Uganda: Why Christians Still Trek to Jjalamba on June 3

Kampala, Uganda -Under the blazing sun that eventually gives way to an afternoon shower, Christians, both old and young trek to Jjalamba village, Mawokota sub-county in Mpigi district, the venue of the celebrations to remember St. Lubowa Mugagga, one of the 43 Uganda martyrs.

Mugagga was burnt to death on June 3, 1886 on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga, the then king of Buganda. Mugagga and his colleagues were killed for embracing Christianity.

As a tradition, christians of Mitala Maria and neighbouring parishes annually visit this place to pay pilgrimage to St. Mugagga. This is on every third Sunday of May.

The Christians sing and dance while chanting the name of Mugagga. And some of his relatives are there to welcome them.

The one-acre piece of land, where St. Mugagga was born, was given to Mitala-Maria Catholic Parish to take care of.

The church built a big cross to mark it as a holy place. At the actual place where Mugagga was born, the martyr's descendants planted a mango tree for remembrance.

Mugagga's background

The parish priest of Mitala-Maria, Msgr. John Baptist Ssebayigga, says Mugagga Lubowa was born around 1870 to Isaiah Mazinga and Nassimbwa.

However, Mazinga had another wife, Tigalya, who was an aunt to Seddu Kakinda, the royal bark-cloth maker.

Because of the relationship by marriage through Tigalya, Mazinga received patronage and assistance from Kakinda who was also head of the Kkobe clan.

He settled Mazinga and his family on one of his estates at Jjalamba-Mitala-Maria where St. Mugagga was born.

As a young boy, Mugagga was sent to Kakinda's household, where he grew up. Kakinda presented him at the king's court when Mwanga ascended the throne.

St. Mugagga was not publicly known as a Christian, and when he, together with other Christians, were arraigned for disobeying the king, the chancellor himself tried to save him by saying he was not a Christian.

However, Mugagga dismissed the statement and offered himself for execution.

Mugagga was a page in the inner private courts of King Mwanga II. He was baptised on May 26, 1886 by Charles Lwanga and burnt alive at Namugongo on June 3, the same year at the age of 17.

He is the patron saint of clubs, tailors and community development.