These make up the largest ethnic group in Uganda, though they represent only 16.7% of the population. (The name Uganda, the Swahili term for Buganda, was adopted by British officials in 1884 when they established the Uganda Protectorate, centered in Buganda); Buganda’s boundaries are marked by Lake Victoria on the south, the Victoria Nile River on the east, and Lake Kyoga on the north. This region was never conquered in the colonial era; rather, the powerful king (or Kabaka), Muteesa, agreed to a British policy of giving Buganda protectorate status.
The 5.5 million Baganda are a Bantu-speaking people (singular Muganda; often referred to simply by the root word and adjective, Ganda) who make up the largest Ugandan ethnic group, representing approximately 20% of Uganda’s total 28 million population. They occupy the central part of Uganda which was formerly called the Buganda province.
Buganda, which means ‘bundles,’ is their subnational kingdom, the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day Uganda, spread out in the modern districts of Kampala, Mpigi, Mukono, Masaka, Kalangala, Kiboga, Rakai, Sembabule and Mubende.
Their language is referred to as Luganda and they refer to their customs as Kiganda customs. Sometimes the generic term Ganda is used for all the above. Buganda is home to the nation’s political and commercial capital, Kampala; as well as the country’s main international airport, Entebbe.
‘Uganda’ (a Kiswahili word for ‘Land of the Ganda’) was the name used by the Arab and Swahili traders on the East African coast to refer to the Kingdom of Buganda.
The Baganda people of Uganda are sometimes referred to as The King’s Men because of the significance of the role of their king—the Kabaka in their political, social, and cultural institutions. Until 1967, the Baganda were organized into a tightly centralized, bureaucratized kingdom. Between 1967 and 1993, the Ugandan national government abolished all kingdoms. In 1993, the national government reinstated the Kabakaship (kingship) by permitting the coronation of Ronald Muwenda Muteebi II as the thirty-sixth king of the Baganda.
Traditionally, the Kabaka ruled over a hierarchy of chiefs who collected taxes in the form of food and livestock. Portions were distributed through the hierarchy, eventually reaching the Kabaka’s palace in the form of tribute (taxes). The Kabaka made direct political appointment of all chiefs so as to maintain control over their loyalty to him. Many rituals surrounded the person of the king. Commoners had to lie face down on the ground in his presence.
Today, the Kabaka has only ritual functions and no political power. He was removed of his power so that tribal differences would not interfere with the formation of a nation state. All Baganda participate in the Ugandan government system. Nevertheless, the kingdom and associated institutions remain strong forces in the cultural practices and values of the Baganda.
Riddles, myths, legends, and proverbs tell the origin and history of the Baganda, as well as the workings of the everyday world. The most significant legend involves Kintu, the first Kabaka (king). He is believed to have married a woman called Nambi. First Nambi had to return to heaven. Gulu, her father, objected to her marriage because Kintu did not know how to farm but only how to obtain food from cattle. Nambi’s relatives tested Kintu in order to determine his suitability as a spouse. In one test Kintu was asked to identify his own cow in a herd, a difficult task since there were many cows like his own. By chance, a bee told Kintu to choose the cow on whose horns he would alight. After several large herds were brought to him, Kintu reported that his cow was not among them. (He was continuing to watch the bee that remained on the tree.) Eventually, Kintu, with the help of the bee, identified his cow, along with several calves that had been born to his cow. The amazed father eagerly gave his daughter’s hand in marriage. He prodded them to hurry to leave for Kintu’s home before Walumbe (Death) came and wanted to go with them. Gulu warned that they should not come back even if they forgot something; for fear that Death would follow them. They left carrying with them cows, a goat, fowl, sheep, and a plantain tree. Unfortunately, over the protests of Kintu, Nambi went back to obtain grain that had been forgotten. Although she tried to run away from Death, she was unsuccessful. After many years of happiness on earth, Walumbe (Death) began to bring illness and death to children and then adults. Up to the present day, Death has lived upon the earth with no one knowing when or whom he will strike.
The majority of present-day Baganda are Christian, about evenly divided between Catholic and Protestant. Approximately 15 percent are Muslim (followers of Islam). In the latter half of the nineteenth century, most Baganda were practicing an indigenous (native) religion known as the Balubaale cult. This cult consisted of gods who had temples identified with them. These gods were each concerned with specific problems. For example, there was a god of fertility, a god of warfare, and a god of the lake.
The Baganda also believed in spiritual forces, particularly the action of witches, which were thought to cause illness and other misfortune. People often wore amulets (charms) to ward off their evil powers. The most significant spirits were the Muzimu or ancestors who visited the living in dreams and sometimes warned of impending dangers. The Balubaale cult no longer exists. However, belief in ancestors and the power of witches is still quite common.
