When one thinks of martyrs and Namugongo, you would be forgiven for thinking soley of the Christian martyrs, burnt to death for their faith in 1886, on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga. But the Christians were not the first people to die for their faith at Namugongo (although they would be the last).
Ten years prior to the mass inoculation of Christians, 70 Muslims were burnt to death, just meters away from where the majority of the Christians would perish. Mutesa I was on the throne. He had initially embraced Islam when he inherited the crown in 1856, but by 1876, he feared that Islam was creating a rivalry to his power, with the new converts choosing their religion over him. His fears were confirmed when Muslim pages in his court refused to eat meat that the Kabaka had killed, because it had been killed by a non-Muslim. This was a serious affront to Mutesa, so he ordered that his chief executioner, Mukajanga, to take 70 converts to Namugongo, and burn them. Mukajanga would later serve Mutesa’s successor, Kabaka Mwanga, and it was Mukajanga who executed the Christian martyrs.
The spot is now marked by Masjid Noor mosque. The land where the executions took place was donated by Idi Amin in 1975, when he as President. He ordered that the mosque be built, and laid a foundation stone – although the mosque itself was not built until years later.
The Muslim martyrs – do not receive the same recognition as the Christian martyrs, partly because Muslim martyrs (or shuhada, as they are known) are not celebrated according to the Koran, and because the only pilgrimage that Muslims undertake is to Mecca.
As Uganda prepares to celebrate the Christian martyrs on 3rd June, let us not forget the other Baganda who died for their faith.
About Changing Horizons
Changing Horizons is a tour company which specialises in travel to sites of historical interest in East Africa.
Our tours take you to places that are identified with past events and experiences, such as sites of great discovery, like the source of the Nile, or sites of great sacrifice, like the shrine of the Christian martyrs.