Remembering Uganda’s Former Bisexual King: Mwanga II Basammula Ekkere

 Mwanga II Basammula

As Uganda continues to be a cesspool of homosexual hatred and ignorance, remember every current situation has a beginning. To understand Uganda’s  current status, you need to understand it’s origins. Uganda hasn’t always the worst place on earth to be a homosexual.

I often wonder how it got to be this bad in many parts of Africa.  For a continent that is deep in history, it appears as though many of today’s Christianized Africans are not aware of Africa’s rich and sexually fluid past.  They’re not aware of the bisexuality and homosexuality that has existed there for thousands of years with no impact on population growth.  Many Africans view homosexuality as a “Western” or “European” import that is attempting to pollute their pure way of life.  For them homosexuality is “Un-African”. Is this type of thinking an educational issue, a pride issue, a colonization issue, or a religious issue? As an avid documentary watcher and lover of history, I was shocked to learn that a former Uganda Kabaka (King) Mwanga II Basammula Ekkere was bisexual. 

In 1877 missionaries entered Uganda and of course, got to work on trying to convert the natives from their ‘hedonistic and satanic” ways. During this time, there was religious struggle for political control of the Buganda royal court.  The Church Missionary Society in London had sent Protestant missionaries to the royal court, followed two years later by the French Catholic White Fathers (real factual name). These religious factions were also competing with the Zanzibar Muslim traders for converts and influence.

In the 1880’s European powers began rushing to obtain “unclaimed” territories of interest in Africa. The United Kingdom placed Uganda under the charter of the British East Africa Company in 1888.  Even though Ugandans have been living in the area for thousands of years; it didn’t matter because the Ugandans and especially their land and resources were not “claimed” yet.

This was a type of conquering strategy of Europe.  Either you take land or a country by force and make the native population submit to your religion and ideals or you send in European missionaries first to convert the natives. This allows the land grab to be easier. There would be no need to send in troops and military supplies thus Europe saves financial resources.  Also by sending in missionaries, it makes the now converted native population more subservient and docile for the coming occupation.  The end results were always the same.  Europe pillaged the resources of the land or the country colonized and made the native population their work force to gather the obtained land’s resources.

By the mid-1880s, many members of the Buganda royal court had converted and become surrogates for the religious and nationalist conflict being played out. The British missionaries felt that the Ugandans (specifically the kingdom of Buganda) and their religion (the belief in Katonda and Balubaale) was not a true and sufficient religion and proceeded to convert the pages in King Mwanga II’s royal court. The missionaries advised the male pages about the evil sins of sodomy and homosexuality.  They convinced them that they were no longer to have sex with their king because they would face god’s wrath and be condemned to hell.

King Mwanga II had already had his fill of outside missionaries attempting to overthrow the regions culture and traditions.  He had already scoffed at Muslims (who were there for years) who had attempted to convert his subjects to Islam.  He wanted no part in the religion in part due to their practice of circumcision (genital mutilation).  Now he was dealing with religious evangelicals preaching on how sodomy was immoral.

King Mwanga II felt that the traditional powers and authority his predecessors had enjoyed were dwindling, and had disintegrated under the influence of the missionaries and their converts. So in October of 1885 King Mwanga II had the Anglican missionary Bishop James Hannington of England killed.   In addition, from 1886 – 1887 over forty Christian converts were killed.

(Twenty-two of the converts were Roman Catholics and were canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 18, 1964.  A holiday for the converts that were killed was created and is known as Martyrs’ Day, which is celebrated every year in Uganda on June 3rd.)

Due to King Mwanga’s  defiance against the British, he was over thrown in 1888 and his brother appointed to the throne. Through negotiations with the British, Mwanga released territory over to the British East Africa Company. July 1897 Mwanga launched an attack against the British, but was defeated on July 20, 1897. He fled into German East Africa (today it is the Republic of Tanzania), where he was arrested and exiled.

Continuously fighting for his homeland, he returned to Buganda with a rebel army, but was again defeated on January 15, 1898. He was captured and in April 1899 was exiled to the Seychelles. Defeated, while in exile, he was converted, baptized and his name was changed to of Danieri (Daniel). Spending the rest of his life in exile, he died in 1903 at the age of 35.

As stated earlier, many Ugandans today have a stance that homosexuality is a “Western” or “European” deviant behavior imported to Africa. Not ignoring facts, isn’t Christianity an “import” to Uganda? Isn’t Catholicism an import to Uganda?  Isn’t any religion that is currently practiced but doesn’t have roots to Uganda religion pre-1877 un-Ugandan? Why are these religious imports not viewed as Western or European cultures and traditions afflicting the pure and native traditions of Uganda? 

In 2012, over 1,300 people gathered at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda to hear American Evangelical hate Pastor Lou Engle preach at a rally and prayer service against “homosexuality, witchcraft, and corruption.” Engle’s involvement in organizing the anti-gay rally, added fuel to the fire with his violent rhetoric within an already intolerant country. Engle has preached that homosexuality is a “spirit of lawlessness” and called for “martyrs” to become “God’s Avengers of Blood” to stop the “homosexual agenda” at all cost. Many American Evangelical Conservative Republican leaning organizations and churches contribute financially to Ugandan politicians and their campaigns. After many visits from American Evangelical organizations and the gathering at Makerere University in Kampala is when Uganda politicians begin to heavily push their anti-homosexual legislation.

Is the import of Christianity the real reason some Ugandans went from simply not condoning homosexuality to wanting to murder homosexuals or feeling all homosexuals need to be jailed and exterminated? What if the thousands that attend Pastor Engle’s anti-gay sermons would instead take a trip to Zimbabwe where they could visit the ancient rock paintings of the San Bushman people that date back to over 8000 years, which depict male to male sexual acts.  Would they think of their African ancestors as abominations? What if in Uganda the political focus could be place more on healthcare, education, jobs, and the economy instead of obsessing over homosexuality? What if in Uganda, Europeans and their Victorian ideals had not prevailed during the country’s colonization in the 1800′s? What if the people rejected the evangelical notion that their history is entrenched in immoral witchcraft and continued to believe in the great spirit of Katonda and continued to worshiped at the three temples in Buganda?  What if…