The momentous event that bore the Uganda Martyrs story has spun a period of over 50 years with millions of accounts telling the story without applying the historical context within which it unfolded. The influences that fanned and directed the succession of events into an account that spun almost a decade cannot fully be explored however, this does not take away the true divine inspiration that the Martyrs evoke within all Christians that get to experience their story. We invite you to take a journey through time from the 1800s to the present day, to relive this era and birth an in-depth appreciation of the history of the Uganda Martyrs. This journey will not only unveil the making of some of the truest Christians, it will also elaborate the reasons why, despite the spur of events, the Uganda Martyrs today are a powerful symbol of spiritual strength and evidence of true admirable character, that Christian Ugandans and African all over the world look up to for inspiration. They are a refreshing cast of people that look like Africans showing fellow Africans the way to the light of Christ and all Christians revere and bless them annually every 3rd June.
Before Religion Came to Uganda – 1800s: Until the middle of the 19th century, Uganda remained relatively isolated from the outside world. The central African lake region was a world in miniature, with an internal trade system, a great power rivalry between Buganda Kingdom and Bunyoro Kingdom, and its own inland seas. When intrusion from the outside world finally came, it was in the form of long-distance trade for ivory. Ivory had been a staple trade item from the coast of East Africa since before the Christian era. But growing world demand in the 19th century, together with the provision of increasingly efficient firearms to hunters, created a moving “ivory frontier” as elephant herds near the coast were nearly exterminated. Large caravans financed by Indian money lenders, Arab traders based in Zanzibar reached Lake Victoria by 1844. One trader, Ahmad bin Ibrahim, introduced Buganda’s Kabaka (King) to the advantages of foreign trade: the acquisition of imported cloth and, more important, guns and gunpowder. Ibrahim also introduced the religion of Islam, but the Kabaka was more interested in guns. By the 1860s, Buganda Kingdom was the destination of ever more trade caravans, and the Kabaka and his chiefs began to dress in cloth called “mericani” (derived from “American”). This cloth was woven in Massachusetts and was carried to Zanzibar by American traders. It was believed to be finer in quality, more than European or Indian cloth, and increasing numbers of ivory tusks were collected to pay for it using barter trade. Bunyoro Kingdom, Buganda Kingdom`s neighbor to the West wanted to keep up with Buganda`s economic growth and therefore also sought to attract foreign trade, in an effort to keep up with Buganda in the burgeoning arms race. Uganda in this era was not yet the country we know today. By the 1800s, it was still structured in political units called Kingdoms and Chiefdoms and Buganda Kingdom was the most powerful inland political unit (Kingdom) in Eastern Africa at the time. Traders from the East and West passed through Buganda Kingdom as its people were found to be helpful, very receptive to foreigners and understood the value of partnerships in building the Kingdom economically and politically. In addition, it had set laws that governed its people and well defined systems of governance. The Kingdom was also keen on its geographical growth and conquering new lands was very vital for it. Every new territory the Kingdom conquered was added to it as a new clan and the newly conquered people were expected to follow the norms of Buganda Kingdom if they desired to live. It was common for newly conquered clans to show their allegiance to the reigning King, by offering one of their daughters to the King as a wife and local chiefs of conquered areas ruled as personal appointees of the Kabaka (King) of Buganda Kingdom, who also had a sizable army at his disposal.
Before Religion Came to Uganda – 1800s: Until the middle of the 19th century, Uganda remained relatively isolated from the outside world. The central African lake region was a world in miniature, with an internal trade system, a great power rivalry between Buganda Kingdom and Bunyoro Kingdom, and its own inland seas. When intrusion from […]
The Arrival of Islam in Uganda – 1840s – The First Foreign Religion in Uganda In the 1840s the first Muslim, Arab trader Ahmed bin Ibrahim, was received at the court of Kabaka (King) Suuna II. Arab and Swahili traders arrived in the Great Lakes Region looking for ivory and slaves, particularly when the eastern slave trade increased, after the official abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Relations between Ahmed bin Ibrahim and Kabaka (King) Suuna II were reasonably good, and the trader started using Buganda as the base for his activities. However, he had to leave Buganda and seek refuge in Karagwe, in present day Tanzania, which served as the new base for his business, the trade between Buganda and the Tabora Region. After Kabaka (King) Suuna II died, in 1856, the influence of the Arab traders started to decline until the 1860s during the reign of the late Kabaka (King) Suuna’s son now Kabaka (King) Mutesa I (1856-1884). Even if Kabaka (King) Mutesa I never converted to Islam and was never circumcised, he began to listen to Koran readings and to frequently receive Arab Muslim traders. Thus, during the first ten years of Kabaka (King) Mutesa 1’s reign, Islam once again entered Buganda’s courts through trade and Kabaka (King) Mutesa I started to use Arab Muslim traders as advisers and seemed to have the will to convert to the new faith. He helped its dissemination, requiring his subjects to observe Islamic law, the Ramadan and ritual prayers. Quite a few mosques were built, and the most important was in Nakawa (east of current Kampala), where Kabaka (King) Mutesa I had one of his palaces. Many pages at the court converted to the new faith and many Baganda showed their obedience to the taught Islamic rules.
The Arrival of Islam in Uganda – 1840s – The First Foreign Religion in Uganda In the 1840s the first Muslim, Arab trader Ahmed bin Ibrahim, was received at the court of Kabaka (King) Suuna II. Arab and Swahili traders arrived in the Great Lakes Region looking for ivory and slaves, particularly when the eastern […]
Katende, a former eminent Buganda judge and leader of the Olugave clan of Buganda Kingdom writes in one of his unpublished memoirs that despite the fact that Kabaka (King) Muteesa I identified himself as a Moslem, the king continued to eat meat from animals slaughtered by non-Muslims. He also refused to be circumcised, on the advice of his powerful chief administrative officer, Katikkiro (Prime Minister) Mukasa. Mukasa, a former Saaza chief, was renowned for his cruelty and was said to exert much influence over the king. J.F. Faupel writes in the “African Holocaust”, Mukasa contrived to render his position almost unassailable by means of a blood pact with Kabaka (King) Mutesa I, which made him both blood brother to the reigning monarch and ‘father’ to his future successor”. Katende writes further that Mukasa was afraid that if the king accepts to be circumcised, he would compel the rest of the Muslim subjects including him to do likewise. At the time, circumcision was carried out using sharpened reeds. It was a long, slow painful surgical procedure that would sometimes last a whole day. Back then there was no anesthesia to dull the pain, as it is today. It is not surprising therefore that the Katikkiro (Prime Minister of Buganda Kingdom) was fiercely opposed to circumcision. Katende writes that Katikkiro Mukasa sought audience with the King and brought to light an old law, telling the King that the Buganda Kingdom traditional royal customs forbade the King to shed his blood. The king, therefore, could not be circumcised, as demanded by Islamic law. This meant that religious observances that had been led by the King under a previous easier going Muslim regime with the Arab Muslims, including the slaughter of animals could no longer be perceived and accepted as being carried out by a true Muslim. At about this time, a group of Muslim fundamentalists from Egypt visited the Kabaka’s court at Kasubi. However, whereas they were impressed by the spread of the new religion, they were unhappy at the king’s un-Islamic conduct and reluctance to be circumcised. They noticed that the mosques in Buganda Kingdom faced westwards instead of facing towards Mecca, meat was not being slaughtered according to Islamic law, the King who led Muslim prayers in his courts had not been circumcised and this greatly displeased them. They immediately advised all Muslim converts that in order not to anger Allah and force His wrath upon them, they should rebuild their mosques but this time facing towards Mecca, make sure that the meat they ate is slaughtered according to the Muslim laws, and most importantly, make sure that all Muslim prayers are led only by circumcised persons. The visitors reportedly started criticizing the king and very soon, they incited the rest of the King’s subjects to rebel