Nalumansi, Clara

Anglican Communion (Church Missionary Society)

Nalumansi Clara was the first member of Buganda’s royal family to convert to Christianity. A daughter of a woman known to us as Nagaddya and Muteesa I, she was baptized with five of her maids on September 23, 1883, by Rev. Philip O’Flaherty at Nateete, Uganda. [1]

Nalumansi’s baptism in 1883 was separated by a little over a year from the first Anglican baptism in Uganda on March 18, 1882, also performed by the Irish missionary O’Flaherty. Concerning Nalumansi’s baptism, O’Flaherty journaled on October 31, 1883, as thus: “In my last [letter], written on September 13, I mentioned [to you] the case of the princess and her maids who were under instruction. I now write a line to say that she is added to the church with five others who have been for some time under instruction.” [2]

Nalumansi’s father had played a leading role in the arrival of Anglican missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in his kingdom in 1877, who were, in 1879, followed by Roman Catholics belonging to the White Fathers (called Missionaries of Africa today) missionary group. Though both hoped to convert him, it never happened, as he remained a traditionalist. However, he encouraged his children to participate in their activities, and while some, like Mwanga II, quickly lost interest, others, like Nalumansi, became Christians. [3]

The British historian Sir John Milner Gray claims she was a Muslim before her conversion to Protestantism, but there is no record in support of his claim. [4] It cannot, however, be ruled out, given that her father had decreed Islam as the state religion of Buganda in June 1879. [5] Following the proclamation, many Baganda, particularly members of the royal family, converted to Islam. [6][7] Muteesa himself came close to conversion, only to be stopped by a Ganda custom forbidding a Kabaka from intentionally shedding blood, which would have happened through circumcision. [8]

As a daughter of a Kabaka, she was mostly addressed as *Omumbejja * [princesses], which is the case for Buganda princes [Balangira] and princesses. Her surname initially appeared in CMS archives as Elmasi. [9] As Luganda’s writing developed, it became Nalamansi. [10][11] The modern version, Nalumansi, emerged after her lifetime. Clara, or the Luganda-nized versions Kilala, Kalaala, or Kalala, is the name she received when she switched to Roman Catholicism in 1885, taken from Saint Clare of Assisi. [12] Due to a fire that destroyed church records at Nateete during Mwanga’s reign, her Anglican baptismal name is lost. [13] Still, her cultural title likely overshadowed all other names during her time.

She has also been cited as a Naalinya [Queen Sister]. [14] If this was the case, she was Mwanga’s, both becoming successors of their father’s throne as Kabaka of Buganda on October 10, 1884. [15]

Unlike most Christian converts at the time, Nalumansi did not spend much time at the mission station. Her role as a Naalinya may have been one reason. Another reason could have been the absence of women missionaries at the station. No female missionaries had ever set foot in Buganda, making it difficult for women to participate as well as men in missionary activities. Yet, wherever she was, she remained a useful asset to the Anglican and Roman Catholic missions.

In early November, following the murder of James Hannington on October 29, 1885, Nalumansi sent a message to CMS missionaries, alerting them that Mwanga’s mood had shifted and there was an opportunity for them to make peace with him if they tried. [16] Hannington, the first bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, was killed in southern Busoga on purportedly the orders of Mwanga as he was making his way to Buganda. [17] Robert P. Ashe, the English missionary, writes that while they received information that the bishop’s life was in danger, possibly from Nalumansi, they could not convey it to his party in time to save him. [18]

About this time, she fell in love with Kaddu Joseph, a Catholic convert, with whom they soon wed according to Catholic tradition. [19] Abambejja [princesses] were customarily forbidden from getting married in Buganda, but for different reasons, the custom had relaxed during her father’s reign, allowing Nalumansi to get married. However, she had to convert to her prospective husband’s faith for them to be wed, which she did. Her relationship with the Anglican mission was not affected, even after switching to Roman Catholicism and marriage.

In 1888, Nalumansi was killed. While there is certainty about the year she died, the same cannot be said of the month or why she was killed. Buganda was ruled by an unprecedented three Kabakas in 1888, which makes it more complicate to identify who ordered her killing or the reason she was killed. [20]

The first account says she was killed at the tail end of Mwanga’s first reign. Shortly after she married Kaddu, she was appointed to a cultural position as keeper of SseKabaka [Dead king] Jjunju’s tomb. [21] Her first act in this role was to burn all amulets, charms, and relics at the tomb, arguing she was a Christian who did not believe in such evil practices. [22] This was followed by shredding to pieces her umbilical cord and throwing it away, undermining a long-held custom of having umbilical cords of children safely stored. [23] If these two acts did not infuriate Baganda traditionalists enough, her next action sure did.

