Senfuma, Thomas Lugudde
Thomas Lugudde Senfuma was one of the first pioneer church planters in the Kingdom of Buganda. He was also a Christian soldier, an evangelist, a missionary, and a spokesman for the Buganda Kingdom during a very difficult period. He wanted Christ and Buganda to achieve great heights both in the Great Lakes region and beyond.
Senfuma was born in 1861, the second child of Yayiro Bulezi. His parents had six children–one girl and five boys. The name Senfuma is from the Mmamba (catfish) clan. But Lugudde is the short form of “Lugudde ku Munyoro omuganda ye sekere,” meaning “the fate has fallen on the Banyoro–let the Baganda laugh.” The Banyoro were the arch enemies of the Baganda. Since Senfuma’s grandfather, Siyita mu Kyoto, had the responsibility of nurturing the princes of King Muteesa I, that meant that Senfuma was potentially ready to attack those opposing the king. That is what the name Lugudde served to indicate.
Senfuma grew up with the princes and knew Prince Mwanga from childhood. When he reached adolescence, he left his home village of Kanyike Mawokota and his grandfather to become a page in the palace of King Muteesa. He acquired leadership skills and proved himself competent. When he married the king appointed him Munakulya or county chief of Kiboga-Ssingo, where he served for several years.
When the missionaries came in 1877 Senfuma was already in the palace. He joined one of the first groups to be baptized. Tradition puts his baptism in 1883, one year before the death of King Muteesa.
Later Senfuma got involved in the religious conflicts. Between 1888 and 1889, there were wars between the different religious groups in the king’s court–both between Christians and Muslims and between Protestants and Roman Catholics. These conflicts interrupted Senfuma’s spiritual growth. He fought the Muslims and the Christians won the battle. When the Protestants got into fierce disagreements with the Roman Catholics that developed into a war, Senfuma fought under the leadership of Sir Apollo Kaggwa who eventually led the Protestants to victory.
Senfuma loved King Mwanga very much. Mwanga was his peer–they had grown up together. He stood with him through thick and thin. Senfuma, Sir Apollo Kaggwa, Kisingiri, and other key Christians stood up for their king many times. They rescued him from becoming a Muslim, even though some of Mwanga’s sons became Muslims. When the religious wars deprived Mwanga of his children since all of them were killed, Senfuma, Zakalia Kisingiri, Apollo Kaggwa, and Yonasani Kayizzi developed closer ties as they uplifted their king in prayer and provided moral support when necessary. For the Baganda, to love their king is more natural than a mother loving her son.
When Mwanga later had a son, Dawudi Chwa, born in 1896, that inner group of Protestant Christians, including Senfuma, and some white missionaries, took care of the young prince. The first Anglican priests made it clear that the mission of protecting the Buganda Kingdom had to go together with the work of preaching the Gospel of Christ. Senfuma and his counterparts played a dual role when Buganda became part of the Uganda Protectorate in 1894. The survival of the Buganda Kingdom required a strong, deeply rooted base of Christianity among the leaders of both the church and the kingdom.
After the wars Senfuma continued his Christian education, leading to his ordination in 1896.  He was one of five deacons who became the first African priests to be ordained in Uganda. Bishop Alfred Tucker ordained them: Rev. Batulumaayo Musoke Zimbe, Rev. Nasanairi Mudeeka, Rev. Yonasaani Kayizzi, Rev. Henry Dutta Kitaakule, and Rev. Tomasi Lugudde Senfuma. Bishop Tucker posted Senfuma in Masindi-Bunyoro for several years before he served in Buganda. He got the nickname Lugudde in Bunyoro.
Eventually Senfuma left the work of protecting Buganda and church planting to his comrades and concentrated entirely on missionary work. The church in Buganda had grown very fast between 1890 and 1930. Among its members were those who could translate the Scriptures into Luganda and Kiswahili, the languages widely spoken in the Lakes region. Priests and lay readers were very eager to disciple others, so Senfuma and many of his age mates made missionary journeys outside Buganda. Senfuma traveled to different places outside Buganda with the intention of encouraging his old friends who had started churches in various parts of the protectorate. He went to Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole, and Bukoba (Tanzania). He became a sort of missionary bridge between native churches in Buganda and those outside.
Senfuma came back to Buganda at the time of land allocation after the agreement of 1900. As he was already the kabaka’s chief and a priest, he received eight square miles of land. He settled with his wife Lakeeri (Rachael) at Baale-Bulemeezi where he built a very big personal house (still standing in 2009) and where they brought up their children. Their children’s names were Yuda Buwule, Lydia Nakanyike, Yulia Nambalirwa, and Yayiro Bulezi Katwe.
Senfuma gave about a quarter of a mile to start a church at Baale. He built the church which later served as the archdeaconry headquarters. In 1918 a white missionary named Leak  and Rev. Nasanaeri Mudeeka worked hard to transfer the headquarters to Ndejje. The road to Baale was too muddy and almost impassable during rain seasons. It was very inconvenient for the white missionary. Ndejje was much better. There a lot of land was allocated to the native church according to the agreement of 1900.
When Senfuma left Baale he moved to Luweero to start another church on sixty acres of land donated by Zakalia Kisingiri. In 1906 Senfuma built a very large semi permanent church with a high roof. He never dreamed that the church he worked so hard to build would become the cathedral of Luweero Diocese many years later. In 2007 Bishop Evans Mukasa Kisekka renovated and modernized that church.
Senfuma’s service to the Lord ended in 1929 when he died in a motor accident on the Mityana-Mubende road. He had just arrived from one of his missionary journeys. His tombstone is in Jjungo Nakawuka in Namirembe Diocese. Whenever his name is mentioned among those who knew him in Buganda it brings back fresh memories of vibrant orthodox Christianity.
According to the Mukono records (see Kevin Ward, “History of Bishop Tucker College” p. 49), Senfuma was ordained deacon in 1899 and priest in 1901. According to Taylor, (John Vernon Taylor, The Growth of the Church in Buganda; an Attempt at Understanding, London, SCM Press, 1958) Bishop Tucker didn’t think he was ready for ordination with the group mentioned by Selugo in 1896. [from Dr. Kevin Ward, email 11/3/09]
This is probably the Rev. R. H. [Richard?] Leakey, who worked in Bulemezi in the 1890s, and is related to the famous Leakey family of Kenya (missionaries and anthropologists). [from Dr. Kevin Ward, email 11/3/09]
Cook, Albert. Uganda Memories (1897-1940). Kampala: Uganda Society, 1945.
Luweero Diocese. St. Mark’s Cathedral Centenary. Magazine, 2006.
Namirembe Diocese. Diocesan Council Meeting. 1906.
Tucker, Alfred. Eighteen Years in Uganda and East Africa. London: Edward Arnold, 1911.
Kabonge Besweri, age 70, relative, Bbowa village, 2009.
Kisitu E., age 83, Kigombe village, 2009.
Kiwanuka Musa, Rev. Canon, age 100, Luweero village, 1996.
Kyebakutika Israel, age 75, Luweero village, 1996.
Nabbowa Dinah, age 80, Luweero village, 2009.
Nseera Cranmer, Rev., age 90, Luweero village, 1996.
This article, received in 2009, was researched and written by Rev. Canon James Selugo of Ndejje University, Uganda, where he is DACB liaison coordinator.