against him. It was not long before the Kabaka’s subjects started challenging him openly about his lifestyle. Where once hundreds would turn up for prayers, only a few would now show up. Most found excuses to be away from the palace while others simply decided to pray on their own. King Mutesa I noticed the dwindling number of worshippers and decided to investigate. It is said that one day the King summoned one of his most loyal servants, nicknamed Muddu Awulila (the obedient servant) to inquire why he was not turning up for prayers. Muddu Awulila answered: “My Lord, it’s because we feel you should not lead the prayer because you are not circumcised”. “But I am your King. You are supposed to obey everything I tell you to do”, argued the Kabaka. “My Lord, our actions are not meant to disobey you, but in this case, we are not looking at you as our king but as a fellow Muslim worshipper”. Katende writes that King Mutesa I was so angry at his servant’s casual and almost insolent response, that he stayed in a foul mood for the rest of day. Several weeks later, King Mutesa I held a grand feast to celebrate the opening of a new Mosque. Several cows, goats and chicken were slaughtered for the occasion. It is said several of the Muslim courtiers ate just the food and refused to touch the meat, because uncircumcised Muslims had slaughtered the animals. Angry, the Kabaka construed it as an act of treason and ordered all those who had refused to eat the meat to be arrested. The group was rounded up and taken to jail in Bukeesa, near Nakulabye where they were confined for four days without food. On the fourth day, the Kabaka sent them some food and meat. They ate everything except the meat. When the King’s officers inquired why they had not touched the meat, they told them to go back and ask the king to send them a live cow and goat so that they could slaughter it themselves. The Kabaka had them transferred to another jail in Nansana, hoping they will come to their senses sooner or later. On the fourth day, King Mutesa I again sent them food and meat. It was the same story. They were then relocated to Bukoto where again they were given a last chance to repent but again, they ate everything else apart from the meat. When they refused to budge, it was a serious affront to Kabaka (King) Muteesa I, so he ordered that his chief executioner, named Mukajanga, to take all the Muslim converts that has defied him to Namugongo, and burn them. The exact date and month of their martyrdom is not known but it said, they were marched to Namugongo and killed in 1877. Only three of them; Yusuf Sebakiwa (Elephant clan), Amulane Tuzinde (Mushroom clan) and Musirimu Lwanga escaped the inferno. It is said they died of natural illness, a result of the long trek to Namugongo. More than 70 martyrs were burnt to death that day. Mukajanga would later serve King Mutesa’s successor, Kabaka (King) Mwanga, and it was also Mukajanga who executed the Christian Martyrs. The spot where the Moslem Martyrs were killed is now marked by the Masjid Noor Mosque. The land where the executions took place was donated by Idi Amin in 1975, when he was President. He ordered that the mosque be built, and he laid a foundation stone – although the mosque itself was not built until years later. The Muslim martyrs – do not receive the same recognition as the Christian martyrs, partly because Muslim martyrs (or Shuhada, as they are known) are not celebrated according to the Koran, and also because the only pilgrimage that Muslims undertake is to Mecca. But their contribution to the growth of Islam in East and Central Africa is widely acknowledged.
Katende, a former eminent Buganda judge and leader of the Olugave clan of Buganda Kingdom writes in one of his unpublished memoirs that despite the fact that Kabaka (King) Muteesa I identified himself as a Moslem, the king continued to eat meat from animals slaughtered by non-Muslims. He also refused to be circumcised, on the […]
Political Unrest in Buganda Continues – 1877 While Buganda Kingdom continued to blossom in trade, Bunyoro Kingdom (an immediate neighbor to Buganda Kingdom) found itself threatened from the north by Egyptian-sponsored agents who sought ivory and slaves but who, unlike the Arab traders from Zanzibar, were also promoting foreign conquest. In 1869, Khedive Ismail Pasha of Egypt, seeking to annex the territories north of the borders of Lake Victoria and east of Lake Albert and “south of Gondokoro,” sent a British explorer called Samuel Baker, on a military expedition to the frontiers of Bunyoro, with the object of suppressing the slave-trade there and opening the way to commerce and civilization. The Khedive appointed Baker Governor-General of the new territory named Equatorial. The people of Bunyoro Kingdom (called the Banyoro) resisted Baker, and he had to fight a desperate battle to secure his retreat. Baker regarded the resistance as an act of treachery, and he denounced the Banyoro in his book (Ismailia – A Narrative of The Expedition To Central Africa For The Suppression Of Slave Trade, Organised By Ismail, Khedive Of Egypt (1874)) which was widely read in Britain at the time. Later British Empire builders arrived in Uganda with a predisposition against Bunyoro Kingdom, which eventually would cost the kingdom half its territory until the “lost counties” were restored to Bunyoro after independence. Farther north the Acholi Chiefdom responded more favorably to the Egyptian demand for ivory. They were already famous hunters and quickly acquired guns in return for tusks. The guns permitted the people of Acholi to retain their independence but altered the balance of power within the Acholi territory, which for the first time experienced unequal distribution of wealth based on their control of firearms. Meanwhile, Buganda Kingdom was receiving not only traded goods and guns but a stream of foreign visitors as well. The explorer John Hanning Speke passed through Buganda in 1862 and claimed to have discovered the source of the river Nile. Both Speke and Henry Morton Stanley (based on their 1875 stay in Uganda) wrote books that praised the people of Buganda Kingdom (called the Baganda) for their organizational skills and willingness to modernize. Stanley went further and attempted to convert the King of Buganda Kingdom – Kabaka (King) Muteesa I to Christianity. After finding Kabaka Mutesa I apparently receptive, Stanley wrote to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in London and persuaded it to send missionaries to Buganda Kingdom in 1877. Internally, by 1874, despite Buganda Kingdom`s booming trade at the time, its political and social threats were increasing in number and coming closer by the day. The King was getting more and more concerned about them. He knew that he badly needed to avert these threats before they get into his territory but he was also cognizant of the fact that in order to do so, he urgently needed new and more powerful strategic alliances. The Arab Muslims had already grossly disrespected the King and the King believed that they were partly to blame for disorganizing his leadership and weakening his rule. Kabaka (King) Muteesa I therefore believed that he could not easily trust them and so he was forced to look beyond Africa`s shoreline for strong alliances that could protect him as King and keep Buganda Kingdom`s power and influence dominant and strong within the region.
Political Unrest in Buganda Continues – 1877 While Buganda Kingdom continued to blossom in trade, Bunyoro Kingdom (an immediate neighbor to Buganda Kingdom) found itself threatened from the north by Egyptian-sponsored agents who sought ivory and slaves but who, unlike the Arab traders from Zanzibar, were also promoting foreign conquest. In 1869, Khedive Ismail Pasha […]
The Invitation of Christian Missionaries to Buganda/ Uganda – 1875-1876: In 1875 Kabaka (King) Muteesa I the then reigning King of Buganda Kingdom in Uganda wrote to the Queen Victoria of England requesting for missionaries to come to his Kingdom. This was after hearing about how Britain had protected and positively impacted other British protectorates in other parts of the world from European Explorers Henry Stanley and John Speke. It was the King`s strong belief that forming an alliance with the European power would not only protect Buganda Kingdom`s trade and influence in the region, it would also guarantee him protection as King from approaching enemies in the North and South, it would keep the Muslim traders that sought to over throw him at bay and the British would equip his people with advanced world knowledge in trade skills, manufacturing, medicine, religion, military skills and warfare. These anticipated gains would guarantee Buganda Kingdom quick modernization (advancement), an endless supply of cloth, paper and other modern items, arms and ammunition that would enable the Kingdom easily defeat her closely threatening enemies, ease hunting and ensure the protection of Buganda Kingdom. These would vastly grow King Muteesa I`s power and influence, making him and his Kingdom a superior super power in the region. The famous letter the King wrote to the Queen of England – Queen Victoria appeared in The Daily Telegraph requesting for missionaries to come to Buganda.
