The crops and men to the cattle.

The kingdom of Buganda
lay on the shores of Lake Victoria and emerged sometime in the 14th century.
Buganda like many other chiefdom level societies around the world sustained
themselves on a mixture of agriculture, hunting, and animal husbandry. In the
case of Buganda, many clans lived off of cereal and tree crops as well as
bananas, yams, and cassava. Those who lived near Lak Victoria fished. Women
generally speaking tended to the crops and men to the cattle. Once again like other
tribal or clan-based structures necessity forced Buganda to evolve into a more
sophisticated state-level society in order to compete with the neighboring and
expanding Bunyoro kingdom. As Buganda became more stratified they too began to
expand to the North and West developing a powerful army and fleet. Bugandan
Bataka or clan structure was based on about twenty matrilineal clans. Each clan
had distinct identities based around religious cults and shrines known as
Lubare (Robinson 154). Clan relations in Buganda were often fractious which
made it a place where clan struggles were not uncommon and rapid change in the
religious and political landscape was possible depending on the extent of
external and internal pressures. Later outside influences such as Islam and
Christianity helped to dramatically reshape the political face of the country.

palace politics was a place of intense clan competition, intrigue and scheming
mothers attempting to get their children next in line to the throne. As
mentioned previously Buganda clan structure was matrilineal, but Kabakas came
from the father’s line. When a new Kabaka gained the throne he was encouraged to
take more wives in order to cement his authority. It was this system that
fueled clan rivalry within the ruling class itself. (Robinson 154). This
competition was perpetuated by page schools which saw young boys brought to the
palace to apprentice at court. These pages in addition to performing their
assigned tasks also took in the sights, sounds and intrigues of palace life and
learned to emulate the drive for prestige and power. The Kabaka too was a slave
to many of these clan rivalries and tensions. Though he was the head of state
and had the ultimate authority he often found it difficult to operate smoothly
within a system fraught with tension. Even religion and gods were linked to
various clans as were their priests. Clans constantly offered wives to the
Kabaka praying that “their” wife would father the next leader of Buganda. Creating
an environment capable of immense and rapid change and violence brought on by
intense inter-clan competition. Due to the lack of an official state religion,
Islam was able to take root in Buganda virtually unopposed by any native priestly
class. The coming of Islam and Christianity and their theological components
would greatly weaken the Bugandan state and open the door to instability,
revolution and colonization.

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first came to Africa in the form of Arab traders from Oman and other countries
on the Arabian Peninsula. Initially, these traders interacted with locals up
and down the Swahili coast who for one reason or another quickly began to
convert to Islam. Some cite this rapid conversion as a desire to gain wealth
and status. Regardless of reason the Swahili coast soon became heavily Muslim
but the religion did not spread far inland. Islam was rarely practiced in
interior Africa until the second half of the 19th century. The Omani Sultan
Seyyid Said moved his capital from the city of Muscat to the island of Zanzibar
in the 1840s drawn there by the ivory and slaves, which would enlarge the Arab
slave trade significantly. He then extended his control over polities in Kenya
and Tanzania and began organizing caravans to send into the interior of the
continent. Ivory would be sold to burgeoning Asian and European markets and
slaves would be brought back for use on coastal plantations. It was these
Swahili and Arab traders that would bring Islam to interior kingdoms such as

             The first Muslim caravans arrived in Buganda
in the 1840s in search of ivory during the reign of Kabaka Suna. Frequent
visitors to the palace, they developed a close relationship with the ruling
elite as
well as lower classes and began reading the Quran and teaching classes in the
palace. Perhaps spurred by the growing presence of Christian missionaries who
were gradually spreading across Africa, Muslims felt an obligation to increase
the spread and scope of their own faith. Similar to coastal Swahili areas Islam
here too, was seen as a vehicle to greater power and influence in the wider

