From as early as April every year, Christians from around the world start planning for their pilgrimage to Namugongo, Uganda for the annual famous Martyrs Day every 3rd June. The pilgrimage is a commemoration of over 40 believers that were hacked using machetes, and speared to death while others were tied and burnt to death by the kingdom’s Royal Chief Executioner, Mukajanga following the orders of his master Kabaka Mwanga II. These are the eminent Uganda Martyrs who were also canonized as saints in 1964 by Pope John Paul VI. Pilgrims for this day come from as far as Europe. Most interesting are those that make their way to the celebrations on foot from as far as Zambia, Tanzania, Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya.The number of Pilgrim is said to grow year after year with the highest numbers reported in the recent past one of 3rd June 2016.
Looking at who Kabaka Mwanga was, one can easily relate him to Saul in the Holy Bible who sinned and repented when he turned into Paul. After the martyrs Holocaust in 1890s Kabaka Mwanga, is believed to have been baptized and attained the name Daniel (meaning Judgement of God; God my Judge).
Kabaka Mwanga, also known as Basammula Ekkere Daniel, was the 31st Kabaka of Buganda who reigned (1884-1888; 1889-1897).He was son to Kabaka WALUGEMBE MUKABYA MUTEESA I, who wrote a letter to the queen of England to send teachers to his kingdom to teach Christianity to his subjects. This suddenly led to the opening of gates into the then virtually inaccessible Kingdom to foreigners. Mwanga ascended to the throne at the age of sixteen years after his father’s death in 1884.Due to Mwanga’s very tender age the foreigners (missionaries) thought he would carry on from where his dad had ended but were surprised when he took a different approach towards Christianity.
When Mwanga received news of Bishop Hannington coming from the East in 1885 during the period when the Germans were converting areas south of Nalubaale (Lake Victoria),he felt this act, had caused a threat to the security of his kingdom. He then ordered the capture and later killing of the Bishop to demonstrate his mighty to any invader. Contrary to what other African leaders had done when the foreigners got to their regions, When he suspected some of the -Pages-of his Court as being part of a plot to destroy his kingdom from within by allaying with the missionaries; he took drastic action by having them killed just as the Bishop. The killings were due to the threat of foreign domination and colonization seemed increasingly possible and the fear that his kingdom was steadily getting into the hands of the foreigners from different directions. Afro-Arabs further up north, British Europeans to the East and West, and Germans to the South.However, these killings in the name of protecting his kingdom and the desire to kick all the other missionaries out of his Kingdom, were interpreted as acts of intolerance to the foreigners the church missionary society used this act to gunner support from the British to protect their motives and activities.
During this time of Bishop Hannington killing, the Europeans had not yet advanced on the Ugandan region militarily, but had been laying the groundwork for European military forces through sending missionaries to demonize the traditional African belief and replace it with theirs, affirming the notion that the Gun followed the Cross. Three years into his reign, he was forced from his throne by the allied forces of Christians and Muslims who opted for his elder brother Kiweewa who then acted as a -puppet- hence a weak link for the Foreign powers to establish themselves in the kingdom and the areas around i.e. from the coast to the inland lake Victoria.
Mwanga never rested he allied with the Anglican Christians and within 4 years, he had regained his throne but with less power and authority as a king because of this, he continued to secretly strategize to kick the foreigners out of his land for good. Five years down, he attempted to drive the intruders out but never succeeded he was driven out of his kingdom again to Tanganyika where he continued agitating and mobilizing the armies to attack which they did but failed and for this the foreigners were determined to even send him further off the main land into the Seychelles where he was latter baptized into Daniel and later died at the age of 35 years. Mwangas expulsion and death looked like the end of foreign resistance but it had opened up the eyes of a number of Africans who continued to revolt the foreign rule hence the struggle for independence which emerged in the years that followed.
Never the less the Name Mwanga kept and still rings in the ears of masses both Africans and worldwide from all walks of life from Christians who celebrate the martyrs. This has paved way for the coming of three popes to the country, Pope Francis being the most recent one and the growing numbers of pilgrims who come very year to the country.On the historical side of the country, a number monuments still stand tall but below them, one cant fail to mention the Name Mwanga. These include; Kasubi Mausoleum where his remains were laid after repatriation, the numerous churches erected where the martyrs were killed, born or lived, the Kabaka’s Lake, the Royal mile -“Kabakanjagala”-
We can literary say that, had it not been for Kabaka Mwanga controversial turn against the foreigners and religion, the eminent Uganda Martyrs wouldn’t have been celebrated or even existent.