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Explaining the Martyrs with weird names

By Juliet Lukwago

Added 24th May 2019 08:29 PM

Names like Mbaaga-Tuzinde, Bazzekuketta, Kiriwawanvu, Mawagaali, Bannabakintu, Gyaviira, Kiriggwajjo, Mugagga and Ludigo roll awkwardly off the tongue

Explaining the Martyrs with weird names

Names like Mbaaga-Tuzinde, Bazzekuketta, Kiriwawanvu, Mawagaali, Bannabakintu, Gyaviira, Kiriggwajjo, Mugagga and Ludigo roll awkwardly off the tongue

Baganda can tell which name doesn't belong to a clan. When a name doesn't, it is either crafted from a saying, an ancestor, a nickname or is outright puzzling.

Names like Mbaaga-Tuzinde, Bazzekuketta, Kiriwawanvu, Mawagaali, Bannabakintu, Gyaviira, Kiriggwajjo, Mugagga and Ludigo roll awkwardly off the tongue and as weird even for Baganda. Could it be the flamboyance of the old age language? New Vision talked to Fr Joseph Mukasa Muwonge, the in charge of the Uganda Martyrs devotion in Kampala Archdiocese, about the meaning and context on the names.


The name Mbagga is not a clan name. It is said to have developed from a nickname from Mbaaga'a colleagues. The story goes that Kalooli-Lwang, who was the leader of these pages in Kabaka's palace, would leave Mbaaga in charge of stores whenever he was absent. During that time, whenever his colleagues would ask him for meat, he would tell them the meat belonged to butcher man; "have you seen me slaughtering any animal? (mwali mundabyeko nga mbaaga?). That became his nickname.

Mbagga was the adopted son of the chief executioner, Mukaajanga. He was a page in the audience hall of Kabaka Mwanga II. He is described as a very kind-hearted, obedient, truthful, and good at sports.

He was baptized on May 26, 1886, by Kalooli Lwanga and is famous for standing firm despite pressures from relatives, and especially the chief executioner, Mukaajanga who tried to make him renounce Christianity in order to escape death. During the week in which the martyrs spent at Namugongo awaiting execution, he was separated from his companions, deprived of their moral support, and, in the face of pleading, tears and entreaties from his many relatives, imploring him not to throw away his young life, Mbaaga remained resolute. He was clubbed to death before being placed on a pyre at Namugongo. He was 17 years old by the time of his martyrdom.

Mbaaga is the patron of religious vocations including seminaries, novices and aspirants.

Adolf Ludigo-Mukasa Kiriwawanvu

Mukasa-Ludigo was his real name. But he got to be known as kiriwawanvu from his role as the cook in the kitchen in Lubiri. Whenever his colleagues would ask for lunch, he would to tell them to be patient as the food was not yet ready. In Luganda: "eky'emisana kiri wawanvu" and, so, they nicknamed him "Kiriwawanvu."

Born in Mwenge, the kingdom of Toro, Kiriwawanvu became a companion of Kalooli- Lwanga at the court of King Mwanga II. He was killed between 1885 and 1887 and his day of martyrdom is June 3.

His parentage is unknown since he was captured during the inter-kingdom wars and brought to Buganda, where he served as a herdsman and page in the audience hall of King Muteesa I and his son Mwanga II. It is said he was one of the pages who refused Mwanga's homosexual advances. On November 16, 1885, the day after Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe was martyred; Ludigo-Mukasa was baptized by Pere Simeon Lourdel and named Adolofu.

Anatoli Kiriggwajjo

Kiriggwajjo used to tell his colleagues not to worry too much because of issues that have an end in the short term. What will end tomorrow should not force you to frown (ekiriggwa jjo tekikutunuza nga alira).

Kiriggwajjo was a Munyoro, who was captured in Bubango during the inter-kingdom wars and brought to Buganda. He served in the palace as a page of the audience hall of both King Muteesa I and King Mwanga II. He was baptized on 16 November 1885 by Pere Lourdel.

His martyrdom was in the Namugongo furnace on 3 June 1886 when he was 20years. Kiriggwajjo is the patron of Dairy farmers and veterinary.

Athanasius Bazzekuketta

It is said that his real name was Kizza. He again the name Bazzekuketta the day he visited his sister at Kobojja-Ggomba. As neighbours saw them arriving with his friends, they noted that the visitors had come to spy around to gauge the condition of the place where their sister was married (okuketta). The word bazze kuketta amused him so much that named himself Bazzekuketta.

He was a Muganda from Nkima clan. His father was Kafeero Kabalu Ssebaggala and his mother Namukwaya. He was a page under both king Muteesa I and Mwanga II and was in charge of King Mwanga's treasury.