The Invitation of Christian Missionaries to Buganda/ Uganda – 1875-1876: In 1875 Kabaka (King) Muteesa I the then reigning King of Buganda Kingdom in Uganda wrote to the Queen Victoria of England requesting for missionaries to come to his Kingdom. This was after hearing about how Britain had protected and positively impacted other British protectorates […]
Kabaka (King) M’tesa I`s To Queen Victoria- 1876 The Letter Read: April 3, 1876 Nabulagala From King Mutesa, the greatest King of the interior of Africa, 3 April 1876. This letter is from M’tesa, the greatest King in Africa. It is I Mutesa, King of Uganda, Usoga and Karagwe. Listen then to my word which I tell you. Oh! Thou European I have become your true brother, I am a Christian, only I have not yet been baptised. I believe in God the Holy Father, Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in the Lord Jesus Christ, the only true Son of God, begotten of the Father before the creation of the earth, He is God of God. May your Queen be a mother to me, and may I become her son. May her sons and daughters be my brothers and sisters, it is I, Mutesa, King of Uganda. Formerly the Mahommedans tempted me saying that Mahommed was the first and last of good people, but we find this is not the truth but a lie. May we both be united. Oh! Colonel Gordon, listen to this letter which says Oh! God, let there be peace between England and Uganda. Oh! may England be joyful always. Oh! Colonel Gordon, come quickly to me, and, if you do not come, at least send one of your white men, who you have with you, I want the reply to this letter to be printed. May God be with the Queen, May God be with your Majesty and I beg you to send me paper, ink and pens, because all my paper is finished. Mutesa King of Uganda April 3, 1876. Source: Lance Corporal (Rtd) Otto Patrick
Kabaka (King) M’tesa I`s To Queen Victoria- 1876 The Letter Read: April 3, 1876 Nabulagala From King Mutesa, the greatest King of the interior of Africa, 3 April 1876. This letter is from M’tesa, the greatest King in Africa. It is I Mutesa, King of Uganda, Usoga and Karagwe. Listen then to my word which […]
Arrival of the First Christian Missionaries to Buganda/ Uganda – 1877 This was the second foreign religion to arrive in Uganda The Queen of England responded positively to King Muteesa I`s letter and On June 30, 1877 two Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries from the Church of England arrived in Uganda through Munyonyo Mulungu port. They were taken directly to Kabaka Muteesa I ‘s palace at Lubaga. The two were Lt. Shargold Smith and Rev. CT Wilson. Alexander Murdoch Mackay joined them later in November of the same year. These Anglican Church Missionaries officially introduced Christianity in Uganda and founded the Anglican Church of Uganda in 1877. Their arrival is celebrated annually with an open air crusade at Munyonyo- Mulungu Landing site where the first Missionaries landed on June 30, 1877.
Arrival of the First Christian Missionaries to Buganda/ Uganda – 1877 This was the second foreign religion to arrive in Uganda The Queen of England responded positively to King Muteesa I`s letter and On June 30, 1877 two Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries from the Church of England arrived in Uganda through Munyonyo Mulungu port. […]
Arrival of the Catholic Christian Missionaries to Buganda/ Uganda – 1879: This was the third foreign religion to arrive in Uganda The first Roman Catholic missionaries came from France and arrived at Kigungu landing site on the 17th of February 1879. The two white fathers were:
Arrival of the Catholic Christian Missionaries to Buganda/ Uganda – 1879: This was the third foreign religion to arrive in Uganda The first Roman Catholic missionaries came from France and arrived at Kigungu landing site on the 17th of February 1879. The two white fathers were: Father Simon Lourdel, nicknamed Mapeera by the Baganda after […]
Religious-Political Unrest Intensifies in Buganda/ Uganda – 1877-1884s: Kabaka Mutesa’s decision to send three envoys to deliver a letter to Queen Victoria in England was the outcome of the king’s frantic and cunning efforts to play each faction against the other. Before the arrival of the Catholics, Alexander Murdoch Mackay had given the Protestants an edge over the Muslims with his skilled hands and quick grasp of Swahili and Luganda. However, his open hostility to the new arrivals opened him up to manipulation by Kabaka (King) Mutesa I who, as the second half of 1879 started, continued to flip-flop between the factions, link religion to politics and draw closer to Fr. Simeon Lourdel (a French missionary). In July 1879, during a pro-Catholic phase, and worried about the threat of an attack by the Egyptians and the English from the North, Kabaka (King) Mutesa I invited Fr. Lourdel and Pere Livinhac and asked to send his envoys to France with one of the missionaries. Mutesa’s envoys were supposed to explore the possibility of placing Buganda under the protection of the French. If accepted, the proposal would, in all probability, have led to French imperialism in the area. Buganda and Uganda could have therefore have been French or Belgian colonies and the country’s history could have been totally different. The French missionaries, however, refused. They were keen to keep a firewall between religion and politics but offered to send an inquiry to the French consul in Zanzibar. King Mutesa did not understand the missionaries’ wishes to stay out of politics and instead construed it as a refusal of French protection. He then chose to throw his lot in with the English, sending the three envoys with Rev. Wilson and Felkin who were about to return home down the Nile. But Mutesa continued to flip-flop between Faiths. Between July and August, he had been attending religious teachings by Lourdel. In September, he turned to Mackay and asked to be baptised as a Protestant, together with his chiefs. In October he was back with the Catholics, asking Lourdel to baptise him but in November he was hobnobbing with the Muslims. In reality, Kabaka (King) Mutesa I was still keen on the Kingdom`s traditional religious beliefs and, in hobnobbing with the three foreign faiths, was playing politics, not religion. He understood Islam to be closely tied to politics and also saw the connections between the Protestants and the English throne. Now he saw the French refusal to offer him protection as suspicious. It is quite possible that whichever religious faction took hold in the country could have naturally led to the mother country (England or France in the case of the Christians) becoming more influential in Buganda. However, the squabbling between the factions and the uncertainty caused by Mutesa’s oscillation between one and the other, blurred the line between religious belief and political influence. It became bloody when Kabaka (King) Mutesa I, who for two years had been carrying an illness that just did not seem to go away, turned to his traditional healers for treatment against the strong advice and best efforts of the missionaries, especially Mackay. When even the traditional healers failed to cure Mutesa, he lashed out in frustration, ordering random executions and human sacrifices to sate the gods or to distract him from his pain. Some of those targeted and killed were some of the early converts to the foreign religions, making them the first Christian religious martyrs in the country, although several non-converts were also killed. The killings were so savage and widespread that they forced the Catholic missionaries to withdraw from Buganda in 1882. By the time Kabaka (King) Mutesa I succumbed to his illness – suspected to be Hepatitis – on October 10, 1884, the foreign religious teachers had simply had enough of the monarch.
