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1 Uganda

2 The Traditional Kingdoms

a. Ankole

b. Buganda

c. Bunyoro Kitara

d. Busoga

e. Toro




Nilotic people, including Luo and Ateker entered the area from the north probably beginning about AD 100. They were cattle herders and subsistence farmers who settled mainly the northern and eastern parts of the country. Some Luo invaded the area of Bunyoro and assimilated with the Bantu there, establishing the Babiito dynasty of the current Omukama (ruler) of Bunyoro-Kitara. Luo migration proceeded until the 16th century, with some Luo settling amid Bantu people in Eastern Uganda, and proceeding to the western shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya and Tanzania. The Ateker (Karimojong and Teso peoples) settled in the north-eastern and eastern parts of the country, and some fused with the Luo in the area north of lake Kyoga.

When Arab traders moved inland from their enclaves along the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa and reached the interior of Uganda in the 1830s, they found several kingdoms with well-developed political institutions. These traders were followed in the 1860s by British explorers searching for the source of the Nile River. Protestant missionaries entered the country in 1877, followed by Catholic missionaries in 1879.


Colonial Uganda

In 1888, control of the emerging British "sphere of interest" in East Africa was assigned by royal charter to the Imperial British East Africa Company, an arrangement strengthened in 1890 by an Anglo-German agreement confirming British dominance over Kenya and Uganda. The high cost of occupying the territory caused the company to withdraw in 1893, and its administrative functions were taken over by a British commissioner. In 1894, the kings of Buganda, Toro, Ankole and Bunyoro were placed under a formal British protectorate.


Independent Uganda

Britain granted independence to Uganda in 1962, with the first elections held on March 1, 1962. King Mutesa II of Buganda became the first president (1963-´66). On 9 October 1962 Uganda became a republic, within the British Commonwealth.

In succeeding years, supporters of a centralized state vied with those in favor of a loose federation and a strong role for tribally-based local kingdoms. Political maneuvering climaxed in February 1966, when Prime Minister Milton Obote suspended the constitution and assumed all government powers, removing the positions of president and vice president. In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic, gave the president even greater powers, and abolished the traditional kingdoms.

In 2001 the first kingdom, Buganda, was restored.  Since then nearly all traditional kingdoms have been called back to life. The youngest of all kings, his Highness king Oyo of Toro was crowned at 4 yrs.








The symbol of the  Imperial British East Africa Company was a crowned sun radiant with the motto LIGHT AND LIBERTY.





The badge of Uganda Protectorate was a crested crane. On the Union Jack this was displayed within a garland of laurel. It is known from about the first governors: Sir Harry Cordeaux            (1910 - 1911) or Sir Frederick Jackson (1911 - 1918 ). After 1920 it was displayed on the blue ensign.




Badge (on Union flag with garland): Or, a crested crane (Balearica pavonina gibberifrons - Balearicidæ)  proper.




09.10.1962 - Present



An achievement  was adopted by the National Council, three weeks before the proclamation of independence. On 1 October 1962 it was approved by the Governor and fixed by law on 9 October [1]. The achievement is:


Arms.: Sable, upon the fess point a sun in splendour and in base a Uganda drum Or, the skin and guy ropes Argent, a chief barry wavy of six Azure and Argent.

Behind the shield two Uganda spears of estate in saltire proper.

Supporters: Dexter a male Uganda kob (Adenota kob thomasi - Bovidæ); sinister, a crested crane (Balearica pavonina gibberifrons - Balearicidæ), both proper.

Compartment: A grassy mount down the centre of which flows a river, between dexter a sprig of coffee and in sinister a sprig of cotton, both leaved and fructed proper.


By law, 9.x.1962.

ð See illustration in the head of this essay.






The Waves

In the Ugandese coat of arms the waves symbolize Lake Victoria and Lake Albert


The shield

The coat of arms has the lentil-shaped form of an African shield, common in East-and South Africa.

The shields of the Ganda warriors in the 19th century were light coloured basketry shields to which they attached objects empowered with protective medicines. At the end of the century the Ganda continued to revere Kibuuka, god of war and protector against their traditional enemies, the Nyoro (Bunyoro).



