Uganda, an East African country, also known as the Pearl of Africa prides in a number of things, but mostly in her hospitable people, rich and vibrant cultures, and her rich history; including overcoming colonialism, pandemics, to mention but a few. What most people do not know is that Uganda is home to a group of over 70 Muslim Martyrs and 23 Martyrs and 22 Catholic Saints, forefathers that shed blood for the sake of their faith in what they believed in. Uganda takes great pride in especially the Christian Saints and Martyrs that altered the history of her land when they died because of their steadfast belief and faith in Jesus Christ. Here, you will get to know who these heroes are, on whom the Christian and Muslim Faiths have since stood strong in Africa.


Like a swarm of bees, or an upsurge of locusts, the Uganda martyrs’ shrine at Namugongo and the Martyrs’ Shrine at Munyonyo flood with people from across Uganda and the world at large, from all walks of life. Aside the religious celebrations:  including Christmas day, Easter, and the Eids as among the Muslims, Martyrs day comes next among the biggest celebrations in Uganda.

A memory of determined men of faith to many; a day of prayer to some, a festival of music, parties, and drinks to others; and yet a day of pride and belonging to many is the Uganda Martyrs Day in Uganda.

Pilgrims start to move to the martyrs’ shrines as early February or March considering where they are coming from. Usually, those from Tanzania start trekking as early as February. The Rwandese start sojourning between February and March too. People from Kabaale, Kisoro, Ntungamo, Kigezi, Mbarara, Rukungiri among other parts of Western Uganda usually join their counterparts from Rwanda towards the end of April.

In Uganda generally, pilgrims start their journeys to the Martyrs’ shrines close to the end of April and by the end of May, they would be close to, or at the Martyrs’ shrines. In the year 2015, pilgrims from Lira in northern Uganda had only moved as far as Kaseese by May 27th, ahead of their mass/prayers at the shrines in Kampala as per the Daily Monitor.

The joy with which these pilgrims move will always confuse you; you may think that that they move in vehicles or on horses! Amid cheerful songs, songs of worship and praise and amid prayer do the pilgrims move, in groups. With swollen feet, tired backs, empty stomachs, dry throats, resilient pilgrims walk on to the shrines of prayer.

While those from Western Uganda sing and dance to the Kitagururo (their traditional dance), those from Mbale are most likely to dance to the relatively more enthusiastic and cheerily drum-themed Kadodi, while sounds of Adungu or Ding Dong may be heard in Luwero from the pilgrims descending the northern part of Uganda to the Shrines in Kampala.

But who are these people that the pilgrims are celebrating? Although records show that many people were killed for their faith in Christianity and Islam below we introduce to you the know and documented Uganda Martyrs celebrated each year in Namugongo.


Monday 17th February 1879 saw two Roman Catholic missionaries; Fr Simeon Lourdel and Brother Amans Antoine land in Uganda at Kyettale, present day Kigungu, Lake Victoria as Henry Lubega reported in the Daily Monitor of February 16th 2019. Lubega emphasizes in the same article, that “without the events of February 17th 1879, the martyrs’ sacrifice, may not have happened.” Years after their evangelical work in the pearl of Africa, Fr Lourdel and Brother Amans had not only converted00000000000000 many inland Africans to the Catholic religion, but had gone ahead to take them under catechism, and baptized them, upon which such coverts were cautioned never to denounce their new faith/religion, even if it meant death. “It was also to be made clear to those seeking instruction that they must be prepared to lay down their lives rather than deny their faith.” Below are the documented Catholic Uganda Martyrs, however it should be noted that many Catholics were killed for their faith, some of whom, their records were never taken.


“From now on, you can go to my treasury and take whatever you want from there as long as you inform me because you are the savior of my household and the savior of this kingdom,” was Kabaka Muteesa 1’s message to Joseph Mukasa shortly after he had saved him from a very feared snake. The further effect this statement had on Mukasa was that now, not only him was allowed to pray to his God and practice his religion at liberty, but all the Catholics in Buganda were at liberty, thus the name ‘Balikuddembe’, ‘the Catholics are now at liberty to practice their faith.’

Born to Mazinga’s cousin and Kajwayo, a Munyoro woman in 1860, Joseph Mukasa knew at the age of fourteen when he was presented to the Kabaka as a page, that the surest way to success was through serving the king. Like a number of loyal servants that had been retained to serve at the palace after Kabaka (King) Muteesa I’s demise, Joseph Mukasa had been retained too. With the liberty granted him by the late King, Joseph would lead catechism at the royal palace and its adjoining buildings. This fellowship was led by Mary Muzeeyi. Aside the palace, Joseph would also take converts through catechism classes in the outer courts of the royal enclosure and capital environs, led by Andrew Kaggwa and Mathias Kisuule. Other times, he would run to Mityana at the headquarters of the Ssingo chief. This fellowship was led by Mathias Kalemba Mulumba and Luuka Baanabaakintu. When Joseph was not here, he would be teaching in the Kitanda fellowship in Bulemeezi county led by Charles Lwanga. Devoted and passionate Joseph challenged learned protestant philosophers and theologians severally when they attempted to convert him to their religion.

What could have led a man that had found favor before the king to Martyrdom?

According to the records of the Martys’ shrine in Munyonyo, aside having refused to engage in acts of homosexuality with Kabaka Mwanga, Joseph Mukasa also dared to plead to the King to save Bishop Hannington’s life. This sparked off the King’s fury and on 15th November 1885, Uganda recorded her first ever Christian martyr; Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe. Joseph was burnt alive by Mukaajanga, the King’s chief executioner.


