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Not much is known about the origins
of Uganda's five monarchies, mainly because their early history
was not written down. Almost the whole vast region between the great
lakes of Victoria, Albert, and Tanganyika is occupied by centralized
native states headed by monarchies. They are all hereditary monarchies,
sometimes with extreme distinctions of class and status.
All the people of Buganda, Bunyoyo, Ankole, Toro,
and Busoga speak related Bantu languages, and it has become usual
in ethnographic literature to refer to them collectively as Interlacustrine
Bantu. These monarchies have had a history of contact with western
culture for over 100 years, as well as their own traditional dynastic
history that stretches back through the centuries.
They also share the concept of super-ordination
and subordination: the notion that some people are always above
others- the abalangira (royals) - and some are always below - the
bakopi (peasants). The status destinations are more strongly marked
in some kingdoms than in others, but in general they are not rigid,
castle-like discriminations. It has always been theoretically possible
for able bakopis to rise to positions of high authority in the state.
For the majority of these kingdoms, human history
begins with a first family whose head is called Kintu, 'the created
thing'. A legend shared by them all provides a 'mythical charter'
for the social and political order. Nothing is known about the origins
of Kintu. The legend maintains that the mythical man, who came from
heaven, represents creation itself. Everything concerning the tribes
was attributed to Kintu: it is said he must have been the first
king of the vast area incorporating all the present five kingdoms
and beyond, before they became independent kingdoms.
The Buganda monarchy is one of the best documented
of any African monarchy. It remained almost the only kingdom where
extensive historical, political, sociological, and anthropological
studies have been carried out. Two important means in which the
royal was geology was kept were the preservation of artefacts inside
the royal tombs and the custom of removing and preserving the lower
jaw bone of all the important people, which goes back to the earliest
remembered history of Buganda.