Bazzekuketta is first heard of as belonging to the household of Sembuzzi, the chief chosen by Stanley to command his escort on his journey through Bunyoro. Sembuzzi later absconded with 180 pounds (about 90Kg) of beads. He was Sembuzzi's brother-in-law (although actually a nephew-in-law) as one of Sembuzzi's wives, Namuddu, was his aunt. There is no information about his original name, nor any certainty about the place of his birth.

Bazzekuketta, who was about 20 at the time of his martyrdom. He was said to be clean, orderly, faithful and because of his neatness, he was selected to be in charge of the king's ceremonial robes and ornaments.

He was baptized on November 16, 1885 by Pere Lourdel.

He was killed on the way to Namugongo. When the prisoners reached Nakivubo, Mukaajanga; the chief executioner asked who among them would volunteer to be killed where their leader, Balikuddembe was killed. Bazzekuketta eagerly volunteered and he was at once speared to death and hacked to pieces.

Bazzekuketta is the patron of treasurers, banks and co-operatives.

Noa Mawaggali

Mawaggali was his real name. He was one of the three Catholic martyrs of Mityana, the other two being Matthias Kalemba and Luke Banabakintu. Mawaggali was the son of Musaazi and a member of the Bush-Buck (Ngabi) Clan. His mother's name was Meme. He was born at Nkazibukulu in Ssingo County in 1850.

He was an expert potter and was appointed potter to the county chief who greatly admired his work. After living for a time in the chief's household, Mawaggali became a tenant of Matthias Kalemba and built a house on his land. Kalemba was his friend, as well as his landlord, and it was this friendship, as well as the zeal and Christian example of Mulumba, which drew Mawaggali to him and which induced him to join the Catholic catechumenate. He was eventually baptized on November 1, 1885.

Luke Baanabakintu

His real name was Luke Baanabakintu Tebagwerayoddala. He was Muganda from Mmamba clan. He was from Ntolomwe village in Butambala then later his parents migrated to Kkonde- Busujju.

He was initially in the service of the Ssingo chief, overseeing his servants, woodcutters, porters and cooks. Because of his excellent service, he was given a chiefdom called Kiwanga. He got attracted to Christianity and was baptized on 28 May 1882 with Mathias Mulumba by Fr. Ludovic Girault at Nabulagala.

He then assisted Mulumba in teaching others catechism. Both were arrested in Mengo on 26 May 1886 and taken to Namugongo. He was 30-35 years of age when he died.

Baanabakintu is a patron of sailors, fishermen, mechanics and blacksmiths.


Gyaviira-Musoke's real name was Mayanja-Musoke but was nicknamed Gyaviira, which meant, the place he comes from is feared.

His father, Ssemalago Mubiru of the Lung-fish (Mmamba) clan was an important chief who was in charge of keeping Kabaka Ssuuna II's umbilical cord. He was a priest to the god Mayanja and the in charge of keeping the shrine. Mayanja was a leopard that was thought to be tamed at Ssemalago's home, staying in his house. People simply believed that the leopard was there but they never saw it. Whenever they would passing by Mubiru's enclosure, they practised a ritual of uprooting some grass and throwing it at the enclosure saying: "My friend Mayanja, don't harm me, allow me to go safely." So, the home was feared.

The missionaries, Mapeera and Bro. Amans also visited this shrine in Sseguku to prove if the leopard was there but didn't see it.

However, Ssemalago would claim to be communicating with Mayanja and he used to do so in total darkness. People would hear the leopard rumbling and roars and get convinced that the tamed leopard was inside. Being dark, it was very difficult to make out whether the rumbling was from an animal or a person.

Ssemalago was a polygamist with about 50 wives and over 100 children. Musoke Gyaviira was a smart, intelligent, obedient, hardworking and well-behaved boy. That is why his father singled him out, though young as he was, about 15 years of age, and privately prepared him to be his

successor. He secretly trained him in the art of witchcraft. The boy learnt very well almost all the skills and tricks of witchcraft even to the extent of rumbling and roaring like a leopard. That is why his father gave him a second name Mayanja.

When King Mwanga ascended to the throne, he demanded handsome, well-behaved and smart good boys from his chiefs to serve him as pages. Gyaviira Musoke Mayanja was 15 when his own father Ssemalago took him to King Mwanga's palace at Mengo in 1884. Most of the pages, except Charles Lwanga who was the head of all the pages, were afraid of him at first and hardly associated with him due to his witchcraft and shrine name of Mayanja.

But Lwanga and the Catholic pages got very friendly and soon started teaching him the religion. Lwanga explained to Gyaviira that witchcraft with all its connections was based on mere deceit and it was against God who ransomed people by his own blood on the cross. Gyaviira knew what he was saying because he was trained in the tricks of witchcraft.

He abandoned witchcraft against his parents' wishes. And when Christian persecution broke out, he was arrested and condemned to death he was burnt alive in Namugongo on June 3 at the age of 17.

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