Born on 1st January 1860, Charles Lwanga would later take up Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe’s post after his martyrdom on 15th November I885. On the same absurd day, charismatic Charles Lwanga would secretly baptise all those that had been catechists but had not been baptized yet. Lwanga of the Nkima (Monkey) clan was usually admired for his physical prowess, great wrestling skills, leadership skills, gentleness and noble character. Upon his baptism by Pere Giraud, Lwanga was named Charles after Charles Cardinal Lavigerie because the priest saw in him similar leadership skills like the latter’s.

Dark skinned Charles Lwanga faced death because even after Mwanga had condemned two pages at the palace in Munyonyo in Lwanga’s presence, the latter had instead gone ahead to do evangelical work, provoking the king’s wrath even further. Lwanga ablaze, he smiled at and told the guardian of the sacred flame that it was as though the guardian were pouring water on him. He cautioned him to repent and turn to Christianity. On 3rd June 1886 when Charles Lwanga was burnt, twelve other Catholic boys and nine Anglican boys were burnt, separately from him. He is venerated in the Catholic Church, Anglican Church, and the Lutheranism. Charles Lwanga was beatified in 1920 in Rome, in the Kingdom of Italy by Pope Benedict XV, and canonized on 8th October 1964 in Uganda by Pope Paul VI. His major shrine is the Basilica Martyrs Shrine in Munyonyo, Kampala Uganda and he is patron over African Catholic youth, actors, converts, torture and victims.


Initially a member of Bunyoro Kingdom in Western Uganda, sworn enemies with Buganda Kingdom, handsome and well-built Andrew Kaggwa had been captured as a slave to Buganda when they raided Bugangaizi. To his salvation, Andrew’s character made him one the King’s favourite pages. It is said that Andrew was cheerful and very kindhearted. Such attributes lured H.M. Stanely to rub shoulders with the cheerful Kaggwa when he visited the Pearl of Africa. Noticing Andrew’s love for music, Stanely brought Andrew European drums which Kabaka Muteesa would later fancy. As such, Stanely sent Andrew to his factotum, Toli who was visiting from France to teach Andrew Kaggwa how to use such drums. It is said that through Andrew’s visitations, Toli introduced Andrew to Catholicism because even being a Muslim from Madagascar; he worked for Catholics as a carpenter here in Uganda.

In the year 1880, Andrew joined Catholicism and started attending Bible classes under Alexander Mackay. He was later baptized on April 30th 1882 whereupon he would start instructing catechism, baptizing others, and burying the many that had succumbed to the terrifying bubonic plague as at that time, the missionaries had left.

Like many others, upon Kabaka Muteesa I’s death, having been his master drummer in charge of fifteen other drummers, and his bandmaster in charge of all court musicians including buglers and cymbals-players, Andrew had been retained by King Mwanga, whom he doubled to as a personal friend. Kabaka Mwanga hereupon gave Andrew authority over all militia from which the bandsmen were drawn.

Sentenced to death at the King’s palace in Munyonyo, Andrew’s execution did not come as early and as easily as the rest of the martyrs. Having loved him dearly, Kabaka Mwanga II had delayed Andrew’s death, hoping that he would denounce Christianity and be saved. On the other hand, the chancellor demanded for Andrew’s execution, ordering: take this man away and put him to death. Bring me his arm to prove that you have done your work. I won’t touch food until I have seen it.” The executioners however delayed Andrew’s death hoping that the King would intervene to save Andrew’s life.

Would it take you by surprise that Andrew Kaggwa demanded for his own death? Determined not to compromise with his faith, Andrew demanded for his own death, “My God” being his last cry, upon which he was beheaded and his body cut into pieces on May 26, 1886. There, at Munyonyo where his body was cut is where his remains were buried. Andrew Kaggwa was later beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920, and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964.


Born in Mbale, Mawokota, Katende Parish, in present day eastern Uganda. Mukasa was the son of Lumanyika Kirwamukyaayi and Malokuvaawo, a mother from Busoga. His father was a very good wrestler. Mukasa was said to be a very handsome man, a giant with exceptional strength. He joined the palace under the reign of Kabaka Muteesa I and was soon a favorite of the king, being put in charge of serving food to visitors and the other pages as well. He is the only martyr to have received blood baptism. He had already become a catholic and was under the guidance of Charles Lwanga, although at the time Lwanga baptized the pages on 26th May, Mukasa was in prison for hitting a fellow page, Gyaviira. During the one week stay in prison, with the condemned pages, he kept praying and singing hymns. When Mukajanga, the chief executioner asked him if he was a Christian, he boldly accepted and was burnt alive with the rest of the martyrs on 3rd June 1886. Mukasa is the patron saint of hotels, bars and restaurants.


He is the youngest Catholic martyr, having been burnt at the age of 14.  He was born in Waluleeta, Bulemeezi in Nandere parish around 1872. His father was the Lukomera of the king’s palace in 1884. Upon becoming a page, he served in the king’s courts. His witty nature and dedication to his given tasks made him one of the king’s favorite. He was also good in sports, especially wrestling and swimming. He played the xylophone really well too. Charles Lwanga had to protect him several times from the king’s sexual demands and this was one of the reasons why he was marked for death. He got baptized on 26th May and was named John Baptist. Kizito is one of the most famous martyrs and is the patron of children, especially those below the age of 15.


His exact date of birth is not clear but he seems to have been born around 1869 in Jjalamba, Mawokota, Mitala Maria parish, to Mazinga of the Ngo (Leopard) clan. His clan name is Lubowa but his mother had named him Mugagga so that in future he would accumulate wealth and be rich like his name suggested. Lubowa was taken to the palace by his uncle, Sseddu, who at the time was the chief bark cloth maker in the palace.