Contemporary Baganda are extremely religious, whatever their faith.
Clothing and fashion
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 Matoke, a plantain (a tropical fruit in the banana family). It is steamed or boiled and commonly served with groundnut (peanut) sauce “ebinyeebwa” 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 (omwenge), pineapples (munanansi), and maize (musoli). Although Baganda have cutlery, most prefer to eat with their hands, especially when at home.
Baganda number among the best songwriters, playwrights, poets, novelists, artists, and musicians in Uganda: Performing arts, especially music and dance, have enjoyed a longstanding tradition. The Kabaka’s Palace was a special place where royal dancers and drummers regularly performed. Most Baganda households contained at least a small drum for regular use in family singing and dancing. Other musical instruments included stringed instruments such as fiddles and harps, and woodwind instruments such as flutes and fifes.
Dancing is frequently practiced by all Baganda, beginning in early childhood. Today, Uganda dancers and musicians are frequently seen performing abroad.
Basketry is still a widespread art, especially mat-making by women. These mats are colorful and intricately designed. In addition to creating useful household containers, woven and coiled basketry serve as the foundation for stockades, enclosure fences, and houses.
Games and sports
Football (soccer), rugby, and track and field are popular sports in Uganda. Baganda boys participate in all these sports, while girls participate in track and field. Traditionally, the Baganda were renowned for their skills in wrestling. Males of all ages participated in this sport. Wrestling events were accompanied by beer-drinking, singing, and drumming. It was, however, considered inappropriate to defeat the Kabaka. Other traditional outdoor games for boys include the competitive throwing of sticks and a kicking game in which boys stand side by side and attempt to knock over the other boy
Children play games involving a chief for boys or a mother role for girls. Okwesa is a game of strategy involving a wooden board and stones or beans that are placed in pockets in the board. Verbal games such as riddling are played frequently, especially at night and in the company of grandparents.
Hobbies and crafting
In addition to basketry and musical instruments, the manufacture of products from bark-cloth was and continues to be significant. The bark from a species of fig tree called “mutuba” is soaked in water, and then beaten with a wooden mallet. This yields a soft material that is decorated with paint and then cut into strips of various sizes. Larger strips traditionally were used for partitions in homes. Smaller pieces were decorated with black dye and worn as clothing by women of royalty. Later, bark-cloth dress became the national dress. Today, one rarely sees bark-cloth dresses. They have been replaced by the cotton cloth Busuuti. Bark-cloth is found today as decorative placemats, coasters, and designs on cards of various sorts.
Other Tourism Attractions in Buganda
Uganda National Museum
This is the biggest and the oldest Museum in Uganda which was founded in 1908, the Uganda Museum is a remarkable collection spans over two million years of human history. Enjoy an African history cultures and treasures of Uganda under one roof and this museum is located in Kamwokya just a few minutes’ drive from the city Centre and just bordering the Uganda wildlife authority headquarters.
The museum is sub divided into sections
The traditional music section with the traditional musical instruments and a live performance is available for the visitors
Archaeology section with the parts of Stone Age and Iron Age where you will be able to see the Stone Age tools which were used 1,000,000 years ago
Independence pavilion of science and industry having transport (7th car in Uganda), communication (model of the 1st telephone in East Africa)
Ethno history with the things of recent history like the first printing press in Uganda
Ethnography providing the visitors with the touch of cultures and peoples’ way of life
Paleaolontology with the fossils aged about 20,000,000 years ago. Also discover the distinct species of mammals like Long- horned buffalo and the Indian Elephant
The Royal Mile (Lubiri Palace and Bulange Parliament)
At the other end of a ceremonial Royal drive leading from parliament of Buganda Kingdom, Lubiri Palace was built in 1922 .The building was duly converted to army barracks, while an adjacent site became a notorious underground prison and torture-execution chamber built by Idi Amin in the 1970s. Guides will lead you to this terrifying site, a dark concrete tunnel with numerous dark, damp cells separated by an electrified passage of water to prevent escape. At the gate of this palace is a traditional fire source that has never burnt out since the inception of the Buganda monarchy/Kingdom and shall never stop burning least a king is dead. Here is a representation of all Baganda Clans and their respective role in this Kingdom since time of immemorial as narrated by a royalist at this fire source. A mail away but directly positioned gate to gate is the Bulange- a parliament in which the Kabaka and his ministers have since old days sat to deliberate upon issues concerning Buganda Kingdom. The architectural design of this building has proven a spectacular Uganda tour site to many local and international visitors. Walk the mile as you learn about Buganda cultural norms and the city of Kampala
Outside the Museum is the Living museum (Cultural village) that exhibits the ways of lives of Ugandans as it represents the whole of Uganda and this outside museum also exhibits all the kingdoms of Uganda and their way of life
Kasubi Royal Tombs
These tombs are of significance to the Buganda kingdom, the huge thatched-roof palace of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Kasubi Tombs was tragically destroyed by the fires in March 2010. Fortunately construction is in its final stages because of the help from locals and international support who has contributed money towards this project of putting up the sites back and this is done through the campaign of “kusonda etofali” championed by the “katikiro” Prime Minister of Buganda. Kasubi tombs was built in 1882 as the palace of the King Muteesa I, it was converted into his tomb following his death two years later. Subsequently, the next three Kabaka (kings) “ Mwanga; Daudi Chwa II; and Edward Muteesa II, father of the current Kabaka, Ronald Muteebi II (known also by his Baganda name, Muwenda) broke with tradition and chose to be buried here instead of in their own palaces. You will learn more about Buganda culture and history at the site.
