Since written records didn’t kick in until 1862, the oral tradition served as a source of history. At least five different lists chronicle the stories of individuals said to have ruled Buganda Kingdom.
In Buganda Gye Twasubwa (The Buganda We Missed), Dr Adam Nsubuga Kimala, basing on research by Prof Kiwanuka, lists at least 55 Buganda kings, who ruled after Kintu; from Seguku to Bemba. These, however, do not feature on the official and generally accepted record, which the current Buganda government used to commission the portraits of the former monarchs.
In his book, Kingship and State: The Buganda Dynasty, author Christopher Wrigley attempts to contexualise some of these narratives.
He analyses the 1901 book, Basekabaka be Buganda (The Kings of Buganda) published by Sir Apollo Kaggwa. Wrigley throws weight behind Kaggwa’s written narrative. Kaggwa’s story, he observes, is buttressed by much circumstantial detail.
“For each reign, we are given the names of the king’s principal wives and their fathers, the names and clan affiliation of his principal officers, the location of his capitals and of his corporeal remains,” he writes, adding, “The evidence of the royal shrines carries rather greater weight. When a king died, the cadaver was placed in a sealed hut and left to dry out. The skull was then removed and the jawbone, seat of the continuing spirit, was worked loose, wrapped in bark-cloth, decorated and bestowed in a shrine, usually at one of his former capitals. The rest of the body was stored separately, most often in a collective royal graveyard. The location of the cemeteries and the individual jawbone shrines was noted by Kaggwa. Most of them were visited and inspected by a colonial official in 1936 and a record made.
Down memory lane
During the official exhibition of the 31 portraits of the kings on July 31, only six of 36 monarchs had real still photos. These include Muteesa I Mukaabya Walugembe Kayiira (1856 until 1884), Danieri Basammula-Ekkere Mwanga II Mukasa (1884-1888), Sir Daudi Chwa II (1896-1939), Sir Edward Frederick William David Walugembe Mutebi Luwangula Mutesa II (1939-1969) and Ronald Edward Frederick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II (July 1993-present). The profiles of the five do not feature because they are largely known and much has been written and recorded about them.
Buganda Kingdom, according to Katikkiro (prime minister) Charles Peter Mayiga, recently obtained the portrait of Suuna II from Zanzibar.
“The paintings were based on recorded or written history and traditional knowledge with regard to these demised monarchies,” Katikkiro Mayiga told Saturday Monitor, adding, “The paints are for promoting Buganda Kingdom history and heritage.”
Mr Simon Peter Bwanika, the man behind the art and research of the Buganda kings, told Saturday Monitor that the project started in 2015. It all started when he received a letter requesting that the portrait of the 25th Kabaka—Kyabaggu Kabinuli—be painted. The work was completed in 2016.
“We started with the book titled Omuteragga Ku Namulondo written by Sir Apollo Kaggwa and it helped us to get some ideas and information for our first portrait for King Kyabaggu,” he said.
Mr Bwanika added that they interviewed several elders from the kingdom and the royal family, especially those who knew something about the late kings.
Mr Bwanika, however, noted that the work was not as easy as some people think. They met resistance from sources who took them for spies. Others did not want to divulge information because of the age of the researchers.
For the profiles on the list, Baboon Forest Media relied on the official narrative provided by Buganda Kingdom and some information from Wrigley’s book.
Kabaka Kintu (1200-1230)
He is Buganda’s first king of the current lineage that stretches to Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II. It is believed he was a conqueror, a great and fierce warrior. Given the battles he participated in, it is believed his body must have had so many scars.
Kabaka Chwa Nabakka I (1230-1275)
He was Kintu’s heir. Some sources suggest he was Kintu’s brother, but the official Buganda Kingdom position is that he was his son. He was the father of Prince Kalemeera Omutikkizankumbi, who is believed to have resembled his father in both looks and actions. Wrigley writes that Kalemeera was a delinquent son. Kalemeera was sent to stay with his uncle in Bunyoro, where he promptly seduced his host’s wife—Wannyana—and left her carrying the child who would become Kimera, the third king. Cwa disappeared in his turn and Kalemeera died on the way home.
