capture of Matthias and his mother from Busoga and how he became a Christian
Kalemba Mulumba separates with his women for Christianity
evangelises with utmost difficulty
dies the most cruel, brutal and lingering death
regrets killing Mulumba
What Catholic Missionaries had to say about Matthias Mulumba
The capture of Matthias and his mother from Busoga and how he became a Christian
This most remarkable man was a Musoga. Born about 1836 in Bunya County
in Busoga, the country lying across the Nile from Buganda, he, together
with his mother, was captured by a raiding party of Baganda belonging
to the Otter Clan and, at a very early age, carried off to Buganda as
His captors sold him to a member of the Edible-Rat (Musu) Clan, named
Magatto, an uncle of the Chancellor Mukasa, who seems to have treated
the little fellow as a member of the family rather than as a slave. As
often happened in such cases he was, as he grew up, grad¬ually treated
as a member of the clan and as a free man. Possibly it was in recognition
of this that he changed his name from the original Wante to Kalemba.
After the death of his adopted father, Kalemba remained for a time with
Magatto's brother, Buzibwa, but, on attaining manhood, he left and took
service with Ddumba, the county chief of Ssingo. In this service he displayed
such loyalty and trustworthiness that Ddumba came to rely upon him more
and more until he became, in fact if not in name, head of the chief's
household and supervisor of all the other servants.
On the death of Ddumba, his brother Kabunga who succeeded to the chieftainship
seems to have realized the treasure he had in Kalemba, for not only did
he confirm him in his many duties but gave them official recognition by
creating for him the post of Ekirumba, so called in memory of Ddumba.
As holder of this office, Kalemba became known as the Mulumba.
Matthias Kalemba, the Mulumba, was of fairly large stature and rather
light colouring. His face, somewhat longer than the average and adorned
with a small beard, an unusual feature amongst Baganda, was slightly pock-marked.
He was immensely strong, quite fearless and endowed with a powerful voice,
a joyous disposition and a passionate love for the truth. His search for
the truth led him first to the Muslim faith, which appealed to him by
its obvious super¬iority to the paganism that surrounded him. When
the Protestant missionaries arrived, he was at once attracted by Christianity
and began to attend their instructions; but before he had made up his
mind to ask for baptism he came, in the course of his duties, into contact
with the Catholic Fathers. It was the traditional duty of the chief of
Ssingo to erect and repair the buildings of the royal enclo¬sure,
so that when Kabaka Muteesa undertook to build houses for the Catholic
missionaries he naturally commissioned this chief to build them. The chief
in turn placed his trusted headman, Kalemba, in charge of the work. The
rest of the story is best told in Kalemba's own words to Pere Livinhac:
My father (almost certainly Magatto, his father by adoption) had always
believed that the Baganda had not the truth, and he sought it in his heart.
He had often mentioned this to me, and before his death he told me that
men would one day come to teach us the right way.
These words made a profound impression on me and, whenever the arrival
of some stranger was reported, I watched him and tried to get in touch
with him, saying to myself that here perhaps was the man foretold by my
father. Thus I associated with the Arabs who came first in the reign of
Ssuuna. Their creed seemed to me superior to our superstitions. I received
instructions and, together with a number of Baganda, I embraced their
religion. Muteesa himself, anxious to please the Sultan of Zanzibar, of
whose power and wealth he had been given an exaggerated account, declared
that he also wanted to become a Muslim. Orders were given to build mosques
in all the counties. For a short time, it looked as if the whole country
was going to embrace the religion of the false prophet, but Muteesa had
an extreme repugnance to circumcision. Consequently, changing his mind
all of a sudden, he gave orders to exterminate all who had become Muslims.
Many perished in the massacre, two or three hundred managed to escape
and, with Arab caravans, made their way to the Island of Zanzibar. I succeeded
with a few others in concealing the fact of my conversion, and continued
to pass for a friend of our own gods, though in secret I remained faith¬ful
to the practices of Islam.
That was how things stood when the Protestants arrived. Muteesa received
them very well; he had their book read in public audience, and seemed
to incline to their religion, which he declared to be much superior to
that of the Arabs. I asked myself whether I had not made a mistake, and
whether, perhaps, the newcomers were not the true messengers of God. I
often went to visit them and attended their instructions. It seemed to
me that their teaching was an improvement on that of my first masters.
