Kingdoms of Uganda

Kingdoms – Uganda’s Historical roots explained.

The kingdoms of Uganda are very much ingrained in Uganda’s historical roots than its present. They played a very vital role in shaping modern day Uganda. And fortunately, Uganda remains one of the very few countries in Africa where you still find these monarchies.

Uganda experienced colonialism only in the late 19th Century, well after most of the other regions in African had been taken over by European interest. It became a protectorate in 1901 under the British and unlike other regions that were colonised; the monarchies within the protectorate retained a wide degree of self-governance.

Many of the kings that ruled at the time continued to rule despite British interest controlling most of the economic and to a greater extent the political (inter-kingdom) affairs of the monarchies.

In the face of being wiped out in other regions in Africa, the ancient political systems survived the colonial experience in Uganda. Perhaps because of being a protectorate, the grip of European rule was less tight than in the other colonised countries in Africa.

Playing the wider politics meant drifting away from their kingdoms and many of these kings were not ready to let this go. Perhaps ironically, the monarchies that survived the arrival of the British did not survive their departure.

The start of turbulent times as Ugandan history will tell, saw the kings loose hold of the autonomy of their kingdoms and by 1967, the few remaining monarchies were caught deep into the politics of the country and faced with abolition.

It is sad to say but that is the last we saw of these monarchies until 1993 when they were reinstated but only as cultural institutions and not politically active institutions. The real meaning of this arrangement is that the kings have no political powers (which is inevitable if you have a group of followers), no access to tax collection and only receive some funding from the central government.

Having said that; below is briefly what remains of the monarchies of Uganda:

Buganda Kingdom;

The Monarchy occupies the central region of the country and is home to the Capital, Kampala. Its people, the Baganda make, up the largest ethnic group, representing about 17% of Uganda’s population.

Its creation dates way back to the 14th Century with the Kintu dynasty. It grew to become one of the most powerful states in the region by the 19th Century. And with the coming of British interest in the region, it became the centre of the British Uganda Protectorate in 1894 and from which the name UGANDA was adopted by the British.

The largest of the traditional monarchies of Uganda, it is probably one of the best documented of the African monarchies. It remains one of the few were extensive historical, political, sociological and anthropological studies have been carried out.

Busoga Kingdom;

Unlike the typical monarchies in Africa, Busoga did not have central authority at the advent of British rule. It had nevertheless developed small principalities, each with its own hereditary ruler. These principalities were later to be consolidated into its central authority under one king, the ‘Isebantu Kyabazinga of Busoga’.

Given that background, to date, the monarchy is more established as a cultural institution that promotes popular participation and unity among the people of the area and is much run as a royal council of 11 members.

Bunyoro Kingdom;

Also known as Bunyoro-Kitara, the monarchy was created when the Kitara Empire broke apart in the 16th Century. It remained one of the most powerful monarchies in the region until the 19th Century when its territory and wealth was slowly taken by Buganda – much with the help of the British.

When the region (present day Uganda) was declared a protectorate in 1890, Bunyoro resisted. The king was captured and exiled giving more of its territory to Buganda and Toro and most of it was later put under administration of Buganda.

Like all the others, Bunyoro was abolished in 1967 and only re-instated in 1993.

Ankole Kingdom;

The monarchy expanded by annexing territories to the south and east with most of it vast pastoral land. Its creation dates way back before the 19th Century.

Built on Cattle ownership as the symbol of power, wealth and inequality, its people the Hima and the Iru lived separate lives, built on clearly defined rules prohibiting intermarriages that gradually degenerated into one group having superiority over the other based on class, status and royalty.

The Hima who were largely the pastoralist established dominion over the agricultural Iru instituting a society purely based on unequal partnerships.

Incorporated into the British protectorate in 1901, the king, ‘Omugabe of Ankole’ kept his crown although he had little influence over the new governance that controlled his kingdom.

Together with the other monarchies, Ankole was abolished in 1967 and only restored in 1993 with the rest but with officially an un-reinstated king because of disagreements within the ruling clans.

The monarchy remains slackly un re-instated but with a sitting king who is not endorsed by the government of Uganda.

Toro Kingdom;

Founded in 1830 when a prince of Bunyoro rebelled and established his own self-governed monarchy. Briefly reclaimed by Bunyoro in 1876, Toro reasserted its independence in 1891.

Also restored in 1993 but a lot smaller from its historical boundaries that went with the established borders of Uganda after the partition of Africa, Toro avoided any conflict that would occur in trying to reclaim autonomy over the national borders.

Rwenzururu Kingdom;

The monarchy occupies the regions of the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda in the south west.

As a political move by the British colonialists to consolidate the British Uganda Protectorate, by the start of the 20th Century, the Rwenzururu people; the Konjo and the Amba, were forcefully integrated into the Toro kingdom which they initially accepted.

After several attempts in the 1950s to acquire their own administrative district separate from the Toro district, the peoples’ movement declared that they were not part of Toro – 3 month before Uganda’s independence.

Through independence, with the authorities continuing denying them this status, the Konjo and Amba launched a low-intensity guerrilla war calling the armed struggle – Rwenzururu. They declared their own independent monarchy of the Rwenzururu in June 1963.

They continued with the movement and struggle to establish their autonomy facing strong resistance from Toro. They fought on through the 70s and early 80s.

And in a survey carried out, with over 80% of the people in favour of the creation of the monarchy, the kingdom of the Rwenzururu was finally endorsed as a cultural institution in March of 2008.