He was assigned the private section of the palace and placed under Charles Lwanga.   He was extremely good at games and handicraft.  He got baptized on 26th May and is the patron of clubs, community development, culture and home crafts. He died at 17 at Namugongo on 3rd June, 1886.


James Buzabalyawo was the son of Sekibijje, a royal bark cloth maker of the Colbus-monkey (Ngeye) clan from Tabizimu, Mawokota County. Third of eight children, James joined the palace first as a page and later as a bandsman and guard. Under Andrew Kaggwa’s mentorship, James Buzabalyawo converted to Christianity. Andrew Kaggwa would later teach him how to play the big drum at the palace and instruct him in the Catholic religion still. Buzabalyawo was one of the people that Andrew Kaggwa baptized the day Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe was martyred. With such charisma given, Buzabalyawo would go ahead to try and convert Kabaka (King) Mwanga II (still prince then) to Catholicism. James met his death unexpectedly. On the fateful day that Mwanga hunted to kill Andrew Kaggwa, he landed on Buzabalyawo instead, and it was no use that he inquired whether he was a Christian or not. Shocked Buzabalyawo knelt before the king, seeking for mercy upon which the King pushed him away with his left foot, ordered his arrest whereupon he was stripped of clothes, and taken to prison. “This is the fellow that actually tried to make a Christian out of me. Take him away and kill him at once. I want to commence with him.” “James passed close to me. His hands were tied and he had a rope around his neck. I lifted my hand to give him a last absolution and he answered by lifting his, bound as they were, to Heaven. He smiled and seemed to say to me; Mapeera, why be so sad?”


Born in Kinyiira, Bujuni parish in 1860, to Siita, Anatoli was called Karubagira and he grew up in chief Rugwela’s enclosure at Nyakabango in Bunyoro Kingdom. During the 1876 raid of Bunyoro by Buganda, he was captured and brought to Buganda whereupon Kisomose took him as a slave. Seeing the giftedness and the many talents Anatoli possessed, Kisomose, a former chancellor of King Muteesa I took him to the palace to serve the King. Sources indicate that Kisomose could have taken him to the palace to mend his broken relationship with King Muteesa I, which had been caused by his rejection of her amorous advances. At the palace, Anatoli displayed good virtues and was put under the mentorship of Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe. He got baptized on 16th November 1885 after becoming a Christian. Having been an excellent hunter and herdsman, Anatoli easily won the favor of young King Mwanga II while many of his friends at the palace got laid off upon Kabaka Muteesa I’s death. The king promoted him to work in the chambers of the princesses, catering for them and all their bodily needs. Anatoli, knowing that this would make him compromise on his virtues, even with the knowledge that the rejection of such a position would get him killed, he went to the king and declined the post. The king was angry but did not kill him just yet. However, when the other pages were being arrested, the king demanded his arrest, claiming that he was a Munyoro who had dared to defy him and decline a post he had been given. Anatoli was burnt alive on 3rd June, 1886 and he is the patron of hunters.


He was the 5th catholic martyr in Uganda, and he was known for being trustworthy, clean, orderly, faithful and obedient. Kiiza was born at Mukuma Bulemeezi in Mulajje parish around 1866. At the palace he was put in charge of the king’s ceremonial robes and ornaments and also the treasury and ivory. When he became a Christian he was so devoted, becoming an ardent catechumen and getting baptized on 17th November.

During the walk to Namugongo, they reached Nakivubo and one of the executioners asked which one of the pages wanted to die where their leader Balikuddembe had died, to which Kiiza stepped out and was speared to death. He died at 20 years. He is the patron of those in charge of finance, banks and the treasury.


Achileus Kiwanuka is also known as Achileo Kiwanuka, and as Achilles Kiwanuka

He was born in Ssingo County and served as a page of audience hall in the court of Kabaka (King) Mwanga II of Buganda before converting g to the Catholic faith under the “White fathers” missionary group. Achileus had been first the county chief’s server before he became a dependant of the Ssabakaaki who later presented him at court when Mwanga took over the throne. Achileus was born to Kyazze of the Scaly-eater (Lugave) Clan. He died at perhaps 16 0r 17 years of age on 3rd June 1886 at Namugongo. He had been baptized on 16th November by Pere Lourdel. He was beatified in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, and canonized on 18th October 1964 by Pope Paul VI.  His major shrine is Basilica Church of Uganda Martyrs Namugongo.


Ambrose Kibuuka was born in Katikamu, Mulundaggana, Ssingo County, Buganda Kingdom to Kisule Balamaze, former official drum beater to the Kabaka, and was the first boy child his parents had among over 30 daughters. Ambrose met Catholicism at the Kabaka’s palace where he had been taken as a page at 15 years of age. He was entrusted to Joseph Mukasa who later entrusted him to Charles Lwanga, both of whom introducing him to Catholicism. The socially talented in games, kind, cheerful and charitable Ambrose ardently refused his parents’ entreaties to abandon Catholicism. Ambrose was baptized by Pere Lourdel at Namugongo after Balikudddembe’s death, specific date being 16th Nov 1886. At 18 years of age, Ambrose Kibuuka met death at Namugongo on 3rd June 1886 when he was burnt.

Beatified in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, Ambrose was canonized on October 18th 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

His major shrine is Basilica church of Uganda Martyrs, Namugongo and he is the patron of societies including scouts, guides, young Christian workers, Xaverians and TCW.


