African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 185

Article in Press

The Kintu myth and the construction of ethno-political identities in Uganda

Abasi Kiyimba

  •  Received: 07 June 2018
  •  Accepted: 07 June 2018
On the surface, the founding myth of the Baganda people is simple and entertaining. Kintu, the founding father, initially lived alone on earth. He later married a girl (Nambi) from heaven, and together they populated the land called Buganda, where their descendants continue to live today. Many scholars treat this narrative with condescension and levity, and some even consign it to the inconsequential realms of fantasy. This article examines the significance of the Kintu story and its sub-narratives for the process of nation building, in the context of Buganda as an integral part of the colonial construct called “Uganda”. The discussion shows that the Baganda actively use the myth to build and preserve a strong sense of ethnic identity, and as a psychological anchor in their search for survival in the ethnicitybased politics of modern Uganda. Secondly, the political and emotional controversies generated by the myth’s sub-narratives and the competing ethnic claims to the name “Kintu” that arise from there, continuously test the ability of the Ugandan state to endure. Thirdly, whereas the myth can generate negative inter-ethnic emotions, it can also be used to facilitate the completion of the unfinished project of building the Ugandan state, by appealing to those aspects of it that present evidence of a shared past and a common destiny.

Keywords: Founding myth, sub-narratives, ethnic identity, psychological anchor, nation-building, colonial construct, emotional controversies, competing ethnic claims, Ugandan state, shared past.