Sir Apolo Kagwa was born about 1869 and was a member of the Grasshopper clan. He became a mugalagala (page) to Kabaka Mutesa I, and was baptized an Anglican sometime before 1885. During the persecutions under Mwanga (v. Uganda Martyrs) he escaped with a severe beating. He was quickly restored to favor and made leader of one of the newly formed companies of royal guards. In 1888 he was for a short time mukwenda (a senior chief) under Kiwewa (v. Wars of Religion) and in the Muslim seizure of power he took refuge in Ankole, becoming leader of the Christian forces after the death of Nyonyintono. In 1891 he was Muganda leader with Lugard of the forces which defeated the Muslims. In 1892 he became Katikiro (chief minister) of Buganda. In 1894 he led the Baganda forces which together with the British attacked Bunyoro. By this time he was leader of the Anglican party and influential on the Mengo Church Council. Over the next few years he was instrumental in getting Christian Baganda teachers sent to Koki, Toro, Bunyoro, and Ankole, being probably as much concerned to increase Buganda’s influences as to spread the Gospel. When in 1897 Mwanga rose in arms against the British, Kagwa and Stanislaus Mugwanya, after some hesitation, sided with the British. When Mwanga was desposed, they were both made regents for Daudi Chwa, together with Zakariya Kizito Kisingiri. At the time of the 1900 Agreement he received one of the largest land allotments (30 square miles). He was a prolific writer, and his first book, Bassekabaka be Buganda, (Kings of Buganda) was published in 1901. It was probably through his association with John Roscoe’s researches that he was encouraged to write. In 1902 he attended the coronation of King Edward VII and his visit is described in* Uganda’s Katikiro in England* by Hamu Mukasa. He was made much of by CMS supporters, and also returned with a knighthood. Although Kagwa had many of the qualities of a good leader he was also arrogant and impetuous, having risen to considerable power, he not unnaturally made enemies. When Daudi Chwa came of age in 1914 he did not want to lose the power he had had as regent, and he also quarreled with Yosua Kate the mugema over their respective roles in the celebrations. British Protectorate officials in the post-war years, as well as Chwa, who wished to free himself from Kagwa’s control, found him increasingly difficult and reactionary. In 1925 matters came to a head and he was forced to resign. He died the following year. Like Nuwa Mbaguta he was quick to accept new ideas, and although reactionary in later life, did much to help Buganda accept and adjust to new influences.
This article, used by permission, was written by Louise Pirouet, as part of A Dictionary of Christianity in Uganda (Department of Religious Studies, Makerere University College, 1969), p. 17. Copies available at Africana Section, Makerere University Library (AF Q 276.761 MAK and AR/MAK/99/1); Bishop Tucker Library, Uganda Christian University and in UK at the University of Birmingham; Crowther Centre Library, CMS Oxford and Louise Pirouet Papers, Cambridge Centre of African Studies.