Mbaaga Tuzinde’s martyrdom is an interesting matter of History, showcasing conflict between duty/loyalty and love/relationship. Mukajaanga, the King’s chief executioner was a ruthless man, no wonder he was appointed for his role. However, Mukajaanga had a relationship, not by blood, but by rite and law with Mbaaga Tuzinde of the Lungfish (Mamba) clan. Among the Baganda of Central Uganda, relationship is, and was even then according to clans and totems. It was always less likely that people from different clans would be related, unless it was through marriage. The other exception to this was “blood pacts.” These, among the Baganda served as good as birth itself. Once you entered a blood pact with anyone, you would have become blood relatives with such a person. This is exactly what happened to Mukajaanga and Tuzinde. Growing up, the two learnt that their grandfathers had sworn a blood pact, which made them brothers as according to customary law in Buganda. Making Mukajaanga’s place even more complex, upon his father’s death, he had appointed young Mbaaga Tuzinde as his heir, which now according to customary law made the latter the former’s father. Mukajaanga pleaded with Andrew to denounce Christianity for the fear, love and respect he had for him as a father, but Andrew would not listen. This conflict was very tough for Mukajaanga that once Mbaaga Tuzinde was in the fire, the former pulled him out, pleading with him to renounce ‘the European religion’ and in return, the executioner would plead with the king for Andrew’s salvation, but the latter refused because according to him, praying was not a crime. Taken by concern for his ‘father’ Mukajaanga requested his assistants to nape Tuzinde’s head off and throw his body parts onto the fire on June 3, 1886. Mbaaga Tuzinde was the son of Katamiza Waggumbulizi of the Lungfish clan, and Mmumanvi Bukuwa of the Yumfruit (Kkobe) clan. He was born in Bunyonga, Busiro county, Buganda Kingdom.


A potter, excellent at articles such as water-pots, jugs, mugs, cooking-pots, bowls, pipes, among others, tall and slender Noah Mawaggali was born to Kyazze, a well-known deputy county chief of the bush-buck (Ngabi) clan in Ssingo county, Buganda Kingdom, and Talida Nassaza, the daughter of Mukwenda Ddumba.  Due to his efficiency at serving his worship, Kabaka Muteesa 1, Noah would become popular in no time. Having become a page at the palace at the age of 15, Noah became even more famous for his kindness, courage and his trustworthiness.  He was also a very obedient young lad. From Charles Lwanga from whom he had placed under, Noah learnt about the Catholic religion and converted to the religion. Due to the impact Charles Lwanga’s teachings had on him, he dared to burn the amulets he had long won for protection. He was extremely interested in learning, working hard to learn how to read and write. Sometimes he served as a messenger too and he had a good voice which made him an amazing singer too. Until the Feast of All Saints in 1885, Noah had not been baptized. He was burnt on 3rd June, 1886 alongside the other pages who were marked a week earlier and kept in prison, Noah is the patron of journalists, press, writers, printers and artists.


John Muzeeyi was a Muganda born between 1852-1857 in Kisomberwa, Minziiro to Bunyanga of Mbogo Clan and Kabejja Mukaatunzi Namalawo of the Nkima clan. To his mother, John was the only child, although he had over one hundred siblings from his father’s side, his father being a polygamist. He was at first a Muslim, his Islamic name being Jamari., He then became a Protestants before settling with the Catholics. He was baptized on 1st November 1885 by Pere Mapeera. Muzeeyi was extremely intelligent, learning all the prayers and catechism in only three days when it would have taken an average learner at least four months. He was also devoted to traditional healing and had great knowledge about local herbs and roots, treating and curing many sick people during the small pox plague. He was the last martyr on record to be killed, on 27th February 1887. He died at Mengo, after being beheaded. He is the patron saint of religious doctors, nurses, hospitals and learners.


This martyr was born in Sseguku, Busiro around 1869 and 1870 to Ssemalago, a traditional priest of Mayanja the god, and he belonged to the Mmamba clan of the Buganda kingdom. His father gave him the Mayanja Musoke name, hoping that one day he too would become a priest of the god. At the palace, his friends called him Gyaviira and the name stuck. He joined the palace as a page in 1884 when Kabaka (King) Mwanga II had just ascended on the throne. It is from the palace that he met Charles Lwanga and became a Christian, burning all his traditional amulets and turning his back on his past. He was among those baptized by Charles Lwanga on 26th may 1886, the night before the king condemned them from Munyonyo and he was burnt on 3rd June at the age of 17. He is the patron of traffic, communication and those troubled by witchcraft.


Luuka was born in Butambala, Mitala Maria parish, around 1852, to Mukwanga of the Mmamba clan and Kusuubiza of the Nvuma clan. He was known to be prudent, friendly, calm and trustworthy. He was also a skilled bark cloth maker and he doubled as a blacksmith. The king had put him in charge of the fishermen on Lake Wamala and the wood cutters there too.  When he became a Christian, he would walk on foot for forty miles, from Mityana to Kampala every Sunday, memorise the sermon of the priest, walk back and narrate the sermon to Matiya Mulumba, who would in turn tell the congregation in Mityana. Luuka was baptized on 28th May, 1882 and he was thirty years old at the time of his death on 3rd June 1886. He is the saint patron of students, fishermen and blacksmiths.


He was the 2nd catholic martyr and he was born at Kigolooba, Kijjaguzo parish around 1869. His father was called Kajjansi Ssubugwawo of the Musu clan and his mother was called Maria Nsonga Nabalongo from Busoga, in eastern Uganda. Denis was known to be a calm and gentle soul, relaxed and always quiet. However, he could also be jolly sometimes and he sung really well. He joined the palace at the age of 14 as a page, and got converted to Christianity. He was so faithful and devoted to his religion after getting baptized on 17th November. He got on the wrong side of the king when the latter found him teaching Mwafu, one of the king’s still submissive page, about Christianity. He was severely scourged by the king himself and later beheaded on May 26, 1886. He is the patron of all musicians.