I therefore abandoned Islam, without however asking for baptism.
Several months had elapsed when Mapeera (Lourdel) arrived.
My instructor, Mackay, took care to tell me that the white men who had
just arrived did not know the truth. He called their religion the 'worship
of the woman'; they adored, he said, the Virgin Mary. He also advised
me to avoid them with the greatest care. I therefore kept away from you
and, probably, I would never have set foot in your place if my chief had
not ordered me to supervise the building of one of your houses. But God
showed his love for me.
The first time when I saw you nearby, I was very much impressed.
Nevertheless, I continued to watch you closely at your prayers and in
your dealings with the people. Then seeing your goodness, I said to myself,
'How can people who appear so good be the messengers of the devil?'
I talked with those who had placed themselves under instruction and questioned
them on your doctrine. What they told me was just the contrary of what
Mackay had assured me. Then I felt strongly urged to attend personally
your catechetical instructions. God gave me the grace to understand that
you taught the truth, and that you really were the man of God of whom
my father had spoken. Since then, I have never had the slightest doubt
about the truth of your religion, and I feel truly happy.
Kalemba's actual enrolment as a catechumen seems to have taken place on
31 May 1880.
Matthias Kalemba Mulumba separates with his women for Christianity
Matthias Kalemba Mulumba, a man of about 50, was an assistant county
chief to Mukwenda (the county chief of Ssingo) and had many wives. In
the African tradition, it was prestigeous to marry many wives, the bigger
the number of wives one had, the greater the honour. The exact number
of wives Mulumba had is not known. But Matthew Kirevu, the eyewitness
remembered the following three:
(a) Bwamunnyondo Taakulaba: She was a Muganda of the Ndiga (sheep/Ovil)
clan in the family of Muguluka. When Kalemba's master known as Kaabunga
succeeded his father Ddumba as county chief of Ssingo, he gave Bwamunnyondo,
Kaabunga's widowed step-mother, to Kalemba Mulumba to be his wife. When
Mulumba embraced Christianity, he separated with Bwamunnyondo without
fear of annoying his master Kaabunga, to whom Mulumba was the Assistant.
But he gave out some property to support her for a considerable length
Bwamunnyondo went back to his father Muguluka in Buddu County. She had
been a young lady, but her beauty had faded away with age. Thus she named
herself "ATAAKULABA," which means "he or she who never
saw you in your youth, cannot understand your former beauty." Later
Bwamunnyondo became a catholic and was baptized and given the name Berta
at Villa Maria Parish in 1907. She died a very pius and devoted catholic
(b) Tibajjukira: This was a Musoga of Mulumba's tribe (a Musoga). When
Kalemba Mulumba became a catholic, he separated from her according to
the Christian law as he had done to Bwamunnyondo. He also surrendered
some property for her upkeep. She named herself ''TIBAJJUKIRA,'' which
means "the Christians do not remember the good done to them."
She also later became a catholic, but Matthew Kirevu, the eyewitness and
the informer did not remember her Christian name. Tibajjukira died during
the Muslim/Christian wars of 1888.
(c) Kikuwambazza or Kikuwa: was a Muganda, with whom Kalemba Mulumba got
properly married in the Catholic Church. Both were faithful to each other.
Kikuwa soon embraced the catholic religion. By the time Mulumba died for
his religion they had two children, a girl Julia "Baalekatebaawudde"
(they left before identifying) who was 4 years and a boy who was about
2 years of age.
Kikuwa was a pius and devoted Catholic. When her husband was arrested
for being a Christian, she voluntarily gave up herself to the executioners
to be killed for her religion. But Mbugano, the leader of the Mityana
executioners' expedition refused, saying, "We do not kill women."
Instead one of the executioners wanted take her for his wife. But she
totally refused. After the martyrdom of her husband, Kikuwa lived a very
pius, devoted and self-sacrificial life.
Though Mulumba had had many wives from whom he separated remaining with
only one, Kikuwa, still the priests hesitated in giving him the sacrament
of Baptism. They had fear that Mulumba would bring back some of his former
wives after receiving baptism. This was revealed to Mulumba before receiving
But Mulumba assured them, saying: ''Do not be afraid, I have made up
my mind through my own free will, I am a mature man, I am determined to
be a Catholic and abide by all the Catholic laws, never to turn back to
my old ways be that as it may."
