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The Evolution of Chieftainship in Buganda c. 1400-19001

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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.

Affiliations: 1: Makerere University College, Kampala, Uganda


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1. Ebika , Southwold M. "op. cit" E.A. Studies 1960 14
2. Basekabaka op. cit 1940 Makerere University Library
3. Kaggwa Apolo Ekitabo Kyekika Kyensenene 1900
4. Kiwanuka M.S.M. University of London Ph.D. Thesis 1965
5. Oliver R. "The Royal Tombs of Buganda" in The Uganda Journal 1959 Vol 23 124 133
6. Vansina J. "A Comparison of African Kingdoms" Africa 1962 Vol 32 4
7. Katura Victore Munno 1913
8. Low A.D. Oliver , Mathew Oxford History of E. Africa 1964 London 297 35
9. Gomotoka in Munno 1916 23
10. Wrigley C. "The Christian Revolution in Buganda" Comparative Studies in History X Society 1959 Vol 2 33 48
11. M. S. M. Kiwanuka Mutesa of Buganda 1967 Kampala E. African Literature Bureau

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