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Uganda's ‘true’ religious history after 120 years

By Bwanika Daniel <> (bwanika), [31 July 1995]

Bunyoro-Kitara and Buganda were one and the same Kingdom; the descendants most Ugandans were black Hebrews; the Christian missionaries arrived here many years after Christianity had been around with us. (Check Basil Davidson wrtings about Christinity in the Sudan)

This history has been taught to Ugandans for decades, that Kabaka (king) Muteesa I asked H. M. Stanley to invite English missionaries to introduce Christianity in Buganda where it never existed at all before. This invitation was published as a letter in the London Daily Telegraph of November 15, 1875.

This history is a lie. Christianity already existed in Buganda long before the English missionaries came to Buganda in response to what was published in the Daily Telegraph purportedly upon a request from King Muteesa I. Unfortunately, this lie is not the only one. This falsehood has done great harm. I believe the problems of national and international politics of every African country is directly related with the problems of its political history. The more authentic is the history of a fine society, the more likely the society is likely to succeed in its natural and international politics - by way of attaining unity, stability and development. The more utopian and falsified is the history, the more tumultuous the society will be, and this will hamper its unity and development. The distortion of Uganda history in fact touched even the basic institution like the marriage of kings.

Take the one about the marriages of the Basekabaka (kings) of Buganda , that "The king of Buganda does not marry a foreign princess." The evidence is that all marriages of Basekabaka were uniquely political in that they were determined by the society and not by the Kabaka concerned, not indeed by the princess he was going to marry. The main purpose of this practice was for the unity of the Kingdom and government.

Speke recorded material evidence which corroborates the statement that all marriages of the Basekabala were uniquely political. When he was with the Kings of Usui in Unyamwezi, he learned that the daughter of the king , who was earmarked to be the wife of King Muteesa I had just died and that her father, the King of Usui, was very worried about what would be the Kabaka's reaction. Also that the king and his councillors were in the process of selecting another daughter to married to Kabaka Muteesa I. At the palace of king Muteesa I Speke noticed that many of the Kabaka's wives were Wanyamwezi. He had between 300 to 400 wives.

Politics of Marriage

Then when he was with Mukama Kamurasi (king of bunyoro), Speke noticed the difference in the colour of the Kabaka's and Kamurasi's skins. King Muteesa I was dark skinned and Mukama Kamurasi was light brown. Speke enquired to know how the complexions of two brothers could be different. In reply, Mukama Kamurasi stated that public traditions governing the marriages of the Abakama( kings in Bunyoro Kingdom) and Basekabaka were different. Whereas marriages of Abakama were restricted to daughters of specific and particular kings within the greater Bunyoro-Kitara Empire, those of the Besekabaka were not, because by legal traditions Basekabaka had to marry a daughter of each of the kings of the Kingdom-states in the Great Buganda Empire. That since some of the lesser kings (district kings) secretly got married to daughters of commoners, that subsequently affected the stock of women the Basekabaka married.

The principles governing marriages of the basekabaka applied to all the kings in the then great Bunyoro-Kitara. Mukama Kamurasi married the daughter of one of the Kings of Bulega ( Bulega is now in Zaire). She was the queen who mothered Mukama Kabalega ( next king to Bunyoro throne son of Kamurasi) . Kabalega married 138 wives, one of them was a daughter of one of the Kings of Wakamba (who are now are in Kenya). It's worth mentioning that the products of that marriage beneficially dominated Kenya politics of the 1940-1970s.

Speke also reported about the marriages of King Rumanika and King Ntare. Interestingly both of them married five wives from the same Kingdom-states including Kidi (north), Unyamwezi (south) and Nkore (central). Ntare's wife from the north is said to have come from the present Acoli land. Since the Sekabakas married in his empire, this gives an idea to the territorial extent of the sovereignty of the then Great Buganda King.

Political symbols.

How far did these ancient kingdoms stretch? One clue is in royal symbols. The animated animal political symbols of Buganda, which was the same Kingdom as Bunyoro-Kitara or vice versa were Lion and Elephant. Lion was a political symbol which signified Royalty and elephant signified Power. These two symbols were the symbols of the Holy Royal House of Shua; and also of the Kingdom of Meroe.

