Mukasa, Firipo

Alternate Names: Philip Mukasa
Anglican Communion
Uganda , Tanzania

Mukasa Philip was one of Uganda’s first five Protestants when he was baptized in 1882 by Revd Philip O’Flaherty, an Irish missionary from the Church Missionary Society (CMS).

Mukasa’s father was a chief, as was one of his brothers. [1] As a young boy, Mukasa was sent to the capital of Buganda to become a Mugalagala at the kabaka’s palace. [2] He was exposed to Islam and Christianity in this role.

Islam came with Arabs from Zanzibar in search of people to enslave and ivory, which they exchanged for mostly cotton cloth during the reign of Ssuuna I. Their prominence grew under his successor, Muteesa I, who, for a time, even proclaimed Islam a state religion in 1879. [3] As such, Mukasa was required to attend Islamic prayers and lessons at the mosque Arabs had built for the kabaka.

Mukasa also regularly visited the CMS mission at Nateete, Kampala, established in 1877, after the arrival of Revd C. T. Wilson and Lt Shergold Smith, the first CMS missionaries in Uganda. He was taught how to spell by Revd George Litchfield, who arrived in 1879. [4]

In 1880, Mukasa, with his bosom friend Lutamaguzi (later also Henry Wright), declared that Christianity, not Islam was the right religion, refusing to attend Islamic prayers, which did not go well with Mukwenda, in whose care they were. [5] [6]

The two were summoned by Mukwenda, who banished them to an island on Lake Wamala, cutting off their access to either the Protestant mission at Nateete or the Catholic White Fathers’ mission at Nabulagala, Kampala. Soon, they completed their sentence and returned to the capital.

In 1881, Lutamaguzi accompanied the home bound Revd Charles W. Pearson to the East African coast while Mukasa moved to Nateete as a student of O’Flaherty, who had arrived the same month Pearson left. O’Flaherty begged Mukwenda for Mukasa after seeing how quickly he learned. [7]

Not so long afterward, Mukasa’s brother, the chief, came looking for him so he could take up a position as the head of his mediums and spirits in exchange for a wife, and he was excited by the prospect of getting a wife. After being away for about two months, he returned with Nakimu.

Nakimu, who became a respectable Christian leader in her own right, married Mukasa in 1883 after she and their son, Bulamu, were baptized. [8] While she eventually became a teacher, Nakimu also worked in the mission garden to produce food for the mission.

On March 18, 1882, in a baptism that symbolizes the beginning of the Church of Uganda, Mukasa (with four others) was baptized by O’Flaherty, assisted by Alexander M. Mackay. For his baptismal name, Mukasa took up O’Flaherty’s Christian name: Philip. The name had already been Luganda-nized to its modern variant: Firipo.

When Mukasa’s wife was baptized the following year, she chose Sarah as her Christian name, meaning that while Mukasa was named after O’Flaherty, his wife was named after O’Flaherty’s wife, who had remained in England. The Mukasas were close to O’Flaherty and would soon prove it.

A persecution broke out in which two men, Namukade and Musisi, began harassing missionaries and converts, claiming they were hiding the kabaka’s women at the mission station. When the complaint was taken to the Katikkiro, he allowed the two men to go and conduct a search and burn any dwelling places they found the said women in. [9] Later, two girls were recovered, but missionaries nor most Christian converts had no knowledge they were living with them.

But in coming to search, they enlisted many of the kabaka’s men, causing everyone at the mission station to flee except two. Reflecting on the incident afterward, O’Flaherty said: “Mukasa Philip and Nakimu Sarah alone stood their ground and braved Musisi and Namukade. Even Sembera Mackay, whom we all thought a rock, fled. So did Henry Wright Lutamaguzi [aka Duta].” [10] It was a serious offense to be found with royal women, which might explain the flight of converts.

Sadly, Namukade was one of three envoys Muteesa sent to England to deliver a letter to Queen Victoria in June 1879 and was led back to Uganda by O’Flaherty. But no sooner had he returned to Buganda than he began persecuting Christians. In his old life, he, however, converted and was baptized Philip.

Mukasa broke new ground when he was hired to become a teacher, with his friend Lutamaguzi and one Preston from the East African coast as the first Ugandan Protestant teachers. O’Flaherty confirms the developments in a letter dated August 31, 1883, published in the Church Missionary Gleaner of April 1884, “Nakimu is baptized as Sarah; her husband’s name is Philip, now our teacher.”

Unfortunately, Mukasa succumbed to a smallpox outbreak that ravaged Buganda, claiming as many as 7,000 lives in early 1884. [11] While down, his wife, missionaries, friends, and relatives stuck with him, caring for him to the end of his earthly life.

O’Flaherty refused to hand over Mukasa’s corpse when his relatives came to collect it for a Ganda burial, arguing that Mukasa was a Christian who had become his brother and would bury him at the mission station in Christ’s way. The brothers hesitated, but when Nakimu joined O’Flaherty, they agreed. He was buried that night with Revd Robert P. Ashe leading the first Christian burial in Uganda. [12]

In July 1884, barely two months after his burial, O’Flaherty journaled, “I every day miss my Philip Mukasa that made such a noble stand – confession before the king and Katikiro – in the Namukade and Musisi affair.” [13]

Mukasa was survived by one wife, Nakimu, and one child, Bulamu.

Kimeze Teketwe


  1. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, 1884 (12). London: Church Missionary Society, 755. Available through: Adam Matthew, Marlborough, Church Missionary Society Periodicals.

  2. Mugalagala was a member of the Bagalagala, a department or kitongole that educated young Baganda before they could take chiefly roles. The Baganda are the people of Buganda; the singular is Muganda, and Ganda is the culture. Kabaka is the Luganda equivalent of the English word king.

  3. John Francis Faupel, African Holocaust (New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1962), 48.

  4. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, 755.

  5. Eugene Stock, The History of the Church Missionary Society, vol. 3, 4 vols. (London: Church Missionary Society, 1899), 111.

  6. Mukwenda is the county chief of Ssingo, a constituent county of Buganda.

  7. _The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, _755.

  8. _The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, _1884 (4). London: Church Missionary Society, 222.

  9. Katikiro is the Luganda equivalent of the English word prime minister.

  10. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, 1884 (7). London: Church Missionary Society, 246.

  11. J. D. Mullins and Ham Mukasa, The Wonderful Story of Uganda; to Which Is Added the Story of Ham Mukasa, Told by Himself (London: Church Missionary Society, 1904), 181.

  12. Sarah Geraldina Stock, The Story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza Mission (Religious Tract Society: London, 1892), 79.

  13. _The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, _1884 (12). London: Church Missionary Society, 760.


Church Missionary Society Periodicals - Adam Matthew Digital. Accessed May 28, 2023.

Faupel, John Francis. African Holocaust. New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1962.

Mullins, J. D., and Ham Mukasa. The Wonderful Story of Uganda; to which is added the story of Ham Mukasa, told by himself. London: Church Missionary Society, 1904.

Stock, Eugene. The History of the Church Missionary Society. Vol. 3. 4 vols. London: Church Missionary Society, 1899.

Stock, Sarah Geraldina. The Story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza Mission. Religious Tract Society: London, 1892.

About the Author

This biography, submitted in May 2023, was researched and written by Kimeze Teketwe, a Luganda lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Originally from Uganda, East Africa, Teketwe holds degrees in missiology and international educational development from Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies and Penn Graduate School of Education.