On hearing that, the priests resolved to baptize him. Kalemba Mulumba
was baptized on Pentecost Sunday 28th May 1882 and was given the name
When Mulumba sent away his other wives and retained only one for God's
Sake, he was brought to the Katikkiro's (Prime Minister) tribunal on Wednesday
26th May 1886. Besides being a Christian, the Mulumba was furiously rebuked
by the Katikkiro saying: "This was certainly an act of putting chiefs
to shame by sending away all your wives and cooking your own food".
To which Mulumba retorted: "Have I been arrested and brought before
you because I am thin or for the religion I am practicing?"
Mulumba evangelises with utmost difficulty
When Mulumba embraced the Catholic faith, he set free all his servants
and treated them in the best way possible, allowing them all full liberty
for their well-being and prosperity. Out of humility Mulumba often carried
his luggage on journeys instead of giving it to his servants to carry
it, an act that was considered very humiliating.
When the Catholic Missionaries had fled Uganda to Tanganyika (Tanzania),
from November 1882 to July 1885, Matthias Mulumba was allocated a big
part of the country for evangelizing. He was in charge of evangelizing
the whole Buganda excluding the palace, Kampala and the neighbourhood.
His headquarters were at Mityana in Ssingo county, a distance of 42 miles
or 64 kilometers from Kampala (the capital).
For evangelization purposes Mulumba had opened up three other stations,
1. NSEEGE: Near Bbowa Buzinde in Bulemeezi county, about 60 miles or 96
kilometres from Mityana.
2. KIYEGGA (MUKONO): This was 65 miles or 104 kilometres from Mityana.
3. MASAKA (Headquarterss of Buddu county): 100 miles or 160 kilometers
(short-cut) from Mityana, but 120 miles or 192 kilometres from Mityana
To reach out to each of these centres, Mulumba had to travel on foot all
the way from Mityana. He was working very hard to spread and stabilize
Catholicism in all these centers. Although he was extremely busy with
evangelization work, he never neglected or abandoned his work as a chief.
It was never heard of that Mulumba ever failed to carry out his duties
as a civil servant.
During the time of Lent Mulumba used to fast the whole day, and even at
supper he used to take very little food. He worked vigorously and unceasingly
almost the whole day. At other times, i.e. outside Lenten period: on Wednesdays,
Fridays and Saturdays of every week, Mulumba did not eat meat and very
often on those days he would fast.
Mulumba dies the most cruel, brutal and lingering death
When the storm of persecution broke, Matthias was at Mmengo with his
chief, who had the task of rebuilding the royal palace, des¬troyed
by fire in February.
Because Mulumba had sent away his other wives and retained only one for
God's Sake, he was brought to the Katikkiro's (Prime Minister) tribunal
on Wednesday 26th May 1886.
The Chancellor began by asking: 'Are you the Mulumba?' Matthias replied,
'Yes I am.'
'Why do you pray? What has induced a man of your standing to adopt the
white men's religion, at your age too?'
'I follow that religion because I wish to.'
'You have sent away all your wives, I am told. So you cook your own food,
'Is it because I am thin, or because of my religion that I have been brought
before you?' asked Matthias.
Addressing Mulumba and Luke Baanabakintu, another Christian who had been
arrested, the Chancellor said with a sneer, 'So you are the people who
are content to marry only one woman? And you are trying to persuade other
people to agree to such a monstrosity!'
Besides being a Christian, the Mulumba was furiously rebuked by the Katikkiro
saying: "This was certainly an act of putting chiefs to shame by
sending away all your wives and cooking your own food". To this Mulumba
retorted: "Have I been arrested and brought before you because I
am thin or for the religion I am practicing?"
The Katikkiro became more furious and ordered the executioners, Tabawomuyombi
and Lukowe in particular to take Mulumba to Namugongo to be killed in
the cruelest manner.
On reaching Old Kampala, and for fear of his being pardoned by the King,
Mulumba told the executioners: "Why do you take me all the way to
Namugongo as if there is no death here, kill me here." Then he said
to Luke Baanabakintu, 'Au revoir, my friend. We shall meet again in Heaven.'
