiko iii) aKasimba iv) aKayozi v)eKibe vi) eMbogo vii) oMusu viii) eNgabi ix) eNkerebwe x) eNsuma xi)eNseenene
d) Twenty other clans would appear to have arrived individually from the outside of Buganda to integrate the kingdom or, to have evolved from within, as emanations of other clans for various reasons. This internal expansion of clans was partly the work of the kings of the time with the objective of asserting their authority by creating clans loyal to them. This group is composed of: i) aBabiito ii) aBasambo iii)aBaboobi iv) aKasnke v) eKikuba vi) eKinyomo vii) eKiwere viii) oLukato ix)eMbuzi x) oMutima xi) Nakinsige xii) eNdiga xiii) eNdiisa xiv) Ng’aali xv) eNjobe xvi) eNkebuka xvii) eNkula xviii) eNsunu xix) eNte xx) eNswaaswa.

The Structural organization of the Clans
Each clan is structured on six pillars or sub-chieftainships: i) Nnyumba ( home) and its head , possibly a father and his immediate family, then ii) Luggya (compound or homestead) headed by a grand father leading up to other increasingly bigger groupings of families known as iii) Mutuba iv ) Lunyiriri (lineage), v ) Ssiga and vi)Kasolya (roof or top) which is the apex of the clan hierarchy, connecting up to the Kabaka through the Katikkiro. Soocio-cultural governance and arbitration are exercised at each of those levels from the bottom to the top. Unsettled matters can then be pushed up to the Kabaka’s arbitration through his appeals court ( Kisekwa ) composed of the respective top heads of the various clans. The most common cases at
that level tend to relate to estate inheritance or replacement of a clan chief in cases of death or incapacity.

There are four main characteristics which distinguish the clans from each other and which are respected by the members of the clan concerned: i) The totem ( Muziro ) the main clan symbol is generally represented by an animal, a bird, an insect, a particular plant, etc. Most of the clan symbols therefore are living things, including the Mutima(heart ) clan. One exception to that categorisation should be mentioned. The Lukato(knitting needle) clan. Clan members are not expected to eat their clan symbols or hurt them. It is a taboo! The other exceptions that need to be pointed out are the two clans that do not have a clan symbol. These are the Abalangira (princes and princesses) clan and the Ababiito clan. That exception reminds us of another important feature in the system. The Abalangira are expected to take on their mother’s clan symbol. Another taboo, common to almost all clans is the intermarriage between members of the same clan or the clan of their mother. ii) Akabbiro is another distinguishing mark among the clans. It can be considered as a supporting totem. Like the totem itself, akabbiro is not to be eaten by members of the clan. It is also in the form of a plant, an animal, a bird or an insect. iii) Each clan has a distinct drum- beat, known as Omubala. This is sounded or played during certain functions bringing together members of the clan and their inlaws and friends. Such occasions may relate to the installation of an heir. In the olden days of tribal wars, omubala would be played at the moment of a clan member’s departure to or return from war. Such moments represent pride or sadness, or simply pleasure within the clan. iv) Clan Names are yet another feature distinguishing the clans.

The most important are the names (titles) of the clan chiefs at the top of the clan hierarchy. For instance, it is well established that the name Mugema automatically refers to the head of the Nkima (Monkey) clan; Ssaabalangira is perhaps one of the most distinctive clan chief names. It is the Abalangira clan head’s name. Apart from the clan chiefs’ names there are designated names common in the various clans. For example, Sentongo and Namuli are almost invariably of the Nkima clan; Mukiibi, Namakula and Semakula of Lugave; Bosa and Nabbosa of the Ndiga clan; Sewannyana and Wannyana of Nseenene clan, etc. However, clan names can cross over to another clan through a practice known as okubbula. This is when a parent decides to name his or her child after a loved relative or friend of another clan.

