Ethnicity and Nationhood in Precolonial Africa: The Case of Buganda
by Elliot Greene (2010)
…In this article I examine the pre-colonial African kingdom of Buganda, located on the northern shores of Lake Victoria in the centre of what is modern-day Uganda.
I argue that there are good reasons to claim that Buganda constituted a pre-colonial nation-state, with its inhabitants, the Baganda, as an example of a pre-colonial
nation. In comparing Buganda to other polities and groups in Africa’s Great Lakes region I also show that there is more evidence of Bugandan nationhood than for its
neighbors. Thus this article suggests that ethnic and national identities in precolonial Africa should henceforth be seen as falling on a wide spectrum of forms
similar to the spectrum of identities attributed to pre-modern Europe.
Historians are very clear on the existence of Buganda as a strong kingdom prior to British rule, and thus it makes less sense to ask here who were the Baganda than to ask what they were, namely, subjects of a kingdom, an ethnic group or a nation. Thus, before examining varying conceptions of nationhood and how these apply to pre-colonial Buganda, I first examine theories of
ethnicity and their applicability in the Bugandan context. In both contexts I examine how other pre-colonial polities and groups in the Great Lakes region fail to meet the
same standards of Buganda, before concluding with some wider thoughts on ethnicity and nationhood in pre-colonial Africa…