Religious-Political Unrest Intensifies in Buganda/ Uganda – 1877-1884s: Kabaka Mutesa’s decision to send three envoys to deliver a letter to Queen Victoria in England was the outcome of the king’s frantic and cunning efforts to play each faction against the other. Before the arrival of the Catholics, Alexander Murdoch Mackay had given the Protestants an […]
The Reign of Kabaka (King) Mwanga II and His Influence on Christianity– 1882 Christianity Comes Under Threat Kabaka (King) Mutesa I was succeeded by one of his sons, Danieri Basammula-Ekkere Mwanga II Mukasa, who ascended to the throne on 18th October, 1884 at the age of 16. The missionaries were pleased by Mwanga’s ascendancy to the throne. The young prince had attended some religious classes and had generally gotten along well with the white missionaries. However, the young king came to power with the same existential threats posed by Bunyoro, the Egyptians lurking in the North and the religious groups within the Kingdom. His experienced father had kept all the forces at bay by playing off the three religions, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims, against each other and thus balanced the influence of the European colonial powers that were backing each group in order to extend their reach into Africa. But Kabaka (King) Mwanga was not disposed to politicking or the brinkmanship that his father had mastered. Kabaka Mwanga II increasingly regarded the greatest threat to his rule as coming from the Christian missionaries who had gradually but steadily penetrated the customs of Buganda Kingdom. One way in which the Buganda Kingdom grew and maintained generational power was through strict coaching and mentoring of its children and preparing them to take over positions of authority within the Kingdom. All the children of the King, sons of Ministers, Chiefs and the Bataka (the wealthy) were sent to the King`s courts to be educated and mentored into various areas of expertise like leadership, warfare, medicine, astronomy, agriculture etc. These children worked in the King`s palace serving the King and all royals as pages. They were always expected to do the Kings bidding without question and they were also expected to excel in their studies at the courts. With the ascent of Christianity, these pages became the target for Christian teachings and at first the King had no objection with the pages going for Christian studies as long as the pages did not default on their traditional customary studies. However, the King later discovered that the key message being taught in all Christian teachings was that everything that was traditional was evil and the pages were required to abandon their traditional beliefs and lifestyles and adopt the Christian way of life to be worthy of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. They were also taught that God in Heaven was superior and much greater than any of the Buganda Kingdom traditional gods and were encouraged to burn all symbols and artefacts that represented them and were used in their traditional beliefs and ceremonies. The King was also noticed that his orders were increasingly being disobeyed because of his belief in the traditional gods and the Christians taught that following the King`s orders was a violation of the pages new Christian lifestyles. They were encouraged to let go of the traditional lives they were born into and to start a new life in Christianity. As the demands to grow the Christian faith grew within inland Africa, the pages were encouraged by their Christian teachers to sacrifice their traditional studies and instead join the Christian efforts to spread Christianity throughout inland Africa and with this, the pages started spending long hours and sometimes days away from the palace courts spreading the gospel of Christianity to friends and families. This gross misconduct of the pages greatly angered the King. He was moved to send out a warning to the pages discouraging them from missing their traditional customary classes, but the pages were too far gone with their Christian missionary work, spreading the Christian gospel to heed the King`s warning. This disobedience saturated the King`s anger as he felt that he was steadily losing power over his people and that his rule was being taken over by the Christians and the white men. Frustrated, the King then called all his chiefs to discuss and consult them on the issue of the disobedient palace pages. Without the young pages, the King`s rule and the future of Buganda Kingdom was hanging in a balance and so the King was keen on finding ways of making the pages return to their traditional customary studies without harming them. Some of the chiefs responded to the King`s concern with hard truths that pointed to the fact that his rule was simply being despised and if he continued being lenient with the pages, he will have no Kingdom to rule. This greatly worried the King. One of the chiefs recommended that he should kill the disobedient pages but the King at that time refused the punishment as he knew that these were his friends` children and strong allies within the Kingdom. The King therefore instructed the Chiefs and the Bataka to advise their children to come back to the courts and resume their studies before he made drastic decisions that may lead to their death. The King went on to warn the pages 2 more times but most of the pages chose to continue with their Christian Missionary work away from the palace courts, with the white missionaries, to reporting to the palace to do the King`s bidding and to attending their Traditional Customary lessons. Kabaka (King) Mwanga II felt very angry and threatened. Some of his chiefs were beginning to put him on immense pressure sighting the fact that his people were beginning to view him as a weak King, they urged him to take strong action against the disobedient pages very quickly before he lost his Kingdom. They reminded him of how his father dealt with the Muslims but he was silently still hesitant. This was the best way some of the chiefs felt he could show is power and make his people renew their fear for him. Although highly debated, some historical accounts state that Kabaka Mwanga II had also learned homosexual practices from the Arab Moslems. These practices were strictly forbidden in Buganda Kingdom, however the King sometimes expressed intimate interests in his male pages. For King Mwanga II, the ultimate humiliation was the insolence he received from the (male) pages of his harem when they resisted his sexual advances. According to old tradition the king was the center of power and authority, and he could dispense with any life as he felt. It was unheard of for mere pages to reject the wishes of a king. Given those conflicting values Mwanga was determined to rid his kingdom of the new teaching and its followers. Mwanga therefore precipitated a showdown in May 1886 by ordering converts in his court to choose between their new faith and die or complete obedience to his orders and kingdom and live. The new King was passionate about growing Buganda`s power and influence in the region but he could not do it with his Kingdom divided. He felt that his power and authority was constantly being questioned by his subjects and his rule was being weakened by what he called the “white man`s religions”. Some sources say that the King essentially had no problem with Christianity and allowed the religion to be practiced within his courts, what made him angry however, was the stern disobedience of the palace pages who tagged their disobedience to the requirements of their Christian teachings. Meanwhile, Buganda Kingdom at this time also was experiencing internal strife, the Moslems were plotting to overthrow Kabaka (King) Mwanga II and replace him with a Muslim prince. The political upheavals combined with religious instability constrained the country’s moral stamina. The kingdom was thrown into turmoil; Moslems fighting Christians, traditionalists plotting against all creeds, untimely alliances concocted to survive against a common foe and later unceremoniously discarded. The kingdom broke into civil strife during which Kabaka (King) Mwanga II was briefly deposed, but he was able to regain his throne later. In his efforts to curb the Christian influence and try to regain the traditional and customary powers and authorities over his subjects, Kabaka (King) Mwanga II was adding more chaos to an already chaotic situation. In the north Kabarega (the king of Bunyoro Kitara a traditional arch enemy of Buganda) was raging, fighting off the pending invasion from the Khedive of Egypt and for sure he never lost his intentions towards Buganda. Further south it was reported that the Germans were annexing territories in the regions of the present Tanzania, and Mwanga was caught in a threatening position. Kabaka (King) Mwanga II had long stopped viewing the Missionaries as allies, his suspicion of them and their intentions to overthrow him were therefore real. He would, within a year, light fires of violence that would consume the religious converts as well as his throne and the Buganda Kingdom.
