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History, Precolonial Kingdoms

royal clan, Ankole, Lake Albert, caste system, standing army

Between the 14th and the 16th centuries ad Nilotic-speaking herders migrated south from Sudan, displaced the Chwezi, and established dominance over preexisting farming peoples. The Nilotic speakers formed several kingdoms, notably Bunyoro, south of Lake Albert, and Ankole, west of Lake Victoria.

The kingdom of Buganda, located between Bunyoro and Lake Victoria, also developed about 500 years ago. Buganda, probably formed by a defeated claimant to the Bunyoro throne, steadily expanded over the next four centuries, largely at the expense of Bunyoro. The earliest confirmed date in Ugandan history is 1680 when a solar eclipse was recorded during the reign of Jjuuko, an early kabaka (king) of Buganda. As opposed to the omukama (king) of Bunyoro, who was chosen exclusively from the royal clan and whose chiefs had some independent authority, the kabaka of Buganda could be chosen from any clan. By the 19th century the kabaka commanded total authority over his kingdom, and all power and wealth flowed from him. He did not keep a standing army, but adult males were conscripted for war as needed.

By the 19th century the Ankole kingdom had become a caste system in which Hima herders, ruled by a king selected from the royal clan, dominated Iru farmers. Toro, Uganda’s fourth major kingdom, emerged about 1830 when a disgruntled son of the Bunyoro omukama declared the region north of Lake Victoria that he ruled independent.

Until the mid-19th century, people outside Africa took no interest in Uganda. Arab traders from Zanzibar reached the royal court of Buganda in 1844 with guns and cloth, which they traded for ivory. They also introduced the religion of Islam.

Article key phrases:

royal clan, Ankole, Lake Albert, caste system, standing army, Lake Victoria, herders, religion of Islam, Zanzibar, solar eclipse, Toro, chiefs, guns, centuries, war, adult males, century, power, Africa, cloth, wealth, region, people, years


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