Baganda, not Just a Tribe, but a Way of Life

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By Ian Ortega

I was raised as a Muganda. The more I have traveled, the more I have come to appreciate the beauty of Buganda. I have come to hold dear ‘Akaalo Ka Buganda.’ There is something about Buganda and Baganda, the kind about which you say; ‘if you know, you know.’

Unlike other tribes, being born a Muganda is not what qualifies you as a Muganda. It could help you score points towards becoming a Muganda, but it is not enough in itself.

Anyone can become a Muganda. That’s how Buganda has been growing over the years. That’s why from the five original clans (Bannasangwawo), Buganda has grown to over fifty clans.

There are things that make you a Muganda. First and foremost, you must acknowledge the Kabaka. Kabaka is the pinnacle. We look to that office. We honour it.

Once you have acknowledged the Kabaka, you must have your language at heart. Olulimi. This is the richest of languages. Luganda evolved from Olusangeye, the one we spoke when Buganda was still called Muwawa.

There is a way a Muganda speaks. There are things a Muganda cannot mention. Omuganda Tawemula. The language is so rich that anything can be hidden in plain sight. And that language comes with ebisoko, ebikokyo, engero etc. To be a Muganda aggumidde, you must speak the Luganda language.

When you are done with a language, there is something called ‘Empisa Za Baganda.’ A Muganda is expected to behave a certain way, smile a certain way, talk a certain way, sleep a certain way. There is a refinement to everything. Baganda are trained in the art of welcoming visitors, in the art of hosting. There is even a way we greet. There are moments for ‘Nkulamusizza’ and ‘eradde.’ I remember my mother would shout at us for things as simple as ‘okusimba olukono’ or eating while ‘kuswankula.’ There is a way a Muganda eats. Things like Okwebajjagala were frowned upon.

So there is ennono, obuwangwa and obulombolombo. Once in a while, the Kabaka can kudibya some bulombolombo. But it is a combination of all these things that make one a Muganda.

For example, you can’t even call yourself a Muganda unless you can kulanya (Okutambula ng’Omuganda). You must be able to walk from ‘Enju’ or ‘Olugya’ all the way to the Kasolya. In doing so, we get to understand how you originally entered Buganda.

Everyone in Buganda has a role. An Uncle has a specific role. Your Ssenga has a specific role. Your Kizibwe has a role. A Mujjwa has a role.

There are things that are not expected of a Muganda. Omuganda takola maalo. Omuganda teyeemalaamu. Omuganda yeewa ekitiibwa. Omuganda tafugwa. In Buganda, the Kabaka doesn’t rule, atulamula.

Anyone once they learn the ways of the Baganda can become a Muganda. That’s how Obote became a Muganda and was named Bwete. But then he behaved in a way that was unlike the Baganda. That’s why the Baganda can never forgive Obote yet adore Amin (because he brought back Omwana Wa Muteesa). Omuganda takola nkwe. Omuganda teyeetunda.

Understand that when you say you are a Muganda, there is a responsibility upon you. You are not just born a Muganda. You must portray the fact that you are a Muganda. Omuganda Talya mu kyalo. Omuganda takola mululu.

And when you look at all the heroes of Buganda, they stand for these things. They have these core values. You read the story of Kibuuka and see that in him. The courage, the zeal, the honour.

I don’t know about other tribes beyond the Baganda and the Luo. But for the little I know about Baganda and Buganda, it is not just a tribe, it is a way of life. It is a lived experience.

I would love to hear about other tribes. How is it done? What is that hidden code to how you do your things?


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