For instance, Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia was addressed as "the conquering Lion of the Judah." Kabaka of Buganda was addressed as "Mpologoma" ( Lion). And both the Kings of Nkore and Karagwe were addressed as "Ntare" i.e. Lion. Rev. J. Roscoe in his 1911 book, The Baganda explained that the lion was the first totemic animals among all the Baganda, and that it belonged to all the totemic clans in addition to their individual totems. In short, common totems signified common entities, or oneness of a people. A revealing incident occurred during the official visit of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia to Sir Edward Muteesa II in 1961 which was connected with lion as a political symbol of royalty. The Uganda protectorate government decorated buildings , roads , Entebbe airport, etc., with lion posters and leopard poster. The leopard was meant to be the symbol of the Kabaka. This enraged the bataka ( i.e. the nobility of Buganda Kingdom), so before the motorcade of the kabaka passed to go to welcome his guest at Entebbe Airport, all the leopard posters had been removed. The posters were also removed from Entebbe and in the premises of the Uganda national assembly. All that they were saying was that both Haile Selassies and Sir Edward Muteesa II were the Royal lions and none of them was a leopard.

The inanimate political symbols of Buganda also known as Bunyoro-Kitara were the royal sceptre, which was kept by the Mukama; the royal drum, and pair of royal swords kept by the Kabaka. The royal sceptre signified national sovereignty. When Samuel Baker visited Mukama Kabalega, he saw the entire royal retinue; each one had a royal sceptre in his hand, with Mukama Kabalega leading and King Okwonga of Karuma at the tail end. They were five, all together in their retinue. Baker drew up a sketch of them as they walked in a single line like bishops in the church.

This leads us to an interesting mystery. All the Europeans who visited East Africa then had photographic kits and so did Baker and Stanely. If the photographs displayed primitivity they would have been published. It is reported in Uganda Journal,

The royal drum signified royality whereas the pair of royal swords signified Power. Rev, Robert Ashe witnessed this and recorded it in his book, Chronicales of Uganda, published in 1894. He described the decorous sitting arrangements of the Great ' Lukiiko ' (National Legislature). Kabaka sat on a throne, high up on a dais; immediately below him on the lower dais stood the royal drum flanked on both sides by the royal sword, crossing each other on top of the royal drum. Still on another dais below sat the Katikiro / Pokino (prime minister), and the lowest dias in front of the Katikiro / Pikono all facing members of the Lukiiko.

Holy Tree

Another animated political symbol of Buganda alias Bunyoro Kitara was the holy (sacred) tree in Mubende. This tree was a symbol and instrument of national unity. It was the driving force signifying the founding father of the empire, Patriarch Kintu himself. It is called "Kac" in both Luganda and Luo. It was before this tree where the House of Kings of Bunyoro-Kitara alias Buganda used to meet, at least three times a year at regular intervals. The last meeting was held immediately after the Nakasero pronouncement when the British troops temporarily took over power in Kampala. The meeting was convened to discuss the incident, in which Kabaka Mwanga escaped assassination, and he rushed to Unyamwezi to fetch his troops, where they were stationed as troops of the national Army of Bunyoro-Kitara, alias Buganda.

Soon afterwards, Kabaka Mwanga returned with a large number of troops to attend the extraordinary meeting of the House of the Kings in Mubende. He was accompanied by a number of the Kings of Unyamwezi including a senior King of Wasukuma, and the Katikiro (prime minister) joined them at Masaka where he was waiting for them in his Palace.

All senior Kings who were members of the house of Kings converged on Mubende to attend the extraordinary meeting. Each one of them came with troops in readiness for war. Sir Tito Owiny who was about ten years old accompanied his father, Mukama Kabalega, who presided over the extraordinary meeting. After the meeting both the national Kings went to the north: Kabalega went to Lukung as his new capital; and Mwanga went to Lututuru / Agoro. Early in 1971, before the Idi Amin military coup d'etat, a group of people from Mubende went to Hoima to interview Sir Tito Owiny about this meeting and other historical events concerning the then Great Buganda, alias Bunyoro-Kitara, the group was led by Samwiri Mugwisa.

