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Every year on June 3rd, the global Christian community celebrates the story and the sacrifice of the Uganda Martyrs. These were the 45 young boys and men who were killed in the Buganda Kingdom by Kabaka Mwanga between 1885 and 1887 in colonial Uganda - for refusing to renounce their new Christian faith.

Both the Anglican and Catholic faith was introduced into Buganda at the start of the 1880s when Kabaka Mutesa was the reigning king of Buganda. Together with Islam which had been introduced some years earlier by the Arab traders, Buganda now had 3 new religions that were competing for new converts.


The untimely death of the King - Kabaka Mutesa led to the ascension to power of his son, the prince, Mwanga - who was previously very friendly with all foreigners and their different faiths. The new king felt threatened by the growing influence and power of the Christian faiths on his kingdom, and his attitude changed to an unfriendly one.

Being a Christian meant that the newly converted people had to renounce the traditional religious practices.

Why June 3rd?

June 3rd was chosen as the day to remember and celebrate the Uganda martyrs because that is when most of them we killed. 25 Catholic and Anglican martyrs were killed by being burned alive, at Namungongo on June 3rd.

Apart from the June 3rd massacres, there were other Christians who we killed before and after. All of these are celebrated in the celebration of the Feast day of the Uganda martyrs.

uganda martyrs celebrations

The Seed Of Religion

While the killing of the Christians was intended to curtail the growth and influence of foreign religions on the local people of Buganda, many believe that it facilitated the growth of the same Christian faith in Buganda and the whole of Uganda. 

Recent population statistics indicate that more than 80% of Ugandans belong to the Christian faith, the other major religion is Islam.

It is said that there were other martyrs of the Islamic faith, but the information on this is quite scattered.

Related article: Things to see and do in Kampala.

Important Dates

The popularity of the Martyrs and their unwavering faith has continued to grow throughout the years. These are some dates that are fondly remembered in the Story of the Uganda Martyrs.

  • 6 June 1920 the 22 Catholic Martyrs were beatified by Pope Benedict XV
  • 18th October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonized all the 22 catholic Martyrs as Saints 
uganda martyrs sculptures

All The Uganda Martyrs

These martyrs comprised of mainly young boys and men from the Buganda Kingdom. However, some were from other parts of Uganda such as Ankole or Bunyoro.

Uganda Martyrs and how they died
 1.  Kakumba Makko  Anglican  Jan 31st, 1885  Dismembered & Burned
 2.  Rugarama Yusuf  Anglican   Jan 31st, 1885  Dismembered & Burned
 3.  Sserwanga Nuwa  Anglican  Jan 31st, 1885  Dismembered & Burned
 4.  Balikudenmbe Y Mukasa  Catholic  Nov 15th, 1885  Beheaded & Burned
 5.  Mukasa Musa  Anglican  May 25th, 1886  Speared
 6.  Kaggwa Anderea  Catholic  May 26th, 1886  Beheaded
 7.  Ngondwe Ponsiano  Catholic  May 26th, 1886  Beheaded & Dismembered 
 8.  Ssebugwawo Denis  Catholic  May 26th, 1886  Beheaded
 9.  Bazzekuketta Antanansio  Catholic  May 27th, 1886  Dismembered
 10.  Gonza Gonzaga  Catholic  May 27th, 1886  Beheaded
 11.  Mbwa Eriya  Anglican   May 27th, 1886  Castrated
 12.   Muddu Aguma  Anglican  May 27th, 1886  Castrated
 13.  Mulumba Matiya  Catholic  May 27th, 1886  Dismembered 
 14.  Muwanga Daudi  Anglican  Unsure  Castrated
 15.  Kayizzi Kibuuka  Anglican  May 31st, 1886  Castrated
 16.  Mawaggali Nowa  Catholic  May 31st, 1886  Speared, ravaged by wild dogs
 17.  Mayanja Kitoogo  Anglican  May 31st, 1886  Castrated
 18.  Muwanga  Anglican  May 31st, 1886  Castrated
 19.  Lwanga Karoli  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 20.  Baanabakintu Lukka  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 21.  Buzabalyawo Yakobo  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 22.  Gyaviira  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 23.  Kibuuka Ambrosio  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 24.  Kiriggwajjo Anatoli  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 25.  Kiriwawanvu Mukasa  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 26.  Kiwanuka Achiles  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 27.  Kizito  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 28.  Ludigo Mukasa Adolofu  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 29.  Muggaga  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 30.  Sserunkuma Bruno  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 31.  Tuzinde Mbaga  Catholic  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 32.  Kadoko Alexanda  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 33.  Kifamunyanja  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 34.  Kiwanuka Giyaza  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 35.  Kizza Frederick  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 36.  Kwabafu  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 37.  Lwakisiga Mukasa  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 38.  Lwanga  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 39.  Mubi-azaalwa  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 40.  Munyagabyangu Robert  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 41.  Muwanga Njigija  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 42.  Nakabandwa Danieri  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 43.  Walukagga Nuwa  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 44.  Wasswa  Anglican  June 3rd, 1886  Burned
 45.  Muzeeyi Jean-Marie  Catholic  Jan 27th, 1887  Beheaded

The Paimol Martyrs

In addition to the Uganda Martyrs of the mid-1880s, there were 2 more Ugandan Martyrs some 30 years after the Uganda Martyrs in Buganda. Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa were two young catechists who were martyred in the time immediately following the founding of the Kitgum mission of Comboni Missionaries in 1915.

Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa died at Paimol in 1918 and we were beatified in 2002. They have not yet been canonized as saints.

Closing Thoughts

The Killing of the Uganda martyrs shaped the direction of Uganda in terms of religion, politics, and the overall life of the people. 

While the killings were aimed at stopping religion, they only pushed it forward in Buganda and all over Uganda and East Africa 

The Feast Day of the Uganda Martyrs celebrated on 3rd June every year is an important event in Uganda. Ugandans from all corners of the country pilgrimage to celebrate in Namungongo where they are joined by other faithful Christians from all over the world.

This goes to show that the martyrs didn't die in vain and that they are still remembered and celebrated by people from far and near.

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