Know Thy Self


Uganda as a word does not have any meaning in the local dialects. It comes from the word Buganda which means ‘bundles.’ In this part of the world, the letter ‘B’ is not sometimes emphasized in pronunciation. The first foreigners who came with the knowledge of writing and reading in this kingdom could not quite hear the letter ‘B’ in the word Buganda from the way it sounds in the local dialect, so they wrote the name of this place as ‘Uganda’ instead of Buganda. Elders go on to explain that this kingdom of Buganda used to be called Muwawa. It is during the reign of Bemba Musota, that this place got its new name, Buganda. Bemba Musota was a ruthless ruler who imposed hostile and unspeakable punishments to his subjects. One of them was the carrying of nine heavy bundles of firewood down the valley to his palace vertically. The culprit would end up bleeding and as onlookers pitied him or her, they would say “ng’olabye n’obuganda,” meaning “sorry about the bundles.” From then on, Muwawa became Buganda.

This place was ruled by strongmen for generations but it became a structured kingdom with the arrival of Kintu. He is the one who established an administrative structure from the Kabaka to the Mukopi (King to Commoner). This was the alien administration introduced then. It was referred to as Kintu because the people who were introducing did not have any Ubuntu as the natives of the place. Kintu in the local language literary means "some thing". So it meant something had brought an administration NOT some one. 

There was so much tyranny going on at the time of his arrival. People who were under Bemba Musota were restless and unhappy with his tyrannical ways. Bemba was a feared man and rumour had it that he was half human, half snake. This myth caused so much fear that no one imagined he could be defeated. When rumour circulated that a fearless warrior had come to fight Bemba, people collected in great numbers rallying behind Kintu to come and topple a man who had made himself invincible. (It is important to note strongly in this note that the word Kintu literary means "something". It was used in the antiquities to denote any one who did not Ubuntu as contrary to the native Bantu people. In this context, it was the "Bintu" (plural of Kintu), or say the ailens that were fighting to overthrow the native rulers and implement their alien administration.)

There are several theories about Kintu’s origin. He is believed to have come from Abbysynnia with an army to conquer Buganda and rule it. Other theories suggest that Kintu was a subject of Bemba and having studied the weakness in his leadership, he knew how to fight him. Some claim that Kintu came all the way from Masaba in Eastern Uganda and others believe that he came from Ssese Islands.
There is also the legend of Kintu by Roscoe which describes him as the first man who lived on planet earth with his one cow which he milked for survival and one day Gulu’s daughter called Nambi who lived in the heavens came down and saw him. Out of pity, she fell in love with him and despite her family’s protest; she went ahead and married him after a series of tests to fail him. She was advised to leave early and escape from her deathly brother called Walumbe because he was feared to bring death to Nambi’s children but on her way out, she returned to pick millet for her poultry and Walumbe saw her and pursued her to earth where he terrorized her family causing the first death.
The couple effectively occupied Buganda and had children and this is how Kintu became the founder of Buganda. The saddest part of this summarized story is that it blames the woman Nambi for introducing death on earth by bringing Walumbe on earth with her when she had been forewarned earlier by her father Ggulu just like Eve was blamed for the original sin that caused mayhem on planet earth. Adam was acquitted with a light punishment the same way Kintu was exonerated. 

That is for myth but history strongly suggests that Kintu came to Buganda with an army, mobilised the locals and assassinated the existing leader Bemba Musota through a mercenary called Nfudu and organized Buganda to be the most powerful kingdom in most of Africa.
The legendary Gulu king of the heavens was called Ggulu Wemba and his palace was in Mukono, Kyaggwe. His father was called Kabaka Katabani Kagulu and is among the early kings of Buganda.
The period of Kintu is not quite established but the history of Ankole, Bunyoro and Buganda can give us a good impression of that period. Although the territorial conquest of Nkore by Bunyoro during the reign of Nyabugaro, king of Ankole was not a great event, it attracts chronology in historical terms. The history of the three kingdoms agrees on whom the rulers of the mentioned kingdoms were when the war took place using the solar eclipse of 1520. Professor Samwiri Rubaraza Karugire in his book “A history of the kingdom of Nkore in Western Uganda to 1896” pages 148 and 149 states that at the time, Bunyoro was under Olimi I, Ankole under Nyabugaro and Buganda under Nakibinge, and it is clear that Nakibinge was the the eighth king of Buganda. A mere calculation of eight generations behind can set a reasonable date when Kintu could have prevailed!