Kabaka Kimera (1275-1330)
He was the son of Prince Kalemeera. He was an excellent hunter and is said to have been so disciplined. He lived for a very long time. His succession rites are said to have involved the use of a calf hide. It was during his reign that Buyungo of the Ngonge (otter) clan discovered the backcloth. He was murdered by his young grandson, Ttembo, who held him responsible for the early death of his father, Lumansi.
Kabaka Ttembo (1330-1360)
He was afflicted with madness after killing his grandfather Kimera. The act is said to have affected him so much that he died young. His son—Kiggala—lay with his sister, who gave birth to the twin branches of the Mayanja River. It is reported that Kiggala ended up blind and impotent. He was mocked by his young wives. Kiggala’s son—Wampamba—married his mother’s brother’s daughter and was, therefore, excluded from the succession. Kayima, the offspring of the union, was nevertheless allowed to become king.
Kabaka Kiggala Mukaabya Kunguba (1360-1380 and 1400-1415)
He was his father, Ttembo’s heir. He is said to have been very disciplined and lived for a very long time. He died when he was very old.
Kabaka Kiyimba (1380-1400)
He was the son of Kabaka Kigala. He became king for some time after his father abdicated due to old age. He was very ugly in his outlook, and people insulted him for it.
Kabaka Kayima (1415-1440)
He was the son of Prince Wampamba, whose father was Kabaka Kigala. He was castigated by his mother, Nnawampamba, after she learnt that he had sired a child with his niece. Kabaka Kayima was very brave and he died during battle in Nyendo.
Kabaka Nnakibinge (1440-1490)
He was the son of Kabaka Kayima and his reign was marked with wars. He sought the services of Kibuuka Omumbaale from Ssese to help him with his battles. This king spent most of his time at war. He was very handsome, and he had a gap between his teeth. He also had grown hair. According to Wrigley, Nakibinge’s succession was disputed by a cousin, who enlisted the help of Bunyoro. Nakibinge won some victories in the ensuing war. Despite supernatural help from Ssese, the island home of the gods, he was eventually slain. In spite of this disaster, his son—Mulondo—was able to inherit the kingdom while still a little boy.
Kabaka Mulondo (1490-1510)
He was Kabaka Nnakibinge’s son. He stepped on the throne when he was very young and when he sat in the Lukiiko (parliament), people could not see him properly. His uncles crafted for him a special chair that became hereditary in Buganda called Namulondo.
Kabaka Jjemba (1510-1530)
He was also Kabaka Nnakibinge’s son. He died when he was of advanced age. This particular king used to refer to himself as very poor.
Kabaka Ssuuna I (1530-1550)
He was also Kabaka Nnakibinge’s son. He was very kind and playful. He challenged a prisoner to a wrestling match and the prisoner beat him. The prisoner left him with a big wound that took a long time to heal. He, however, forgave the prisoner.
Kabaka Ssekamaanya (1550-1590)
He was the son of Kabaka Mulondo. He succeeded his uncle Ssuuna I. He was the father of Kabaka Kateregga. He was very ruthless, which is believed to have led to his assassination with one of his officials—Nnankere.
Kabaka Kimbugwe (1590-1610)
He was the son of Kabaka Ssuuna I. He was a very good leader and reconciled with people with whom he had differences.
Kabaka Kateregga (1610-1650)
He was the son of Kabaka Ssekamanya. Initially, he was badly behaved, instigating fights against his uncle, Kabaka Kimbugwe, dethroning him. He had three children: Jjuuko, Mutebi and Kayemba. All became Buganda monarchs.
Kabaka Mutebi I (1650-1670)
One of Kabaka Kateregga’s children, he loved gods and was the first to build them shrines.