The Reign of Kabaka (King) Mwanga II and His Influence on Christianity– 1882 Christianity Comes Under Threat Kabaka (King) Mutesa I was succeeded by one of his sons, Danieri Basammula-Ekkere Mwanga II Mukasa, who ascended to the throne on 18th October, 1884 at the age of 16. The missionaries were pleased by Mwanga’s ascendancy to […]
Martyrdom Begins When the Killing Of Christians Becomes an Executive Order From the King – 1886 It is written on the Munyonyo Shrine`s online pages that at the end of a long and futile hunting spree on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 25, 1886, Kabaka (King) Mwanga II of Buganda Kingdom went back home frustrated. The King on his way back from Bulingungwe Island on Lake Victoria, where he had gone hunting, Mwanga met a traditional diviner seated on a small stone called Muwonge. “Seeing the king in a foul mood, the diviner asked the king what the problem was. After intimating his problems, the diviner replied to the king “All your woes are a result of the association of his pages with the white man,” said Muwonge. When the King returned to his palace in Munyonyo, by the lakeshore, he found, to his chagrin, that all his pages were indeed not in the palace. “I do not see any of my attendants here. Where are they?” he asked. And before one of his companions, probably Andrew Kaggwa could answer, the irate king shouted: “Rubbish, I know where they are. They have gone to the white men to study religion. Now I know that the country is no longer mine, but the whiteman’s.” That evening, at his palace in Munyoyno in a fit of rage, the King made the decision to kill all his Christian pages. Mwanga II took a very aggressive approach to this decision, expelling all the missionaries and insisting that all Christian converts abandon their faith or face death. A year after becoming king he executed Yusufu Rugarama, Makko Kakumba, and Nuuwa Sserwanga, who had converted to Christianity. On 29 October 1885, he also had the incoming Archbishop James Hannington assassinated on the eastern border of his kingdom. Charles Lwanga`s account of his days in the King`s palace (according to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine online archives) states that days after King Mwanga II had killed Joseph Balikuddembe, head of Christians, Kabaka addressing Charles Lwanga (Currently one of the Uganda Martyr Saints) in a kind fatherly tone, said, ‘My friend, it seems to me that during the past few days you all approach me with a certain fear. Do you think I wish to put you to death like Mukasa (Another Christian he had already Martyred)? If I had him killed, it was not because he prayed to God, but because he insulted me by opposing the order to put the Englishmen to death, and because he informed the white men of my plans. I know that you would not do that; you have, therefore, nothing to fear. I do not forbid you to practice religion; only pray here, and do not go to the white men again. Besides why do you go there at all? They make you no presents; you gain nothing by going to their place. If you should still want to visit them, you would make me believe that you are betraying me, like Mukasa. In that case I will be forced to drive away the strangers, and you with them, in order to save my kingdom. Then they will treat you as slaves; pile work upon you; make you carry stones and handle the hoe; and you will then be sorry for having disregarded my advice.’ Lwanga politely replied saying: “Your Majesty, you think that the white men and their followers have an intention of wanting to overthrow and take over your kingdom (Buganda Kingdom) and us of helping them carry out that wicked plan. This is not true, because, the religion which they teach commands us to serve you loyally, it obliges us to obey our superiors, to love them and to work for the good of our country. Ever since you called me, your faithful servant, and definitely I am. Know then, that I am still ready to lay down my life in your service. I am ready to lay down my life for you and for my Kingdom. Since I joined your services I have never committed any offence against you, you can ascertain it yourself.” The king stared at Lwanga in admiration and wonder at such faithfulness and he marched away stressing his earlier order trying to recall any mistake he had ever found in Lwanga’s life, though, as a matter of fact, Lwanga had served for more than a year in the king’s service as a chief page in the palace and was a common figure in the king’s sight. King Mwanga II seriously warned and ordered Charles Lwanga and all the Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, never to go to the missions. If and whenever they wanted to pray particularly on Sundays, they had to pray inside the palace. But if they dared continue going to the white men (Bazungu), the king threatened to banish them out of the kingdom with the white men. Although Mwanga had shown some love for the missionaries as a young prince, his attitude changed when he became king. The once lively and enthusiastic prince in support of the missionaries turned into an intolerant and vicious persecutor of Christians and all foreigners. He felt, with good cause, that the powers and authority his predecessors had enjoyed were dwindling, and had disintegrated under the influence of the missionaries and their converts. The converts had diverted their loyalty to some other authority and their allegiance at all costs could no longer be counted on.
Martyrdom Begins When the Killing Of Christians Becomes an Executive Order From the King – 1886 It is written on the Munyonyo Shrine`s online pages that at the end of a long and futile hunting spree on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 25, 1886, Kabaka (King) Mwanga II of Buganda Kingdom went back home frustrated. […]
The First 3 Martyrs are Killed – 1885 The palace Pages continued to disobey the King`s orders and their refusal to remain within the King`s courts especially for their Sunday prayers was the last straw on the haystack. Kabaka Mwanga II felt justified in ruthlessly asserting his authority. He determined that these would be the days these pages would clearly understand the kind of power he had over them…that is the power to let them live or die. What the young King lacked in political deal making, he more than compensated with a proclivity to violence not seen for many years in the Kingdom. It was hardly a year after Mwanga’s assumption of the throne that he ordered the execution of Yusufu (Joseph) Rugarama, Makko (Mark) Kakumba, and Nuwa (Noah) Sserwanga the first three Christian martyrs, who were killed at Busega Natete on January 31, 1885.
The First 3 Martyrs are Killed – 1885 The palace Pages continued to disobey the King`s orders and their refusal to remain within the King`s courts especially for their Sunday prayers was the last straw on the haystack. Kabaka Mwanga II felt justified in ruthlessly asserting his authority. He determined that these would be the […]
Anglican Bishop James Hannington is Killed – 1885 In October of 1885 the Anglican Bishop James Hannington recently dispatched to head the Eastern Equatorial Africa, headquartered in Buganda, was murdered in Busoga on his way to Buganda. Mwanga had ordered his death. Hannington’s crime was to attempt to come to Buganda through Busoga, a shorter route than that employed by earlier visitors who took the route from south of Lake Victoria. Buganda’s kings regarded Busoga as a backdoor to Buganda and thought that any one coming through the backdoor must have evil intentions towards the kingdom and should be terminated.
Anglican Bishop James Hannington is Killed – 1885 In October of 1885 the Anglican Bishop James Hannington recently dispatched to head the Eastern Equatorial Africa, headquartered in Buganda, was murdered in Busoga on his way to Buganda. Mwanga had ordered his death. Hannington’s crime was to attempt to come to Buganda through Busoga, a shorter […]
The First Catholic Martyrs Are Killed – 1885 Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, a senior advisor to the king and a Catholic convert, condemned Kabaka Mwanga II for ordering Archbishop Hannington’s death without giving him (Hannington) a chance to defend himself as was customary. Mwanga was annoyed that Mukasa would question his actions, and he had him arrested and killed. On Nov. 15 1885; Mukasa became the first Catholic martyr, when he was beheaded at Nakivubo in the heart of present day Kampala St. Andrew Kaggwa is Killed – 1886 Despite the fact that some Christians had already been killed for various crimes against the King`s authority, it was really at his palace in Munyonyo where King Mwanga took the fateful final decision to begin putting all known Christians to death. The blood of Ugandan’s martyrs was shed on the soil around Munyonyo in the suburbs of present day Kampala, Uganda. The first three Christians to render their lives for Christ’s sake after the King’s grim decision did so on 26 May 1886 – they were: St. Denis Ssebugwawo, St. Andrew Kaggwa and St. Pontiano Ngondwe.
The First Catholic Martyrs Are Killed – 1885 Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, a senior advisor to the king and a Catholic convert, condemned Kabaka Mwanga II for ordering Archbishop Hannington’s death without giving him (Hannington) a chance to defend himself as was customary. Mwanga was annoyed that Mukasa would question his actions, and he had him […]
The King Seperates the Christians and Sentences them to Death- 1886 In Munyonyo, all of the King’s Christian pageboys were captured and sentenced to death at Namugongo (the Kingdom’s designated place for execution). The Christian prisoners were grievously bound to each other, with sticks and ropes and were made to walk their life’s final journey escorted by merciless soldiers; theirs was a brutal and soul-inspiring last pilgrimage. On the way to Namugongo, at a lonely spot by the side of a road in Kyamula, Pontiano was martyred – he was the third Ugandan whose love of Christ outshone his desire for life itself. That same day in Munyonyo, servant of God, Fr. Symeon Lourdel (Mapeera) was desperately seeking an audience with the Kabaka (King0) Mwanga II in order to intervene for condemned Christians. However, he was not permitted to see King. Having intuited the grave and imminent danger which was about to befall Uganda’s Christian community, as night fell on 25 May 1886, Charles Lwanga (the leader of Uganda’s Christian community) secretly baptised four catechumens at Munyonyo and these were St. Kizito, St. Mbaga, St. Gyavira and St. Muggaga The very next morning, King Mwanga II precipitated a showdown in May by ordering all the Christian converts to choose between their new faith, and complete obedience to his orders. King Mwanga brought his whole court before him and separated the Christians from the rest; he asked, “Those who do not pray stand by me, those who do pray stand over there”. Those unwilling to renounce their new faith already knew they would be subject to death. He proceeded to ask the fifteen boys and young men standing apart whether they were Christian and, if they were, whether they intended to remain so. Courageously, the neophytes chose their faith, they answered “Yes” with strength and courage and instantly, Mwanga condemned them all to death. After a short imprisonment, the future martyrs were subsequently bound in ropes, were walked, staggered and were often dragged along over a number of days until they finally reached the martyrdom site in Namugongo on 3 June 1886. Here, they where they were mercilessly killed for choosing Christianity over their King`s wishes.