On December 17, 1887, she gave orders to send away a giant ivory tusk that her grandfather, SseKabaka Ssuuna, had dedicated to the Ganda god Mukasa. This act did not go down well with his brother, Mwanga when he got the information. [24] Nalumansi was subsequently shot dead by an unidentified person in August 1888 purportedly on Mwanga’s order. [25] Her mother claimed afterward that her daughter was killed because of her faith. [26] Incidentally, Mwanga’s first reign as Kabaka of Buganda abruptly ended in the same month when Christians and Muslims deposed him and replaced him with SseKabaka Kiweewa. [27]

The second account says SseKabaka Kalema, not Mwanga, killed her. [28] This would be in 1888 or 1889 since Kalema seized the throne on October 21 and was dethroned before the end of the following year. Christians whom Mwanga had persecuted throughout his first reign joined forces with Muslims to dethrone him in 1888, sending him into exile. [29] They installed his customarily unqualified elder brother Kiweewa as a Kabaka afterward. [30] Even after they distributed leadership positions amongst themselves, the alliance soon collapsed, with Muslims winning the contest and driving Christians into exile in Kabula (in present-day Lyantonde district, Uganda). [31] Kiweewa was killed in the process, as Muslims, assisted by Zanzibari-Arabs, installed Kalema as Kabaka of Buganda. [32]

Kalema immediately embarked on a campaign to purge Christians and Baganda royals from Buganda, seeing them as a threat to his throne. [33] In a letter sent to Alexander M. Mackay, Mwanga pointed to some of Kalema’s atrocities as thus: “Consider how Kalema has killed all my brothers and sisters; he has killed my children, too, and now there remain only [we] two princes [Kalema and himself],” Mwanga wrote. “Mr. Mackay, do help me,” he added. [34]

Kalema’s victims fell into primarily two categories – Christians and Baganda royals. Nalumansi was both.

In 1888, propaganda was also rife that English missionaries planned to install a woman as Kabaka if they got a chance so Buganda could be like England, where Queen Victoria reigned. [35] Buganda had never been ruled by a woman, making the idea of a female Kabaka incomprehensible to many a Muganda, even though, as a Naalinya, she was a Kabaka in her own right. As the Mumbejja [princess] most associated with Catholic and Protestant missions, this propaganda made her a prime target.

Nalumansi was likely killed under Kalema’s reign for cultural-political and religious reasons. [36] [37] While Mwanga disliked Christians, there is little historical evidence he ordered the killing of women or children and no evidence of executing blood relatives. He saved Sarah Nakimu Nalwanga from being killed with the so-called first Uganda Martyrs after finding out they were distant relatives. [38] Nalumansi was her Naalinya.

