The Story of the Moslem Martyrs in Uganda


Every 3rd of June a mass of pilgrims trek journeys from across Uganda and neighboring countries to Uganda’s martyr center of Namugongo. To commemorate the kind of faith that was exhibited by the matters to attract the king’s command to execute them.

About 45 young men were rendered to be killed after they forgo the king’s directive to force them to denounce their newly adopted faith. The 3rd June 1886 story of the official execution of believers under the orders of the then Buganda King (Ssekabaka Mwanga) went viral and Pope Paul VI declared them martyrs, having the Uganda martyrs.

However, besides the Christian martyr’s tale, there’s a different myriad story narrating about the Moslem martyrs who are thought to have been killed also due to the same matters (their faith).

There are claims that King Mutesa I also had already ordered the execution of about 70 believers who had adjusted their behavior towards their king.

It’s well known that Islam is the first foreign religion in Uganda, this was introduced by the Arabs and the Swahili coast traders who had penetrated the interior of Africa to the Buganda Kingdom.

The Arabs and the coastal Swahili traders, trek to the current land Uganda and they were received in Buganda by the then King Suuna II. The Arab traders in addition to the gift offered to the Kabaka, auxiliary taught the Islamic faith.

When King Suuna II died was succeeded by his son Kabaka Mutesa I (Meaning the one with wise council). So, King Mutesa I became so committed to Arabic to the extent that he learned how to write and read Arabic.

Mutesa took great pride in Islam and started leading prayers as well as praying 5 times a day, but He (Mutesa) never imposed the new religion onto his subjects. With his commitment to the religion, Mutesa commanded a mosque to be built besides his Palace in Kasubi to a place today called Nabulagala.

Mutesa II lived a loved life, but his commitment to the Islamic lifestyle made him hated again. Though his commitment to the Islam region, Mutesa never fulfilled all requirements that are needed to become a full Moslem.

He was not circumcised, and he continued dining on meat which is slaughtered by none Muslim butcher men. According to advice from Mukasa (then Katikiro) though risked his position if he rendered any means of blood impact on the King.

Mukasa was afraid that if the King allows being circumcised, he would compel the rest of the Muslim subjects likewise to himself.

Due to the lack of these modernized circumcising tools, the process was almost a full day, they could use sharpened reeds which made the pealing surgical procedure very slow.

Mukasa advised the King, that Buganda traditional customs forbade the king to shed his blood, which made the king be in a position of no possible circumcision as the customs of Islam demand.

There was a group of Muslim fundamentalists who visited the Kabaka’s court at Kasubi. Though the impression about the spread of the religion, these people remained unhappy concerning Mutesa’s un-Islamic conduct and his reluctance to be circumcised.

This made the King unable to lead prayers and slaughter animals for Muslims, the Egyptian start criticizing the King and enticed the rest of the king’s subjects to rebel against the king.

The King’s subjects started challenging him openly upon his un-Islamic lifestyle, by this time few people would turn up for prayers that the king led.

Mutesa investigated the matter of low turn u, one-day Mutesa summoned one of his royal servants called Muddu Awulila (the obedient servant) and the Kabaka inquired why he would no longer attend prayers.

But the servant said, “My Lord, it’s because we feel you should not lead prayers because you are not circumcised.” And the Kabaka aurgued, ‘but I am your king, you are supposed to obey everything I tell you to do.’

Muddu replied, our actions are not meant to disobey you, but for this case, we are not looking at you as our king but not as a fellow Muslim worshipper.

With such a response, the Mutesa was very curious and stayed in a foul mood for several days. Weeks later, the King held a feast to celebrate the opening of the new mosque. A number of cows, goats, and chickens were slaughtered.

A number of Muslims attended the feast and ate the rest of the food but refused to eat meat because it was slaughtered by uncircumcised.

The Kabaka so this as an act of treason and ordered all those who had refused to eat the meat to be arrested. The group was rounded up and taken to jail in Bukeesa, near Nakulabye where they were confined for four days without food.

On the fourth day, the Kabaka sent them some food and meat. They ate everything except the meat. When the King’s officers inquired why they had not touched the meat, they told them to go back and ask the king to send them a live cow and goat so that they could slaughter it themselves.

The Kabaka had them transferred to another jail in Nansana, hoping they will come to their senses sooner or later. On the fourth day, Mutesa again sent them food and meat. It was the same story. They were then relocated to Bukoto where again they were given a last chance to repent but again, they ate everything else apart from the meat.

When they refused to budge, the Kabaka ordered his chief executioner to kill them. The exact date and month of their martyrdom are not known but it said, they were marched to Namugongo and killed in 1877.

More than 70 martyrs were burnt to death that day. Only three of them; Yusuf Sebakiwa (Elephant clan), Amulane Tuzinde (Mushroom clan), and Musirimu Lwanga escaped the inferno. It is said they died of natural illness, a result of the long trek to Namugongo.

In 2019, the government vowed to help the Muslim faith to build a memorial and start recognizing the many Moslem martyrs.



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