The King Seperates the Christians and Sentences them to Death- 1886 In Munyonyo, all of the King’s Christian pageboys were captured and sentenced to death at Namugongo (the Kingdom’s designated place for execution). The Christian prisoners were grievously bound to each other, with sticks and ropes and were made to walk their life’s final journey […]
Between 1885 and 1887 many more Christian converts were randomly killed. The execution of over 45 (forty-five) Christians at Namugongo on June 3, 1886; was the climax of the campaign against the Christian converts. Some Martyrs were killed using brutal torture, others by beheading, some were speared to death, others were butchered and cut into many small pieces and others were bundled in sticks and slowly burnt to death. All the Christian Martyrs (Catholic and Anglican) were killed in the same place in Namugongo at the spot where St. Charles Lwanga was killed. The last person killed in this crusade, was Jean-Marie Muzeeyi, who was beheaded at Mengo on Jan 27, 1887.
Between 1885 and 1887 many more Christian converts were randomly killed. The execution of over 45 (forty-five) Christians at Namugongo on June 3, 1886; was the climax of the campaign against the Christian converts. Some Martyrs were killed using brutal torture, others by beheading, some were speared to death, others were butchered and cut into […]
Many Anglican Christians were Martyred by Kabaka Mwanga and many of these went by undocumented, however below is the full list of the 23 documented Anglican Uganda Martyrs.
|NAME||METHOD OF MARTYRDOM||DATE OF MARTYRDOM||PLACE OF MARTYRDOM IN UGANDA|
|1||Kakumba, Makko||Cut to Pieces and Burnt||Jan 31, 1885||Busega|
|2||Rugarama, Yusuf||Cut to Pieces and Burnt||Jan 31, 1885||Busega|
|3||Sserwanga, Nuwa||Cut to Pieces and Burnt||Jan 31, 1885||Busega|
|4||Mukasa, Musa||Speared||May 25, 1886||Munyonyo|
|5||Mbwa, Eriya||Castrated||May 27, 1886||Mengo|
|6||Muddu-Aguma||Castrated||May 27, 1886||Mengo|
|7||Muwanga, Daudi||Castrated||Unknown, 1886||Namanve|
|8||Kayizzi, Kibuuka||Castrated||May 31, 1886||Mityana|
|9||Mayanja, Kitoogo||Castrated||May 31, 1886||Mityana|
|10||Muwanga||Castrated||May 31, 1886||Mityana|
|11||Kadoko, Alexanda||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|12||Kifamunnyanja||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|13||Kiwanuka, Giyaza||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|14||Kizza, Frederick||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|15||Kwabafu||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|16||Lwakisiga, Mukasa||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|17||Lwanga||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|18||Mubi-azaalwa||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|19||Munyagabyangu, Robert||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|20||Muwanga, Njigija||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|21||Nakabandwa, Danieri||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|22||Walukagga, Nuwa||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|23||Wasswa||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
Many Anglican Christians were Martyred by Kabaka Mwanga and many of these went by undocumented, however below is the full list of the 23 documented Anglican Uganda Martyrs. NAME METHOD OF MARTYRDOM DATE OF MARTYRDOM PLACE OF MARTYRDOM IN UGANDA 1 Kakumba, Makko Cut to Pieces and Burnt Jan 31, 1885 Busega 2 Rugarama, […]
The complete list of the known martyrs is given below. The list of the 22 known Catholic Martyrs includes only those who could be formally accounted for, many more murders went unreported and without a record.
|NAME||METHOD OF MARTYRDOM||DATE OF MARTYRDOM||PLACE OF MARTYRDOM IN UGANDA|
|1||Balikuddembe, Joseph Mukasa||Beheaded and Burned||Nov 15, 1885||Nakivubo|
|2||Kaggwa, Andrew||Beheaded||May 26, 1886||Munyonyo|
|3||Ngondwe, Ponsiano||Beheaded and Cut into pieces||May 26, 1886||Ttakajjunge|
|4||Ssebuggwawo, Denis Wasswa||Beheaded||May 26, 1886||Munyonyo|
|5||Bazzekuketta, Antanansio||Cut into pieces||May 27, 1886||Nakivubo|
|6||Gonza, Gonzaga||Beheaded||May 27, 1886||Lubowa|
|7||Mulumba, Matiya||Cut into pieces||May 27, 1886||Old Kampala|
|8||Mawaggali, Nowa||Speared, Ravaged by wild dogs||May 31, 1886||Mityana|
|9||Lwanga, Charles||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|10||Baanabakintu, Lukka||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|11||Buuzabalyawo, James||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|12||Gyaviira Musoke||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|13||Kibuuka, Ambrosius||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|14||Kiriggwajjo, Anatoli||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|15||Kiriwawanvu, Mukasa||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|16||Kiwanuka, Achileo Achilleus||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|17||Kizito||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|18||Ludigo, Mukasa Adolphus||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|19||Mugagga Lubowa||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|20||Sserunkuuma, Bruno||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|21||Tuzinde, Mbaga||Burned||June 3, 1886||Namugongo|
|22||Muzeeyi, Jean-Marie||Beheaded||Jan 27, 1887||Mengo|
The complete list of the known martyrs is given below. The list of the 22 known Catholic Martyrs includes only those who could be formally accounted for, many more murders went unreported and without a record. NAME METHOD OF MARTYRDOM DATE OF MARTYRDOM PLACE OF MARTYRDOM IN UGANDA 1 Balikuddembe, Joseph Mukasa Beheaded and […]
Political-Religious Aftermath after Killing the Uganda Martyrs – 1886 Chaos Breaks Out in Buganda/ Uganda The Killing of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo sent shock waves throughout inland Africa and news of Kabaka (King) Mwanga II’s actions provoked contradictory reactions in Britain. Some saw it as a sign of the futility of missionary efforts in Buganda, others as a call to renewed efforts. The Times of 30 October 1886, quoting the dictum, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church”, stated: “On the success of the Uganda experiment, with its alternation of favorable and adverse circumstances, depends the happiness of the interior of the vast continent for generations.” This sentiment developed into a campaign for British intervention in the region. Regardless of the perspective, what everyone realised was that Kabaka Mwanga II was determined to get rid of Christianity even if it meant killing some of his own people. This was not an option agreeable to the colonialists who at the time were deeply involved in the vicious scramble for Africa. These murders and Mwanga’s continued resistance greatly alarmed the British, and they retaliated by backing a rebellion by Christian and Muslim groups who supported Kabaka (King) Mwanga II’s half-brother and the King was defeated at Mengo in 1888. The converts, at least the Catholics, had been taught they risked martyrdom. The secular press of the time described them martyrs. The same description appeared also, of course, in religious publications, both Protestant, such as the journal of the missionary Mackay published in the Intellegencer of 1886, and Catholic, such as the accounts of the missionaries Lourdel, Denoit, and Delmas published in Enquête relative au martyre des chrétiens: Ste Marie de Rubaga, Buganda 1888 and Les Missions Catholiques 18 (1886). In September 1888, Mwanga planned to get rid of the remaining Christian and Muslim leaders by leaving them to starve on an island in crocodile-infested Lake Victoria. Word of his plan leaked out and a rebellion by Christians and Muslims together supported by the British brought Mwanga’s brother Kiweewa Nnyonyintono to the throne. In October 1888, the Muslims seized power, expelled all the Christian leaders however, when King Kiweewa refused to be circumcised, they deposed and killed him after exactly one month, replacing him with another brother, Kabaka (King) Kalema Muguluma. In December 1888, Mwanga won support from Christians and in April 1889 advanced against the Buganda capital. He was defeated, but the Christian forces, led by the Protestant chief Apollo Kaggwa, retook the capital, enabling Mwanga to enter it