Tito Owiny's story

Sir Tito Owiny told the group that Bunyoro- Kitara and Buganda were one nation before they opposed their rule. This confirmed what he wrote to the British Government on his return from political banishment in Seychelles. He wrote to complain of the division of Bunyoro- Kitara as a nation- state in to many parts. The evidence by Sir Tito Owiny was corroborated by Masaka elders in 1969 and ex-Rwot Odida, ex-Rwot Obol and Ex-Rwot Ludoviko Oryem, all of Acoli district then in 1962. Their fathers were close associates of Kabelega and Mwanga.

Another political symbol of great importance is the Flag. Certainly Buganda, alias Bunyoro-Kitara, had a national anthem (Isamailai) and national flags, although their colours are not known. The existence of a national flag or flags is recorded by political events.

For instance, Samuel Baker removed the national flag of Bunyoro-Kitara and replaced it with that of the Khedive of Egypt in Masindi area where King Ryonga (Rionga) was in charge. This angered Kabalega who summarily dismissed King Ryoga for allowing Baker to do so. Similarly, here were frequent skirmishes between Baker's troops and those of Bunyoro-Kitara in Patiko, Gulu District, over the issue of the national flag. Baker wanted to remove the national flag and replace it with that of the soldiers of Bunyoro. Kitara prevented him. The national flag was flying on a hill known in Patiko as "Gotladwong." It is believed that Kintu (Labongo) once lived there, that is why it is called "shua Hill."

Odwar's business

Related to the national flag as a political symbol, is the Christian Crusaders' flag. This holy flag was also in Bunyoro-Kitara alias Buganda. It is not known when it was brought into the Great Empire. However some of the founders of Buganda / Bunyoro-Kitara are believed to have been Christian crusaders who took part in the Saracens on the East coast of Africa. Today, one or two of the Christian Crusaders flags are found in Kitgum district. One is kept in Naam Okora Divison and another one in Agoro Divison. It is a white flag with a red cross in the middle, just like the flag of the Red Cross. But these ones have been kept by the natives from time immemorial. They look up to them as scared ancestral flags for war. In Naam Okora during the 1950s when the author of this paper was a young boy, they used to have a day in a year to commemorate it with war songs. A man called Yakobo Odwar was in charge.

Monarchical structures

It is believed that the King of Shua gave these the flag. However it is not clear if the Royal House of Shua was [an] extensive Kingdom which ruled many parts of Africa. However, in Naam Okora, Chua (shua) country, it is known as Badere-pa-Opere, i.e. Opere's flag. Opere was one of the commanders of the army of Bunyoro-Kitara, alias Buganda, in Northern Uganda. After the international war in which Kabalega and Mwanga were captured, Opere's descendants and clan settled in Naam Okora, together with the descendants and clan of the King of Shua who was assigned to look after Kabalega in Lukung, Lamwo country. Some of the soldiers who were assigned to look after Kabaka Mwanga in Agora also came and settled in Naam Okora. It is therefore possible, that this Christian Crusaders' flag was also the war flag of Kintu, and his descendant from Bunyoro-Kitara alias Buganda . However, what is relevant is that Christian crusaders' flag was brought into Uganda before colonial rule by the Holy Royal House of Shua, to which Chua county in Kitgum belongs. The flag could have belonged to King Alata, who was looking after Mukakama Kabalega; or it could have belonged to Kabalega himself as a National War flag.

To understand the relation of events, we must first explain the various concepts. To begin with , there is decentralised functional monarchy, which is a system of monarchical government in which state powers are functionally distributed among the kings in the nation, both vertically and horizontally, at every segment of pyramidal structure of government. All governments formed in Africa resulting from the fall of the Roman Empire were decentralised functional monarchical governments. E.g. the government of Bunyoro-Kitara, Sudan, Ashanti, Zimbabwe, Kongo (congo), etc.

