Uganda Martyrs’ Day: The Kabaka Mwanga Unsuccessful Hunt

Uganda Martyrs Day

It started from Mulungu. On Tuesday, 25th May 1886, a very excited Kabaka Mwanga suddenly decided to go hippocampus hunting. Unfortunately, the hippo was not sighted and that set Mwanga on a rage spree.

Upon reaching the palace, there were no servants to welcome him as they had all gone to pray. He had noticed that his servants seemed to make prayer and not him their priority.

Bitter, Mwanga sentenced all his Christian servants to death. In particular, they were to be burnt at Namugongo which was the execution yard. However, outside of Namugongo, there would also be other incidences that have been made for historical sites today. The Kabaka and his allies had made it their life’s mission to break and crash religions that didn’t quite bow to theirs.


One day while returning from Kisubi, Fr. Lourdel Simeon Mapeera was arrested by a Muslim, Hamid Ssekikubo. There was an order to stop any strangers from proceeding to the palace-Lubaga. Mapeera and one Evans were imprisoned in a hut where they suffered from acute malaria with little food. Fortunately, luck sided with them after they were granted bail by Mwanga who offered Lubya to the catholic missionaries to set up a mission station as a gesture of his apology for their detention. Today, a church stands at the spot of their arrest.

Kyamula, Salaama road

This is the spot where Ponsiano Ngondwe, a tax man, was not just beheaded but speared too and left to die. Ponsiano was part of the death march from Munyonyo to Namugongo. However, he was not among the martyrs sentenced to death by Mwanga. He was sneaked into the execution list by the chief executioner Mukajanga who had personal grudges against him for allegedly taxing him two cows as opposed to the lawful one. Down Kyamula is a swamp where the executioners washed the knives after chopping Ponsiano’s corpse. A few meters from the sits a church in which these knives have been kept.

Denis Ssebugwawo’s site Munyonyo

Here, St. Denis Ssebugwawo a page boy of Mwanga was murdered for absenteeism on the fateful day the Kabaka returned from a fruitless hunt. Dennis belonged to the Musu clan, a clan whose major role is to clean royal toilets. It is said that on the 26th of May, he was tortured and speared by the Kabaka. A raging Mwanga

kept poking Ssebugwawo’s head to until the spear broke in his hand.  He then seized Denis’ lifeless body and him out of his courtyard, into the audience hall, shouting wildly. Quickly his men stripped him naked and hacked him into pieces.


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