He belonged to the Nnonyi Nnyange clan of the Buganda, after being born in Bulimo Kyaggwe, Naggalama parish to Birenge Mbaziira and Mukomulwanyi of the Mbogo clan. Records are not sure of his exact date of birth but it is believed to have been around 1846 to 1851. He became a page at the age of ten and served as a policeman before becoming a soldier at the palace. Before he became a Christian, he was exceptionally cruel and merciless, full of anger and always vulgar. However, after his baptism on 16th November 1885, he struggled and became a gentler and calm person. He was already in prison after being accused of stealing the King’s cattle. He was pierced 3 times on the chest by the chief executioner and left for the birds and other animals to eat. Ponsiano is the patron of soldiers, policemen and the militia.


Bruno was born in Masaka to Kizza Kibuuka Majalya around 1856. His brother, Mbugano, took him to the palace as a page and he was put under Balikuddembe who introduced him to Christianity.  On 16th November he was baptized by Pere Giraurd. Initially he was a drunkard with a hot temper, his morals were also loose and he was cruel and vulgar too. After changing his ways, the King gave him two girls whom he took home as his wives, although he later repented when his fellow Catholics told him the act of polygamy was a sin. During the walk to Namugongo, his brother, Bbosa, gave him beer because he was very thirsty, he refused and walked on. Bruno is the patron those tempted to excessive drinking, lust and those not properly married in church.


Kalemba was born in Kyebando, Bunya in Busoga in 1836 to Nandigobe. He was later kidnapped and brought to Buganda whereupon a man named Tomusange adopted him as his own son. Matiya was known to be tall, with a deep voice and a kind and humble soul. Tomusaange had foretold that some men would come with a religion and that Matiya should follow them. This is why he was at first with the Muslims, then he joined the Protestants before settling in with the Catholics. Initially he had many wives but he fought to stay with only one as his legal wife and partner.  He was always sharing the gospel with others and he took Catholicism to Ssingo, Mityana and Buddo. He got baptized on 27th May 1886 and died the most brutal death of all. The executioners cut off his limbs, peeled some flesh from his back and left him like that for three days, while he kept praying for the executioners and his country. He died on May 27, 1886 at about 50 years of age.


He was from Bunyoro. Born at Misazi, Myeri, Kyenjojo, Butiti parish. Adolphus, son of Bamwesekesa and Kyote was kidnapped with him by the Baganda raiders. He was given the name Mukasa from Buganda and later nicknamed Ludigo for his resemblance to the Mutaka Ludigo from Busoga. He was put in charge of the king’s gardens from where the other pages worked. A tall, slender, dark-skinned young man, Adolphus was calm, intelligent and thoughtful. He was about 24 years old when he died.  Once he claimed to be a descendant of the princes of Bunyoro. He started following the Catholic faith in 1881 when the court was at Nabulagala and that was close to the Catholic mission at Kasubi. He was friends with Andrew Kaggwa with whom they would attend mission when they had finished doing their palace duties. Baptized on 16th November 1885 by Pere Mapeera, Adolphus often ignored customs and joined women in cooking. So proud of his religion, he wore his best attire on his condemnation day. This was removed from the Ssezibo tree as custom demanded before he was burnt on 3rd June 1886, and his ashes scattered into wind. Adolphus was beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920, canonized by Pope Paul Vi on 18th Oct 1960, and venerated by Pope Benedict XV ON 29TH Feb 1920. He is the patron of herdsmen and farmers.


Gonzaga Gonza was a Musoga who had been seized and captured as a slave in one of the raids Buganda made on Busoga. Gonza had first been in the service of Tegusaaga who started out as a palace firewood-cutter and rose to the rank of corporal of the guard. Tegusaaga introduced Gonza to Kabaka Muteesa I who employed him in the private section of the royal enclosure.  Gonza too was recalled back into service by Kabaka (King) Mwanga. Upon this, he was posted at the court of the great audience hall where he served under Charlese Lwanga. Gonza wasn’t baptized until the martyrdom of Joseph Mukasa when he received the sacrament from Pere Lourdel with the name Gonzaga. Gonza, lover of children was beheaded and martyred at the age of 24 years on May 27, 1886.


Sixteen-year-old Mwanga would later take over the throne after his father’s death in1884. As a prince he had shown love for the missionaries, though this attitude changed when he became king. The young king felt that the power and authority his predecessors enjoyed was crumbling and reducing under the influence of the missionaries. Initially the king had absolute powers and would do as he wished, but the new converts, mostly palace pages, started rejecting his wishes. They changed their allegiance and loyalty to the God of the missionaries. The king, who was supposed to be the center of power and attention, was now being challenged by the Bambowa (pages), the least subservient of all the palace workers. Thus Mwanga became a vicious and intolerant persecutor of the converts and the foreigners in his kingdom, with a determination to rid it of the new teachings. To date, a total of 23 Anglican Martyrs are recorded in the Ugandan books of History. The Twenty-three are the ones that have stood the test of time and yielded to death for their faith in the Anglican Religion. However, there are many more that died without being documented.


