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 - 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.
The Seed to religion
While the killing of the Christians was intended to curtail the growth and influence of foreign religion 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 Islam faith, but the information on this is scattered.
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
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.
|Martyr||Religion||Date of death||Manner of death|
|Kakumba Makko||Anglican||Jan 31st, 1885||Dismembered & Burned|
|Rugarama Yusuf||Anglican||Jan 31st, 1885||Dismembered & Burned|
|Sserwanga Nuwa||Anglican||Jan 31st, 1885||Dismembered & Burned|
|Balikudenmbe Y Mukasa||Catholic||Nov 15th, 1885||Beheaded & Burned|
|Mukasa Musa||Anglican||May 25th, 1886||Speared|
|Kaggwa Anderea||Catholic||May 26th, 1886||Beheaded|
|Ngondwe Ponsiano||Catholic||May 26th, 1886||Beheaded & Dismembered|
|Ssebugwawo Denis||Catholic||May 26th, 1886||Beheaded|
|Bazzekuketta Antanansio||Catholic||May 27th, 1886||Dismembered|
|Gonza Gonzaga||Catholic||May 27th, 1886||Beheaded|
|Mbwa Eriya||Anglican||May 27th, 1886||Castrated|
|Muddu Aguma||Anglican||May 27th, 1886||Castrated|
|Mulumba Matiya||Catholic||May 27th, 1886||Dismembered|
|Kayizzi Kibuuka||Anglican||May 31st, 1886||Castrated|
|Mawaggali Nowa||Catholic||May 31st, 1886||Speared, ravaged by wild dogs|
|Mayanja Kitoogo||Anglican||May 31st, 1886||Castrated|
|Muwanga||Anglican||May 31st, 1886||Castrated|
|Lwanga Karoli||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Baanabakintu Lukka||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Buzabalyawo Yakobo||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Gyaviira||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kibuuka Ambrosio||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kiriggwajjo Anatoli||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kiriwawanvu Mukasa||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kiwanuka Achileo||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kizito||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Ludigo Mukasa Adolofu||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Muggaga||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Sserunkuma Bruno||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Tuzinde Mbaga||Catholic||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kadoko Alexanda||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kifamunyanja||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kiwanuka Giyaza||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kizza Frederick||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Kwabafu||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Lwakisiga Mukasa||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Lwanga||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Mubi-azaalwa||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Munyagabyangu Robert||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Muwanga Njigija||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Nakabandwa Danieri||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Walukagga Nuwa||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|Wasswa||Anglican||June 3rd, 1886||Burned|
|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 beatified in 2002. They have not been canonized as saints.
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 region and Africa.
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.