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How Uganda came to have its name

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FACE2FACEAFRICA 20 MAR 2020

he name of independent Uganda comes from the ancient kingdom of Buganda, which rose to prominence in the 18th century in the East African territory that is now the area we call Uganda.

While Buganda is the place, the people are referred to as the Ganda or Baganda. Like many of the people in East Africa, the Ganda is a Bantu ethnic group.

Currently, the Ganda account for more than 17% of Uganda’s population, making them the biggest ethnic group in the country. This invariably means that their Luganda language is also the most spoken.

Indeed, it is technically right to argue that Uganda is simply the modern Ganda nation. As a result of the centrality to Ugandan identity and history, the Ganda people are better described as a subnational kingdom as opposed to an ethnic group.

So, how did an ethnic group become synonymous with a whole country One can critically argue that if British colonization had not interrupted the natural history of the people, we may even today still speak of a Buganda nation, in the strictest sense of the word.

In pre-colonial times, the agrarian Ganda people established a strong kingdom by the middle 1800s. Crop cultivation and animal husbandry were not the only activities the Ganda engaged in. They were also acclaimed metallurgists.

Like many African peoples whose ways of life were disturbed by Europeans, the Ganda kept a social and political system. They had their faith and their deities, too.

But by the 1880s, the Ganda were split into different faiths, namely, those who identified with the local traditions; Catholics who had been proselytized by Iberian explorers; Protestants, as well as Muslims who had been influenced by Islam that had taken root in East Africa around the 16th century.

Each group tried to assert control over Buganda. But by 1894, the Protestants seemed to have won the struggle as their political backers, the British, consecrated Buganda as a protectorate.

But British power was entrenched in 1900 with the Uganda Agreement of 1900. The agreement was disguised by the British as a solidification of Protestantism in the small kingdom. However, what the agreement of 1900 turned out to be was a veil behind which Britain basically controlled the local kingdom and its resources.

In 1962, the area that had been internationally known as Uganda at least, since 1900, gained independence from British control.

Led by Milton Obote, Uganda’s founders stuck with the name. It was after all, the place of the Ganda.

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