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, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda. The deaths took place at a time when there was a three-way religious struggle for political influence at the Buganda royal court. The episode also occurred against the backdrop of the “Scramble for Africa” – the invasion, occupation, division, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers. A few years after, the English Church Missionary Society used the deaths to enlist wider public support for the British acquisition of Uganda for the Empire. The Catholic Church beatified the 22 Catholic martyrs of its faith in 1920 and canonized them in 1964.
REASONS FOR THE KILLING OF THE MARTYRS
The killing of Bishop James Hannington and Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe as the first Uganda
martyrs was due to Buganda’s traditional prophecy and fears that Buganda’s independence
would be taken away by Foreigners coming from the Eastern direction.
Mwanga’s autocracy or unquestionable authority as enshrined in Buganda’s custom also led to
the death of the Uganda martyrs in Namugongo. According to Buganda’s custom, no one had a
priority to question the king’s powers and as such, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe became a
martyr when he questioned the king’s orders for persecuting Bishop James Hannington in
It’s also believed that the killing of the Uganda martyrs was part of the annual traditional norm
of sacrificing to the ancestors and the gods commonly known as “kiwendo” in Buganda at that
time. History as thus concluded that, kabaka Mwanga had Christians as rebels at his courtyard to
fulfill this cultural demand in 1885.
The death of kabaka Mutesa I in 1884 left behind a power vacuum which resulted into the
killing of the Christian converts. Muteesa 1 had peacefully and maturely managed to handle
religious disagreements in Buganda but his death however, led to the rise of Mwanga into power
in 1885 at every tender age who could not make rational decisions to handle disagreements of the
Kabaka Mwanga’s immoral and unethical behavior of homosexuality also contributed to the
killing of the martyrs in Namugongo. This put the king into conflicts with the pages at the
courtyard who rejected his sexual demands after being converted into Christianity and as such,
he felt angered thus ordering for their killings.
The martyrs were also believed to have dead due to the influence of the traditional prime
minister (katiikiro) joseph Mukasa. The prime minister is thought to have ill advised kabaka
Mwanga to do away with Christianity in Buganda for reasons of winning his favors and gaining
cheap popularity hence leading to the killing of the Christian converts.
The following are the Martys name;
1. Yusuf Rugarama
2. Kakumba Makko
3. Ssrwanga Nuwa
4. Balikuddembe Mukasa
5. Mukasa Musa
6. Kaggwa Anderea
7. Ngondwe Posiano
8. Ssbuggwawo Denis
9. Bazzekuketta Antanansio
10. Gonza Gonzaga
11. Mbwa Eriya
13. Mulumba Matiya
14. Muwanga Daudi
15. Kayizzi Kibuuka
16. Mawaggali Nowa
17. Mayanja Kitoogo
19. Lwanga Karoli
20. Baanabakintu Lukka
21. Buuzabalyawo Yakobo
23. Kiuuka Ambrosio
24. Kiriggwajjo Anatoli
25. Kiriwawanvu Mukasa
26. Kiwanuka Achileo
28. Lugido mukasa adolofu
30. sserunkuuma Bruno
31. tuzinde mbaga
32. kadoko alexanda
34. Munyangabyangu Robert
36. Kiwanuka Giyaza
37. Kizza Frederick
39. Muwanga Njigija
40. Lwakisinga Mukasa
42. Nakabandwa Danieri
44. Walukagga Nuwa
45. Muzeeyi Jean-Marie
Two more Uganda martyrs were executed by the use of spears in Paimpol in the year 1918. The two were Daudi Okelo and Jildo Iowa.
The forgotten Muslim martyrs
Long before the 45 Uganda martyrs were killed, an estimate of about 70 Muslims had been killed under the orders of Kabaka Mutesa I. Their murder came after several tales of strict observance of the Muslim laws prohibiting eating meat slaughtered by the uncircumcised. Kabaka Mutesa I was a Muslim. He became an Imam because of his love for the Muslim religion. He, however, feared circumcision, and this made his subordinates criticize him. The Muslim martyrs refused to eat meat slaughtered by uncircumcised Muslims and non-Muslims. These martyrs were accused of treason and were lynched at Namugongo.
Muslim martyrs were recognized during Iddi Amin reign after realizing martyr talks were based on Christians. A mosque was constructed near the Namugongo for the Muslim martyrs.
The Martys are always remembered on 3rd, June, every year at Namugongo.