             Islam gained a greater foothold under King
Mutesa in the 1850s. Mutesa desired to spread Bugandan influence both
militarily and commercially and saw Islam as the perfect vehicle to achieve
those ends. He began encouraging his people to read the Quran and he observed
major Muslim holidays (Robinson 158). Islam spread in Buganda from the top down
starting with Mutesa who by the latter half of the 1860s likely thought himself
a Muslim. With his encouragement, a growing section of the population began to
practice this new religion. Mutesa at this juncture had something of a falling
out with Islam. Rumors
began circulating that members of the court had accused him of not being a true
Muslim due to that the fact that he refused to be circumcised and ate meat that
had not been properly slaughtered by an Imam. Mutesa’s reaction was to have
around seventy-six leading Muslims burned at the stake. These persecutions
would only intensify the 1870s when Mwanga took over control of the Kabaka from
his father whose health was rapidly failing.

             As both Christianity and Islam gained a larger
foothold they began to congregate into the four chieftaincies led by Muslims
and Christians respectively. The Muslims lived in Kapalaga and Katege and the
Christians were concentrated in Nyonyintono and Kagwa (Twaddle 58). This
clustering allowed Mwanga to effectively play these groups off one another.
According to Twaddle the groupings of Muslims and Christian within these four
chieftaincies led to an increase in insecurity within the Buganda kingdom which
in turn introduced an “unpredictable element” into the Bugandan political scene
under the reign of Mwanga (Twaddle 58). Within Buganda, there arose four
favored chieftaincies: those of Ekisalosalo, Eggwanika, Ekiwuliriza,
and Ekijasi (Twaddle 57). These chieftaincies were given various rights and
privileges by Mwanga seemingly without end. Other Bugandans began moving into
these three chieftaincies and brought their guns with them, a commodity that
was quickly become more and more accessible. These three kingdoms became more
and more powerful and gained substantial amounts of firepower. These
chieftaincies, now powerful well-armed and given preferential treatment, became
quite a powerful force. Furthermore, many of the people living in them and in
many parts of Buganda had memories of severe persecution in the not so distant

them were many Christians whose loyalty to the state had not always been of the
first priority. Fearing a potential challenge to his reign, Mwanga demanded
that Christians within Buganda apostatize or face the consequences. Many
refused to do so. As a result, Mwanga did just what his father had done when
his authority was challenged by Muslims, he launched a wave of persecution. In
1886 Mwanga gathered together around fifty Christians who were taken to
Namugongo and executed, including many members of his own court. This would
later prove to be a grave political mistake which would have far-reaching
consequences for both Mwanga and the future of the Buganda Kingdom.

first coup to shake the Buganda state occurred in 1888 after concerns by
leading chiefs that they would be lead to their death should they embark on a
planned raiding expedition. The instigators of this plot were the Muslim
leaders Muguluma and Kapalaga, who did their best to rally Christian chiefs and
clans to their banner. This task was not always easy as Catholic and Protestant
missionaries were encouraging their converts not to participate in the
revolution but instead to flee from Buganda. At the time of the revolution,
there were many Christians within Buganda who favored this option. Without
pressure from Muslim leaders it is doubtful whether Christian chiefs would have
taken part in the coup at all (Twaddle 61). However, in the end, Christians
agreed to take up arms and Mwanga was overthrown in a lighting-like
coup that would usher in an era of quick royal succession and religious tension
not previously seen in Buganda.

on the Buganda throne would be Kiwewa, something of a Luke-warm Muslim. He like
other Kabakas before him refused to be circumcised which did not exactly endear
him to many Muslim members of his court, already upset that their victory had
not given them a greater hold over the government. It did not take long for
this alliance between Christians and Muslims to deteriorate. Many Christians
among the Buganda court and elsewhere who had been practicing in secret amidst
fears of renewed persecution now declared themselves openly. Muslims in Buganda
began to worry that their own position may be threatened by this substantial
increase in Christians. Muslim control over the Kabaka was not unassailable due
to luke-warm Kiwewa, combined with a growing number of Christians the Muslim
power dynamic, so short-lived, was now under threat. In the October of 1888,
this growing rift between Muslims and Christians would explode once again into
bloody civil strife and see Kiwewa wrenched from his still warming throne.

