James Hannington was the first Anglican bishop of East Africa. He was educated at St. Mary Hall, Oxford, and ordained a priest in 1876. He was first sent by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) to Zanzibar in 1882, but illness forced him to return to England the following year. He recovered and returned to East Africa as bishop in January 1885. His diocese included missions of the CMS at the coast and inland in Buganda. At Freretown, a freed slave settlement near Mombasa, Hannington ordained two African deacons. He determined to pioneer a shorter and healthier highland road to Buganda, using Christian porters and undercutting the Arab slave route to the south. He was oblivious to the political consequences of traversing Busoga, a strategically sensitive area for the Buganda state. The sudden intrusion of German imperialism at the coast made the Bugandan ruler, Kabaka Mwanga, even more suspicious of Hannington’s motives. The bishop and forty-six Freretown porters were executed. Suspicion of collaboration then focused on the Christian converts in Buganda, young men at the court. Some 100 Anglican and Catholic Christians were killed. The fears of the authorities had a large measure of justification, in that within ten years Buganda lost its independence. Hannington has been criticized for naïveté and tactlessness. His last journals, nevertheless, reveal a person who faced death with brave resignation and faith. He is commemorated as a martyr on October 29.
E. C. Dawson, James Hannington (1887), gives an account of the bishop’s last days based on Hannington’s journals. M. S. Kiwanuka, A History of Buganda (1971), provides the cultural and political background. J. F. Faupel, African Holocaust (1962), gives a vivid account of the Uganda martyrs who died in the aftermath of Hannington’s execution.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.