triumphantly on 11 October 1889. The Muslims took refuge in the neighboring kingdom of Bunyoro, and from there plotted a plan which helped them to return victoriously in November 1889. This victory was short-lived as they suffered a decisive defeat in February 1890 and they withdrew again to Bunyoro. However, Kabaka (King) Mwanga escaped from his stronghold and managed to negotiate with the British and he agreed to work with them. His offer was that if he is restored to his throne in exchange, he would hand over some of his sovereignty to the British East Africa Company. The British saw this as a good deal and they quickly swung into backing Kabaka Mwanga II. They helped him to swiftly remove King Kalema from the throne in 1889. With the aid of the Church Missionary Society, which used the deaths of their martyrs to win broad public support in Britain for acquiring Uganda, Captain Lugard then successfully dissuaded Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and his cabinet from abandoning Uganda. The powers of the company were transferred to the British Crown on 1 April 1893 and on 27 August 1894 King Mwanga II signed up Buganda Kingdom and let it become a British protectorate. Interestingly, however, The King was not pleased with how the British were treating him and his people and the thoughts of losing his power to the Bristish still haunted him and so on 6 July 1897 King Mwanga II declared war on the British but he was defeated on 20 July in Buddu (in today’s Masaka District). He was forced to again fled to German East Africa south of Buganda Kingdom. He was declared deposed on 9 August 1897. After a failed attempt to regain his kingdom, King Mwanga II was exiled in 1899 to the Seychelles. There he converted to Christianity and was baptized as an Anglican and was received into the Anglican Church. He died in 1903, aged 35. His remains were repatriated back to Uganda and he was buried among Buganda`s Kings in Kasubi Tombs. After these events, Uganda`s Christians started to multiply as they looked up to the Uganda Martyrs, as model Christian kinsmen.
Political-Religious Aftermath after Killing the Uganda Martyrs – 1886 Chaos Breaks Out in Buganda/ Uganda The Killing of the Uganda Martyrs at Namugongo sent shock waves throughout inland Africa and news of Kabaka (King) Mwanga II’s actions provoked contradictory reactions in Britain. Some saw it as a sign of the futility of missionary efforts in […]
Growth of Christianity in Uganda – 1900s By the 1930s, Christianity was the fastest growing faith in Uganda and Catholics were growing much faster than any other Christian denomination, When the Catholic White Fathers came calling in 1879, they were allocated land near Lubaga Hill. In 1889, the reigning monarch, Mwanga II of Buganda, donated them land on Lubaga Hill itself where they built Saint Mary’s Cathedral Rubaga, beginning in 1914 until 1925, with the assistance of monetary contributions from the Roman Catholic congregations abroad. Later, the missionaries built a hospital and a nursing school on the hill. Today, Lubaga remains the seat of the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Uganda. It is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala. The remains of the first African Catholic bishop in Uganda, Bishop Joseph Nakabaale Kiwanuka and those of the first African Catholic Cardinal, Cardinal Emmanuel Kiwanuka Nsubuga are kept in the Catholic Mission on the hill.
Growth of Christianity in Uganda – 1900s By the 1930s, Christianity was the fastest growing faith in Uganda and Catholics were growing much faster than any other Christian denomination, When the Catholic White Fathers came calling in 1879, they were allocated land near Lubaga Hill. In 1889, the reigning monarch, Mwanga II of Buganda, donated […]
The Beatification and Canonization of the Catholic Uganda Martyrs – 1920 -1970 In 1897 Archbishop Henri Streicher founded in Uganda the Uganda Martyrs Guild to participate in evangelization. Some chapters of the Guild became politicized in the 1950s. Under the influence of the Charismatic Movement, it later developed into an important anti-witchcraft movement in Tooro. The honor paid to the Uganda martyrs elsewhere in Africa serves to Africanize Catholicism, as for instance in Senegal, where a church built in 1890 contains their relics and where there are several churches dedicated to Kizito, the youngest of the Uganda Martyrs. Rather than deter the growth of Christianity, the martyrdom of these early believers seems to have sparked its growth instead. As has been observed in many other instances, the blood of the martyrs proved to be the seed of faith. Christianity (in its various flavours) is now the dominant faith in Buganda and Uganda as a whole. The 22 known Catholic martyrs were beatified and declared “Blessed” by Pope Benedict XV on 6 June 1920. This is one of the key steps in the catholic tradition that eventually leads to canonization. During the Vatican II Conference, on Mission Sunday, 18 October 1964, the twenty-two (22) Catholic Martyrs of Uganda were canonized and solemnly proclaimed Saints by Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. The momentous occasion with its age-old rites and traditional pomp and pageantry was rendered even more colorful and spectacular than usual by the presence of the vast majority of the Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops of the Catholic Church, gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. Also present were representatives of the Government of Uganda, the reigning Kabaka of Buganda –Kabaka (King) Edward Muteesa II and other countries, and also over two hundred clergies, religious and lay people from Uganda. This uniquely magnificent event, when for the first time the people of Central Africa were to take their place in the glorious army of saints, was greeted with a sound never before heard in St. Peter’s, the pulsating rhythm of African drums and other instruments, as the long Papal procession filed into the great basilica. From this day forward, these brave Uganda Martyrs will now forever be recognized by the universal church, revered and honored as true Christian Saints. This was a first for modern Africa and a source of Catholic pride throughout the continent and the world.
The Beatification and Canonization of the Catholic Uganda Martyrs – 1920 -1970 In 1897 Archbishop Henri Streicher founded in Uganda the Uganda Martyrs Guild to participate in evangelization. Some chapters of the Guild became politicized in the 1950s. Under the influence of the Charismatic Movement, it later developed into an important anti-witchcraft movement in Tooro. […]
Shrines are Built in Honor of the Uganda Martyrs 1960 -2000s It is written that approximately 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic Christians were martyred between 1885 and 1887, firmly standing in their Christian faith by Kabaka (King) Mwanga II, the then Kabaka (King) of the Buganda Kingdom. This display of courage and faith was first recognized by Joshua Serufusa-Zake (1884–25 June 1985) when he was the Sabaddu of Kira Sub-County. He went on to construct a small structure at the Namugongo site where the Martyrs had been killed, later, much shrines were built for prayer. Today, Churches have been built in the locations where Uganda Martyrs were ruthlessly killed, and the Martyrs are also honored on the churches’ murals and stain glasses. The most prominent shrine is Namugongo Martyrs Shrine which is located where St. Charles Lwanga and his companions were burned. The tradition of honoring the Uganda martyrs is important not only for Ugandans but throughout Africa and the world because the tradition exemplifies the steadfastness in faith that the Uganda Martyrs had and their resolve to pay the ultimate price for what they believed in. For Ugandans, this event honors their pre-Christian heritage of spirituality and ancestry. The celebration of the Uganda Martyr’s takes place every year on June 3, and over 2,000,000 Christians from around the world come to Namugongo to honor the bravery of the Uganda Martyrs. Many pilgrims come from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and all over Uganda to take part in the Ugandan Martyr’s Celebrations at Namugongo, and many others follow the holy proceedings on TV, Radio and via social media.