Taking Bunyoro-Kitara as a case study, the pyramidal structure of government was vertically divided into national government (empire) Kingdom-states, provincial kingdoms (princedoms) and district kingdoms. Below the district kingdoms or princedoms were chieftaincies such as county chiefs, gombolola chiefs, muluka chiefs. All governmental units, i.e. national empire, Kingdom-states, provincial-kingdoms and district kingdoms were very big indeed. For instance Nkore (Kore) Kingdom state started from an island on lake Nalubare (Victoria) to Rwanda, and roughly from River Kafu to Buzibba. H.M. Stanley met officials from Nkore on the Island and they told him that there was the boundary between Unyamwezi and Nkore. Kidi Kingdom-state roughly started from River Kafu to latitude 5 degrees north and from lake Turban to Lake Kivu , now in Zaire.

Types of Kings

Horizontally, at the apex of the pyramid of nation-state there were three functional Kings, namely the national patriarchal monarch, the national temporal monarch and the national spiritual monarch. Briefly the national patriarchal monarch was the Father of Bunyoro-Kitara, alias Buganda; patriarch Kintu. His main functions included appointments of Kings upon the election by a committee of the scared Guild of elders (Holy house) who also represented him at funeral and burial rites throughout the Empire. He was de facto and de jure , chairman of the Holy house of Kings, which was the cabinet of the Empire. In short he had both temporal and spiritual powers. Declaration of international wars was his sole prerogative. The national temporal monarch was de facto and de jure chairman of the National Legislature (Great Lukiiko) and head of Government business. In that regard he was responsible for defence, international trade, etc. Then the national spiritual king was responsible for public, spiritual and moral affairs as well as agriculture, cultural heritage , etc. In that respect he was responsible for immoral crimes against the state. For instance, Semei Kakaungulu was sentenced to death by furnace by the Kamuswaga who was the spiritual monarch of Buganda, alias Bunyoro- Kitara. But he was going to executed on the order of Kabaka Mwanga who was the national temporal monarch. It is significant that during the international war of colonial conquest, none of the belligerent forces went to fight the Kamuswaga because they all looked upon him as a holy king responsible to God for human souls. Those who went to his palace reverently respected him.

Bantu simply means people who speak African languages south of the Sahara with prefix m (singular) and Ba (plural) , e.g. mtu (a person) and Bantu (people), It is linguistic classification of people without any biological descent. It was coined by a librarian in the Republic of South Africa as a derogatory classification of black people.

Hamites and Nilotes

Hamites is a biblical classification meaning descendants of Ham of the Bible for the three sons of Noah; Shem, Ham and Japheth. The Hamites are supposed to be the people of Karamoja and Teso (Nile hamites). However, during the reign of Bunyoro-Kitara the ethnology of the people of Karamoja and Teso was the same with the rest of the empire. Both Speke and Stanley described the ethnology of the population of Buganda, alias Bunyoro-Kitara as semi-Shemites. This means that the population of Bunyoro-Kitara alias Buganda, before the colonial rule were Shemites; descendants of Shen of Holy bible. This classification is authentic. It has not been properly established whether the population of Bunyoro-Kitara, alias Buganda, were descendants of Benjamin or Asher, the two sons of Israel. However their mother were Cushites (black).

The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained in Israel after the Israelites by Emperor Shalmanester, until the fall of Jerusalem during the Christian crusaders' war. When Rome fell the Benjaminities emigrated to Africa. There research traces Bunyoro-Kitara to Benjamin and not to Asher. It might also said that the population of Ugandans are black Hebrews, that the bulk of present Ugandans and not Bantu as people have been made to believe. Nilotics is a geographical classification. It has nothing to do with biological classification. Nilotics simply means people who live along the Nile River or in the neighbourhood of the River Nile, and who do not speak the Bantu languages. And River Nile starts from west of Burundi and flows as River Kagera to its water reservoir Lake Victoria ( Nalubare or Ukerewe ).