Hardly a year after Mwanga assumed the throne, he ordered for the execution of this young page from the Ffumbe clan. Makko was one of the five pages given to the Church Missionary Society as a gift to be brought up under the leadership and safe custody of Alexander Mackay.  Born in Buganda kingdom, he had grown up serving the palace under King Muteesa I. Upon Muteesa I’s death, Kakumba had joined the missionaries and got baptized under the Protestant Church.  On 30th January 1885, the young man about 15 or 6 years old with two others was arrested as they escorted Mackay and Ashe to Lake Victoria where the two missionaries intended to set off for Ssese islands for a retreat. The king had offered the missionaries escorts but because they rejected his offer over Makko Kakumba and Yusuf Rugarama, the king was annoyed and sought vengeance by arresting the missionaries’ chosen guards.

The following day after the duo’s arrest, Makko’s arms were carefully chopped off before he was set to roast slowly in a fire of carefully chosen wood. In grievous pain, Makko kept pleading with Sabaddu, the captain of the guard that arrested him, for mercy, however the captain was a Muslim who believed in Allah the all merciful and as such had no mercy for ‘pagans.’ Registered as one of the first to die for his faith, he had many others follow in the same path. This however did not stop the converts from continuing to practice their faith and as such many were marked for execution. Makko Kakumba was killed in Busega along with 3 others and a shrine has been built up in Busega in memory of the three martyrs who died for their faith on 31st January 1885.


Born in Ankole Kingdom, in the western part of Uganda, Yusuf Rugarama belonged to the Bahima tribe, among the cattle grazing clans of the kingdom. He had earlier been baptized under the Protestant church. It is believed that he was taken as a prisoner of war around 1873 when Buganda attacked and defeated the Ankole. However, others sources believe that he could have gotten lost while grazing cattle and got picked up from the bush. He was believed to be around 11 or 12 years, a year younger than Kizito (Omuto) who is believed to have been either 13 or 14, a page at the palace of the King of Buganda too. Yusuf served as a page to Kabaka (King) Muteesa I and upon the latter’s death, him alongside five other pages were given as a gift to the church, The Church Missionary Society, under the guidance and leadership of Alexander Mackay.

According to Black Martyrs by Fr. Thoonen, Yusuf is described as a fine Muhima orphan boy. Alexander had them trained in the word and they also learnt carpentry and brick making. When the persecutions started, Alexander had built a cave in Nateete where the Christians could hide. On the morning of 30th January, 1885, Rugarama was among the five boys who were escorting Mackay and Reverand Ashe to the lake. The missioners were going to Ssese islands, south of Buganda, for a retreat since Mwanga had threatened to kill all the missionaries in his kingdom. The boys intended to see their master off and return to the mission; however, their party was intercepted by soldiers led by Sabbadu, the captain of the guard. Rugarama and his friends were taken to the capital and the next day, on 31st January 1885, together with his friends and they were executed. Rugarama was accused of being a Christian and attempting to escape with the missionaries. Like Kaddu, his arms were first cut off before he was tied and burnt slowly in a carefully lit fire. He had kept begging to be thrown into the fire without being cut but his pleas were not heard. A shrine has been erected in Busega in memory of the first Christian martyrs.


This young convert from the Ngeye clan was born in Buganda Kingdom. He had earlier on served as a page to King Muteesa I but after the death of the latter he was given as a gift to the missionaries. He was baptized under the protestant church and under the guidance of Mackay, he served the missionaries. Historical records show that he was about 19 years of age at the time of the persecution. His arrest was mainly because the king had offered Mackay and Ashe escorts but the two refused. This made Mwanga angry and thus he made the missionaries to pay for the defiance by arresting the escorts, Nuwa inclusive. They had simply served as luggage carriers for Mackay and Reverend Ashe.  Upon his arrest, he was taken to the capital and the next morning executed by being dismembered and later burnt.

When Nuwa was being dismembered, he bore his suffering in silence. After cutting off his arms, he was bound and slowly burnt till he died. The charges that had been put on him included being a Christian and attempting to escape to Europe with the missionaries. In his memory stands a shrine at Busega, his death was the first of the several deaths that Mwanga would order in an attempt to end the influence of Christianity in the kingdom.


A member of the Baganda tribe, from the Ffumbe clan, Mukasa was born in Buganda kingdom, which now makes up the central and southern part of modern Uganda. He joined the palace during the reign of King Suuna II. He went to the palace with his sister who later gave birth to King Muteesa Walugembe I. Mukasa was widely known for his humility. That aside, he worked hard during his service in the palace. In fact, history has it that king Mwanga II trusted him and kept assigning him different high profile tasks in the palace. As such, was in charge of lighting fire at a specified time, and in charge of the king’s shrine too. When Kabaka Mwanga became a Muslim, he made Mukasa the ‘muazzin’, one who invites the faithful for prayers.

Before Mukasa’s death there was a heated buildup of circumstances. It was the role of all pages to wait for the king when he returned from his hunting trips. This time round however, Mukasa, together with the other pages, did not appear because they had gone to attend the Christian mission classes in Nateete. To make matters worse when the King returned, he was in a very bad mood because he had lost his modern rifle during the unsuccessful hunt. At the same time, the King had also lost his Lubaga palace on 8th due to a fire that was sparked by an earth quake. Princess Nalumansi a beloved royal, had also converted to Christianity and burnt all the pagan fetishes, which only confirmed to the king that the new Christian teachings were indeed discouraging the worship of the Balubaale (small gods).

On the morning of his death, Mukasa was overheard discussing with Andrew Kaggwa and other pages to escape and go for mission classes in Nateete as soon as the King left. When Mwanga saw Mukasa returning with the books he had been given from the mission, he was so vexed that, before killing Mukasa, he said ‘Musa Mukasa how can you also leave your responsibilities and join the rest of the team?’ The king himself speared Mukasa on grounds of his faithfulness and appraisable service to his majesty, and he died on spot at Mulungu Landing site in Munyonyo on May 25, 1886. A memorial site has been set up in Munyonyo in memory of the martyr.