In former times, the Ganda, Nyoro and Soga (on the eastern borders of the Ganda) used variations of the basketry-covered, lentil-shaped wooden shield that had a “folded” vertical midrib and a pointed central wooden boss. (illustration left)

Unlike the Ganda and the Soga, the Nyoro did not weave triangular patterns along the rim, while the Soga hung strips of long-haired goatskin or the black-and-white fur of the colobus monkey (Colobussatanas satanas - Cercopithecidæ) along the edges of the shields. The Ganda, Nyoro and Soga made similar cane strips tightly woven with twine, but attached them to the central boss in different ways. [2]The lentil-shaped Ganda shield was introduced in Ugandese heraldry in the thirties of the twentieth century by the kabaka of Buganda. His achievement is displayed on a crown ordered by king Daudi Cwa II (1897-1939) in the last year of his reign. [3]

The lentil-shaped shield was also used by some other new independent African nations from the consideration that such a shield was “typically African”: Kenia (1963); Botswana, (1966) and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), (1967). Other achievements with lentil-shaped shields were adopted for the South African homelands of Ciskei (1972) and Kwazulu (1972), and for the S.A. province of Gauteng (1995). Such a shield can also be found in the coat of arms and on the flag of  Swaziland (1968).


The Drum

The drum is the symbol of power of the Ugandese kings.

The spiritual, or supernatural, king is represented by the Royal Drums. These regalia are called Mujaguzo and, as they will always exist, the Buganda at any time will always have a king. Mujaguzo, like any other king, has his own palace, officials, servants and palace guards. The material, human, prince has to perform special cultural rites on the Royal Drums before he can be declared king of the Kingdom of Buganda. Upon the birth of a royal prince or princess, the Royal Drums are sounded by drummers specially selected from a specified clan as a means of informing the subjects of the kingdom of the birth of new member of the royal family. The same Royal Drums are sounded upon the death of a reigning king to officially announce the death of the material king.

As many as 15 such drums are played together, tuned so that one can hear a melody. Inside of each, an unidentified fetish rattles around.


The Sun Radiant

is borrowed from the symbol of the Imperial British East Africa Company and symbolizes the mission of the british in the “civilization” of the (East) African Peoples. Today the sun symbolizes the geographical position of Uganda on the equator.

The cob and the crested crane are representatives of the fauna and avifauna of Uganda.

Coffee and cotton are the main cash crops of Uganda and the river in the compartment symbolizes the the main source of the river Nile, situated in Uganda.






On the territory of today´s Uganda there are five traditional kingdoms. Some of them have a long history, for example the kingdom of Buganda, which reaches back to the late fourteenth century.

Coats of arms of these kingdoms are known from the time of the British Protectorate and after the abolition of the kingdoms in 1976 and their restauration  in 2001, flags were adopted.







Ankole, also referred to as Nkore, is one of four traditional kingdoms in Uganda. The kingdom is located in the southwestern Uganda, east of Lake Edward. It was ruled by a monarch known as the Mugabe or Omugabe of Ankole. On October 25, 1901, the Kingdom of Nkore was incorporated into the British protectorate of Uganda by the signing of the Ankole agreement.

It was formally abolished in 1967, and is still not officially restored.

Due to the rearranging of the country by Idi Amin, Ankole does no longer exist as an administrative unit. It is divided into six districts: Bushenyi, Ntungamo Mbarara, Kiruhura, Ibanda and Isingiro.

The flag of Ankole shows two spears in saltire, two royal drums and a lion passant guardant, all in white rendering on a green field. It is not known when this flag was actually adopted.








The royal achievement consists of a Ganda shield parted per pale, Or and Purpure, three pales Or, with a narrow orange bordure and a boss of the same. The shield is placed on two spears in saltire and below it is a resting lion.




The achievement dates at least from the time of the kabaka Daudi Cwa II (1897-1939). In 1939 he ordered a crown for himself at the jeweller Garrard & Co. Ltd. in London through the medium of Lord Twining who later became an authority in the field of crowns and regalia [4]

This crown was worn at the coronation of the kabaka Mutesa II in 1942. On the second and third (accepted) draft there was this coat of arms in Ganda-style and a lion couchant beneath, in a more or less heraldic style. The newest version of this achievement on the flag,  maybe also adopted by Daudi Cwa II and revived after 2001, shows the lion in a more naturalistic style like in my version shown above. 

This flag is of threen vertical stripes of blue, white and blue and the achievement in the white







A royal achievement of the Omukama of Bunyoro Kitara was recently (2008) designed by the Board for Heraldic and Genealogical Studies of The Centre for Research of Orthodox Monarchism


It is:


Arms:  Gules, the royal drum of Bunyoro-Kitara proper

Crown: The Rwabusungu Royal Crown

Supporters: Two spears in saltire proper, bladed and tipped Or.



Of this emblem there is a lesser and a smaller version.

The lesser version, being the arms of the kingdom, is without the shield, and on the ribbon the motto BUNYORO KITARA KINGDOM;

The smaller version: is the shield only.


