Nakimu, Nalwanga Sarah

c. 1865 – 1917
Anglican Communion (Church of Uganda)

Nakimu Nalwanga Sarah was one of Uganda’s first female Anglican converts and one of the most consequential Protestants in the Central African kingdom during the 1880s, both as an individual and through her two marriages—first to Mukasa Firipo [Philip] and then to Lutamaguzi Henry Wright (later Rev.). [1] These three Ugandans were at the forefront of the emergence and development of Protestantism from the late 1870s through the first quarter of the twentieth century. [2]

Nakimu arrived at Nateete, Kampala, Uganda, the site of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) mission station in mid-1882, as the prospective wife of Mukasa Firipo. Mukasa was among the first five Ugandans to be baptized in the first-ever Protestant baptism in Uganda on March 18, 1882. [3]

Following his baptism, Mukasa left the mission station when one of his brothers, who was a chief, offered him a job as head of his Lubare [mediums and spirits] in exchange for a wife. [4] Rev. Philip O’Flaherty, who had baptized Mukasa and from whom he took his baptismal name, begged him to stay. O’Flaherty recognized that the promise of being given a wife made it hard for the young man to reject the offer. Eventually, Mukasa left the mission station without any indication he would ever return.

However, he returned two months later to stay for good. [5] And he was not alone: his prospective wife, the young Nakimu Nalwanga, was with him. O’Flaherty described her as a “haughty savage” when he first saw her because she refused to eat the CMS missionaries’ food. [6] She later demonstrated to O’Flaherty that one had to work first before accepting food from strangers.

While Mukasa started from where he had left off in his faith, Nakimu was reluctant to embrace Christianity. In a subsequent encounter, O’Flaherty proposed that she join a women’s class to explore whether she would find answers to her questions about Christianity. [7] Nakimu did not think women could become Christians. This idea made sense to her since both missionaries and converts were men at the time. During this period, she worked different jobs at the mission station, including growing food, to justify the fact that she and Mukasa lived at Nateete.

In August 1883, she was baptized Sarah, the name of O’Flaherty’s wife whom he had left in England. [8] Their son Sserunjogi Bulamu was also baptized on the same day. Shortly afterward, Mukasa and Nakimu were married in one of the earliest Anglican marriages in Uganda. The historian Sarah Geraldine Stock described their marriage with the words “Christ’s way.” [9]

Nakimu grew in faith and influence and soon began ministering to fellow women. Likewise, later that year, her husband was employed as the first-ever Ugandan teacher at the mission station to help missionaries teach the converts, whose numbers were increasing day by day.

Unfortunately for Nakimu, Mukasa suddenly died of smallpox in early 1884. According to Mukasa Ham, by the end of the outbreak, an estimated 7,000 people had lost their lives. [10] During the difficult times, Nakimu stood by her husband to his last breath. The English missionary Robert P. Ashe, who arrived in Uganda on May 2, 1883, described her commitment to her husband in this way: “This man [Mukasa] was never forsaken by his faithful wife, who tended him all through his loathsome disease until his death, though he had been often unfaithful to her (132).” [11]

Mukasa’s burial is considered the first Christian burial in Uganda. But it never would have been so except for a last-minute intervention by Nakimu. Upon Mukasa’s death, O’Flaherty planned to bury him at the mission station. His brothers, however, arrived to take his corpse to be buried at their ancestral home. O’Flaherty rejected their request, arguing that because Mukasa was a Christian, he had gained a new family and would be buried at the mission station. When the brothers insisted, Nakimu joined the dialogue, siding with O’Flaherty to convince her in-laws to let her husband be buried with his new family. They eventually agreed. [12] This burial was remarkable because of the fact that a priest presided over it – the Rev. Robert P. Ashe.

Nakimu remained a widow for only a short time. Before the end of the year, she married Mukasa’s best friend, Lutamaguzi, another teacher and a leading local translator at the CMS mission station. Her second marriage was endorsed by English missionaries who knew Lutamaguzi well—particularly Ashe who had traveled with him from Zanzibar to Uganda in 1882 and 1883. In the authorized History of the Church Missionary Society, Eugene Stock described Lutamaguzi as the leading Ugandan Christian of his generation. [13]

On October 10, 1884, Muteesa I, who had first welcomed Christian missionaries to Buganda, died and was succeeded by his son Mwanga II. Mwanga did not expel missionaries from Buganda and even invited those who had left to return. However, he did not want his subjects to convert to Christianity and calling the religion “foreign superstition.” Soon he started a persecution that consumed his entire first reign as Kabaka of Buganda.

