The Uganda Martyrs: the seed of our faith

How the Martyrs were killed

The first to be martyred on 15th November 1885 was the King’s major domo and Christian leader, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe. He was killed because he had pleaded with the king not to kill Bishop James Hannington, an Anglican Missionary, who had made an attempt to enter Buganda from east, then considered to be the backdoor of the kingdom. Joseph was beheaded and burnt at Nakivubo swamp, at the Kampala City center.

The main persecution that led to the Namugongo Holocaust broke out on 25th May 1886 at Munyonyo, then a royal enclosure near Lake Victoria when King Mwanga condemned Christians to death With the Spearing and condemning to death Denis Ssebuggwawo. He (Denis) was killed on the following and the same day as Andrew Kaggwa.

On the 26th of May 1886, as a ceremonial opening of the death-march, Pontian Ngondwe was speared by Mukaajanga, the chief executioner, his corpse hacked and pieces scattered to all directions at Ttabataba, now known as Ttaka Jjunge, about a mile from Munyonyo on the way to Mengo.

In the morning of 27th May 1886 at Mengo, Athanasius Bazzekuketta who was thirsty for martyrdom, volunteered to be executed at a spot on the foot of Mengo Hill where Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, his leader had been martyred earlier.

On the same day, while at Old Kampala on his way from Mengo to Namugongo, Mathias Kalemba Mulumba refused to walk further in demand for execution. His hands were cut off first, fresh removed from his back and roasted then his legs cut off, blood vessels and veins tired, and traditional herbs applied to wounds to stop him from over bleeding. He died three days later from thirst.

Tired on their necks and feet to another by the cords and slave-yokes or by the stocks, the Uganda martyrs had to walk for over ten miles to reach Namugongo. But about a mile from their destination, Gonzaga Gonza who could hardly keep up with the pace collapsed at Lubaawo hill, he was speared at about midday on 27th May 1886.

In Namugongo, the Uganda martyrs were confined for about a week before execution, in that time, the executioners went about with preparatory activities like collection of enough fire wood and cutting of reeds to be used in the event, this took until 2nd of June.

The 3rd of June 1886, on the feast of the ascension, Charles Lwanga became the first victim of holocaust, Ssenkoole, the Guardian of the sacred fused had singled him out, following the traditional procedure of a ritual execution, which prohibited his (Ssenkoole) presence at the actual scene of a large execution but rather expected to select one victim and burn him apart from the others.

Ssenkoole took Charles Lwanga to a spot about fifty yards from the road, he (Charles) was allowed to arrange his own death-bed of firewood. Then wrapped in reeds laid on the pyre and was burnt slowly from the foot to the head at about midday, 3rd June 1886.

Achilles Kiwanuka, Adolphus Mukasa Ludigo, Ambrose Kibuuka, Anatoli Kiriggwajjo, Bruno Sserunkuuma, Gyavira, James Buzaalilyawo, Kizito, Luke Banabakintu, Mbaaga Tuzinde, Muggaga and Mukasa Kiriwawanvu are the twelve catholic that were burnt in the great namugongo holocaust together with thirteen Anglicans and six other prisoner that were on death sentence for other offences other than religion.

Martyrs killed outside Namugongo include; Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe and Atthanasius Bazzekuketta, at the city of Kampala (St. Balikuddembe Market), Denis Ssebuggwaawo and Andrew Kaggwa, killed at Munyonyo, Pontian Ngondwe killed at Kyamula (Ttakajjunge), Matthias Kalemba Mulumba killed at Old Kampala, Noe Mawaggali killed at Kiyinda-Mityana, Gonzaga Gonza killed at Kamuli-Lubaawo and lastly John Mary Muzeeyi killed at Mmengo-Kisenyi.

Thirty one years after the Namugongo holocaust, two young Christians from the Acholi people of northern Uganda, Daudi Okello, a chatecist and Blessed Jildo Irwa an assistant were martyred by a party of raiders. They were dragged from their hut and pushed to the ground, speared several times on 18th of October 1918 at midnight. Their bodies were not buried until later by the local community.

[Copied from the Uganda Martyrs Shrine website]