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The Uganda Martyrs

The Uganda Martyrs : are a group of 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in the historical kingdom of Buganda, now part of Uganda, who were executed between 31 January 1885 and 27 January 1887. They were killed on orders of Mwanga II who was the Kabaka (King) of Buganda and the deaths took place at a time when there was a three-way religious struggle for political influence at the Buganda royal court. It was also done because of the various people of Buganda who were converting to Christianity whereby they were forced to abandon their faith in Christianity which they refused to do and Kabaka ordered for their killing. The Uganda Martyrs comprised of 45 young men that were killed; 23 Anglican and 23 Catholics converts. The Catholic Church beatified the 22 Catholic martyrs of its faith in 1920 and canonized them in 1964. Their lives are celebrated by the whole world on 3rd June every year and people from different areas pay pilgrimage to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine which was put in place in commemoration of the Uganda Martyrs. Later on shrines were constructed at Namugongo site for people to conduct prayers. The Namugongo Martyrs Shrine is a Catholic Basilica dedicated to the Ugandan Martyrs that were killed by Kabaka Mwanga. The shrine is one of the historical, religious and most beautiful things to visit in Kampala.

Mwanga massacred the Anglican missionary Bishop James Hannington and his colleagues in October 1885. Joseph Mukasa, an important member of the royal household and a Catholic, reproached the kabaka for the massacre and on November 15 of that year, Mwanga had Mukasa beheaded. Mwanga, having learned that they had received religious instruction from the page Denis Ssebuggwawo, he ordered that all the youths be arrested. Charles Lwanga who was Mukasa’s successor, then secretly baptized those boys who had only been catechumens and the following day they were herded away to the village of Namugongo. Three of them; Pontian Ngondwe, a soldier, the royal servants Athanasius Bazzekuketta and Gonzaga Gonza were murdered en route. Mwanga continued his persecution, destroying Protestants and Roman Catholic missionaries alike. Subsequent victims included Matthias Mulumba, assistant judge to a provincial chief; Andrew Kaggwa, chief of Kigowa; and Noe Mawaggali, a Roman Catholic leader. The page Jean Marie Muzeyi was also beheaded on January 27, 1887. All the survivors, as recorded by Father Lourdel, superior of the Roman Catholic mission to Uganda, were imprisoned for a week with the exception of Mbaga-Tuzinde, who was bludgeoned by his own father, the pages were burned alive on June 3, 1886.

Name of the Uganda martyrs

  • Yusuf Rugarama, Baanabakintu Lukka, Buuzabalyawo Yakobo, Kakumba Makko, Ssrwanga Nuwa, Lwakisinga Mukasa, Lwanga, Nakabandwa Danieri, Balikuddembe Mukasa, Mukasa Musa, Bazzekuketta Antanansio, Gonza Gonzaga, Lwanga Karoli, Tuzinde Mbaga, Kadoko Alexanda, Mubi-Azaalwa, Munyangabyangu Robert, Gyaviira ,Kiuuka Ambrosio, Kiriggwajjo Anatoli ,Kiriwawanvu Mukasa, Kiwanuka Achileo ,Kizito, Wasswa, Walukagga Nuwa, Muzeeyi Jean-Marie, Lugido Mukasa Adolofu, Mugagga, Sserunkuuma Bruno, Kifamunnyanja, Kiwanuka Giyaza, Kizza Frederick, Kwabafu, Muwanga Njigija, Kaggwa Anderea, Ngondwe Posiano, Ssbuggwawo Denis, Mbwa Eriya, Muddu-Aguma, Mulumba Matiya, Muwanga Daudi, Kayizzi Kibuuka, Mawaggali Nowa, Mayanja Kitoogo, Muwanga

Frequently asked questions about the Uganda Martrys

  1. Who was the first Uganda Martyr to be killed?

Nuwa Serwanga, Makko Kakumba and Yususf Rugarama were the first Uganda martyrs. The execution of the three was done on 31 January 1885, just a year after Kabaka Mwanga the second had succeeded his father. Later on that year, Bishop Hannington, on returning to Uganda, was also murdered.

  1. Who was the youngest Uganda Martyr?

Kizito was the youngest of the martyrs and he was burned alive on the orders of King Mwanga II of Buganda on June 3rd, 1886 in Namugongo.

  1. Why were the Uganda Martyrs killed?

The specific reasons for the murder of each martyr varies, thus they have created a considerable debate. Some martyrs went missing when summoned by Kabaka, others say it was a three-way religious struggle for political influence at the Buganda royal court. It has also been recorded that Kabaka executed Uganda Martyrs for lack of submission to his sexual advances. Subjects who denounced Christianity as their faith were spared from death whereby Mwanga summoned the martyrs and asked for those who love to pray to stand on one side. Most of them being youths, stood aside and declared themselves as worshipers of the Christian religion. Their age bracket approximately ranged from 10 to 30. They were later executed.

  1. How were the Uganda Martyrs killed?

The Uganda martyrs were beheaded, tortured, or burnt alive to death. The burning of martyrs began at Gombolola, Mengo; the place of the sacred fire and ended at Nakiyanja, the site of execution. The holy fire never went off unless a king died and was reignited on the entry of another king. Ssenkole who was the deputy executioner managed the holy fire and took ash of the killed to use it to protect the king from the dead spirits. Ssenkole would bring fire on the day of execution using reeds, though not up to the place of performance, the blood of the executed was not to be spilled at Nakiyanja and family members were not allowed to bid farewell to their loved ones at Nakiyanja. Farewells were done at the present-day place, Kyaliwajjala.

 

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