Kintu on settling in Buganda married Bakazirwendo Ssemandwa’s beautiful daughter of the ngeye clan (colobus monkey) called Nambi Nantuttululu. Bakazirwendo lived in Bumpenje, Busiro.He had many children but the most known ones were Cwa Nabakka, Wakayima and Gguluddene. When Kintu disappeared, his son Cwa Nabakka succeeded him and married Najjuka, daughter of Gunju Kasirye (Kasirye is a name of the nvuma clan) but while he was on the throne, rumour saturated that Kintu had returned. In a state of panic, Cwa went into hiding for taking over his father’s throne and never returned. The rumour too never materialized into anything; Kintu never showed up. The new kingdom fell into a political vacuum because there was no king. Gguluddene and his brother Wakayima who would have prevailed had had a disagreement with Cwa based on Kintus’s totem. The story goes that While Cwa was in power, he saw a dog eat filth and he declared that they as royals should not have such an animal to represent their clan.

Gguluddene and his brother refused to agree with Cwa and they broke ties with the royal family. Gguluddene left and settled in a place called Kituba far away from his brother Cwa. The dog clan was marginalized and barred from political participation in Buganda so much so that if any member of the clan wanted to become a chief, he would have to go under another clan to qualify. This is the reason why Buganda kingdom fell into a political vacuum when Cwa went into hiding after hearing that his disappeared father Kintu was on his way back to rule. He left for some unknown destination just like his father and never returned. The rumour of his father’s return was a false alarm and some elders believe that it was prompted by angry loyals of the late Bemba Musota. Bemba Musota was the leader of Buganda as written earlier who was killed by Kintu to take over the area and turn it into a kingdom.
After the unceremonious departure of Cwa Nabakka, Walusimbi of the civet clan (Ffumbe) took over the throne but people did not support him. Later, Sebwaana of the pangolin clan (lugave) took over the throne and ruled for sometime.
Cwa Nabakka had a son called *Kalemeera who was banished in Bunyoro at Winyi’s because he was accused of consorting with the Prime Minister’s wife. Nsimbi explains that Kalemeera was worried that his father Cwa would go missing just like Kintu did and out of this fear, he always was trailing the father wherever he went. This tired the father so he (Cwa) conspired with Walusimbi and accused Kalemeera of having an affair with the prime minister’s wife. This accusation resulted in his banishment to Bunyoro where he took refuge as he gathered hoes to trade and pay the fine for his offence in Buganda. 

Basing on consequent events in Bunyoro though, it seems more likely that Prince Kalemeera indeed had a relationship with Walusimbi’s wife. First, Kalemeera was not simply banished alone in a strange land. Kintu sent him with an entourage to look after him. This included his maternal uncle Lule Kyesimba who was a great medicineman to treat him incase he fell sick. The chief potter, Katumba son of Mulegeya was also among the people sent to Bunyoro with the pince plus servants and guards. The King of Bunyoro, Winyi himself was his uncle because Winyi’s father Isingoma Mpuga Rukidi was Kintu’s brother, so that meant that Rukidi was Cwa’s uncle and Winyi, his cousin. If Kalemeera could not revere his blood uncle Winyi and go on to sleep with his wife Wanyana, what would have stopped him from sleeping with a wife of a man who had no blood links with him? There is no reason to exonerate Kalemeera from the accusation; it is more likely that he committed the offence.