Born a Muganda, he was chief of Musamula and a member of the Ndiga clan. Eriya had served Kabaka (King) Mwanga as a prince, but later on dismissed because he refused to steal goats for his master. He later on made peace with Kabaka (King) Mwanga and that is how he attained the chieftaincy of Musamula. He was marked for execution by the king on 26th May, but the king later changed his mind and had him castrated instead. The actual date of his death is not known but according to Reverend Ashe, a witness, he probably died on 27th or 29th May, 1886. Ashe said that he lingered for a while and then fell ‘asleep’. Eriya was a member of the church council and had been baptized under the Protestant faith. His exact age is not known in the records of history.


A servant of the Queen mother, he was also born in Buganda and belonged to the Mmamba clan. He was believed to be a relative of the chief executioner, Mukajanga. Records have it that he was clubbed to death before being put on the pyre and burnt on 3rd June 1886. This was deemed to be an act of kindness from the chief executioner so that they would spare him the pain of being burnt alive. Kamyuka, a survivor of the persecution, while talking to a reporter, listed those that Mukajanga ordered his men to set aside for a kinder death experience and one of them was Danieri.


It is hard to trace the background of this young man. One eye witness, James Miti, said that he was an unbaptized follower of the Anglican missionaries although he accepted to be killed for his faith. In Buganda, he belonged to the Mpeewo clan. Not much is known about Giyaza but it is believed that he was among those burnt alive on 3rd June 1886 at Namugongo.


Baptised under the protestant faith, Lwanga was rumored to have initially been a follower of the pagan chief Engobya, and he showed such courage in sheltering some of the survivors of the Namugongo holocaust to the extent of even buying off pursuers with 3000 cowrie shells.  Nothing further is known of Lwanga except that he was a victim of the Namugongo holocaust on 3rd June 1886.


Also known as Musbatosi, Mubi-azaalwa served as a page in the royal enclosure. He was a follower of the protestant faith and was under the leadership of Musa Mukasa. He was close to another page, Wasswa, with whom they read the word of God. It is rumored however, that when the king gathered the pages for questioning, the two: Mubi and Wasswa denied being Christian at first. It should be noted that the kind of faith the martyrs displayed is one that required early preparation, well instructed leaders such as Charles Lwanga, and it’s probable that the two companions did not have access to such an opportunity. He however confessed to being a Christian and managed to keep his faith till the end. On 3rd June 1886 Mubi succumbed to the flames and became a Martyr.


The young man had earlier on served as the commander of the royal fleet of canoes, before being presented to the Kabaka as a page. He served the palace in the royal enclosure and soon became friends with Mubi who has been mentioned earlier. They probably converted to Protestantism and were under Musa Mukasa who was in charge of the prayer house. When the king asked him if he was a Christian, Wasswa told the king that he had ended his Bible readings. This was interpreted by other pages as a sign of denying the Lord. But the King did not believe his denial. He was later burnt alive with the rest of the condemned Christians at Namugongo on 3rd June, 1886. The rest of the details about Wasswa are not known, not even his second name.


Records of Kwabafu are extremely scanty. All that is known is that he was a protestant catechumen at the time of his death and that earlier on he had served as a page at the palace. He belonged to the Mmamba clan and thus we can assume that he was born in Buganda kingdom. He was among the Martyrs that were mercilessly burnt during the Namugongo Holocaust on 3rd June, 1886.


Kizza was present in 1885 when the first three Protestant martyrs were burnt. He at the time served as a soldier under the Muslim Commander, Sabbadu. During the burning of Rugarama, Kakumba and Serwanga, Kizza boldly affirmed his faith in God in as much as his chief warned him that he would get himself killed. Born in Buganda kingdom, Kizza belonged to the Ngabi clan and according to The African Holocaust, Ashe, one of the eye witnesses of the persecution; Kizza was a gentle, loving and brave young man. Upon the outbreak of the general persecution, Sabbadu advised Kizza to flee the kingdom but the latter refused and stayed on, practicing his faith. Kamyuka, a survivor of the Namugongo killings told reporters that Kizza was first clubbed on the head before being rolled in a reed mat and burnt. He met his end on 3rd June, 1886.


He is wrongly called Albert on the Namirembe tablet. He belonged to the Mmamba clan although other sources claim he had roots in the Bunyoro kingdom. A man of about fifty years, Robert was one of the palace gate keepers although sometimes he was employed as a royal messenger. He was so devoted to his faith, that apart from being a member of the Church Council, he also gave religious instructions to pages from his home. The day he was arrested, he was found teaching a group of boys in his hut, and while the boys broke through the thin reed walls of the hut and escaped, Munyangabyanjo sat calmly and waited for his arrest. According to Abdul Azziz, a survivor of the persecution, on 3rd June, 1886 Munyangabanjo was first dismembered on the orders of the Chancellor, his body mutilated and bleeding body was placed on the pyre and burnt.


Born in Buganda Kingdom, which is the central and southern part of Uganda, Alexander was a member of the Ndiga clan and rumors have it that he was related to the Kabaka (King) Mwanga II. Other sources indicate that he was the chamberlain to the royal princess. When he was being arrested, according to Miti, a survivor and an eye witness, Alexander was found in his compound drinking from his gourd.  Mukajanga (chief executioner) told him to finish his drink and follow them. When they were taken to Namugongo, he was taken away from the pile of the condemned Christians and put aside alongside Nakabandwa, a Queen mother’s servant, Fredrick Kizza, from the king’s command post and Mbaaga Tuzinde, a relative to Mukajanga. Alexander was the chief of Nnaalinnya. The chief executioner had them clubbed on the head first and killed them to save them from the extreme pain of being burnt alive. Alexander was Martyred on 3rd June 1886.