 Then there are some names that are very important but do not belong to any particularclan. The most common names in this category are those relating to twins. Naalongo is the name given to the mother of twins; Saalongo, the father of twins. These two names given to parents of twins can be used both as names and as titles. The names, Nakatoand Kato given respectively to the younger girl or boy of the twins; Babirye and Wasswa for the elder girl or boy respectively; Kigongo, given to the child that precedes the twins; Kizza, the one that immediately follows the twins. Another set of names that do not belong to any particular clan are those invoking the way or the period during which the child is born. Musisi (earthquake) is given to a child born during that period; Kiwanuka, a name invoking the action of sudden falling or dropping to the ground was traditionally given to a child being born unexpectedly, say during travel. There are also names such as Mukasa or Kibuuka which invoke traditional gods in the Ganda mythology. Finally, there are names which are self-given or given by society to an individual to depict his or her character or personality, for example, Naggagga for a richly person or, Naamwatulira (outspoken) etc. Such names are generally referred to as “amapaatiike.”

The Functions and Usefulness of the Clans and the System.
The clan system plays an important role in the social life of the Baganda.

  1. The protection of the Ganda culture is in many ways incumbent on the clans. Here, one may start with the various symbolisms attached to the totem, to the birth of the twins, the naming of the children, inheritance, etc. The general passing on of culture and tradition to the succeeding generations is a fundamental responsibility of the clans. The fear of shaming or letting down, not only the immediate family but, the whole clan is a very important motivation encouraging the individual Baganda to respect their culture. ii)The sustenance of the kingship is made possible by the clan system. Traditionally, each clan had several roles to play in that respect. This was the case with every function surrounding the kingship right from his enthronement, housing, transportation, feeding, clothing, the palace maintenance, etc. Naturally, some of those responsibilities continue to be played by the clans but in more or less a symbolic manner.
  2. The social security provided by the clan particularly in times of bereavement and, that heart warming sense of belonging to a large family are inestimable services.
  3. The general discipline underlying many of the dos and don’ts, the things we must do and those we must not do are embedded in the clan system. The key examples are the taboos surrounding the totem; but also the homage to be paid to the clan elders. For instance, final funeral rites must be performed within the clan circle, in accordance with the clan code and not simply within the immediate family. The awareness created by belonging to the clan system, lays useful basic foundations for the individual members for the acceptance of social discipline in the larger community.


Baganda Marriage

Although the Ganda (Baganda) have long regarded marriage as a central aspect of life, their marriage ceremonies have traditionally been relatively simple (save for those of the Kabaka ).The traditional term for marriage was jangu enfumbire (come cook for me). This symbolized the prevailing authority patterns in the typical household. In centuries past, the parents initiated marriage for their children by choosing spouses for them without so much as obtaining consent from the children. Over time, however, boys started choosing their own mates with the approval of parents, with due diligence to avoid courting relatives and people with undesirable family and social traits. 

Marrying the Kiganda way is locally known as ‘Okwanjula’. This is when a man is introduced to his wife -to- be’s family. After this, introductions and payment of "omutwalo" (dowry)  were made and then a marriage ceremony was conducted to hand over the girl. In this whole process, the girl’s role amounted to no more than giving her consent. All these steps to marriage usually involved large social gatherings with eating, drinking, and dance. Before the formal introductions,the whole process starts with what is called okukyaala. This is when the lady shows and introduces her husband-to-be to her parternal aunt, locally known as Senga.

This is an in-door event and it does not call for outsiders such as neighbours and many relatives, since it is a small function where the aunt’s family and her neice(wife-to-be) host the husband-to-be, normally accompanied by very few (3 or 4) of his relatives or friends. The purpose of this visit is for the lady to show her husband-to-be to her aunt, who (the aunt)in turn will introduce the man to her brother (the lady’s father) on the introduction day Kwanjula.

The girl would be dressed by an aunt and the boy invited to see whether he liked her. If so, introductions, dowry, and the handover ceremony followed. According to Buganda culture, the dress code for the function is traditional wear, kanzus for men and gomesi’s for the women. The two sides have a spokesperson each, who keep on talking on their behalf for biggest part of the function.At the man’s side, they mostly prepare for presents or gifts to bring to the lady’s side, while at the lady’s side it is basically preparation for eats, drinks and entertainment. At the kwanjula, three pots of beer had to be carried. One was the ekiguula, that would break the ice; the enjogenza, that facilitated the talks and the third pot was left for the family’s enjoyment. Other gifts included a basket of meat, chicken for the brother-in-law (muko), gomesi for the ssenga and the girl’s mother, kanzu for the father and mutwalo, money that was the actual bride price.