The Great War

This sets a context for understanding the 1862-1899 war. It was between Britain, Belgium and Germany in the war of colonial conquest, 1862-1899. Queen Victoria specifically declared war against Kabalega as the Patriarch of Bunyoro-Kitara. The war was intended to capture both Kabaka (king) Mwanga and Omukama (king) Kabalega of Bunyoro-Kitara alias Buganda . The war that was fought in Buganda was not a civil war resulting from the religious differences between Catholics and Protestants or Christians against Islam. It was war between those who were supporting the government of the time led by Kabaka Mwanga and Kabalega and those who were supporting the colonial forces. The British, German and Belgium troops were directly involved in commanding the battles throughout against Bunyoro-Kitara. It is important to note that Catholics were divided. Those of the white fathers (French) supported the existing regime because France was supporting not only Mwanga and Kabalega but also Sudan and Ethiopia, etc. The Roman Catholics of Italian faith and those of the English Missionaries were against the existing order. In other wards, because Italy and Britain were fighting Sudan, Ethiopia and Bunyoro-Kitara they used their missionaries during that war, not civil war in Uganda then.

It is important to point out that the King of Ukerewe (Lake Victoria), King Lukongwe, the commander Gabrial and the Pokino, fought the war to the bitter end. And it is false to say that people who lived in the present Buganda betrayed the population of East Africa then. If anything, they suffered most because the national kings were all in the present Buganda. The Pokino / Katikiro (prime minister ) was fought by colonialists at the same [time] they were fighting King Luba in Busoga, because the two kings were senior Kings of Buganda, alias Bunyoro- Kitara. And it was the same war which was raging in the North against Kabaka Mwanga and Mukama Kabalega.

Kabaka Mwanga and Kabalega Kabalega [were] in the exile on the Seychelles island where they were taken by the British after a bitter defeat.


The Kingdom of Shua (Chwa)" which has its links to the peoples of Sudan, Ethiopia, down to Zimbabwe and Zambia, Azania etc. May be one will start by asking what the difference is between a Hamite and a Bantu and the etymology of those two words? And where such concepts are gotten from? Then one will start reading deep into the history that was never to be!

Ashe, Rev.R.P; Chronicles of Uganda, London , 1894.

,, ,, Two Kings of Uganda, London, 1899.

Baker, Sir S.W.; Ismailia, Vol. II, London, 1874.

,, ,, ; Albert Nyanza, Vol. 1, London 1886.

Dunbar, Ar.; European Travellers in Bunyoro-Kitara, 1862-1877. Uganda Journal, Vol. 23, No. 2, September, 1959: 101- 115.

Dunbar, A. R. The British and Bunyoro-Kitara , 1891-1899, Uganda Journal, Vol. 23, No. 2 September 1960: 299- 241.

Gray , Sir John Milner,; John Kirk and Muteesa, Uganda Journal , Vol. 15, No. 1, March 1951: 1-15

Gray , Sir John Milner Rwot Ochama of Payera, Uganda Journal, Vol. 12, No.2 September 1948.

,, ,,, Diaries of Emin Pasha- Extracts, Uganda Journal Vol.25, No1, March 1961.

Crazzolara, Fr. J.P., The Hamites - who were they? Uganda Journal Vol.33, Part 1, 1969: 41-48.

Dunbar, A. R..; Emin Pasha and Bunyoro-Kitara, 1891-1899 Uganda Journal, Vol.24, No.2, March 1960: 71-83.

Cunningham, J.F., Uganda and its people, London , 1950.

Collins, R.O.; The Turkana Patrol, 1918 Uganda Journal, Vol.25, No.1 March 1961: 16-33.

Austin, H.H.; With Macdonald in Uganda, London, 1903.

Macdonald, J.R.L Soldering and Surveying in British East Africa London 1897.

Sister of Mackay, A. M. Mackay, Pioneer Missionary of Church missionary society, London 1890.

Speke , J. H. Journal of the discovery of the source of the Nile Jordans, 1863.

Stanely , H.M., In Darkest Africa, Vols. I & II , London 1876.

Stigand, C. H., Equatoria: The Lado Enclave, Constable, 1923.

Syke, Sir J., The eclipse at Biharwe, Uganda Journal , vol. 23, No 1, March 1959: 44- 50.

Tucker, A. R. Eighteen Years in Uganda and east Africa, London 1908.

Wilson, C. T. And R.W. Felkin , Uganda and the Egyptian Sudan, London 1882.

There are more books which I have not noted here which have far more interesting facts about Uganda than you can believe. For instance [an] archaeologist found a sculpture of a head thought to be of a Queen or a King at Lugazi, The book is at the library here I will try to re-read it and pass on the facts.

Have a good reading,