'Yes, with God,' answered Luke. The executioners were annoyed, took Mulumba
a little distance into the jungle of elephant grass and proceeded to butcher
him on the Spot, employing every refinement of cruelty of which they were
They cut off his arms at the elbows, then cut off his legs at the ankles
and knees. Finally, they cut off strips of flesh from his back and roasted
them before him. The executioners used skillful means of stopping the
bleeding so that he could stay longer in pain and poor Mulumba was left
there a victim to be devoured by vouchers, wild animals, dogs, insects
etc. But he suffered quietly without any complaint; only one word came
repeatedly to his lips, the invocation, 'Katonda! Katonda! (My God!, My
God!)', and for three days and three nights he lay there mortionless,
until he died.
Mulumba died the cruelest, brutal and lingering death, from Thursday 27th
to Sunday 30th May 1886.
Left alone, in untold agony and without the consolation of anyone save
his Lord and Master, Matthias suffered in silence both the excruciating
thirst caused by the loss of so much blood, and the smarting pains of
the wounds which had been inflicted over his whole body. Deprived of his
limbs and attacked by swarms of flies and other biting insects, and exposed
to the scorching heat, Mulumba lay suffering at his place of sacrifice
for two full days, and on the second day, hearing human voices near, Matthias
called out to them, and when they approached, asked them for a drop of
water. But the men, instead of taking pity on the poor sufferer, ran away
instead, fearing to come near such a spectacle any more. And thus Matthias,
deserted by all, passed away in agony and went to his reward.
Mulumba's pains can better be imagined than described. And the heroism
with which he bore his sufferings for two long days is beyond comprehension.
God alone can know to the full the extent of the agonies of his martyrs;
we poor mortals can only feebly imagine and less accurately describe them.
Matthias Kalemba, the Mulumba, died, presumably on Sunday 30 May on Kampala
Hill, now generally known as Old Kampala.
Chancellor regrets killing Mulumba
It was then that the Chancellor learnt that Matthias Kalemba, whom he
had so cruelly done to death a few days before, had been adopted and brought
up by his own uncle, Magatto. On hearing this, he said, 'If I had known
that, I would not have put him to death, but I would have installed him
in my household, and given him charge over all my goods, for I know that
those who practise religion do not steal!' Because of the newly discovered
relationship the Chancellor ordered his brother to establish Matthias's
widow on their own family estate.
What Catholic Missionaries had to say about Matthias Mulumba
Kalemba was baptized on the feast of Pentecost. After their baptism,
he and Luke and the other two neophytes were confirmed by Pere Livinhac
and then, at the High Mass sung by Pere Levesque, made their first Holy
Communion. Profoundly impressed by at least one of those he had been privileged
to admit into the Church, Pere Girault wrote:
Among those who have been baptized this morning there is one in whom the
action of Grace has been truly apparent, namely the Mulumba, a man of
about thirty to forty years of age (actually nearer fifty), who throughout
his whole life has had a fervent desire to know the true religion.
Before admitting Kalemba to baptism, the mission superior, Pere Livinhac,
had asked him whether he was resolved to persevere and intimated that,
if not, it would be better for him not to receive the sacrament. 'Have
no fear, Father,' was the reply. 'It is two years now since I made up
my mind, and nothing can make me change it. I am a Catholic and I shall
die a Catholic.'
Naturally of a haughty and violent disposition, Matthias Kalemba began
to school himself in Christian humility and meekness, even in the smallest
details of his daily life.
Within a week he had complied with the conditions and set his affairs
in order. Pere Lourdel's diary has the following entry for 7 June 1880:
“Yesterday, a young man among our catechumens, an overseer of the
slaves of a great chief called Mukwenda, an ex-disciple of the Protestants
and owner of a large number of women, sent them all away except one, and
then came to ask us to baptize him.”
It was not, however, until two years later that Kalemba received the sacrament
he so ardently desired. It was only then that, taking advantage of the
permission given by Bishop Lavigerie to make some exceptions to the rule
of the four years' catechumenate, Pere Lourdel baptized four on 30 April
1882 and Pere Girault four more on 28 May. Both priests had the great
privilege of baptizing two future martyrs, Pere Lourdel baptizing Joseph
Mukasa and Andrew Kaggwa, and Pere Girault J: having in his group Matthias
Kalemba and Luke Baanabakintu.