No animals were allowed at the kwanjula. A goat was only accepted if the girl was pregnant or she had given birth, before the ceremony. Even then, it was usually hidden behind the house immediately it was brought in.
A typical traditional Ganda marriage ( Kwanjula ) ceremony lasts three to four hours and consists of the following steps:


Family structure

In the late and early 19th century, a detailed study conducted among the Baganda found that, "Polygyny, the type of marriage in which the husband has plural wives, is not only the preferred but the dominant form of marriage for the Baganda."Commoners had two or three, chiefs had dozens, and the Kings had hundreds of wives. What was the structure of the polygynous family?

Although among the Baganda, the nuclear family of the mother, father, and their children constitutes the smallest unit of the Baganda kinship system, the traditional family consists of "...... several nuclear units held in association by a common father." Because the Baganda people are patrilineal, the household family also includes other relatives of the father such as younger unmarried or widowed sisters, aged parents, and children of the father's clan sent to be brought up by him. Included in this same bigger household will be servants, female slaves, and their children. The father remains the head of the nuclear family units.

Having so many people in this household should not be confused with other types of large families like, ".....'the joint' family, with its several married brothers and their families living together or the 'extended' family, consisting of a group of married off spring living in one household under a patriarch or matriarch." The Baganda are also patrilocal. Therefore, the new families tend to generally live near or with the husband's parents.



The Baganda believed in superhuman spirits in the form of mizimu, misambwa and Balubaale. The Balubaale were believed to have been men whose exceptional attributes in life were carried over into death. The mizimu were believed to be ghosts of dead people for it was believed that only the body would die and rot but the soul would still exist as omuzimu (singular of mizimu). Such ghosts were believed to operate at the family level to haunt whoever the dead person had grudge with. If the mizimu entered natural objects, they were believed to become misambwa. At another level, the mizimu could become tribal figures and also be known as Balubaale.

The supreme being among the Baganda was the creator, Katonda, believed to have had neither children nor parents.The name, meaning creator of all things and Lord of Creation indicates that he was recognized to be superior to all, and was referred to as "the father of the gods.' He was said to have created the heavens and the earth with all that they contain. Katonda was however, not believed to be very different from the other Balubaale. In fact he was believed to be one of the seventy-three Balubaale in Buganda. There were three temples for Katonda in Buganda and all of them were situated in Kyaggwe under the care of priests from the Njovu clan.However, little was known of this supreme god and he was not expected to intervene routinely in human affairs.

At the second level is Lubaale of whom there are more than two dozen. Lubaales were of major significance to the nation and the day to day life of the people. The word Lubaale was translated as "god" by early writers in English on Buganda but the histories of the Lubaales, which were well known to the Baganda, all tell of them having been humans who, having shown exceptional powers when alive, were venerated after death and whose spirits were expected to intercede favorably in national affairs when asked. They are thus more like the Saints of Christian belief than "gods".In this document, they will be referred to as Guardians.  Ggulu, god of the sky and the father of Kiwanuka, god of lightning. Then there was Kawumpuli, god of plague, Ndaula, god of smallpox, Musisi, god of earthquakes, and Wamala, god of Lake Wamala;  Musoke was the god of the rainbow and Kitaka was the god of the earth.

The Guardians were the focus of the organized religious activity of the nation, being recognized and venerated by all. Even more important, they were the one institution which the King, otherwise almost an absolute ruler, could not ignore or disrespect. Before all major national events, such as coronations and wars, the oracles at the major temples were consulted and offerings were made. For a King to ignore the pronouncements of the oracle or to desecrate a temple was a sure invitation to disaster. Each shrine (ekiggwa) was headed by a priest or priestess, the Mandwa, who, when the Guardian Spirit was upon him or her, also functioned as the oracle. Generally the office of Mandwa for a perticular temple was assigned to one clan, which would supply the priests and priestesses. Each Guardian had at least one temple, in which was kept a set of sacred drums and other ceremonial objects. The building and upkeep of the temples were governed by very elaborate and exacting rituals.