The achievement was ordered by H.M. King Rukirabasaija Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I, the 49th Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara, to commemorate the 13th anniversary of his coronation and the birth of  a crown prince


The authors of the achievement are:

Nenad M. Jovanovich, (herald)

Srechko Nikitovich and Nebojsha Dikich (heraldic artists)

Ljubodrag Lj. Grujich, (editor)

It is a project of  Anthony Mohanakumar Raman Naikan.






Drawing: Hubert de Vries


The Busoga Emblems consist of the royal achievement and the tri-coloured flag.




The achievement is: 


Arms: Parted per pale Azure and Or, a bundle of five piles per pale and six piles per fess, in nombril point a knot Sable charged with an egg Argent.

Crest: a cobs’ head guardant proper.

Supporters: Two spears in saltire and two royal drums

Compartment: A wave Azure

Motto: OKWISANA BUSOGA N’AMAANI (Busoga, Unity is Strength)


The parts of the achievement are explained as follows:



The shield symbolizes the state as the protector of life and property of the people.



The eleven pillars represent the eleven princely families of the Busoga Kingdom: the Gabula, Zibondo, Ngobi, Menha, Luba , Wakooli, Ntembe, Tabingwa, Kisiki, Nkono, and Nanhumba.

The five long pillars represent the five families from which the Kyabazinga is elected: the Gabula, Zibondo, Ngobi, Tabingwa, and Nkono.



Symbolizes the Kyabazinga Isebantu, the fulcrum of authority and the chief binding factor of Busoga.


Kob (Empongo)

The kob (Cobus cob - Bovidæ), called Empongo in Lusoga language, is the totem of the Balangira (royal family). It also represents the rich wild life of Busoga.



The drums are symbols of royalty and the power of communication.



Are a symbol of power and here they symbolize the king as the defender of  the people.



The wave symbolizes the river Nile, the source of life and wealth of Busonga.



The mottoBusoga okwisania na Maani in Lusoga language means Unity is Strength” and symbolizes the union of the Basoga people in times of crisis as well of prosperity.




The flag of Busoga is of three horizontal stripes of blue, yellow and brown. These colours symbolize:


Blue: Symbolizes water as a source of life and the River Nile, Lake Victoria, the River Mpologoma and Lake Kyoga. Surrounding the region they are of crucial importance for the economy of Busoga.

Yellow: Symbolizes the hot and sunny climate of Busoga

Brown: Symbolizes the fertile brown alluvial soils found in Victoria Crescent zone.


For the flag and older emblems see Bruce Berry







The Royal House of Toro represents the senior line of the Babito Dynasty of Bunyoro-Kitara. The kingdom came into being in 1822 when Prince Kaboyo  rebelled against his father and seized the premier provinces of the kingdom.

Bunyoro, never happy with Toro's separate existence, invaded in 1876. After a number of attempts at annexation and three wars against various princes, she triumphed in 1880. The Toro Royal family of Toro fled to neighbouring Ankole but was massacred there. Prince Kasagama, te sole survivor, fled to Buganda. There he encountered Lord Lugard, then engaged in operations against the ruler of Bunyoro. Toro was wrested from him and Kasagama proclaimed as Omukama Kyebambe VI.

In the year 1900, Omukama Kyebambe Kasagama signed an agreement with Sir H. Johnston, making Toro part of the British Protectorate.

The kingdom was abolished in 1967, when Prime Minister Apollo Milton Obote abrogated the constitution and made Uganda a republic with himself as president. When the government of President Yoweeri Museveni reinstated the institution of king in 1993, Patrick Kaboyo became Omukama of Toro but his reign was very short. He suddenly passed away in 1987, and was suceeded by his five year old son.


The achievement of the Kingdom of Toro, maybe adopted in the time of the British Protectorate, consists of the royal drum and two spears in saltire, with the royal headdress as a crest and two lions guardant as supporters.






© Hubert de Vries 2008.12.09. Updated 2014-05-27



[1]  Published in Uganda Gazette, Vol. LV, Ordinance Supplement Nr. 10. dd. 4. october 1962, pp. 350-352.  The law is called the National Flag and Armorial Ensigns Ordinance, dd. 9.X.1962.

[2]  Shields. Africa, Southeast Asia and Oceania. Munich, London New York 2000. P. 108-109. The illustration shows a shield from the northwest of  Lake Victoria acquired before 1942 by the Joseph Mueller Collection. H.: 60 cm. W.: 32 cm. The Barbier Mueller Museum (Geneva) inv. BMG 1028-2. An almost identical shield in the Ugandese National Museum in Kampala.

[3]  Brus, René: Kronen van de Wereld. Amsterdam, 1992. P. 19

[4]  Brus, op. cit 1992.  For example: Twining, Lord Twining: European Regalia. B.T. Batsford Ltd. London, 1967.  Illustration from Brus.

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