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The Ganda People of Uganda


Religion: Christianity, Islam

Population: 3,545,463

Status: 75% Professed Christians

Location: The Ganda are the largest of 43 ethnic groups living in Uganda. Their traditional land is located in a crescent-shaped are west, northwest and north of Lake Victoria in the districts of Rakai, Masaka, Kalanga, Mpigi, Mubende, Luweero, Kampala, and Mukono. Every town in Uganda has its complement of Ganda involved in government service, trading, manufacturing, or other economic opportunities.

History: The Ganda people trace their royal line back 250 years. They are a part of the Bantu people which originated in central Africa and migrated into Uganda as early as 1000 AD. By the time of European exploration in 1858, they had evolved a complex system of central government including an appellate court system, taxation and customs regulations, and a standing army. They served as the primary agents of the British protectorate and were used to subdue and administer the central and eastern regions of Uganda.

Identity: The Ganda are sometimes also called Baganda from their grammatical from of the name meaning "The Ganda People." They are one of the Bantu peoples and have dark skin, curly hair, and prominent facial features. They are generally shorter than the Lwo and other Nilotes.

The Ganda are the most urbanized of all tribes of Uganda, comprising over 50% of the population of the greater Kampala area. Almost half of the Ganda over ten years old are illiterate, and only about 10% have any post-primary education. They are primarily agricultural, with small segments of the population involved in fishing, trading, and light industry

Language: The language of the Ganda people is popularly called by the Ganda word Luganda (meaning simply "Language of the Ganda People"). It is the primary trade language across the eastern, central and southern regions of Uganda. The Ganda language was first written down by European missionaries, and follows a pronunciation pattern similar to Italian.

Like most tribal languages in Uganda, Luganda has not kept pace with the introduction of world culture or technology. Since education of children over 10 years old takes place strictly in English, technical and professional vocabulary is most commonly expressed in English. The Ganda themselves emphasize the value of their linguistic heritage, promulgating cultural activities and media in Luganda.

Political Situation: The Ganda were key administrative personnel in the colonial administration, and they are distrusted by their countrymen of other tribes. Their prerogatives were enshrined by the British in the first post-colonial constitution, and that is seen to have contributed to the beginning of the instability of the country as a whole.

They continue to ask the government for separate status, and have reorganized their own legislature after the government acceded to recognize their king as a cultural leader. Because of their numbers and economic influence, no person can rule Uganda peacefully without the cooperation of their leaders. The name of Uganda is the Swahili form meaning "land of the Ganda people."

Customs: The Ganda culture continues to thrive in the villages. There is great respect for the male head of household, and members of the home must kneel as they speak to him. All children may share work equally while young. As they mature, the men take on responsibility outside the home while the women focus on the garden and domestic responsibilities.

They have a strong belief in the spirit world and frequently consult traditional healers, diviners or witch doctors for solutions to the problems of their lives. The village economic system is dominated by the Kabaka (King) and his chiefs through land allocation. With the re-installation of their Kabaka as their cultural leader, they have revived their traditional holidays and celebrate the great events of their people's history.

Religion: The Ganda were the tribe most heavily influenced by the introduction of Anglicanism (Church Missionary Society, 1877), Catholicism (Catholic White Fathers 1879), and Islam by explorers, missionaries and traders. This heritage of religion is deceptive. Many people see Christian and traditional rituals as equally valuable sources of spiritual power.

They observe the rituals of their religion scrupulously, alongside their equally careful practice of the rituals of their traditional beliefs. Many purchase and use the traditional charms to protect their homes, children and gardens from curses.

When problems come, the final appeal is most often made to the spirits of the ancestors through the services of a witch doctor, diviner or traditional healer. About 20 percent of the Ganda are Muslim. Islam was introduced by Swahili and Arab traders in the late 1800s.

Christianity: By 1886, the introduction of new beliefs had divided the political and cultural environment in the royal enclosure at Mengo. Sensing his erosion of power, Kabaka Mwanga on 3 June 1886 ordered the execution by torture and immolation of 22 of his servants who refused to renounce their faith. The witness of these martyrs resulted in many new converts, political turmoil and the final ascendancy into temporal prominence of the leaders of the Anglican and Catholic communities.

Unfortunately, this temporal acceptance led the syncretism of these beliefs with the traditional rituals of the local cultures. Even today, the new Kabaka is honored at coronation by representatives from both churches, who participate in a ceremony that is replete with traditional power rituals and totems.

The East African Revival had great influence on the Ganda. During those years, many Ganda came to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Unfortunately, their heritage was not preserved. The word balokole, meaning “saved one,” can be heard in almost every village, yet it has become simply a term of reference. The "balokole" are legalistic and believe that by sinning they fall from saving grace.

Today, the responsiveness of the Ganda to spiritual issues can be seen by the large crowds that gather for witchcraft demonstrations, religious ceremonies, and evangelical crusade events. People readily believe in God, having been taught from childhood the reality of the spirit world. Evangelical members of the traditional churches profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.



Population: 19,262,600 (1995)

Doubling time: 26 years


Major Languages: Ganda, Soga, Nyoro/Tooro, Lwo, Tees, Swahili, English

Official Language: English

Capital City: Kampala (1,000,000+ in urban and suburban area)

Other Towns: Jingo (60,000+), Male (54,000+) Masaka (49,000+)

Urban Dwellers: 11.3%

Birth Rate: 52.1 per 1,000 Crude Death Rate: 17.3 per 1,000

Life Expectancy: male 45.7 years, female 50.5 years


Labor Force: 38.5%

Refugees: people groups from Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire, Sudan


Religions (1991): Catholicism 7,420,750, Anglicanism 6,538,156, Seventh Day Adventist 179,478, Eastern Orthodox, 4,567, Other Christian 101,445, Muslim 1,750 ,474, Traditional Religion 88,736


Literacy: 54%




Background Statistics: The Ganda People of Uganda


People names: Ganda (Baganda)

Language: Ganda (Luganda)

Autoglossonym: Luganda


Population: 3,545,463 (1996 est.)

Political Location: Districts of Rakai, Masaka, Kalangala, Mpigi, Mubende, Luwero, Kampala and Mukono

Chief cities and towns: Kampala (1,000,000+)


Religious Profession (1991): Catholic 1,378,249; Anglican (Church of

Uganda) 965 ,695; Muslim 624,758; Seventh Day Adventist 27,594; Other Christians 5,889


Scripture: Whole Bible, modern language New Testament

Jesus Film: Luganda


Christian Broadcasting: Radio and TV

Mission Agencies: Numerous denominational and parachurch ministries




1991 Population and Housing Census. Kampala, Uganda: Department of Statistics, Republic of Uganda, 1991.


Apuuli. A Thousand Years of the Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom. Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers, no date.


Nzita, Mbaga-Niwampa. Peoples and Cultures of Uganda.  Kampala, Uganda: Fountain Publishers, no date.


Thomas, Karugire. The Story of Uganda (rev.). Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, no date.



Orville Boyd Jenkins


August 1996

First posted 19 April 2002


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