The most popular Guardian was Mukasa, Guardian of the Lake. He had temples in his honor all over the country but the chief temple was on Bubembe island in Lake Victoria. To this temple the King would send an annual offering of cows and a request for prosperity and good harvests. Next to his temple was one to his wife, Nalwanga, to whom women would pray for fertility. The other nationally renowned Guardian was Kibuuka of Mbaale. His legend tells that he was a general of such great prowess that it was said of him that he could fly like a bird over the battlefield. Killed in action in the time of Kabaka Nakibinge, his remains were enshrined at Mbaale ( now known as Mpigi) and he became the Guardian of War. His temple was desecrated by the British and the contents, including his jawbone, were put on display in a museum in Cambridge. The Primary School at Mpigi is named Kibuuka Memorial in his honor, and was built at the site of his shrine. A listing of the more well known Guardians is given in the following table.

Of more immediate importance to the ordinary folk were the innumerable lesser spirits. These were mostly the departed ancestors (mizimu), but also included spirits that peopled mountains, rivers and forests, mostly benevolent but some known to be viciously harmful if not kept happy (misambwa). Rituals aimed at ensuring the goodwill of these spirits were part of everyday life. Every household contained a shrine to the family's ancestors, usually a small basket to which small offerings of money and coffee beans were made regularly. Major enterprises, such as the building of a house or the clearing of a piece of land, required a greater offering, maybe of a chicken or a goat. Again, this was usually a family effort with no outside help from any form of clergy. Prayers or offerings involving the shrine of a Lubaale generally indicated some extraordinary need, such as the start of a military campaign. The Muganda praying for help always clearly understood that the assistance of the spirits was but an aid to personal effort, or as the Baganda put it, "Lubaale mbeera, nga n'embiro kw'otadde" (pray for deliverance from danger, but start running too).

Every village recognised the presence of numerous local spirits, usually associated with a particular part of the local scenery, perhaps a forest, a stream or a python. These, as a rule, were unfriendly spirits, and the only duty one owed them was to avoid displeasing them. This might require a small offering of food to be left at a particular spot from time to time but generally simply meant keeping out f their way by obeying certain taboos. Wood and stream spirits, known as Misambwa, were known to bathe at certain times, no one would venture to the well at those hours. Similarly some tracts were off limits to gatherers of firewood. Lurid tales of the fate that befell transgressors are still told to this day.

The ancient Baganda were thus like the followers of major modern religions in honoring their gods and praying for their help. They differed, however in the relationship they saw between the gods and the rules governing ordinary behavior and morals. To the philosophical question "Is murder wrong because God forbade it or did God forbid murder because it is wrong?" the Muganda would emphatically answer "the latter". The nation had an elaborate and carefully observed code of conduct governing personal and family relationships, cleanliness, the crafts, warfare and government, a code which was observed not because the gods ordained it but because it was the right thing to do. To this day the Muganda considers the statement "eyo ssi mpisa yaffe (that is not our custom)" a major censure.

A communal rather than divine basis for good behavior was useful in preserving the moral foundation of Buganda society, especially in the 19th century when the prestige and influence of the Guardians waned as that of the Kabaka grew. Thus by the end the reign of Mutesa I in 1884 the formal influence of the Guardians in national matters was gone, within another generation Christianity and Islam would have totally supplanted them. Traditional mores were more resilient, and only began to change significantly after 1945, especially in areas of family relationship. In the last generation the new order represented by imported religions and political systems has been found to be wanting, not only in the poor cohesiveness and function of the state but even in the personal conduct of religious and political leaders. Thus the traditional ways are once again treated with respect, even to the extent that the traditional terms for such things as a shrine (ekiggwa) or a prayer (okusamira) are now being used to describe Christian churches and services. Previously they were terms of abuse used to describe "pagans". What the final equilibrium will be between tradition and the now dominant Christianity and Islam only time will tell.

