African Stories of Creation: Baganda Part II

The story of the first man is sometimes confused with the story of the First King because they bear the same name, Kintu. However as the story of Kintu-the first man may be considered as a myth or legend, the story of the first king is widely believed to be true and occurred in a place called Naggalabi, Buddo.

Prior to the establishment of Kintu’s dynasty, the people who lived in the area that came to be known as Baganda had not been united into a single political entity. The people were organized into groups that had a common ancestry and constituted the most important unit in Buganda’s culture – the clan. Despite a common language and culture, the clans were loosely autonomous. The clan leaders (Abataka) ruled over their respective clans. There was no caste system and, all clans were equal. This did not preclude the fact that from time to time, the leader of one clan might be militarily stronger than the others. In such a case, the leader could establish hegemony or authority over the other clans for a time.

During that time a ruthless King called Bemba forcefully established his authority over these clans. Bemba was very unpopular because it was believed he was from a place called Kiziba (now in northern Tanzania) where the traditions there deferred from those of the Baganda and because he was a war monger and a cruel ruthless leader.  His palace was in Naggalabi, Buddo from where he organized raidings and grabbed territory from other clans forcing them to submit to him. This dismayed many of the Abataka and they planned to rebel and dispose off Bemba.

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Palace in Buddo where the Wicked King Bemba ruled Buganda .

One of the main ringleaders of the revolt was one Mukiibi of the Lugave clan. He was successful in rallying the clans against the evil king. On hearing word of the revolt planned against him, Bemba and his army hunted for Mukiibi in purpose of killing him before he led the revolt that would overthrow Bemba. Fortunately for Mukiibi many clan leaders were his allies and helped him escape to Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria. The Ssese islands were referred to as the islands of the gods. All the original clans, as well as those that came with Kintu, have important shrines in Ssese. For this reason, some have suggested that wherever Kintu came from, he must have come through Ssese at some point to get to Buganda. That is also why till 1900 Agreement the Ssese Islands were not recognized as a countyand the Kings never established their rule over them.

Ssese

 

A lady enjoying a bike ride on the Ssese Islands- Islands of the gods

While there, Mukiibi continued to seek ways to dispose of the wicked Bemba. This was when he got in touch with a young charismatic and strong man called Kato Kintu. Mukiibi told Kintu about the problems the people in the mainland were incurring due to the ruthless rule of Bemba. Kintu was very annoyed on hearing the great details of turmoil and insecurity in the region and vowed to overthrow Bemba.They organnized a huge army that they would use to overpower Bemba.  Together with Mukiibi  and the army,they were able to sneak back into the mainland and reorder the other Abataka and their loyal subjects growing the size of the rebels.

They then stormed Naggalabi and the Great War over Buganda occurred. Bemba could not manage the fitness and skill of the young energetic Kintu who defeated him and he was beheaded. When Bemba was defeated in battle, Kintu slept in Bemba’s house as a sign of his victory. Thus Kintu became the ‘ruler’ of Bemba’s house and his territory.

After the battle to oust Bemba, there was a general conclave of the clans and clan elders that was held at Magonga in Busujju country, on a hill called Nnono. This meeting was of great historic significance, for it was at this meeting that Buganda’s form of governance, and the relationship between the clans and the King was formally agreed upon. Although it was unwritten, this constituted an understanding between the clans that has been followed since then. In essence, it set down Buganda’s Constitution.

It is here that Kintu appointed his first government and awarded chieftaincies to his prominent followers. For this reason, Nnono is one of the most important cultural and historical sites in Buganda. It is also for this reason that when the people of Buganda talk about issues of deep cultural significance, they refer to them as being of or from Nnono (ebyennono).

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Kabaka Daudi Chwa is carried shoulder high during his coronation to signify defeat over the evil Bemba.

Unlike Bemba, Kintu was an intelligent young man who saw the advantages of uniting the clans instead of dividing them. Kintu cleverly allied himself with the leaders of the original clans and decided to share his authority with the other clan leaders. In organizing the kingdom, Kintu conceded to the clan leader’s authority over their respective clans in matters of culture. Kintu then became mediator between the clans in case of disputes, thus cementing his role as Ssaabataka, head of all the clans. This played a key role in getting him accepted as the king of Buganda.

Rumor has it that in a bid to solidify his kingship Kintu totally dropped the name Kato and even urged his wife to change her name to Nambi knowing the reverence and adornment the people of Buganda had over the first man Kintu. This is why sometimes people mistake the first King of Buganda to be the First man on earth.

Today Naggalabi, Buddo is of great cultural importance to the Kingdom and after the death of a king, the new king is taken here for traditional rituals including enactment of the Great War between Kintu and Bemba. The area has a big traditional thatched palace where the King also has to spend the night in an enactment of when Kintu took over Bemba’s house and slept in it. The caretakers of the site take tourists around the expansive hill and will gladly relay the story of how Kintu became the First King of Buganda!

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Kabaka Mutebi, the current King of Buganda during his coronation in 1993

We organize informative Cultural tours to Naggalabi, Buddo and Ssese Islands for those who would like to relive this part of our rich history!

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