schools of thought, most of which are conjecture, attempt to explain what
happened on that fateful day. Christian sources, mainly from missionaries in
Buganda at the time, claim that Arabs began whispering in the ears of Muslims
in the Kabaka encouraging them to attack Christians and remove them from
positions of power. Wanting to reserve rule of Buganda to Muslims alone.
Another explanation states that Muslims had requested that the position of
palace cook be awarded to a Muslim so that he could properly prepare the food
so as to be fit for Muslims consumption. This was originally agreed to, however,
“a Christian chief Antoni Dungu, insisted on having the post of kauta (cook) and
threatened to fight for it. While both sides were discussing his ultimatum, one
of Dungu’s pages stabbed the Muslim chief Sirimani Lubanga to death” (Oded 16).
However it began it was not a battle that the Christians were destined to win.
In his Muslim Revolution in Buganda
Twaddle explains what most probably happened according to an eyewitness. A
Christian chief Nyonyintono overheard that he was to be replaced as the first
minister by Muguluma. Rumors of Muslim soldiers forming around the capital also
began to reach him just as two Muslim subordinates pointed their guns at him
laughing, followed by a mock salute (Twaddle 65). Throughout the course of the
day a
fight broke out in court, which then turned into a Muslim Christian brawl.
Several Christian chiefs not wanting a bloodbath fled the country. Christian
missionaries on the advice of Arab traders in the country were put in prison
and were later released and forced to leave along with other Buganda Christians
who had initially stayed behind.

 Muslims now occupied and controlled Buganda, though
elements of discontent soon began to stir among the non-Muslim population, now
made up of followers of traditional religions. Muslim rule proved to be too
theocratic and rigid for many, including Kiwewa who devised a plan to assassinate
influential Muslims at court. Muguluma, the powerful Muslim chief mentioned
managed to escape and rallied others to his banner and secured the release of a
Muslim prince from prison. The next day there was a battle in and around
Kyebando, a section of the capital city. Muslim forces were outnumbered but
were able to take Kiwewa captive and by carefully utilizing their guns were
able to secure a victory. With this the Kabaka became a Sultanate and Islam was
expected to be the law of the land. The non-Muslim population now not ready to
admit defeat began to consider a possible alliance with Christian forces. Scattered
bands of Christians found themselves thankful that it was not they who had
begun a theocratic rule in Buganda. The few Christians remaining in the country,
as well as those in exile, realized that if they wished to return it must be in
the form of a partnership with traditionalists in order to overthrow the Muslim

1889 Christians forces once again entered Buganda and fought alongside
traditionalists to oust Muslims from power. The fighting took place in the
capital, which had by this time seen much bloodshed in the space of just a few
short years. The fighting in this battle was of an older and more brutal
archetype — hand to hand fighting. Accounts of the battle paint a picture of
up close and personal combat where guns were more often used as clubs than long-distance
weapons. As the capital city was attacked it became clear that what counted
most was numbers and those numbers were on the Christian side especially
considering the popular support among Bugandans they had at the time. This was
no longer a simple action confined to the palace and chieftains vying for
important governmental positions. It was an attempt by both Christian and
traditionalist factions to not only gain control of the government but to
completely reshape the forces behind it. This would be achieved in the
aftermath of the battle as Christian forces were victorious. The Buganda state
was left in a much-weakened condition and the victorious Christians, once
briefly united, fell back on the age-old bickering between Catholics and
Protestant which would do nothing but undermine an already fragile government and
make it that much easier for British colonial forces to take control.

this period of civil strife in Uganda, the British lion had been exploring in
the area and liked what it saw. In 1889 as Mwanga struggled to maintain his
thrown Britain’s hegemonic rule was threatened as Germany began nosing its way
into East Africa. Various explorers sent out by the National Geographic society
returned to London with tales of gorgeous lands full of fertile soil and
abundant food, perfect for European habitation. Britain’s sparked interest in
Uganda happened seemingly by chance in the form of a rescue mission for Emin
Pasha, a German explorer and eventual colonial governor, born Eduard Schnitzer
and currently the governor of Equitoria, an isolated province cut off from
British Cairo due to a Mahdist revolution. Beginning in 1881 the Mahdist
revolted against British colonial rule in both Sudan and Egypt and now
controlled large swathes of both areas. Emin Pasha was in need of a rescue mission
that would turn into a near disaster and controversial affair. Mackinnon would
then turn his eyes towards Uganda. In 1889 Frederick Jackson an explorer whose
goal it was to open up land between Mombasa and Lake Victoria and if possible
obtain news of Emin Pasha. Mackinnon, well aware of the political climate of
Buganda at the time, ordered Jackson not to engage in exploration in
the area.