Kabaka Jjuuko (1670-1682)
Another of Kabaka Kateregga’s children, he was much loved by his subjects given his peaceful reign.
Kabaka Kayemba (1682-1690)
Also Kabaka Kateregga’s son, he loved hunting but his reign was very brief.
Kabaka Tebandeke (1690-1700)
He was Kabaka Mutebi I’s son. He succeeded Kabaka Kayemba and was succeeded by Kabaka Ndawula.
Kabaka Ndawula (1700-1710)
The son of Kabaka Jjuuko, he had eye problems. A herbalist reportedly gave him medicine, with instructions to hide in Mengo forest.
Kabaka Kagulu Tebuucwereke (1710-1720)
He was Kabaka Ndawula’s son. He was preoccupied with witchcraft during his reign and is said to have governed Buganda very badly. He mistreated his subjects.
Kabaka Kikulwe (1720-1730)
He was also a son of Kabaka Ndawula. He was very ruthless and his ways were hated by his subjects because he killed members of the Elephant clan because of his hatred for his elder brother, Kabaka Tebuucwereke.
Kabaka Mawanda (1730-1740)
Kabaka Mawanda was the third child of Kabaka Ndawula to become king. He succeeded his brother Kikulwe. He was not only brave but exuded wisdom during his reign. He expanded Buganda’s territory and brought so much wealth to the kingdom from Busoga. According to Wrigley, Kabaka Mawanda pushed the borders far to the north and the east. He is credited with a great increase in the role of centrally appointed chiefs at the expense of local power-holders.
Kabaka Mwanga I (9 days)
The son of Prince Goloona Musanje, he succeeded his uncle Kabaka Mawanda. It is from his household that Buganda kings, to-date, come from.
Kabaka Namugala (1740-1750)
He was also a son of Prince Musanje. His was the first coronation at Naggalabi, Budo. He was a drunkard, but very kind and did not kill people.
Kabaka Kyabaggu (1750-1780)
He was also a son of Prince Musanje. He was very fat, strong and brave. Much of his scalp was bald, which made him look like a very old man. During his reign, many people suffered from smallpox (kawumpuli). He discovered that this was caused by rats. Wrigley writes that Kyabaggu suffered revolts by sons of a former king and more disastrously by his own sons, who then fought against one another.
Kabaka Jjunju (1780-1797)
He was the son of Kabaka Kyabaggu. He was a brave king and he conquered Buddu and Kiziba. He killed many people, including the wife of his brother Ssemakookiro. Jjunju, Wrigley writes, overran the south-western province of Buddu, hitherto in the orbit of Bunyoro, and won a decisive victory over the Bunyoro army.
Kabaka Ssemakookiro (1797-1814)
He was also the son of Kabaka Kyabaggu. He was very handsome and tall, with big eyes. He was very brave. At first, he was ruthless, but he changed in the evening of his reign. Wrigley writes that Ssemakookiro is probably the ablest and most ruthless of all Buganda’s rulers. His reforms ensured that the succession would thenceforward pass more or less smoothly from father to son
Kabaka Kamaanya (1814-1832)
A son of Kabaka Ssemakookiro, Kabaka Kamaanya was slender, tall and brown. Like his father, he had big eyes. He was brave and engaged in many battles.
Kabaka Ssuuna II Kalemakansinjo (1832-1856)
He was the son of Kabaka Kamaanya. He became king when he was very young. He was very handsome, but very ruthless. His subjects feared him. He was very bright and always sought knowledge. He was squint eyed. Wearing of the kanzu started during his reign.
Kabaka Kiweewa (1888) – 72 days
He was Kabaka Mutesa I’s son. He was mistreated by his brother, Rashid Kalema. At one point, the latter imprisoned him for a week without food and eventually hanged him.
Kabaka Rashid Kalema (1888-1889)
He was also Kabaka Mutesa I’s son. He was very enterprising and brilliant. He was Muslim and it was during his reign that Christians and Muslims were at loggerheads.