The Evolution of Chieftainship in Buganda c. 1400-19001

in Journal of Asian and African Studies
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In this paper we have traced the likely origins and developments of the chiefly institution through a period of nearly five centuries. We have examined the kiganda methods of administration and assimilation of conquered populations. We have also investigated the origins and role of Ebitongole and other chiefly categories such as the Abataka, Abakungu and Abatongole. The evidence has shown that there was a great deal of imprecision between the various grades and that their functions overlapped. To categorize them too rigidly therefore would lead to misleading conclusions as it has already done. The Bitongole were not military organisations and there never was a standing army in Euganda. Every able bodied male was liable to military service whether he was a Mutongole or not. Our investigation has shown that chieftainship evolved out of the royal household and the court hierarchy, but it expanded as Buganda extended her frontiers. From about the 18th century the kings gathered the threads of power in their hands and made the monarchy the most important instrument of government. By the mid 19th century, the king of Buganda was one of, if not the greatest despot in the whole of subSaharan Africa. But the situation changed suddenly during the last two decades of the 19th century. A combination of factors such as the onset of European imperialism, foreign religions and the personal tragedy of Mwanga II completely eroded away royal authority. By 1900 the political balance of power was decisively in the hands of the chiefs.

The Evolution of Chieftainship in Buganda c. 1400-19001

in Journal of Asian and African Studies


EbikaSouthwoldM., 'op. cit' (1960) E.A. Studies.

Basekabaka, op. cit, (Makerere University Library, 1940).

KaggwaApolo, Ekitabo Kyekika Kyensenene, (1900).

A detailed study of Kabaka Mawanda's reign will appear in a forthcoming publication, A History of Buganda from earliest times to 1900 by the present writer.

KiwanukaM.S.M., University of London Ph.D. Thesis, (1965).

OliverR., 'The Royal Tombs of Buganda' (1959) 23 in The Uganda Journal: 124-133.

VansinaJ., 'A Comparison of African Kingdoms' (1962) 32(4) Africa.

KaturaVictore, Munno, (1913).

LowA.D., Oliver and Mathew (eds), Oxford History of E. Africa, (London 1964) 297-35.

Gomotoka in Munno, (1916) 23.

The writer's information on Ebitongole was collected in personal interviews in October 1963 especially from Yusufu Kongo of about 80 years old of Kalagi, Kyaggwe.

WrigleyC., 'The Christian Revolution in Buganda' (1959) 2 Comparative Studies in History X Society: 33-48.

This controversy produced a great deal of literature much of which appeared in the Luganda News papers of Munno, 1922-24; Gambuze 1924-1927.

M. S. M. Kiwanuka Mutesa of Buganda, (E. African Literature Bureau, Kampala 1967).

The best example was when in 1922 the then Kabaka strongly recommended a review of the land settlement of 1900, but the colonial government sided with the chiefs, the chief beneficiaries to block this popular measure.


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