Prior to the establishment of Kintu’s dynasty, the people who lived in the area that came to be known as Buganda had not been united into a single political entity. The people were organized into groups that had a common ancestry and constituted the most important unit in Buganda’s culture – the clan. Despite a common language and culture, the clans were loosely autonomous. The clan leaders (Abataka) ruled over their respective clans. There was no caste system and all clans were equal. This did not preclude the fact that from time to time, the leader of one clan might be militarily stronger than the others. In such a case, the leader could establish hegemony over the other clans for a time.
There was no generally accepted overall leader however. The leadership would pass to whoever proved his might in battle. There were times when there was no common leader at all if none of the clan leaders could overwhelm the others. Some powerful leaders who are said to have established themselves for periods of time prior to Kintu’s arrival include: Sseguku, Buwumpya, Bukokoma, Bukulu, Bandi, Beene, Ggulu, Kyebagaba, Muyizzi, Bukuku, Bukadde-Magezi, Nakirembeka, Tonda, Maganda, Mukama, and Bemba. According to the most widely accepted version of history, Bemba was the acknowledged leader at the time of Kintu’s arrival.
Kintu came into Buganda as a conquering hero. It is seems that at that time, Buganda was very sparsely populated. There are said to have been a total of five clans in Buganda at that time, now called the original clans (bannansangwawo). These were the Ffumbe, Lugave, Ngeye, Nnyonyi Nnyange and Njaza clans. When Kintu invaded Buganda, he is reputed to have brought 13 clans with him. So it appears that the sheer force of numbers played a key role in Kintu being able to establish himself as king. Another factor may have been that Bemba was a harsh and ruthless ruler. His subjects were already primed to rebel against him and indeed some prominent clan leaders joined Kintu’s invading force. Key among these was Mukiibi, head of the Lugave clan, who was assigned command of the invading force. Follow this link for the complete list of the clans of Buganda.
As an interesting aside, Buganda was the name of the house in which Bemba used to live. This house was located at Naggalabi, Buddo. When Bemba was defeated in battle, Kintu slept in Bemba’s house as a sign of his victory. Thus Kintu became the ‘ruler’ of Bemba’s house. This name eventually came to mean all the territory that Kintu ruled. To this day, when a new king of Buganda is crowned, the ceremony takes place at Naggalabi, to recall Kintu’s victory over Bemba.
After the battle to oust Bemba, there was a general conclave of the clans and clan elders which was held at Magonga in Busujju county, on a hill called Nnono. This meeting was of great historic significance for it was at this meeting that Buganda’s form of governance, and the relationship between the clans and the King was formally agreed upon. Although it was unwritten, this constituted an understanding between the clans that has been followed since then. In essence it set down Buganda’s Constitution. These were the principal attendants at the meeting:
- Bukulu, from Ssese, who chaired the meeting
- Kato Kintu, who became King
- Mukiibi Ndugwa, of the Lugave clan, whose son Kakulukuku was the first Katikkiro of Buganda
- Kisolo, of the Ngonge clan, who also became a Katikkiro of Buganda
- Kyaddondo, of the Nvuma clan who was appointed Ssaabaddu
- Mwanje, of the Ngo clan
- Kagobe, of the Ffumbe clan
- Kayimbyokutega, from Kyaggwe and of the Mpeewo clan
- Kiwutta Kyasooka, of the Mbogo clan
- Nnyininsiko, of the Njovu clan
- Bakazirwendo Ssemmandwa, of the Ngeye clan
- Kakooto Mbaziira, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Bulimo in Kyaggwe county
- Nsereko Namwama, of the Kkobe clan
- Kyeya Mutesaasira, of the Ngo clan
- Nsumba, of the Mbogo clan
- Kisenge, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county
- Kyeyune, of the Nnyonyi clan, from Mirembe in Kyaggwe county
- Mubiru, of the Mmamba clan, from Bumogera
- Mutasingwa, of the Mbwa clan
- Kayimbyobutezi, of the Njaza clan