European Influence, Missionaries
Charles George Gordon, religious factions, Egyptian ruler, established religion, southern Sudan
Due to Stanley’s report that the Ganda people of Buganda would welcome Christianity, British Protestant and French Catholic missionaries visited Buganda in the late 1870s. Kabaka Mutesa I was more interested in foreign trade, arms, and military support than he was in foreign religions, but allowed missionaries into his court for diplomatic reasons. The presence of Christian missionaries in Mutesa’s kingdom helped deflect the potential threat of Egyptian annexation of Buganda by Charles George Gordon, the agent in southern Sudan of the Egyptian ruler.
Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim competition for converts, particularly among the pages at the royal court, many of whom later became chiefs, produced three religious factions. Fearing the consequences of disunity, Mutesa expelled missionaries from his court, but his son Mwanga, who succeeded Mutesa in 1884, invited them back. However, Mwanga reversed his decision in 1886 and ordered 22 pages who would not renounce their faith to be burnt to death. The Catholic victims came to be known as the Ugandan Martyrs, and were canonized (declared saints) by the pope in 1964. The Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant factions combined in 1888 to overthrow Mwanga, but then warred against each other until Mwanga was restored to the throne in 1889. This period of religious violence firmly established religion as an important basis of politics.
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