Muwanga Njigija was born in Buganda Kingdom. He served as a page in the royal enclosure. At the time of his arrest, he had been baptized under the protestant faith. When the king called all the pages and asked which ones of them professed Christianity, Muwanga followed Charles Lwanga and the other pages to the right hand side. He was one of those who were rolled in reed mats and placed on the pyre alive on 3rd June 1886.


Often times Mukasa Lwakisiga is confused with Joseph Mukasa the Catholic martyr. He belonged to the Ngabi clan and he also perished at Namugongo on 3rd June 1886, presumably burnt alive. Several other Anglicans were marched to Namugongo, alongside 13 other Catholics, rolled in reed mats and set ablaze.


A survivor of the crusade, a one Dennis Kamyuka, told a reporter of The New Vision, that on the dawn of 3rd June, the executioners, adorned in animal skins and feathers, amulets and bells tied on their anklets, gathered around the victims, brandishing spears and pangas and beating drums. The hands of the victims were tied to their back and the chief executioner, Mukajanga, ordered them to march to the fire. The victims joyously greeted one another and went to the flames singing.  In a bid to curb the influence of Christianity, Mwanga sparked the growth of it instead through the faith shown by the Martyrs. Some of the other martyrs include Kifamunyanja, Muwanga from the Nvuma clan. (He was castrated on 31st May from Mityana), Muddu Aguma was also castrated alongside Mbwa Eriya, he died on 27th May, Daudi Muwanga was also castrated although record books do not show the date on which he was Martyred. Kayizzi Kibuuka from the Mmamba clan was also castrated, Mayanja Kitogo from the Ffumbe clan and Noah Walukagga from the Kasimba clan all perished in the Namugongo holocaust. Details of the Anglican Martyrs are not readily accessible and the profiles above only represent 16 documented Anglican Martyrs, however this does not dwindle the impact they have had on the journey of Christianity in Uganda and in Africa.


For a hundred and thirty-four years until 2019, every third day of June has been a day of celebration of the Uganda Martyrs; boys and men, most of them Bambowa (pages at the service of the Kabaka of Buganda) who died for their belief in Jesus Christ. (Celebrations this year have not been as vigilant as the grounds were closed off considering the outbreak of Covid-19 in Uganda.) These men, hanged, butchered, and grilled for their faith were Catholics and Protestants.

Unknown to many however, Islam was the first religion to officially register martyrs in Uganda. The year 1875 saw Kabaka Muteesa 1 as the king of Buganda after his father’s death. The young and handsome king embraced Islam as a religion and had a mosque built at his palace. Forbidden to Islam, Kabaka (King) Muteesa I continued eating meat slaughtered by non-Muslims and he refused to get circumcised because it was against Buganda Kingdom`s Traditions for the King to shed his blood. This brought doubt among the Buganda Muslims and some of the followers who had taken up the religion stopped attending prayers led by him.

Some of the King`s most loyal servants felt dissatisfied with the king’s actions. When they openly started challenging his actions, he had them arrested, taken to prison and had his chief executioner kill them. Thereafter, the Kabaka tried to force the Muslim converts in Buganda to eat meat that had not been slaughtered by Muslims, they refused to heed him, 4 consecutive times and they were killed for disobeying the King`s commands. The exact date of their death is not known but in 1877 about 70 men altogether were marched to Namugongo and burnt to death. It is believed that the killings started from around 1874 up to 1877.

The Uganda Muslim Supreme Council declared 1st June a day of commemorating the martyrs although the state has not made it a public holiday like 3rd June. The Imam of Kibuli Mosque, Sheikh Abdusaam Mutyaba, said that they cannot start a pilgrimage for the martyrs like other religions because according to the teachings of Islam, the only accepted pilgrimage is the one made to Mecca in respect of Prophet Mohammad. However, he added that they can be remembered in prayers. Below are the only 2 documented profiles of the Muslim Uganda Martyrs


Muddu Awulira was Kabaka (King) Muteesa I’s most loyal servant. The King trusted him and the servant obeyed the King`s every command. He was honest and was virtually loved by the King. When the king noticed that the number of those attending prayers had dwindled, he summoned Muddu. Upon his appearance, Muteesa asked Muddu why that was so. “My Lord, it is because we feel like you should not lead the prayers since you are not circumcised.” This kind of casual reply was taken by the king as insolence. The page made the situation worse by telling the king that he and his fellow pages and servants looked at him as a fellow Muslim worshipper not as a King. The king stayed in a foul mood the whole day and several weeks later he held a feast and had the Muslims attend. When the men refused to eat the meat which had been slaughtered by non-Muslims, the king had them arrested. He kept on sending the prisoners food and meat but the men persistently refused to eat the meat. On the fourth day, the king instructed his chief executioner to kill all the Muslim coverts that had disobeyed the King and Muddu Awulila was among the converts that were Martyred on that day in 1877.


Not much is known about Mponye Buwonyi, except that he defied the king by refusing to eat the meat that he sent to them while in prison. Four times the king had food and meat sent to the prisoners, and four times the men ate only the food and refused to touch the meat. Together with about seventy other prisoners, Mponye was taken to Namugongo and burnt to death in 1877.

Nurture your spiritual growth and development by unravelling the history and mysteries of the Uganda Martyrs.

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