In January 1885, Nakimu was arrested with several Christians. Three of them – Lugalama Joseph, Kakumba Mark, and Serwanga Noah – were eventually killed on January 31 and are considered the first of the so-called Uganda Martyrs. [14] Nakimu survived death only after information was brought to Mwanga that they were blood relatives. She was freed, but on condition that she witness the gruesome execution of the three young Christians above. [15]

The exact reason for her arrest is in dispute, however. The historian Louis T. Manarin claims the target of arrest was her husband, who fled before the Bambowa [soldiers] got to their home. [16] He adds that Lutamaguzi left his wife behind because she was ill. [17] But when the Bambowa saw her holding a book—which, on scrutiny, was a recently translated gospel of Matthew—they arrested her instead and the book was seized as evidence. [18] While she was being taken for trial, she loudly called upon those who arrested her to convert to Christianity.

The Catholic priest and religious historian John F. Faupel agrees with Manarin that she was ill at the time of her arrest but disagrees on the reason for her arrest. According to Faupel, she was arrested with her son for teaching Christianity to Bambejja [princesses].

Either way, she survived death, and her faith was not affected. After her release, when asked whether she would give up on Christianity, her response was, “No, and here is my book [the gospel of Matthew].” [19]

In July 1885, as persecution was on the rise, the missionaries and their converts hatched an idea to form a council that would act as a leadership unit for Christians if Mwanga expelled the missionaries. One had to be a Ugandan and baptized to be elected to this council. While all the elected elders turned out to be men, Nakimu had established herself as a pioneering woman church leader at the time. Lutamaguzi, her second husband, was one of the twelve elders elected to the first council. By the turn of the decade, he was the president. When the first women’s council was constituted in 1892, Nakimu was one of the six members. [20]

Alfred R. Tucker, the third bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa (including Uganda) and first bishop of Uganda, reflected on the role played by women like Nakimu among fellow women and girls before the creation of the women’s council and the arrival, in 1895, of English women missionaries. In his book Eighteen Years in Uganda and East Africa, he states:

To compensate, as far as possible, for the absence of English women, the wives of such men as H. W. Duta [Lutamaguzi Henry Wright] and Zakaria Kizito [Kizito Zakaliya Kisingiri] were enlisted as workers among the women and girls. They did excellent service and tided us over a time of real difficulty. But they needed, as they often confessed, help in their work and lives. [21]

In 1888, Mwanga was dethroned and replaced by his elder brother Kiwewa, who was also dethroned by their brother Kalema in October 1888. During Kalema’s rise to the throne, Christians were defeated, and most of them, particularly the leaders, fled to Kabula, Ankole. The CMS Awake of October 1892 reported that an estimated 2,500 Christians fled, including Sembera K. Mackay, Uganda’s first Protestant. Lutamaguzi was one of the exiled Christians, but Nakimu is not reported as being one of them. Many Christian leaders had taken their families to safety before Kalema seized the throne, and likely Nakimu was in Bulemeezi, Lutamaguzi’s ancestral home.

Christians returned to Buganda in late 1889 after defeating the Muslims whom they sent to Bunyoro for their turn in exile. Nakimu came back to the capital to be with her husband. She began this era with a terrible injury to one of her fingers—an infection on a bone that appeared to spread to the rest of the hand. Rev. R. H. Walker stepped up to perform surgery on the infected finger and was assisted by Rev. E. Cyril Gordon. Neither had any medical training, but the operation stopped the infection after they cut off the finger.

On January 18, 1891, Tucker confirmed her as an Anglican with seventy other Christians whose confirmation had been pending due to the absence of a bishop in Uganda until that point. Tucker had arrived in Uganda the previous month as the third bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa. The first bishop – James Hannington – was killed on October 29, 1885, on the orders of Mwanga before he could enter Buganda. The second, Henry Parker, died of a malarial infection while preparing to leave present-day northern Tanzania for Uganda in 1888.

