Hamu Lujonza Kaddu Mukasa was born in 1871 to Zakaria Mukabugo Kiwanuka and Leya Nakazana Mukasa during the reign of King Mutesa I. His father was a chief in the Buganda Kingdom. Mukasa was a staunch defender of Christianity in Uganda until his death in 1956.
Mukasa was sent to Mutesa’s court in 1882 to care for the sick king. During his stay at the king’s court, Mukasa was introduced first to Islam and then to Christianity. As a young man Mukasa boasted of having tasted all the religions in the king’s court before he finally decided to embrace the Christian faith, which he faithfully defended and practiced.
As a page in the king’s court, Mukasa attended reading classes at the Anglican mission. He proved to be very keen at reading. Throughout his life Mukasa had a great interest in three things: Christianity, writing, and reading. He learned to speak and write English on his own. He bought any book he found, eventually acquiring two big libraries, one at Namirembe and the other at Nasuti, in the present day Mukono district. One of the books in his library was Ennyonnyola ye Matayo (Gospel Commentary on Matthew) which he wrote in Luganda, his native language.
King Mutesa died in 1884 and was succeeded by his son Mwanga who was very different from his father. He hated the Christian converts and the life of the converts during his reign was characterized by great fear. Christian missionaries taught the converts how to read and write but Mukasa was taught by a fellow Muganda convert by the name of Musa Mukasa. Mukasa attended reading classes in secret as he feared King Mwanga or by one of his spies would see him. Soon Mukasa learned to read and write.
Mukasa was baptized on May 6, 1886 by the Rev. R. Ashe and confirmed on February 8, 1893. Soon Mukasa started practicing the principles of the Christian faith, for instance, by getting rid of the talisman which his mother had given him for protection. He later wrote in his diary:
I knew that many of the so called readers still kept on many of their old habits. This war that I have in my heart is a fight between Mukasa, the name I had before I was baptized and Hamu the new name I took after being baptized. So I find that Mukasa is daily annoyed that I will not follow the natural inclinations of my body.
The more the number of Christian pages increased the more King Mwanga became restless because he felt that the Christians showed little loyalty and respect for him, preferring to obey the Lord Jesus Christ rather than him. Mwanga began to think that the reading classes were a training ground for rebels in his kingdom. In 1885 he decided to arrest all the Christians and kill those who did not renounce their Christian faith. Mukasa went into hiding in Bulemezi. While in hiding, it was rumored that his father would be killed if he did not immediately appear before the king. Hearing this, Mukasa felt compelled to surrender to Mwanga.
Surprisingly though, Mwanga pardoned him and instead put him in charge of the pages in his palace. Mukasa interpreted this act of mercy as God’s direct intervention when his life was in danger. The burning of the Uganda martyrs at Namugongo in 1885 and 1886 did not end missionary work in Uganda nor did it threaten Mukasa. Mukasa and other readers continued to attend lessons at the Church Missionary Society Mission.
In 1888 Mwanga was overthrown by the Muslim party. Upon hearing that the Christians were going to be killed, Mukasa fled with them to Ankole. In order to get support from the local people in the Buganda kingdom in their fight against the Muslim soldiers, the Christians needed King Mwanga on their side. Mukasa was one of the delegates who went to persuade Mwanga to join them in the battle against the Muslims.
On September 2, 1889 Mukasa led a decisive battle which he later described in his diary:
I told the Basese paddlers in my canoe to go up close to the Arabs’ boat, but they were afraid and I moved to the shore towards the boat. And when one of the Arabs saw me coming, as we were many, he took aim at me and hit me in the knee. The bullet broke my leg and I fell. The boys carried me back to the canoe where I lay to watch the fight.
Mukasa actively engaged himself in the religious war because he knew the future of Christianity in Uganda depended on securing military and political power in the country. On October 5, 1890, thanks to Mukasa’s courage the Christians won political control in Uganda. As a result, the Anglican Church was given a commanding site on Namirembe Hill on which to build its headquarters. For Mukasa this was an extraordinary experience even though, during his lifetime, he occasionally talked about the difficult days of the religious wars. After the war, Mukasa was made one of the important chiefs in King Mwanga’s government.
In 1894, Mukasa married Hanah Mawemuko. She died in 1919, leaving him with six children. In August 1919, Mukasa married Sarah and had many children with her.
