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by Bridget Boakye, at 10:22 am, June 13, 2018, History

How the King of Buganda massacred 45 Ugandan Christian martyrs in 1886

Namugongo Shrine. Photo Courtesy: UGChristianNews

On June 3rd of every year, Uganda commemorates Martyrs’ Day at the Namugongo Shrine.

The occasion honors some 45 men who were killed by King Mwanga ll of Buganda, within modern-day Uganda. Mwanga was the 31st monarch of Buganda. He ruled as Kabaka (king) from 1884 until 1888 and from 1889 until 1897 before British rule.

Mwanga was known to be relentless. He had an especially tenacious relationship with the British, specifically, Christian missionaries, who were a threat to his rule not only in their attempts to establish themselves deeper in Buganda but to change beliefs and values.

Historians say that Mwanga II took a much more aggressive and often violent approach to foreign threats to his power than his father who played-off the influence of Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims. He often expelled missionaries and insisted that Christian converts abandon their faith or face death.

A year after becoming king at the age of 16, he had an incoming archbishop, James Hannington, assassinated on the eastern border of Buganda. In the same year, he killed a number of his own men in his harem for refusing his advances.

“Twenty-two of the men, who had converted to Catholicism, were burned alive at Namugongo in 1886 and later became known as the Uganda Martyrs. Among those executed were two Christians who held the court position of Master of the Pages, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe and Charles Lwanga. They had repeatedly defied the king by rescuing royal pages in their care from sexual exploitation by Mwanga which they believed contrary to Christian teaching,” Utamu News explains.    

Mwanga’s killings apparently produced the exact opposite of what he sought to achieve. The New Times reports that “the example of these martyrs, who walked to their deaths singing hymns and praying for their enemies, so inspired many of the bystanders that they began to seek instruction from the remaining Christians. Within a few years, the original handful of converts had multiplied many times and spread far beyond the court”.

Going even as far as to say, “The martyrs had left the indelible impression that Christianity was truly African, not simply a white man’s religion. Most of the missionary work was carried out by Africans rather than by white missionaries, and Christianity spread steadily”.

Some 22 men who were killed by Mwanga have been canonized as saints and Martyrs of Uganda since 1964. Uganda’s Christian site, UGChristianNews, also shared the list below with the names of those martyred and the manner in which they were killed.

Uganda’s Christian Martyrs

Martyr’s Name Birthplace Clan Religion M A R T Y R E D
Date Place Manner
1 Kakumba, Makko Buganda Ffumbe Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
2 Rugarama, Yusuf Ankole Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
3 Sserwanga, Nuwa Buganda Ngeye Anglican Jan 31, 1885 Busega Dismembered and Burned
4 Balikuddembe, Yosefu Mukasa Buganda Kayozi Catholic Nov 15, 1885 Nakivubo Beheaded and Burned
5 Mukasa, Musa Buganda Ffumbe Anglican May 25, 1886 Munyonyo Speared
6 Kaggwa, Anderea Bunyoro Catholic May 26, 1886 Munyonyo Beheaded
7 Ngondwe, Ponsiano Buganda Nnyonyi Nnyange Catholic May 26, 1886 Ttakajjunge Beheaded and Dismembered
8 Ssebuggwawo, Denis Buganda Musu Catholic May 26, 1886 Munyonyo Beheaded
9 Bazzekuketta, Antanansio Buganda Nkima Catholic May 27, 1886 Nakivubo Dismembered
10 Gonza, Gonzaga Busoga Mpologoma Catholic May 27, 1886 Lubowa Beheaded
11 Mbwa, Eriya Buganda Ndiga Anglican May 27, 1886 Mengo Castrated
12 Muddu-aguma Anglican May 27, 1886 Mengo Castrated
13 Mulumba, Matiya Busoga Lugave Catholic May 27, 1886 Old Kampala Dismembered
14 Muwanga, Daudi Buganda Ngonge Anglican Namanve Castrated
15 Kayizzi, Kibuuka Buganda Mmamba Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
16 Mawaggali, Nowa Buganda Ngabi Catholic May 31, 1886 Mityana Speared, Ravaged by wild dogs
17 Mayanja, Kitoogo Buganda Ffumbe Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
18 Muwanga Buganda Nvuma Anglican May 31, 1886 Mityana Castrated
19 Lwanga, Karoli Buganda Ngabi Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
20 Baanabakintu, Lukka Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
21 Buuzabalyawo, Yakobo Buganda Ngeye Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
22 Gyaviira Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
23 Kibuuka, Ambrosio Buganda Lugave Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
24 Kiriggwajjo, Anatoli Bunyoro Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
25 Kiriwawanvu, Mukasa Buganda Ndiga Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
26 Kiwanuka, Achileo Buganda Lugave Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
27 Kizito Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
28 Ludigo, Mukasa Adolofu Toro Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
29 Mugagga Buganda Ngo Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
30 Sserunkuuma, Bruno Buganda Ndiga Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
31 Tuzinde, Mbaga Buganda Mmamba Catholic June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
32 Kadoko, Alexanda Buganda Ndiga Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
33 Kifamunnyanja Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
34 Kiwanuka, Giyaza Buganda Mpeewo Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
35 Kizza, Frederick Buganda Ngabi Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
36 Kwabafu Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
37 Lwakisiga, Mukasa Buganda Ngabi Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
38 Lwanga Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
39 Mubi-azaalwa Buganda Mbwa Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
40 Munyagabyangu, Robert Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
41 Muwanga, Njigija Buganda Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
42 Nakabandwa, Danieri Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
43 Walukagga, Nuwa Buganda Kasimba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
44 Wasswa Buganda Mmamba Anglican June 3, 1886 Namugongo Burned
45 Muzeeyi, Jean-Marie Buganda Mbogo Catholic Jan 27, 1887 Mengo Beheaded

 

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