It is widely accepted that man’s earliest ancestors have inhabited East Africa, for millions of years and that hunter-gatherer pygmoid people (Batwa ancestors) probably moved into the region about 3,000 years ago. Close behind them in 2,000BC were the bantu-speakers who came from West Africa in one of the largest human migrations in history, the Bantu Migration. The Bantu people gradually took over most of sub-Saharan Africa, displacing the small bands of indigenous hunter-gatherers, who relocated to the mountains and forests. All Bantu-speaking tribes share a linguistic core and generally use derivatives of ‘ntu’ to mean man. In Uganda, the Bantu-speakers naturally chose to settle in the more fertile southern half of Uganda.
The Bantu-speaking people brought with them Iron Age tools that improved agriculture, and culture built around a more settled life. Around AD1500, three kingdoms rose up – Bunyoro, Buganda and Ankole. Initially, Bunyoro was the largest and most centralised with a strong economy on account of its salt mines, however, by the late 1700’s, the Buganda Kingdom supplanted Bunyoro as the major regional power. Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which at this time controlled a large territory bordering Lake Victoria, from the Victoria Nile to the Kagera River. Also starting around 1500BC were other migration waves that brought the Nilotic-speaking Luo who settled in Northern Uganda.