There were temples dedicated to the different Balubaale throughout Buganda. Each temple was served by a medium and a priest who had powers over the temple and acted as a liaison between the Balubaale and the people. In particular clans, priesthood was hereditary, but a priest of the same god could be found in different clans. The priests occupied a place of religious importance within society and they usually availed themselves for consultation.

The kings had special shrines of worship. The royal sister known as Nnaalinya took charge of the king's temple. There is a tradition among the Baganda that the Balubaale cult was introduced by Kabaka Nakibinge to strengthen his authority and that he combined both political and religious functions for that matter.



The rural Muganda (Baganda individual) woman typically wears a busuuti. This is a floor-length, brightly colored cloth dress with a square neckline and short, puffed sleeves. The garment is fastened with a sash placed just below the waist over the hips, and by two buttons on the left side of the neckline.

Traditionally, the busuuti was strapless and made from bark-cloth. The busuuti is worn on all festive and ceremonial occasions. The indigenous dress of the Baganda man is a kanzu, a long, white cotton robe. On special occasions, it is worn over trousers with a Western-style suit jacket over it. Younger people wear Western-style clothing. Slacks, jeans, skirts, suits, and ties are also worn.



The staple food of the Baganda is matooke, a plantain (a tropical fruit in the banana family). It is steamed or boiled and commonly served with groundnut (peanut) sauce or meat soups. Sources of protein include eggs, fish, beans, groundnuts, beef, chicken, and goats, as well as termites and grasshoppers in season.

 Common vegetables are cabbage, beans, mushrooms, carrots, cassava, sweet potatoes, onions, and various types of greens. Fruits include sweet bananas, pineapples, passion fruit, and papaya. Drinks include indigenous fermented beverages made from bananas (mwenge), pineapples (munanansi), and maize (musoli). Although Baganda have cutlery, most prefer to eat with their hands, especially when at home.


Music and Dance

Travelers that have had a safari or a tour to Uganda have been mesmerized by music of the people of Buganda region. The Baganda boast of a variety of dances originating from individual clans based on different themes such as; economic and social activities, politics, education, love and their history depending on the audience for whom the performance is made.

The baganda, like other tribes use music to praise and worship God or gods as well as people of authority, to celebrate their life cycle-rituals and rites, celebrate labor or work achievements such as a good harvest,to educate the population,to earn a leaving( as employment) ,as a form of recreation,as well as a cultural means of disseminating cultural values from generation to generation.

Baganda have three predominant dances; Bakisimba, Muwogola and Nankasa all inspired by their daily life.All kiganda dances involve a flawless `circular’ movement of the waist and a tip toeing movement of the feet plus hands spread out from the shoulder joint but bent forward or up words at the elbow joint depending on the type of dance. The dance moves or patterns are dictated by the lyrics or song meaning but mostly by the tempo of the song.

If one took a Uganda safari,they would definitely love the traditional Baganda dance`s costumes that are universally used for all their dances.The female dancers put on tops that cove their shoulders,cover the midriff with a white or cream silk material that accentuates the body undulations, a wide floor-length kikoyi that allows free leg movements to all directions,a raffia skirt around the back plus a sash around the waist line that gives a clear finish to the raffia skirt.

At the backside, a dance animal skin is added on top of the raffia skirt and sash and ankle bells are worn too.Modern dancers today add decorative bracelets and head bands to this costume.

Male dancers wear the kikoyi too that covers only to the mid calf to allow their rather vigorous dance moves and the public acceptability to have much of their bodies bare.

The Baganda have a variety of dance instruments but majorly drums of different sizes; the Empunyi (rhythm drums for the central beat), Namunjoloba (a small drum beaten by two small sticks to produce the rhytmic sound that controls all dance motifs or flows), the Embuutu (a large drum for the various dance rhytms), Engalabi (a long cylindrical drum that adds colour and texture to accompaniment), Amadinda (a xylophone to give the music melodies), Endigidi (a tube fiddle for melody), Entongoli (bow lyre for melody), Engombe (a cow horn that adds excitement at the climax), Endere (flute), Ensaasi (shakers made out of a guoards) plus singers- soloist and choristers.The xylophone determine the tempo or pace of the music or song and the drums follow suit.

