Saturday, June 2, 2018

Its Martyrs Day Pork And Beer Fest Today!


This is how this column works. I flip the laptop open and start typing my latest escapade or ridicule a politician or the system. Then once in a blue moon, I get an e-mail from the unflappable Penlope at Sunday Vision asking me to tailor it to a specific event – in this case Martyrs Day. It was an out of the blue request because she ‘trashes’ everything that I write that has to do with religion as unchristian. But what the heck, I forgive her.

Namugongo Shrine

You may find this incredibly hard to believe, but until Penlope’s request came through, I didn’t know much about Martyrs Day save for that if it fell on a weekday, it would be a public holiday. So, it is a public holiday today – except, it’s a Sunday, and the public holiday feel has been wasted.


Beer and Pork Are A Martyrs Day Must
I used to think Martyrs Day was a kivulu or kiggunda of sorts. I thought that because on the news bulletins, all they show is people eating pork ribs, drinking beer and making merry. After all, why would Silk Events which, is known for concerts and the KCCA Carnival always be in the mix - providing audio/visual equipment for people to watch whatever was going on.      

Elvis Sekyanzi's Silk Events Is Always In The Namugongo Mix

Slithering off topic for a paragraph or two, Ivan Muziki, is soft spoken. He doesn’t look religious at all – not that I half expected him to spend his free time idling at the Shell Jinja Road roundabout babbling to motorists stuck in traffic about how the end is nigh. Somewhere down the road, I discovered that he takes religion seriously and is a mulokole - which of course, put us on a collision course because my interpretation of religion differs from his. Asking him about Martyrs Day drew a blank along the lines of: “I don’t have time for your questions!” I also forgive him.

Getting back, over the past few weeks, people and for reasons known to themselves, packed luggage and started walking – not tell a lie, trekking from wherever they live, to the suburb of Namugongo. I had to say trekking because there is a reason. Whenever I heard of people walking to Namugongo, I always presumed they were the people who lived in the neighbourhood. I mean why drive there when you can walk – it makes sense doesn’t it?

The Trek To Namugongo

But pause up. What is Martyrs Day all about? There is no need to educate the Catholics I guess, but for those of other faiths, back in 1884 when Kabaka Mwanga II succeeded to the throne, he was concerned at the growing influence of Christianity and the rise of a new class of officials, distinct from the traditional territorial chiefs, who were educated, had a religious orientation, and wished to reform Ganda society. To solve the ‘problem’, he rounded up 23 Anglican and 22 Catholic converts to Christianity in  and had them barbecued somewhere between 31st January 1885 and 27th January 1887. “Nasty just” as the youth of today would say.

Kabaka Mwanga II
But there is something I don’t get. Is celebrating Martyrs Day not a sick and morbid thought? Why would people – Ivan and Christians at that, trek from all corners of Uganda to Namugongo for a pork and beer fest to celebrate people who were barbecued to death? I could be wrong on this, because to the best of my knowledge, Jews don’t trek to Auschwitz in Poland to celebrate the lives of the 1.3m million who perished there, nor do people find their way down to Kanungu in Rukungiri District to celebrate the 158 who met their fate in an inferno.

What people might instead want to do today, is to head to Namugongo to solemnly remember and pay homage to those who died and give the whole kivulu thing a break.       


Pictures: Daily Monitor, The Investigator, New Vision  

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