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How Buganda Traditional Court Resolved 400-Year Clan Dispute

The Buganda traditional court has made its ruling on a leadership dispute in the Ndiga clan which has lasted more than 480 years. The court, locally known as Kooti ya Kisekwa, nullified the leadership of the Ndiga clan head Daniel Bbosa after evidence presented proved that he was not the rightful holder of the position.
A panel of judges in Buganda's traditional court, Kisekwa, giving its verdict on Ndiga clan case.

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The Buganda traditional court has made its ruling on a leadership dispute in the Ndiga clan which has lasted more than 480 years.   

The court, locally known as Kooti ya Kisekwa, nullified the leadership of the Ndiga clan head Daniel Bbosa after evidence presented proved that he was not the rightful holder of the position.   

The Buganda traditional court panel of Joseph Kateregga, Wilson Ssentoogo, Lubega Ssebende, Deogratious Kasozi, Jamil Ssewanyana, George Makumbi, and Samuel Walusimbi delivered the verdict on Wednesday afternoon at Bulange Mengo.     

This verdict might bring to an end a 487-year leadership dispute in which a section of the Ndiga clan members have been querying the authenticity of the clan head and the process through which the clan heads have been chosen for over four centuries.   

In their verdict, the judges nullified the leadership of Daniel Bbosa, noting that they were satisfied with the evidence proving that he was holding the office wrongfully as he is not a descendant of Kamya Tabula, whose descendants are supposed to head the clan. The court added that Bbosa was never installed culturally following the rituals as per the customs the clan and of Buganda. 

The judges argued that the current clan leadership was installed contrary to the cultural traditions where Bbosa and the clan heads before him for over four centuries have been leading on a rotational basis. 

Culturally, the court ruled, clan heads are supposed to inherit from father to son. In addition to that Bbosa was not installed as per the custom which requires him to be wrapped in a bark cloth as is done to all male heirs.      

The court has directed the clan leaders headed by a Chief titled Muyiisa to identify a culturally fitting clan head from the descendants of Kamya Tabula and install him as the clan head at the headquarters of Mbaale in Mawokota County.   

Lubega Ssebende who read out the verdict said it is time for this process to kick off.   

Luganda bite   

//Cue in: "Awo nno ab’olunyiriri...        

Cue out: ...mu Mawokota."//   

Bbosa has also been accused of selling off clan land instead of keeping it intact as expected of a clan head.   

The judgment means that for 487 years all the clan heads have been leading wrongfully as none was of the right descent to lead the clan. This also means that Luggya Bbosa Tabula, who is a rightful descendant of Kaggwa Tabula, is to be installed as the new clan head. 

Thirty-six-year-old Tabula is the son of Sserunkuuma Musisi Isaac, grandson of Sssekadde Yakobo, and is descended from the lineage of Eric Kiyinji Tabula, Muyiisa, Kamya Tabula, and Kalyesubula Lwomwa the first clan head and Mbaalebaale Bbosa who founded the clan.     Ndiga clan  

The Ndiga clan is one of the 56 clans of Buganda whose chief domain is in Mbaale, Mawokota County. Oral traditions posit that the clan is descended from a man called Mbaale who came to Buganda with Kabaka Kintu in the 13th century. In the palace Ndiga or Sheep clan plays the role of sounding the royal drums. They are also in charge of guarding the gate called Kalaala, which is the official entrance for one of the Kabaka’s wives. The clan also takes charge of the custodianship of the Kibuuka shrine.   

The Case   

On January 1, 2017, Luggya Bbosa Tabula filed a case with the Buganda traditional court accusing the current clan head Lwomwa Daniel Bbosa also titled Nnamusota and Ssekoba Steven Sserunkuuma of conniving to wrongfully hold the office and to disrupt the clan leadership by installing a head in a way contrary to the Buganda culture.     

According to submissions by Tabula, the leadership of the clan was supposed to be in the hands of the descendants of Kamya Tabula, a son of the first clan head. He added that 487 years ago Kamya Tabula was supposed to take over clan leadership after his father Lwomwa Kalyesubula but due to his infancy, guardians including Sserunkuuma of Mpomi, Namusota of Maziba, Luwanga of Mpomi, and Ssemiti of Buyonga Mawokota were chosen to administer the clan on a rotational basis till the infant Kamya reached maturity.   

These guardians instead chose to retain the clan leadership and their descendants have held it on a rotational basis to date denying a chance to the rightful heirs and stamping out all calls to return the leadership to the Tabula descendants.    

The hearing of the case began on June 13, 2018 and the two sides presented evidence which the court assessed. The court panel visited the clan land in Mbaale, Mawokota County, on October 28, 2020 and found out that the current clan heads had sold off the majority of the land belonging to the clan.   The findings informed the court’s decision.   The defendants in the case who did not appear in the court for the judgment were advised to appeal to the Kabaka of Buganda in a month's time if they deem it necessary.   

In 2016 the same court passed a ruling that settled a leadership wrangle that had existed in the Ngeye clan for over 96 years in which the clan head was occupying the seat wrongfully.  Following petitions, by the defendant, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II made a final ruling that a new clan head, commonly known as Kasujja, be selected from the correct sub-clan or Mutuba and the case be suspended indefinitely.   

Indigenous courts   

The existence and jurisdiction of the indigenous courts of the kingdoms and chiefdoms in Uganda is pre-colonial.   

Writing in the Journal of African Law, Volume 11, Issue 3, of 1967, Dr H. F. Morris referred to archival documents on native courts compiled by colonial district officers at the request of the Government in 1909 and 1926 respectively. Morris, himself a former district officer for Ankole, cited what he called a high degree of development and formalisation of the courts in the kingdoms of Buganda, Ankole and Tooro.   

The 1900 Buganda Agreement, the 1901 Tooro Agreement and the 1901 Ankole Agreement make reference to the existence and jurisdiction of the indigenous courts of these kingdoms.   

Under the Buganda Agreement, for instance, the Kabaka's courts were entitled to try natives for capital crimes, but no death sentence was allowed without the sanction of the Queen’s representative in Uganda.   

Besides the 1900 Buganda Agreement, further documents were signed including the 1905 Uganda (Judicial) Agreement, the 1917 Native Courts in Buganda Proclamation, and the 1924 Uganda (Clan Cases) Agreement. To consolidate these, the Protectorate government passed the Buganda Courts Ordinance of 1940 “to make better Provision for the Constitution of Native Courts in Buganda and for the Administration of Justice among others.