The baganda have `Amagunju ‘a royal dance whose origin and essence has attachment to:

i. A ritual dance formulated to entertain the newly enthroned King (Kabaka) and prevent him from crying as he presided over the Lukiiko (parliament)
ii. The dance having been created by the uncle to the king -Gunju from the Obutiko (Mushroom) clan hence the name of the dance.
iii. The dance having been danced by only by the people of the Mushroom clan.
iv. The fact that Uncle Gunju designed a royal seat that placed the kabaka above every body else –Namulondo which has been in existence for over 200 years up to date. It is a symbol of authority of the Kabaka (King) as he is the only to sit in it.

Dancers use the same instruments and costumes, as male dancers take energetic high side by side kicks staggering as if they are drunk, all to entertain the king.Songs to this dance all relate to the Mushroom clan.The male dancers dominate the Amagunju dance as they make their side by side- kicks said to have also been used t pave way for the Kabaka as he moved to the parliament.The female dancers are how ever graceful and gentle making sedate and low body movements,the lower body movements are same as those of the Bakisimba dance but they change their dance motifs according the songs of the dance.

In the `nalintema’ song for example, dancers imitate swinging a sickle to clear the garden for planting well as in another song, they bend over double to pick mushrooms.Now days, this dance takes place at the royal courts, danced by all people unlike before when it was danced by only those of the Mushroom clan at different celebrations.This dance is still danced for the Kabaka when he leaves his palace and a Uganda tour to the Kabaka`s (King`s) palace will provide a great opportunity for one to see these performances live.


Passages of rite

A Muganda (Baganda individual) passes through the stages of omwana (child), omuvubuka (youth), and omusajja or omukazi (man, woman). At death one becomes an omuzima (spirit) and a candidate for reincarnation.

At birth the umbilical cord is retained for later use in a ceremony called Kwalula Abaana. During this ceremony the child gathers with other members of the father's clan to receive their clan names.

Boys and girls are expected to conform in their behavior to what the Baganda refer to as mpisa (manners). This includes being obedient to adults, greeting visitors properly, and sitting correctly (for girls). Sex education for females is more systematic than it is for males. The father's sister (Ssenga) is the most significant moral authority for girls. Grandmothers instruct girls soon after their menstruation, during a period of seclusion, about sexual matters and future domestic responsibilities. Marriage and the birth of children are prerequisites for adult status.


Ritual sex

The Baganda have Kiganda (customary) norms of labia enlongation (okusika enfuli), stylized articulation and gesticulation of sex (okusikina) and hygiene in sex (eby`ekikumbi).
Parents have customary mandates for ritual sex to celebrate other significant rites of passages for their children. 

Okumala ekizadde (to complete a birth): after a child is born, custom demand that the parents have penetrative sexual intercorse to ensure that the child lives well. There is varying duration between delivery and ritual sex, it could be "four days", "one week" when the woman has healed or after the bad blood stop dripping.

Emikolo gy`abalongo (the ceremonies of twins). In Kiganda customarily practice twin ceremonies provides a licence to use relatively obscene language with deep sexual images and metaphors. Cultural songs for celebrating twin ceremonies are noted for their explicit employment of sexual innuendos.

Performance of ritual sex in twin ceremonies involves more than the twin parents. At birth of  the twins, one of the necessary rituals is for one of the parents families to provide siblings for the  parents. These (often the younger siblings) are called Ssanlongo omukulu (twin father) and Nnalongo omukulu (twin mother). they are responsible for acting on behalf of the twins and are symbolically responsible for their well-being, 'lest they kill the whole clan.' Their role is to ensure twins rituals and observances do occur.
in the ritual sex act specifically called okuzina abalongo (dancing for the twins) cultural dancing and jubilation occurs, Nnalongo lies on her back with her legs spread and the young of banana fruit (empumumpu) is planted on top of her genitalia. Then Ssanlongo omukulu kneels between her legs knocks this baby-banana fruit off her either with his penis, or another part of his body. Thereafter, drums beats the loudest, leading to another ritual which involves specific food ingredient cooked without salt and more violation of taboo: stepping into the food. Four nights after the twin ceremony, the twin parents must perform ritual sex called Okumala emikolo gyabalongo (completing the ceremonies of the twins).

