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.
|Martyr’s Name||Birthplace||Clan||Religion||M A R T Y R E D|
|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|
|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|