Mukasa joined the lay readers’ class at Namirembe and, after graduation, he worked at Namirembe Cathedral as a catechist and evangelist. His prominence as an evangelist was not only limited to Namirembe. He preached the gospel in Uganda and beyond, traveling to such places as Sudan, Kenya, and Congo.
The European Christian missionaries loved Mukasa because he was humble and trustworthy. As a result of their good relationship, Mukasa was given the opportunity to accompany Prime Minister Apollo Kagwa on his visit to England in 1902, having been appointed Kagwa’s secretary by the Buganda Council. He recorded all the events of the trip in his diary and, after his return, published a book entitled The Katikiro’s Visit to England. Mukasa’s visit to England deepened his understanding of Christianity and of the activities of the church.
As a dedicated Christian, Mukasa struggled in his heart, as he strongly desired that the Anglican Church succeed in Uganda. Whenever he met church leaders Mukasa shared his vision of a self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating church with a council responsible for the welfare of church workers. Mukasa’s dream was partly realized when Aberi Balya was elected bishop in the Native Anglican Church of Uganda. In his paper entitled “Omulabirizi we Uganda” (the Bishop of Uganda) Mukasa remarked, “Balya is the right and suitable candidate for the post irrespective of tribe.” As a sign of his appreciation, Mukasa bought Bishop Balya a pastoral cross. Although Mukasa was never ordained, he was one of the custodians and trustees of the church until his death.
As a Christian chief, Mukasa insisted that his subjects become faithful Christians and he taught that every Christian must change his or her moral behavior in order to develop spiritually. When he realized that Mukono was growing faster than any other city in the county, he decided to establish the headquarters of the Ugandan church in Mukono in 1906.
Mukasa was a great promoter of formal education in Uganda. He used his influence as a chief to allocate land to mission schools and supported the building of many schools. Of particular importance was Bishops’ School, which was dedicated to the sons of chiefs. Whenever Mukasa had the opportunity to speak to the parents of school-age children, he would ask them to contribute generously to the building of schools to ensure a bright future for Uganda.
Mukasa was very instrumental in the establishment of Bishop Tucker Theological College, now called Uganda Christian University, Mukono. He never attended any theological college but he loved to have a trained pastor in his home parish. In 1894 a church training program was started at Namirembe but, as Mukasa and Bishop Alfred Robert Tucker were not happy with its location, Mukasa convinced the church council to transfer the program to Mukono-far from Kampala-and promised to give the college a piece of land. In 1930 he gave the college one square mile of land.
Mukasa believed in the principal of self-reliance and always supported his subjects in church building projects by offering help in the form of money or land. He was disappointed to see that only progressive chiefs or rich Christians were building churches. Mukasa therefore came up with the idea of involving all Christians, without discrimination, in these building projects since the church belongs to both the poor and the rich. He believed that Christians-irrespective of their status in society-had to join hands in order to grow both materially and spiritually.
Mukasas was a member of the Native Anglican Church Synod, the Diocesan Council and the Bishops’ Council. He was also chairman of the Fathers’ Union as well as governor for life of the Church Missionary Society in Uganda.
In 1931, Mukasa retired from his position in the king’s government. By this time he was a very rich man and owned about one hundred square miles of land. He used the revenue from this land to support the church, schools, and the needy. During his retirement, he continued to be active in the church, visiting the widows, the aged, and the sick.
In 1952, Mukasa became sick. In January of 1956 he had a stroke and from that time on his health began to deteriorate very fast. He died on February 29, 1956 and was buried in Namirembe Cathedral cemetery.
Hamu Mukasa, Hamu Mukasa’s Diaries (1899-1950), handwritten ms. (Makerere University library).
Hamu Mukasa, Hamu Mukasa’s Papers (1901-1945), handwritten ms. (Makerere University library).
Hamu Mukasa, Hamu Lujonza Kaddu Mukasa Papers (1946-48), handwritten ms. (Uganda Christian University).
Peter Bakaluba Mukasa, member of Parliament, Mukono, interviewed by the author, March 2005.
This article, received in 2005, was researched and written by Rev. Dr. Christopher Byaruhanga, 2005-2006 Project Luke fellow and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Uganda Christian University, a DACB Participating Institution. He is also the liaison coordinator at UCU.