Okumala amabeere (To complete Breast Milk). during the process of weaning the cjild from breast milk to food supplements, and eventually termination of breastfeeding, the biological parents must have penetrative sexual intercourse. It is believed that  the penetrative sex serve as a buffer to protect the child from harm and failure to do so turn the breast milk sour and choke the children to death.

Okumala amabega (to complete the menarche of a daughter) : this happens in Okumenya amabega (To break the buttocks) which is one of the several euphemism for "to start menstruation. As a part of rites surrounding menarche, biological parents must have ritual sex before the last day of their daughters menstrual flow, in order to ensure her healthy menstruation, fertility and reproduction and the well being of her children.

Okumala obufumbo (To complete marriage). Parents are mandated to have ritual sex when their children marry. The bride is collected from her father`s household. Prior to leaving for her husband`s locale, she must undergo customary symbolic rites of farewell with different members of her clan. Customarily, on the day the groom`s family or entourage pays the dowry and collect their bride, the two sets of parents must perform ritual sex before the newly married couple consummate their marriage. The father can jump over the mother`s legs if they were unable to have actual penetrative sexual intercourse.

Following marriage it was expected of a man to build house for his wife and progeny. Customary Kiganda practice prescribed ritual sex called okumala enju (to complete the house) prior to occupying the new house., particularly if it was a new property, in order to ensure benign cooperation of ancestral shades of that lineage (empewo z`abajajja or the wind of our grannies). Thus, on completion of the house a man invites his kinsmen and friends for ancestral worship and jubilation. Later, during the night he would engage in penetrative sex with his wife (or the spouse who owned that space in cases of polygyny). This in effect symbolically stamped ownership by the ancestry over the household, property and land, allowing the ancestral spirit access to oversee and protect members` prosperity.


Sex to appease the spirit of death

This ritual sex is called okwabya olumbe (bursting the death). Its a label for a series of rituals encompassed within last funeral rites. Sexual intercourse is mandated in three peculiar instances: okumala kafiisa (completing to be robbed by death), okumala olumbe (completing the death) and eby`abakuza (things of guardians/widow inheritors).

Okumala kafiisa is a cultural requirement of sexual intercourse between two biological parents after the death of their child. This custom is essential particularly where the dead child had not yet produced an offspring. After the burial ceremony and ensuing period of mourning, the parents are supposed to have sexual intercourse to mark or celebrate the end of their public mourning for their child. Prior to the sexual act, the parents bathe with a herbal concoction of purificative and preventive medicines obtained from traditional healers to spiritually insure their children, clan members and kins against another visit from death. this ritual culminates in sexual intercourse.

After having fulfilled their spiritual, moral, cultural and kin obligations, the couple are free to proceed their normal life.
During the last funeral rites ceremony (Okwabya olumbe) the ritual ceremony okumala olumbe is mandated for the families of the immediate family members. The most visible version of this ritual  is the cultural prescription for widows. In the past the widow was required to have sexual intercourse with the male agnate of her deceased husband. This act is often authenticated in traditional Kiganda culture.
There is now a symbolic cultural practices that widows undergo. A widow is instructed to sit on the floor in the doorway of their main house with legs stretched outwards. Then a male agnate of the late spouse jump once, twice or thrice over her extended legs to symbolise the sexual act.

When a wife lost a family- including parents, grand parents, siblings and nieces or nephews- after returning from the last funeral rites, she is expected to sleep apart from the husband (precisely on the floor). When the husband is ready to start conjugal relations with her, the husband would buy her mourning wife a new cloth called "geomesi." He will then present it her and invite her to bed in order to kumala olumbe- also variously called okumu-nazaako olumbe- (to wash off her death)or  okumunazaako amaziga (to wash off tears from her).