Jackson would find was a King eager to keep his throne and ready to accept
outside British help in order to do so despite potential consequences in
future. In direct violation of his orders, Jackson began negotiation with
Mwanga. His offer of help was initially rejected, but Mwanga soon found his
grip on power rapidly fading and was encouraged by his advisors to accept the
British offer for help. Britain, as well as Germany, were well aware that they
could use the current political turmoil to their advantage by playing one group
off the other, which as we have seen was all too easy to accomplish in Buganda.
News began to creep into British territory that Germany was planning a move
into Buganda to secure the territory for themselves and to eject British
influence in the region by supporting the Catholic factions within Uganda. A
move that if successful would ensure that British domination in the area was
threatened, something England was not prepared to accept. The British
consul-general Charles Euan Smith stated that “if Uganda passes under German
influence, the British company has no future before it” (Gjerso 840). The
company referred to the Imperial British East Africa Company or IBEA, which
would up till this point had been a highly profitable venture for its owners.
If Uganda was lost, however, they would be left with too much land that didn’t
have much to offer. They would be left bankrupt.

Britain and Germany began negotiations for who would control East Africa,
Buganda was again in turmoil. This time Kiwewa found himself in the midst of a
palace battle between Christian and Muslims. As mentioned previously this is
the battle where most Christians were told to convert or leave the country. At
the same time Britain and Germany had signed the Hinterland agreement which
lent Uganda to the British Empire. Unfortunately for the new Muslim state this
meant that Christian factions would now receive the support of one of biggest
Empire on the planet. In the subsequent wars in which both Christians and
traditionalists attempted to overthrow the Muslim regime it would be the Christian forces that
would receive international baking.

1891 British troops would enter Uganda under the command of Captain Frederick
Lugard who was tasked with patrolling the area and keeping trade routes open
during the religious conflict still plaguing the country. Lugard was one of
those men possessed with a desire to protect both native people in Africa and
the interests of the British Empire both commercially and in the form of new
territories. While in Buganda Lugard came to see the economic advantages that the
country could supply to Britain rich in the form of ivory, coffee, rubber and
Lugard would later argue to stay in Buganda amidst what would become hotly
debated topic in England. Much of the debate would revolve around a desire to
suppress the slave trade which was once again on the rise, in fact to such an
extent that numbers in slave trafficking had not been as high since the
mid-1870s. Others would argue that to leave Uganda would be a public relations
disaster and would be an embarrassment to the British people and Empire. An
argument that had been used in other parts of the Empire to maintain British
control. In the end it was decided that Britain should stay. The imperial
advantages were too great and a state in the midst of endemic civil strife
would be no great challenge to overcome. In 1893 the British government would
officially take possession of all matters Ugandan and the IBEA Company would

 At first, British colonial rule did not change
Bugandan lifestyle to any great extent. They maintained traditional clan and
Kabaka structure and their economy remained relatively unchanged. However,
Mwanga II and subsequent rulers were gradually degraded by the actions of
Lugard the British colonial government. British commissioners slowly began to
take precedence over Baganda chiefs and even replaced the king in matters of
traditional gift exchange (Twaddle 69). It is tempting to speculate what might
have happened had British colonial interests arrived at Buganda’s doorstep during
a more tranquil period, though the end result would most probably have been the
same. A country wracked by tribal, clan as well as religious differences is not
one that can usually effectively withstand outside pressures. Three coups in
the span of just a few short years had weakened the state significantly.
Britain was able to exploit these differences, playing one faction against the
other to take control of the country much more easily than would have been
possible had they been dealing with a united government.


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