When Wanyana got pregnant with Kalemeera’s child, she confided in Katumba who was then a close friend about the affair and the pregnancy. On knowing this news, Katumba advised Kalemeera and his people to flee the kingdom back to Buganda. He feared Winyi would kill Kalemeera and his people. Arrangements were made and Kalemeera left for Buganda with all his people.
Katumba became a paramount architect in laying out the plan of saving Wanyana and her child. He went to Winyi and told him that it had been predicted that one of his wives would become pregnant but to avert the misfortune that would befall him, he should not harm or kill the born child but rather throw the child in a swamp. The king did not doubt Katumba and did as he was advised. A few months later, Winyi learnt of Wanyana’s situation but did not take offence and did as was prophesied to avoid any possible misfortune. Katumba was a potter and always mined clay in the swamp. When the child was born, he was thrown in the swamp. According to Roscoe, the born child was picked by Ssedagala and taken to Katumba because Ssedagala had no wife to look after the child but Nsimbi’s version states that it was Katumba who picked the child at Wanyana’s tip and took him to his wife who was breast-feeding at the time.
Kimera grew up in Katumba’s home as his own child.
*Kalemeera was accused of insulting the Katikkiro (Prime minister), so Cwa forced him into exile at his uncle Winyi king of Bunyoro to go and get hoes to pay the fine.*
Kimera was already married to Namagembe daughter of Makumbi (mbogo clan) when a delegation from Buganda arrived to pick him to inherit his grandfather’s throne. Sebwaana of the lugave (pangolin) clan was on the throne when Kimera arrived with his entourage in Buganda to become king. He did not resist Kimera but just run into hiding never to come back on the announcement of the new king. Kimera came with several clans which he gave estates in Buganda.
His foster father Katumba was made special chief and given the Mugema title. Mugema means to prevent because he prevented the death of Kimera. Mugema to date is the title for the leader of the nkima clan. His role is to dress the king with bark cloth when he is being installed. It is against this story that the monkey clan (nkima Nakabugo) members do not kneel or prostrate before the Kabaka when they meet him because it is the nkima clan that saved the blood of Kintu when they saved the life of Kimera from the wrath of Winyi. These people are regarded fathers of royalty in Buganda. 

Kimera was the third king of Buganda. He ruled for a lengthy period of time but his end was quite tragic. He was clubbed down by his grandson Tembo while hunting a bushbuck. Tembo was avenging his father’s death. His father Lumansi was sent by Kimera to go to Busoga and plunder wealth but fell sick on the way and died leaving the young son, Tembo. The death of Tembo infuriated the mother so much and she blamed it on Kimera. She influenced her grandson Tembo by constantly reminding him that his father Lumansi had been killed by his grandfather Kimera. Tembo planned out a way of killing Kimera. One day, while on a bushbuck hunt, he got an opportunity and struck the king dead. He was exonerated from this crime because he had a good defence. He said his intention was to hit the beast but by accident he struck the king to death. Tembo, succeeded his grandfather Kimera and became the next king. 

The most important fact about Kintu

Totems are symbols that represent clans. A clan is a family group which traces its origin to one ancestor and must have two totems; the principal (muziro) for which the clan is known and the secondary one known as akabbiro. The two were held sacred in the family from one generation to another. Each clan had special names for their children and on mention of a name, clan members would know whether the child belonged to them or not.
Each clan had a freehold estate where they lived and buried their own. A freehold was established of a family if they buried in a given area from three to four generations. Not even the king would chase away such people. That would become their official estates. In Buganda, burial grounds have a special significance as far as ownership of land is concerned. The king’s chiefs were always watching out where the dead were being buried to avoid false claims from the bereaved.
The clan system was quite significant because it united members to help each other and for protection in times of war. Clans were exogamous and restricted incest. A member of one clan had to get a wife of another clan to avoid in-breeding and expand social networks. It is only the mamba (lungfish) clan that intermarried. The system even in this case is not defeated because it can only happen between members whose secondary totems (bubbiro) are different. There are two minor totems within the mamba clan; the fish muguya and the frog. When marriage prevails between the frog and the muguya under the same mamba, it is not incest because family lines are different.
Buganda being a patriarch society, when a woman got married, she adopted her husband’s totem and retained hers at the same time. So in each household, there were four principal totems held sacred and four secondary ones. The head of the family’s totem came first followed by his wife’s totem. The totem of the mother to the head of the family too was respected and much as there was no emphasis on the wife’s mother, that totem too was in the picture. These four major totems and their minor ones made a total of eight symbols making a huge impact on conservation.
The culture of totems in the world is as old as history itself. When people started developing and getting better organized, they needed symbols to identify them. In this particular area of study, this social or kinship division is patrilineal.
In Buganda, clans known as bika (kika singular) are not just family structures that simply trace ones origin only. They are a significant system with judicial powers. Each clan had a division known as a siga and the head of this siga had powers in the dispensation of justice. The siga was followed by enda and the head of this subdivision also could exercise judicial proceedings. Complainants however could appeal to the head of the siga if they were not satisfied with the verdict. The head of the clan had supreme judicial powers and if the two levels failed to satisfy the complainants, they would refer their matter to him. These posts were not hereditary. If a head of a clan died, the heads of the divisions would sit and nominate another person from the section of his clan thereby rotating power. The same applied if a head of a subdivision died.