Kimeze Teketwe


  1. “Missionary Pamphlets, vol. 7” (Government Papers, The National Archives, Kew, 1875-1890), 27. Muteesa I was the thirtieth Kabaka [king] of Buganda.
  2. Missionary Pamphlets, 27.
  3. Mwanga was the thirty-first Kabaka of Buganda.
  4. John Milner Gray, *The Year of the Three Kings of Buganda, 1888-1889* (Kampala: Uganda Journal, 1950), 20.
  5. John Francis Faupel, African Holocaust. (New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1962), 48-50, 97.
  6. Sadab Kitatta Kaaya, “Muslims Remember Prince Nuhu Mbogo,” The Observer – Uganda, June 24, 2014.
  7. Baganda are the people from the Buganda kingdom; one is called a Muganda, and their culture is called Ganda or sometimes Kiganda.
  8. Chris Wrigley, Kingship and State. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 3.
  9. Missionary Pamphlets, 27.
  10. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 9, 1884. London: Church Missionary Society. Available through: Adam Matthew, Marlborough, Church Missionary Society Periodicals, 755, 758.
  11. A. M. Mackay and J. W. Harrison, Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society in Uganda (New York: A.C. Armstrong, 1890), 313.
  12. Ashe, Chronicles of Uganda. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1894), 217.
  13. “Mukasa Musa (Anglican),” Uganda Martyrs Shrine - Basilica of Uganda Martyrs Munyonyo, November 14, 2021.
  14. Gray, The Year of the Three Kings of Buganda, 20.
  15. Robert P. Ashe, Two Kings of Uganda (London: S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1890), 248.
  16. Aili Mari Tripp, “Women in Ugandan Politics and History: Collective Biography,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, 2020, 1.
  17. Ashe, Chronicles of Uganda, 78.
  18. Dan Graves, “James Hannington Captured - 1801-1900 Church History,”, May 3, 2010.
  19. Ashe, Two Kings of Uganda, 163.
  20. Gray, The Year of the Three Kings of Buganda, 20.
  21. Daily Monitor, “The Year Buganda Was Ruled by Three Kings,” Monitor, January 9, 2021.
  22. Jjunju was the twenty-sixth Kabaka of Buganda and was buried at Luwunga, Busiro county, Uganda.
  23. Ashe, Two Kings of Uganda, 217-218.
  24. Lydia Namubiru, “Clara Nalumansi, the First Recorded Female Martyr,” New Vision, May 29, 2009.
  25. Gray, The Year of the Three Kings of Buganda, 21.
  26. Daily Monitor Editor, “The Life of a Female Martyr,” Monitor, January 6, 2021.
  27. Gray, 21.
  28. The Church Missionary Gleaner, Volume 16, Issue 182. 1889. London: Church Missionary Society, 17.
  29. Mackay and Harrison, Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society in Uganda, 313.
  30. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 14, 1889, 153.
  31. The Church Missionary Intelligencer and Record, Volume 14, 1889, 147.
  32. The CMS magazine Awake of October 1892 claims an estimated 2,500 Christians, including Sembera, fled to Kabula, Ankole.
  33. The Church Missionary Gleaner, Volume 16, Issue 186. 1889, 83.
  34. The Church Missionary Gleaner, Volume 17, Issue 194. 1890, 31.
  35. Ashe, Chronicles of Uganda, 135.
  36. Olivia Nassaka Banja, “Uganda Martyrs: The Role and Place of Women,” Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae XXXIV (2008): 181–89, 84.
  37. Mackay, Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society to Uganda, 313.
  38. Daily Monitor, “130 Years: Nalumansi in Long Wait to Be Venerated,” Monitor, January 8, 2021.
  39. Louis Timothy Manarin, “And the Word Became Kigambo: Language, Literacy, and Bible Translation in Buganda 1875-1931” (Dissertation, Indiana University, 2008), 93.


Tripp, Aili Mari. “Women in Ugandan Politics and History: Collective Biography.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, 2020.

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

Ashe, Robert P. Chronicles of Uganda. London, UK: Hodder and Stoughton, 1894.

Daily Monitor Editor. “130 Years: Nalumansi in Long Wait to Be Venerated.” Monitor, January 8, 2021.

Daily Monitor Editor. “The Year Buganda Was Ruled by Three Kings.” Monitor, January 9, 2021.

Daily Monitor Editor. “The Life of a Female Martyr.” Monitor, January 6, 2021.

Faupel, John Francis. African Holocaust; New York, US: P. J. Kenedy, 1962.

Graves, Dan. “James Hannington Captured - 1801-1900.” Church History, May 3, 2010.

Gray, John Milner. *The Year of the Three Kings of Buganda, 1888-1889*. Kampala, Uganda: Uganda Journal, 1950.

Kaaya, Sadab Kitatta. “Muslims Remember Prince Nuhu Mbogo.” The Observer – Uganda, June 24, 2014.

Katungulu, Amon. “Uganda to Get First Beatified Woman Martyr.” Nile Post, November 15, 2018.

Mackay, A. M., and J. W. Harrison. Pioneer Missionary of the Church Missionary Society in Uganda. New York, US: A.C. Armstrong, 1890.

“Mukasa Musa (Anglican).” Uganda Martyrs Shrine - Basilica of Uganda Martyrs Munyonyo, November 14, 2021.

Wrigley, Chris. Kingship and State: The Buganda Dynasty. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

This biography, submitted in January 2023, was researched and written by Kimeze Teketwe, whose work explores the interaction of culture, education, and religion in East Africa from anthropological and historical lenses. Teketwe holds graduate degrees in missiology from Fuller Graduate School of Intercultural Studies and in international educational development from the University of Pennsylvania.