Shrines are Built in Honor of the Uganda Martyrs 1960 -2000s It is written that approximately 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic Christians were martyred between 1885 and 1887, firmly standing in their Christian faith by Kabaka (King) Mwanga II, the then Kabaka (King) of the Buganda Kingdom. This display of courage and faith was first […]
Pope Paul VI makes a Pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine – 1964 Uganda wrote a golden page in history when Pope Paul VI became the first Roman Catholic Pontiff to go out of the Vatican gates on a foreign trip to Africa and more particularly to Uganda on July 31- August 2. Despite the fact that he had canonized the Uganda Martyrs on October 18, 1964, the thought of the Pope coming to Africa was something that only a few dared to dream about. According to the New Vision article published online on Sunday 25th August, 2015, The first Pope to visit the Uganda and the Uganda Martyrs Shrine was Pope Paul the IV and his invitation to visit Uganda in 1969 came out of a joke! According to the archives at Lubaga Cathedral, the then Archbishop of Kampala, Emmanuel Nsubuga, had gone to the Vatican fundraising for Namugongo Shrine in March 1969. He travelled with a woven bag locally called a kikapu with which he was fundraising. When he got an audience with Pope Paul VI, he presented the kikapu to the Pope and asked him to bless it. He then used the opportunity to discuss the Uganda Martyrs. And on that day, the pope contributed UGX 140,000, which was almost over UGX 1,000,000,000 ( 1 Billion) of Uganda`s current currency value. Speechless Archbishop Nsubuga, in appreciation, asked him to come and lay the foundation stone at Namugongo but he got no answer. Later, during the mass at St Peters Basilica Rome on the Feast of St Joseph, March 19, Pope Paul VI announced his decision to visit Uganda later that year. It had never been heard of that a pope could visit an African country! According to sources, the decision met resistance from within the Vatican. The head of the Vatican finance committee, which organized the pope’s visits abroad, Archbishop, Paul Marcinkus, told the media: “It’s easier to organize a trip to the moon than a trip for the pope to Africa!” He cited such hurdles as weak governments, poor infrastructure and local hazards that could threaten the pope’s health. But he was wrong! Pope Paul VI arrived in Uganda on July 31 and left safely on August 2, 1969 without any nasty incident. He was not eaten by any lions, did not contract any malaria and there was no security threat on his life. In fact, a year later in 1970, when he visited the Philippines, he was attacked by a Bolivian painter, Benjamin Mendoza, with a dagger and wounded in the chest at Manila airport. The injury turned out to be minor. To honor these modern saints, Paul VI became the first reigning pope to visit sub-Saharan Africa when he visited Uganda in July 1969; a visit which included a pilgrimage to the site of the martyrdom at Namugongo. He also dedicated a site for the building of a shrine church in honor of the martyrs, at the spot where Charles Lwanga was killed. The shrine church itself, was dedicated in 1975 and it was subsequently named a basilica church, a high honor in Catholicism. During his Sermon at the Shrine, Pope Paul VI said ““By now you Africans you are missionaries to yourselves” The Pope stated at Lubaga Cathedral on his first day of his three days’ visit to Uganda on July 31, 1969. Pope Paul VI was the first reigning pope to visit sub-Saharan Africa. Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury makes a Pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine – 1984 The Head of the worldwide Anglican Communion Archbishop Robert Runcie of Canterbury, also visited Uganda to make holy pilgrimage to the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine in January 1984.
Pope Paul VI makes a Pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine – 1964 Uganda wrote a golden page in history when Pope Paul VI became the first Roman Catholic Pontiff to go out of the Vatican gates on a foreign trip to Africa and more particularly to Uganda on July 31- August 2. Despite the fact […]
Pope John Paul II makes a Pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine – 1993 After Pope Paul VI, the second Pope that has visited Uganda is Pope John Paul II. He visited Uganda and spent 6 days in the country. The first non-Italian Pope from Poland, Pope John Paul II (now a Saint) visited Uganda at the invitation of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, from February 5 – 10, 1993. Like Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine to honor the Uganda Martyrs. During the trip, he celebrated mass with extremely large crowds in Gulu, Soroti, Kasese and Namugongo, on top of meeting the youth at Nakivubo Stadium in the heart of Kampala. During the visit, the Uganda Martyrs’ Shrine Namugongo was elevated to the rank of a Minor Basilica. On 7th February 1993, during the homily at Namugongo shrine, he said “Truly the Uganda Martyrs became light in the Lord! Their sacrifice hastened the rebirth of the Church in Africa. In our own days, all Africa is being called to the light of Christ! Africa is being called again to discover her true identity in the light of faith in the Son of God”. And he had a loud applause.
Pope John Paul II makes a Pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine – 1993 After Pope Paul VI, the second Pope that has visited Uganda is Pope John Paul II. He visited Uganda and spent 6 days in the country. The first non-Italian Pope from Poland, Pope John Paul II (now a Saint) visited Uganda at […]
Pope Francis I makes a Pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine – 2015 The first Jesuit Pope, the Holy Father, Pope Francis 1 became the third Pope to visit Uganda. He arrived in Uganda from Nairobi, Kenya on November 27th 2015. Again like his two predecessors, Pope Francis came to Uganda as a pilgrim to venerate the Holy Martyrs, at Namugongo Martyrs Shrine. During his televised sermon, the Pope is remembered to have said, “The most dangerous enemy of remembrance is forgetfulness but it is not the only one. The most dangerous enemy of remembrance is when we take for granted everything we have received, everything that has been passed down to us” Pope Francis told Priests, Religious men and women and Seminarians at St. Mary’s Cathedral Lubaga on Saturday, November 28, 2015. He said this after the 50th Anniversary of the Uganda Martyrs where over 3 million pilgrims attended the year’s Martyrs Day Celebrations at Namugongo Martyrs Shrine. Pope Francis I’s visit came after Pope Paul VI (1969) and that of Pope John Paul in 1993. Uganda right now is the only African nation to have three papal visits.
Pope Francis I makes a Pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine – 2015 The first Jesuit Pope, the Holy Father, Pope Francis 1 became the third Pope to visit Uganda. He arrived in Uganda from Nairobi, Kenya on November 27th 2015. Again like his two predecessors, Pope Francis came to Uganda as a pilgrim to venerate […]
The Uganda Martyrs are acknowledged for having played a critical role in advancing both political and Christian influence within inland Africa and the world. Their impact is evidenced today, over 55 years later, with records showing that by 2019, over 80 % of Uganda`s population is Christian. The largest Christian group is Roman Catholic with 39 percent; 32 percent is Anglican, and 11 percent Pentecostal Christian. According to official government estimates, Muslims constitute 14 percent of the population. The UMSC estimates Muslims (primarily Sunni) are closer to 20 percent of the population. The example of steadfast love and loyalty shown by the Uganda Martyrs has faithfully trickled down through generations and formed a grip onto Uganda`s Christians that is both powerful and revered. Every year, on June 3rd, when most of the martyrs were killed, is marked as a national holiday in Uganda. It is also marked worldwide on the church calendar as a day to honor the Uganda Martyrs. On this day, all Ugandan Christians remember the brevity of their ancestors as they relive and renew their commitment to their Christian missions. The Uganda Martyrs will be forever remembered and held dear in the hearts of all Ugandans and African Christians as symbols of the true Christian way of life.
The Uganda Martyrs are acknowledged for having played a critical role in advancing both political and Christian influence within inland Africa and the world. Their impact is evidenced today, over 55 years later, with records showing that by 2019, over 80 % of Uganda`s population is Christian. The largest Christian group is Roman Catholic with […]
La Foret Gardens, Muyenga
Plot 3161 Bukasa Close, off Tank Hill Rd, Kampala