Two days after the confirmation, Nakimu’s husband was set apart as one of the first six catechists in Uganda. [22]

In 1895, the first female missionaries from England arrived in Uganda [23] and Nakimu was delegated to ease them into their new environment. Edith Furley was one of them. She wrote in her journal these words:

Sarah Duta [Nakimu] has been an immense help to us; when we were first left with only servants to whom we could not speak a word, she came in every day and…acted as interpreter between myself, Hannah, and the children. I don’t know what we should have done without her those first days; she was a friend in need, ready to do anything, and an immense help in many ways. [24]

Nakimu died on November 7, 1917, four years after the death of her second husband. Her burial was led by Rev. George Knyfton Baskerville, the Archdeacon of the church that has since evolved into the strongest Anglican province in Africa. [25]

Kimeze Teketwe


  1. “‘The Children’s World’, 1895-1899” (Government Papers, The National Archives, Kew, 1895-1899), 52.

  2. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, Issue. 1884. London: Church Missionary Society, 756.

  3. The Children’s World, 53.

  4. The Children’s World, 53.

  5. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, Issue. 1884. London: Church Missionary Society. Available through: Adam Matthew, Marlborough, Church Missionary Society Periodicals,756.

  6. Sarah Geraldine Stock, The Story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza Mission (London, UK: Church Missionary Society, 1899), 77.

  7. Stock, 77.

  8. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, Issue. 1884. London: Church Missionary Society. Available through: Adam Matthew, Marlborough, Church Missionary Society Periodicals,756.

  9. Stock, The Story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza Mission, 77.

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

  11. R. P. Ashe, Two Kings of Uganda (London, UK: S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1890), 132.

  12. Stock, The Story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza Mission, 79.

  13. Eugene Stock, The History of the Church Missionary Society: Its Environment, its Men and its Work (4 vols.; London: Church Missionary Society Salisbury Square, 1836–1928), IV, p. 86.

  14. Olivia Nassaka Banja, “Uganda Martyrs: The Role and Place of Women,” Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae XXXIV (2008): 181–89, 82.

  15. Louis Timothy Manarin, “And the Word Became Kigambo: Language, Literacy, and Bible Translation in Buganda 1875-1931” (dissertation, Indiana University, 2008), 93.

  16. Manarin, 93.

  17. Manarin, 93.

  18. Manarin, 93.

  19. Manarin, 93.

  20. Stock, The History of the Church Missionary Society, 449.

  21. Alfred Robert Tucker, Eighteen Years in Uganda and East Africa. vol. I, II vols. (London, UK: Edward Arnold, 1908), 340.

  22. Mullins and Mukasa, The Wonderful Story of Uganda, 69.

  23. Mullins and Mukasa, 109. *
  24. Elizabeth E. Prevost, The Communion of Women: Missions and Gender in Colonial Africa and the British Metropol (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010), 104.

  25. Andrew McKinnon, “Demography of Anglicans in Sub-Saharan Africa: Estimating the Population of Anglicans in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda,” Journal of Anglican Studies 18, no. 1 (2020): 42–60, 42.


Ashe, R. P. Two Kings of Uganda. London, UK: S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1890.

Manarin, Louis Timothy. “And the Word Became Kigambo: Language, Literacy, and Bible Translation in Buganda 1875-1931.” Dissertation, Indiana University, 2008.

McKinnon, Andrew. “Demography of Anglicans in Sub-Saharan Africa: Estimating the Population of Anglicans in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.” Journal of Anglican Studies 18, no. 1 (2020): 42–60.

Mullins, J. D., and Ham Mukasa. The Wonderful Story of Uganda. London, UK: Church Missionary Society, 1904.

Prevost, Elizabeth E. The Communion of Women: Missions and Gender in Colonial Africa and the British Metropol. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Stock, Eugene. The history of the Church Missionary Society. Vol. III. IV vols. London, UK: Church Missionary Society, 1899.

Stock, Sarah Geraldine. The Story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza Mission. London, UK: Church Missionary Society, 1899.

Teketwe, Kimeze. “Mackay, Sembera K.” Dictionary of African Christian Biography, 2023.

Tucker, Alfred Robert. Eighteen Years in Uganda and East Africa. Vol. I. II vols. London, UK: Edward Arnold, 1908.

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