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Kabaka Commends Prof. Lunyiigo for Changing Narrative on Mwanga :: Uganda Radionetwork

Kabaka Commends Prof. Lunyiigo for Changing Narrative on Mwanga

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In a letter addressed to Lunyiigo on the occasion of his 80th birthday, Kabaka Mutebi commended him for employing exemplary historical research skills in his book titled "Mwanga II: Resistance to the Imposition of British Colonial Rule in Buganda 1884-1899". First printed in 2011, the book has over the years garnered attention for its innovative approach in challenging Eurocentric perspectives, humanizing Kabaka Mwanga II and placing him in the broader context of his time.
25 Mar 2024 17:30
Prof Samwiri Lwanga Lunyiigo in an interview with URN
Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II has extended appreciations to author and historian, Professor Samwiri Lwanga-Lunyiigo, for his book that redefines the legacy of Kabaka Mwanga II. 

In a letter addressed to Lunyiigo on the occasion of his 80th birthday, Kabaka Mutebi commended him for employing exemplary historical research skills in his book titled "Mwanga II: Resistance to the Imposition of British Colonial Rule in Buganda 1884-1899". 

"In a special way, we extend our gratitude to you for demonstrating your expertise in history and research concerning the life of Ssekabaka Mwanga. Your book detailing the life of this Kabaka has significantly contributed to enlightening the world about the realities of his reign," wrote Kabaka Mutebi in Luganda.

The Kabaka recognized Professor Lunyiigo's dedication to exploring the complexities of Buganda history and his commitment to presenting a comprehensive and accurate narrative. Additionally, he commended the author's initiative to translate the book into Luganda, guaranteeing that the local community, especially the Baganda, have access to accurate information about Mwanga.

Lunyiigo's book, first printed in 2011, has over the years garnered attention for its innovative approach in presenting Kabaka Mwanga II in a broader context. By examining parallel narratives and challenging Eurocentric perspectives, in only about 289 pages, the book offers insights into Mwanga's reign, cultural significance, colonialism, religious woes and historical impact. 

Throughout the years, numerous writers, primarily influenced by Western narratives, have depicted Kabaka Mwanga as a tyrannical ruler who persecuted and executed innocent young Christians, now esteemed as saints globally. This portrayal likened the killing of the Ugandan martyrs to the Holocaust, an analogy articulated in The African Holocaust, a 1962 book authored by John Francis Faupel, a Mill Hill priest. 

The Holocaust is considered one of the darkest chapters in human history. It was perpetrated by the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II, resulting in the systematic extermination of six million Jews, along with millions of others including Romani people, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, and others deemed undesirable by the Nazi ideology. 

That's indeed how Mwanga II has been described and perceived by many for years. However, as more African authors and academics embrace the movement to decolonize history and move away from Eurocentric narratives, Lunyiigo offered a different perspective. His book doesn't just stick to the usual portrayals; instead, it tries to show Mwanga as a human being and explains his actions in the context of the norms and challenges of his time.

The book goes to great heights portraying Mwanga and his actions during a period when his kingdom disintegrated at the altar of modernity and religion. But, largely, the history professor observes that the burning/killing of the martyrs was a political rather than a religious execution. 

In his foreward to this book, another esteemed author and historian, Professor Phares Mutibwa, pointed out that Lunyiigo challenges the negative conclusions reached about Mwanga by colonial historians. 

By drawing on references from literature and testimonies of individuals directly involved in those historical events, Mutibwa emphasized that readers may find themselves re-evaluating their perspectives and gaining new insights about figures such as Apolo Kaggwa and Stanislaus Mugwanya. These individual chiefs and other actors, traditionally celebrated and esteemed within both the Baganda and non-Baganda communities, are presented in a different context, prompting readers to reconsider their perceptions. 

“The book..., of course not without reason, first shocks and then annoys those who have for so long been fed on the Uganda historiography which was dominated by British missionaries from the Church Missionary Society and their counterparts from France (White Fathers) and those imperialists such as Fredrick Lugard...” Prof Mutibwa opined. He added that Lunyiigo’s book serves as a reminder that history often requires re-examination and re-evaluation. 

Born around 1866, Bassammul’ekkere Mwanga ascended to the throne in 1884 after the the death of his father, Kabaka Mukaabya Walugembe Muteesa I. Mwanga’s coincided with the growth of European influence in Buganda and conflicts amongst three religious groupings; Muslims, Catholics and Anglicans. In an attempt to stamp his authority, many people including new converts to what he viewed as foreign religion were killed. 

During the religious turmoil, Mwanga was twice driven out of his Kingdom but he fought back. Between 1888 and 1889, religious wars in Buganda saw two of Mwanga’s brothers, Kalema Muguluma and Kiweewa Nnyonyintono, briefly grab power before Mwanga regained the throne. 

In 1897 Mwanga was driven out again and captured two years later in Lango where he had teamed up with Chwa II Kabalega of Bunyoro to fight the colonial forces. The two were exiled to the Seychelles Islands.

About Prof Lwanga-Lunyiigo 

Lunyiigo is a renowned historian with a wealth of publications and research papers to his name. He studied history at Makerere University and archaeology at the University of Ghana. Following his education, he dedicated years to teaching and researching at Makerere University. 

In addition to his academic pursuits, Lunyiigo has held significant roles. For instance, he served as the Chief Compliance Officer at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) where he also briefly took on the responsibilities of Acting Managing Director. In 1990, Lunyiigo's expertise was recognized when he was appointed as a Special Assistant to President Museveni. 

Among his notable works are "A Short History of the Democratic Party", shedding light on Uganda's political landscape, and "The Struggle for Land in Buganda 1888-2005", which delves into the complexities of land ownership in the region. His most recent publication, "Uganda: An Indian Colony 1897-1972", offers fresh insights into Uganda's colonial and economic history.