Musajjakawa Malaki was a Christian leader who formed a separatist church, the Society of the One Almighty God, popularly known as the Malakites.
Malaki, a Baganda, was twice refused baptism by Anglican missionaries, and in 1914 he founded the Malakite movement, which soon developed into a formal denomination that claimed more than 90,000 adherents within seven years. The Malakites were also the first independent church in Uganda.
Although the Malakites were a religious group, they also carried the seeds of anticolonial dissent. The movement was confined almost entirely to the Baganda, Uganda’s dominant ethnic group, which by 1914 was substantially Christian. Malaki taught that Western medicine was to be rejected, which created conflict with both the missionaries and the government. Perhaps more serious was his advocacy of land redistribution. The Malakites proposed that ancestral lands be the property of clans rather than of individuals. This proposal was a threat to the local chiefs. The incident that brought about the suppression of the Malakites by the colonial government, however, was their refusal to cooperate in a vaccination program. Malaki himself died as the result of a hunger strike.
The movement declined swiftly from its peak in 1921 until it disappeared around 1930. The Malakites’ church was among the very few large independent churches in Africa that have collapsed. Its appearance caused the missionary churches to reconsider their attitudes toward African religious aspirations.
Norbert C. Brockman
Lipschutz, Mark R., and R. Kent Rasmussen. Dictionary of African Historical Biography. 2nd edition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from *An African Biographical Dictionary, *copyright © 1994, edited by Norbert C. Brockman, Santa Barbara, California. All rights reserved.