When the wilderness weeps to preserve mankind amidst his chaos and confusion, man takes no heed to listen partly because there is so much at stake and partly because he does not discern the cry of the wild. When the bees buzz pollinating plants; he does not see beyond honey. When the forests form a splendid lush canopy on mountain tops and the country side; he does not see beyond timber. When birds of the air chirp and display their colourful plumage; his ears hear no music and his eyes see no beauty but possible trade of their feathers, eggs and meat and so goes other species of value in the market place. *The dodo is extinct because the British marksmen were perfecting their shooting targets. The rhino is extinct in Uganda because of its precious horn. The crested crane is now endangered because its habitat has been enchroached upon by man. In the process of displacing the crane, the water filters have been destroyed and all the filth now ends in the great water bodies unchecked. These water bodies incidentally supply man with the very water he consumes.
Our failure to care for the environment reflects the failure to preserve our own culture because in the days when culture prevailed, it protected the environment and the species that dwelled in it. The hills, lakes, swamps and forests belonged to Deities and this idea protected them from abuse, but with the advent of ‘civilization,’ these practices were labeled satanic by new religious teachings and at the turn of the 18th Century, the environment that had been managed by these spiritual forces of influence for thousands of years, faced the wrath of man. Indiscriminate hunting, commercial logging and other associated evils against the environment commenced. Culture in pre-colonial Uganda catered for man, the environment and protected species in their natural habitats but Western influence destroyed this institution, leaving everything in the hands of the law which law could be twisted to suit the selfish.
Some of the decision-makers in this country today come from a background that had no special regard for culture since it was the main obstacle for the colonialists. As the spires and towers of new religions shot high in the skies, cultural erosion was inevitable because ways of life paused a spiky challenge to the new unorthodox norms of belief. It did not matter what good there was in our social world; Good and bad practices were mixed up and thrown out of the system. Culture to date sounds negative to the current generation because it is associated with evil, poverty and backwardness.
There were many excuses and finger-pointing in the past because people did not know how to read and write. That episode is long gone now because the majority of decision makers has this skill and is in a much better position to decide. Culture has to be simplified and re-defined to be understood as a maker of wealth and not a backward force.
For any society to evolve and develop there must be cultural values behind it. These include food, medicine, beliefs, philosophy, dress, housing, transport, music, art, literature, to mention but a few. Culture unfortunately to the modern African elite has a satanic connotation and is therefore best left alone. We need to revisit this position and right the wrong but it is hard to exercise this since most local elites are alliterate.
African food needs better presentation. African medicine needs to be separated from witchcraft to earn the respect it deserves because it does not alleviate disease; it cures. Anthropologists need to study our beliefs and bring out the good causes behind them. Our philosophy of life rhymes better with the environment because it addresses issues in their natural habitat. All it needs is refinement and so goes our art, dress code, literature and music.

The over-hyped suits that opinion leaders of this country revere can never give us identity leave alone its chocking inconvenience. *Mahatma Gandhi could never have motivated the fabric industry of India if he hadn’t publicly denounced the suit and its tie to replace it with the Indian attire. Why as African people do we discern the intricate issues and fail the basic? The new times are calling for going back to check out the roots and see how deep the tap root went to ascertain the future of this gigantic tree that dominates the ground.
Our golden values have to resurface in a new packaging not as an instrument to fight anything but as a resource that everyone needs to know. We and our children must know our origins and learn the good from them. We cannot go on with today and tomorrow when we do not know yesterday because yesterday tells us who we are.