Africa

Story of Namugongo fire survivors

matyrsAccording Fr Faupel’s The African Holocaust, Kamyuka was an attendant to the Naalinya (Princess Royal) in Kabaka Mwanga’s palace at the time. Kamyuka’s life before the palace is a little shadowy but his known place of birth was Kibaale.

His accounts of what transpired between May 25 and June 1886 proves that those who died at Namuwongo were indeed killed for their faith thus meriting them the title martyrs.

As for why he was spared, Fr Faupel’s book mentions that Princess Nassiwa in whose service Kamyuka was, repeatedly plead for him, which is thought to have forced the Kabaka to consider a last minute reprieve.

Another theory probably supported by Kamyuka’s own words is he was seen as too small for the death sentence.The African Holocaust quotes Kamyuka narrating that one executioner skipped him as if to say “Too small my boy”.

Him and some of the younger boys had fled the Royal enclosure when Denis Sebugwawo another martyr was killed, terrified of the Kabaka’s threats to kill all those professing to be Christians among his staff.

But after speaking to an older Christian the gunsmith Mathew Kisule, they decided to head back to face their fate with courage. But Kamyuka was unable to re-enter the palace at night as all the entrances and exits were closed and only made it in the morning just in time to hear Lwanga encouraging the other Christians some of whom he had just baptised that morning.

Kamyuka was instrumental in narrating what happened in the martyrs’ last hours such as when Mugagga asked to be temporarily untied from the reeds and have a drink of banana beer (mwenge) before he was be tied up again and laid on the pyre again.

Also he narrates how Mukajanga [the chief executioner] tried in a last ditch to save his son Mbaga Tuzinde by begging him to renounce Christianity.

Kamyuka also confirmed details of which martyrs were clubbed to death before being thrown on the fire and those who were burnt alive.

A footnote in Faupel’s book says Kamyuka and the other three survivors were taken back to prison the day after the executions and he was released a year later.

His testimony was instrumental in the investigations towards the beatification and eventual canonisation of the bulk of the 22 catholic martyrs.

According to Arthur Mateega the head of Laity (Ssabakristu) Rubaga Archdiocese, Kamyuka lived on to even attend the beatification in Vatican, Rome in 1920 and shed tears apparently for missing out on the chance to be a martyr like his colleagues having come so close to it.
Kamyuka in his narrations talked of how Mugagga and Bruno Serunkuma both sympathised that he would miss the glorious fate of dying for his faith.
Mateega says Kamyuka remained active in the church and lived to ripe old age dying in 1982, an old man in his 90s and still going to church.

ABDUL AZIZ BULIWADDA

He was one of the four that survived the Namugongo fire. He was a non-Christian but had been condemned to die at Namugongo, according to Kamyuka. The African Holocaust says Abdul Aziz was imprisoned for shooting the sub-chief of Buddu after a scuffle as he collected taxes.

He had been condemned to burn in Namugongo alongside other Christians. There are two versions of how he was saved

One; that the chief executioner Mukajanga spared him after the Christians made several appeals for him saying he was not a Christian.

Sheikh Abdir Kadir Mbogo in The Torch magazine in 2011 talked about another version of how Abdul Aziz Buliwadda survived, saying his friends tricked Mukajanga that the Kabaka had urgently summoned Abdul to answer to other crimes which had just come to light. Buliwadda like Kamyuka helped in filling in the details of the last hours of some of the martyrs like the death of Pontian Ngondwe.

He told how Charles Lwanga – the Page –in-chief, suffered after his feet were slowly burnt to the bone while the rest of his body was intact. His accounts also helped to validate the stories of Sebutta and Kamyuka and all this shed light on how and where each of the martyrs were killed.

SIMON SEBUTA

He lived to tell the tale of the long trek to Namugongo to the final hours as he looked death in the face. It is he who said that Mukajanga wept after the last of the Namugongo martyrs had breathed their last because in the group was his son Mbaga Tuzinde and a brother Nakabandwa.

According to Kamyuka, one of the martyrs, James Buzabaliawo when he saw Sebutta still tied lying to the side away from the rest beseeched him to hold strong to the faith.

As the story goes, Sebutta, five years later left the Catholic Church, according to information in the book The Holocaust credited to Fr Thoone. He felt spurned when he was not appointed to a certain senior position. Mateega says the position Sebutta desired was actually the head of laity.

He briefly became a protestant before moving on again to join a sect which had emerged around the time that preached against the use of modern medicine called the malachites. It is known he married several wives and made his home in Gayaza.

He fell ill in the mid 1920s as narrated in a letter by Fr Verpooter, who apparently tried to reach out to Sebutta towards the end of his life visiting him over and over again bringing medicine for his pneumonia and trying to get him to confess his belief in the Catholicism.

CHARLES WERABE

He was named by Denis Kamyuka severally as one of the survivors. Werabe had been baptised on the morning of May 26, just a few hours before he took a stand for his faith before Charles Lwanga along with four Pages.

Little exists of how Werabe was spared and little is said about him before the massacre, but it is known he returned to jail where he stayed until his release in 1887. A footnote in Faupel’s book says Werabe died in battle during the religious wars of 1989. Whether he had returned to serve the Kabaka is not known.

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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