c. 1851 to 1886
Luke Banabakintu was one of the three martyrs belonging to the Christian community of Mityana, some forty-five miles north west of the capital of the kingdom of Buganda. Banabakintu belonged to the Eel branch of the Lungfish (Mamba) Clan and was born in the hamlet of Ntolomwe in Gomba County. His father, Mukwanga, had several wives and thirty children, of which Banabakintu was the eldest, the son of his first wife Kusubiza of the Seed (Nvuma) Clan. When he was sixteen years old, his uncle Jjagwe visited the family, and, at the youth's own request, took him to live with him at Mityana. There, he entered the service of the Mukwenda, the county chief of Ssingo. Banabakintu prospered and was given the small fief of Kawinga, where his task was to supervise other servants of the chief, who lived outside their master's enclosure.
According to clan tradition, Banabakintu was married, and his wife's name was Bazawalaluggya. In stature, he was of medium height, with dark skin colouring and a round face. He had a deep voice and a very cheerful disposition. On May 31, 1880, he was enrolled by his master in the Catholic catechumenate. He attended instructions with Matthias Kalemba, and, like him, also frequented instructions given by the Anglican missionaries. He was baptized on May 28, the Feast of Pentecost, 1882 by Father Ludovic Girault of the Missionaries of Africa.
Banabakintu developed a deep personal friendship with Matthias Kalemba and assisted him in giving instructions to the catechumens at Mityana. There were more than two hundred members of the Mityana community. Whenever he could, Luke made the twelve hour journey to the mission in order to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. He was between thirty and thirty-five years old at the time of his martyrdom. When the persecution broke out on May 25, 1886, Luke was on his way to Mengo from Mityana, and stayed the night with his friend Cyprian Kamya, who had been baptized with him four years earlier. Next morning he continued his journey to the capital and reported to the Mukwenda, informing him that he expected to be killed and assuring him that he would never betray the names of the children he had been instructing.
Luke spent the night of May 26 with Matthias Kalemba as prisoners of the county chief. Next day, they admitted that they were Christians, and were condemned to death by Mukasa, the Chancellor (Katikiro). On the way to the place of execution at Namugongo, Kalemba challenged the executioners to kill him, which they did on Kampala hill. Banabakintu, however, continued alone and joined Charles Lwanga and his fellow martyrs on the afternoon of May 27. He was among the thirty-one victims, Catholics, Anglicans and others, of the great Namugongo holocaust on Ascension Day, June 3, 1886, twelve of whom (excluding Charles Lwanga, already put to death) are officially recognized Catholic martyrs. They were beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and were declared canonized saints by Pope Paul VI in 1964. June 3, the date of their martyrdom, appears as the feast of all the Uganda martyrs in the universal calendar of the Catholic Church.
Aylward Shorter M.Afr.
J. F. Faupel, African Holocaust, the Story of the Uganda Martyrs (Nairobi: St. Paul Publications Africa, 1984 ).
J. P. Thoonen, Black Martyrs (London: Sheed and Ward, 1941).
This article, submitted in 2003, was researched and written by Dr. Aylward Shorter M.Afr., Emeritus Principal of Tangaza College Nairobi, Catholic University of Eastern Africa.
Encyclopaedia Britannica (complete article): Martyrs of Uganda