National Theatre and Craft Village
You will visit this place to enjoy the quality programs of music, film, dance and drama performances in the theatre, but most tourists are here for the popular, free outdoor events. Grab a beer and a chair and catch an informal open-stage jamming, infectious Afro-fusion grooves and, underground hip-hop on or comedy night. There is also a great selection of Ugandan and African crafts and souvenirs from Uganda at a good bargain.
Ndere Centre is the Home of Cultures; the center is built on 9 acres of well-maintained green, beautifully flowered walk ways and shaded by very mature fruit and other African trees. The rare architecture is a seamless combination of artistic creativity with simplicity that takes African forms, materials, colors and construction to unprecedented heights. The Centre is tranquility at its best enabling you to enjoy blissful artistic creativity of Uganda and African music and performances. The Centre with its resident troupe Ndere Troupe captivate you with amazing cultural songs, dances and unique instruments from the 56 nationalities (tribes), weaves them with humorously informative stories and presents them in an authentic but artistically developed spectacle every Wednesday and Friday at 7pm, and Sundays at 6pm an experience not to be missed by the entire family. For international guests to Uganda, this is the best introduction to Africa’s culture and ways of life, and firm bridge to your own country and culture.
This esteemed public University has held the mantle of Uganda and East Africa as an icon for tertiary training. Established in 1922 as a simple technical school, Makerere is Uganda’s second oldest institution after Katigondo seminary in Masaka. It has satisfactory education setting with its semi-autonomous collegiate system offering doctoral, graduate and under graduate programs. Despite its educational reputation, Makerere University is a safari destination of its own.
The rich heritage that is demonstrated by the colonial architectural buildings clearly brings out its test of time. Commonly denoted as the Ivory tower, it contains protruding buildings that escalate up to the sky such as the main building- also the main administration block and the Senate building which is the academic hub of Makerere University.
It is also amazing to note that there is lush flora and host of fauna not forgetting variety of birds that roam with in the vicinity of this mighty institution. Plant species like Mahogany, Primates like monkeys; birds like Hadada-ibis, Marabou stork among others cannot be missed at Makerere University. This institution has fame arising from its research and innovation in the fields of Engineering, ICT, and Food processing and packaging. Advanced soft wares, the Kiira Electric Vehicle – an electric powered vehicle, plus the food incubation center are among the prime projects one would be proud to identify at Makerere University.
Considering its stature in the world of academics, Makerere University is recognized for having the biggest and the best library in the whole of East Africa with a wide range of collections from its own students, African writers and the global scene. The institution also contains a range of monuments, sculptures, works of art and paintings that describe it’s close to 100 years journey and the Uganda’s and Africa’s past in general. The zoology museum- the second museum in Uganda has enormous fossil collection, Margaret Trowel art gallery features a lot of African art, the replicas of great men like Kwame Nkrumah, David Livingstone, Julius Nyerere, and Ssenteza Kajubi, the monuments like war victim, hatching a new generation have a lot of tales that you would wish to hear in your life time. Considering this, Makerere University can truly make your visit in Kampala city memorable.
