The ancient ethnic nationalities of Africa are so unique and profound that their tales sends shivers running down the spines of any African who truly comes across them. One of such tribes is the Buganda and Rwanda people, who were one of the earliest humans on earth. Their story brings the noble nature of Africa to the fore and screams to the high heavens, the egalitarian nature of the Black race.
During the lower imperial era, the kingdoms of the Great Lakes were exquisite and egalitarian kingdoms and were known for their leadership and social structure. Of these kingdoms, we will focus more on Buganda and Rwanda, which were at that time the most popular and significant of the kingdoms of the Great lakes.
Buganda And Its Origin
There are several accounts to the origin of the kingdom, Buganda. One account says that the kingdom originated from a Kinta. According to the myth, he was the first of humans and his existence corresponds with the birth of the modern man in the Great Lakes region.
Another account says he was a warrior from the neighboring areas who had come to conquer the lands, north of the Great Lakes called Nyanza or present-day Victoria. The story says Kinta might have been the first Kabaka (King of Buganda). Another account says that he was Kimera, prince of the neighboring kingdom, Bunyoro.
In all these accounts, one thing is lucid, the Ganda people have always been at the Great Lakes, which is the origin of the Nile, and are the descendants of the first humans. Buganda only grew to become the most significant of the kingdoms in the 13thcentury, dominating Bunyoro and expanding to a point of covering an area twice as large as Belgium.
The Bugandan System of Governance
The Bugandan system of rulership was in accordance with the African matriarchal system. The Kabaka was placed under the protection of his mother, through the siblings. The queen mother, who also had her own palace and went by the title Namasole, was held in high esteem by the people. The Kabakas sisters were also highly regarded.
However, while the king was succeeded by his sister’s son, in Buganda, he was succeeded by his brother. In the Bugandan system, the Kabaka was supported by a prime minister known as the Katikoro and a council of 10 provincial heads and court dignitaries, known as the Lukiko. In the event of his demise, another king was chosen by the Katikoro and the Mugenia (Chief of the biggest clan).
The economy of the kingdom relied on its rich agriculture. The lands of the great lakes were very fertile lands. Their successful agriculture fed 2 million people. The provincial heads oversaw payments of tax, while officials managed the roads to the capital city. Proof of a boisterous economy is that Kabaka Kyabazu had porcelain wares and glasses in the 17th century. The baGanda were also skilled metalworkers.
Buganda started to experience problems when the English explorer Speke, caused a division in the kingdom. Speke make convinced the Kabaka that he is from Ethiopia and that his people were descendants of King David of Israel. Both the king and queen mother were deceived by this lie, and that made the King want to convert to Christianity. It was the same scheme that led to the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda.
Buganda defense system was considered to be bold and elegant. There was a battle that resulted in the visit of explorer Stanley. The King at the time was able to assemble 125,000 men and 230 boats. Canoes of 25 meters length were designed by baGanda.
Kabaka Mwanga was the last independent king of Buganda. The Kingdom was conquered by the English in 1894 and the king was overthrown. The English gave the new colony which was in the North of Lake Nyanza, the Swahili name Uganda. And though it had been occupied by the English, the kingdom remained strong and revered.
Speke had this to say about Kabaka Mutesa at the end of the 19th century:
“He (Mutesa) sat on a red carpet, lying on a platform, he was scrupulously dressed in a suit drawn from the bark of a tree. On the neck, he had a large ring of pearls, meticulously arranged. On each hand and feet, he carried rings alternately of brass and copper. Everything was light, clean and elegant. At his feet the insignia of royalty, a spear, a shield and a white dog.”
Mutesa II would become the first president of independent Uganda in 1939.
The Kingdom Of Rwanda
The people were known as the baNyarwanda, as they called God KiNyarwanda, just as the Egyptians called God Imana. The people traced their origins to Northern Africa through tales from the Tutsi who were considered the ruling class. In addition, it is suggested that they most likely originated from Egypt having that they showed a lot of similarities with Egypt.
The elites wore hair dresses that were similar in design to the military helmet of the Pharaoh. In other words, they were Northern people who mastered the Southern territories of the Lake Nyanza.
There was a clear and accepted caste system in the kingdom. The Tutsi people were the ruling class, determined by the number of cows they possessed which was not less than 8 and their role in the country’s defense. On the other hand, the Hutu people were the farmers who possessed less than 8 cows.
However, a Hutu could attain the Tutsi class when he met the criteria and vice versa, but the ruling class remained the Tutsi. Both people had the same language, the same God, and were ruled by the same king. The aristocrats were involved in poetry and thinking and the poetic styles of the Rwandan kingdom were created by the queen mother who was called Nyirarumaga.
The baNyarwanda were known for their intense inclination to war, they had really brave wrestlers, they were also known to respect women. According to Yolande Mukagasana, a war had once been temporarily stopped because a woman soldier was unmasked in battle. Women were seriously discouraged from engaging in those fierce exploits. Rwanda at some point became allies with Burundi, making their ties particularly strong.
The Belgian and German occupants of the land would come up with the idea of Tutsi and Hutu being two different ethnic groups and this, unfortunately, led to the Tutsi having a superiority complex that will eventually lead to the infamous Rwandan genocide. That is what the explorer Speke also tried with Mutesa in Buganda.
All over Africa, we are blessed with the memory and presence of the first men – the first humans. At a time when the other part of the world was in darkness, these regions of Africa were beaming in light, industry, architecture, education and all forms of an advanced civilization.
But at every turn where you find misfortune for the African people, there was always a presence of Europeans. Europeans who were either killing the Africans and stealing their wealth or lying to them about their friends and neighbors to cause war.
But even though the Europeans are still bent on dividing and ruling Africa, history and noble tales such as these are important so that Africans worldwide can understand who they are fully and be proud of their heritage.