Namugongo Martyrs Shrine
This Namugongo shrines is dedicated to 22 young Christian congregants who were brutally murdered by Kabaka Mwanga in 1885-1887 for their allegiance to Christianity, they were beautified in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and later canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964. The 22 Martyrs are the only African saints to whom a basilica is dedicated and they are the largest group of saints ever canonized by the Catholic Church. Every 3rd June the Catholic Church and their counterpart of Anglican persuasion flock this place from all over Africa most of them by foot to commemorate this day in honor of their Religious heroes. The unique architecture of African hut, the temple of worship in this place is a great tour destination and this same place will be hosting Pope Francis this year
Old Kampala National Mosque/ Gadhafi
This mosque is the major feature on the oldest hill in the city offering unrivalled 360 degrees views of Kampala from the Minaret. The Mosque is regarded as the largest in Africa, reputed to have enough space to accommodate 35,000 worshippers at any one time. Be prepared to change your style as ladies will be required to experience and dress in long skirts and headscarf. All included in 10,000 ticket you experience a mix of modern and traditional, African, European and Arabic influences the mosque is definitely a worthy visit while in Kampala
Rubaga Cathedral/ Twin-Towered Roman Catholic Church
The huge building was restored for the Pope’s visit of Uganda. It has great historical significance in the history of the Catholic Church. The transept is a memorial to the Uganda Martyrs (dozens of Ugandan Christians burnt to death by Kabaka Mwanga II in 1885 and 1886 for refusing to renounce the white man’s religion), 22 Catholic victims, later declared saints, are enshrined in the stained-glass windows. It overlooks the city and is a large complex that takes in various functions of the church and surrounded by beautiful trees plus flowers. It is also situated on a hill with a great scenery view of Kampala city. Built in 1914, the cathedral houses the remains of the late Archbishop Joseph Kiwanka (June 25, 1899 – February 22, 1966), the first African Catholic Bishop and the first African Archbishop of Kampala Diocese, are housed inside the cathedral
Visit the mother Temple of the Bahai faith in Africa. And just like the faith it represents, the Bahai temple is no ordinary house of worship. Sitting on 52 acres of land, the temple is a unique architectural master piece. Built between 1958 and 1961 on Kikaaya hill, three miles North of Kampala the building is 130ft. its dome is a 44ft in diameter. It is a nine sided structure which represents oneness and unity of the faiths biggest tenets. It seats on a beautiful park like ground with lots of beautiful trees most of them fruit tree species plus flowers as well as a green-carpet like grass with clean clear gazetted paths leading to the dome. This park like environment attracts many people who sit on the grass and have a peaceful moment or hold picnics not forgetting couples in love who flock this place for quality time
The Independence Monument
Standing majestically at a height of 6 metres, is a must see if you are travelling to Kampala. The monument is situated in the heart of the capital between the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, Grand Imperial Hotel and Standard-Chartered bank, is one of the most distinctive landmark of Uganda.
Uganda’s Independence Monument was constructed by former British Colonial Government just before Uganda celebrated its first independence on Tuesday 9th October 1962.
The monument depicts a man un wrapping a child and raising the child to touch the sky. The sculpture signifies a new born country let free from colonialism and bondages. Today with the beautification around the monument, you need to carry your camera for the memorable capture of the sight.
The Statue of Leadership
The Statue of Leadership situated outside Amber House (Kampala road) may be considered as a celebration of one of Uganda’s major milestones – the introduction of electricity. Situated overlooking the Kampala road, the Statue of Leadership sculpture depicts Sir Apollo Michael Kawalya Kaggwa, who is perhaps best known for his vision and foresight in accelerating the kingdom’s development.
The Centenary Monument
The Centenary monument located at the popular Centenary Park in Kampala, along Jinja road and neighboring Hotel Africana, was erected to commemorate a centenary of Kampala City Council’s (the city planning and administrating body) existence and its contribution to social economic development of the city. The 6ft Centenary Monument of a treadmill protected by shields signifies progress. This memorial is also depicted on Twenty Thousand Uganda Shillings note (2010).
World War Memorial Monument
The World War Monument is reputed to be the oldest monument in Kampala. It was built in 1945 by the British colonial government. The monument standing at the Constitutional Square in Kampala near the fence of the Uganda High Court was built during the British era in memory of Uganda soldiers who died during the 1st and 2nd world wars. The 5ft monument is also depicted on the front side of the Uganda Shilling Five Thousand note (2010).
Sir Edward Muteesa II Monument
The Sir Edward Muteesa II Monument is situated next to the Independence monument at the junction of Speke road and Nile Avenue. Overlooking the Post Office Kampala, the monument was built to pay tribute Edward Muteesa II (first president of Uganda) for his invaluable contribution to Uganda’s independence
The Stride Monument
This is situated between the Uganda Parliament Gardens and Kampala Serena Hotel, the Stride Monument, was built in commemoration of Uganda hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007 and was unveiled by the Queen of England during the CHOGM summit. The Stride Monument is estimated to be the most expensive monument in Uganda with the work of its construction costing the country over Ush150 million.
Katanga Slum/ghetto Tours and Bwaise
Every developing country in Africa has got slums and ghettos and in Kampala we have got the most known slums of Katanga in Wandegeya and Bwaise which can be accessed a few minutes from the city center. These slum tours will take you through the temporary structures that act as housing for the dwellers, their living conditions. This will give you a new perspective a side from the posh hotels and lodges and it will show you the other side of life