This is all Dan‘s fault. He sicced me on the crazy fundie guy who made the video linked in this post (the entire blog, by the way, is totally awesome, RSS +1). Before I proceed to the funny business of making the frothing-at-the-mouth batshit insane bigot look even moar ridiculous, I’ll have to take the unfunny business out of the way first.

The crazy person in the video, as well as some comments in the post linked above mention a surprisingly wide-spread right wing screed about the Evil Homosexual King Mwanga.

The Wiki tells us that:

Mwanga saw the greatest threat to his rule coming from the Christian missionaries who had gradually penetrated Buganda. His father had played-off the three religions; Catholics, Protestants and Muslims against each other and thus balanced the influence of the colonial powers that were backing each group. Mwanga II took a much more aggressive approach, expelling missionaries and insisting that Christian converts abandon their faith or face death.

On October 29, 1885, he had the incoming archbishop James Hannington murdered on the eastern border of his kingdom. Then between 1885 and 1887, over forty-five of the king’s pages were put to death on the orders of Mwanga. The crime was failure to renounce their newly-found Christian beliefs.

What right wingers and Catholics (this is because some of the Christians – specifically, Catholics –  worship the pages killed by Mwanga who were canonized in 1964) like to argue is that the persecution of Christians during Mwanga’s reign was caused by his being unhappy with his newly-converted male pages refusing to have gay sex with him.

It is rather difficult to tell who came up first with the idea, because, typically, crazy right-wing people hardly ever think it necessary to make footnotes. Like here:

Mwanga’s homosexuality is an issue we tip-toed about for fear of offending the Buganda monarchy which abhors homosexuality. But all historical accounts of the martyrs agree that Mwanga was a deviant homosexual who used his demigod status to appease his voracious appetite for sodomy by engaging in these unmentionable acts with his pages at court. (source)

Or here:

For Mwanga, the ultimate humiliation was the insolence he received from the pages when they ( the least subservient of servants) resisted his homosexual advances. (source)

And here:

However, attempts to rebuff them and their young charges were led by the pagan King Mwanga, who hated Christianity with a passion. For Christianity opposed homosexuality as amoral disorder and the catechized young men at the court began to understand that the king did not own their bodies, and could not force them to act in a way that was against their conscience and their new-found Catholic faith. Mwanga was having difficulty forcing himself on the boys and young men of his royal court, because they avoided him and his unnatural desires.  (source)

The last article is especially  dishonest, because while depicting the killed Christians as “boys and young men” and emphasising their young age (“all under the age of 25″) it conveniently fails to mention that in 1887 Mwanga himself was 17 years old. This is clearly because portraying a supposedly gay person as a rapist and murderer is not enough. He has to be a paedophile, too.

Anyway:

1. Let me preface this with a warning: history of Africa is not my area of expertise. But: I have access to JSTOR.

2. Killing of Christian missionaries/Christian is something that didn’t happen only in Buganda. The reason is that as soon as soon-to-be-colonised country’s ruling class realises that the missionaries are often followed by European colonialists with their armies, their diseases, and exploitation of local people, they usually decide to get rid of the missionaries before anybody follows them.  This, for instance, what happened to the  26 Martyrs of Japan.

3. The missionary colonialist narrative was subjective and written from an outsider, imperialist perspective. It should not be considered a source of “objective” historical data, which can be directly,  without proper interpretation re-written into history books. This is what it looks like (warning for mindfuckery):

This king, son of Mutesa, whom Speke and Stanley made famous in their books, was a youth of vicious propensities who had been alarmed by the influence which missionaries were acquiring over his subjects. At the ill-fated moment when he was planning the massacre of all missionaries, he heard of the approach of Bishop Hannington, and by his command the Bishop w-as killed on the eastern frontier of Uganda.
(Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol. 41, No. 1 (1909), p. 58, from the review of Bishop Hannington and the Story of the Uganda Mission by W. Grington Berry))

Also:

The missionaries were confident of success, and the day when Mutesa should for ever throw off the pagan yoke and embrace the new faith was awaited with sanguine eagerness. To have converted the king would have carried with it the immediate establishment of Christianity in Uganda; the old heathen customs would have been broken down, and the entire country would have been revolutionized.

And:

For a while Uganda wavered between the Cross and the Crescent; the arguments of the advocates of each faith seemed almost equal, thotlgh Mackay found it easy when confronted with his adversaries to defeat them on all points. He was a man of many parts, and his early training as an engineer soon brought him immense poplllarity as a ” handy man “; his workshop was beset by the natives at all times, and their faith in the white man’s knowledge knew no bounds. Islam was defeated, and, for a second time, the missionaries imagined that the evangelization of the country was on the eve of becoming an accomplished fact; but a second time they were doomed to disappointment. This was in December I879, when a wave of paganism passed over the land, obliterating, for the time, all traces of the good work done by the missionaries. “It is heartrending,” wrote Mackay, in one of his letters home, ” to think of this result of more than two and a half years’ teaching of Christianity at this Court.”

(Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 2, No. 7 (Apr., 1903), pp. 276-291,” Christianity in Uganda” by A. F. Mockler-Ferryman)

3. While allusions to Mwanga’s immoral behaviour abound in the Christian and colonialist literature, the first person, as far as I can tell, to make a direct link between Mwanga’s supposed gayness and his persecution of Christians was J. A. Rowe in “The Purge of Christians at Mwanga’s Court: A Reassessment of This Episode in Buganda History” published in 1964 in the Journal of African History.

Unfortunetaly, I was unable to find out more about Rowe. The “reassessment” in the title refers to his (her?) proposal that the persecution be linked to Mwanga’s “addiction to sodomy” (this is an actual quote). His (her?) argument is more or less the following:

- because not all Christians were killed during the anti-Christian persecution this must mean that Mwanga was not in fact trying to kill all Christians (I’m not presenting this argument as circular to make fun of it. It actually *is* circular)

- because Mwanga’s father and predecessor, Mutesa, killed many more Muslims when he was persecuting them during his reign, and Mwanga was much younger and a weaker politician, he didn’t want to persecute all Christians, but only those who didn’t want to have sex with him

- because some Christians who were supposed to be killed weren’t killed because of their personal merits , or because they were too valuable (like, a skilled blacksmith), or because they had powerful friends and protectors, or simply because they were too far away, Mwanga didn’t want to kill all Christians, but only those who didn’t want to have to sex with him

-because some Christians managed to escape his wrath, Mwanga was only targeting those who refused to have sex with him

- the Katikkiro during the time the Christians were persecuted was opposing Christianity, and had a great influence over Mwanga, which would not be sufficient to turn Mwanga against Christians, because what counted was that he only wanted to kill the ones that didn’t want to have sex with him

- in 1885, when Mwanga had bishop Hannington killed, he found out that the Christians among his personal pages were spying on him and secretly informing the missionaries about his plans and state secrets. The distrust this act of disloyalty would have caused him to feel is insufficient as a motivation for persecuting Christians, because he only wanted to kill those Christians who refused to have sex with him

- Mwanga’s personal pages were an easy target, because they were close to him and couldn’t just leave or escape. However, the fact that they were an easy target is again not a sufficient explanation for his desire to kill them

- and I’m not even going to comment on stuff like this: “Compared with the youthful Mutesa, Mwanga was less decisive, less bold, less cruel.” Is this supposed to be scholarship or a cheap, pop-psychology-filled historical novel?

-also, is this a joke?

“‘Fickle, sensual, nervous and unstable” are words which have customarily been used to describe Mwanga, who is also invariably compared unfavourably with his father Mutesa.”

is closely followed by:

“Mutesa, at the same age as Mwanga and faced with similar problems of stabilizing himself on the throne at the expense of over-powerful chiefs, entered on a series of purges and wholesale executions which earned him the praise-name Mukabya, ‘the bringer of tears’.32 When faced with a religious threat from the Muslim converts in his later years, Mutesa launched a persecution that leaves Mwanga’s 1886 outburst a pale reflexion. It was estimated that as many as seventy chiefs and pages were burned at Namugongo, while up to a thousand persons were slain throughout the country.33 This may be an overestimate, but there is no doubt that Mutesa’s persecution of the Muslims was far more severe than Mwanga’s action against the Christians, which Faupel estimates cost the lives of perhaps a hundred, including non-Christians, throughout the country.”

So, when you kill Muslims, you’re a “youthful”, energetic politician. When you kill Christians, you’re  “addicted to sodomy”.

I think this is the first time I’ve seen so many non sequiturs and circular arguments in one paper. It’s a fairly straightforward case of shoddy scholarship, to me. Also, it’s quite clear from Rowe’s wording that he’s siding with missionaries, and believes the martyrs to be heroes.

If the sequence of events looked indeed as recounted by Rowe, I’d say that the pages were targeted because of their previous betrayal, and because they presented an easy target. Christian, and not only Christian  missionaries brought foreign armies after them, and were often treated with distrust. Frankly, I’d consider it more surprising if no one had been killed at all.

In short: it’s safe to say that Ugandan Martyrs were not killed for refusing to have gay sex with Mwanga.

Also, the cherry on top: Mwanga had 16 wives and 11 children.

***

This whole argument is, however, completely irrelevant. I only wrote about it, because it annoys me when people spread lies, and when they rely on a disgusting colonial narratives to make prompt moral judgments about people whose perspective is completely missing from the discourse.

The thing is, even if Mwanga could be considered a homosexual rapist, so what? Why should be one evil person representative of the entire group? Last time I checked, Genghis Khan, Savonarola, Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler were all heterosexual, and yet, nobody is trying to ban heterosexuality on the grounds that it causes men to become involved in genocide.

By which I mean to say, some people need to shut up.

ETA: editing typos as they are spotted ^^J Also, interesting post I just found that is relevant to my interests.

Comments
  1. [...] Orly? Also, what does it has to do with anything? I mean, in 1675 it came to light that the Marquise de Brinvilliers poisoned a lot of her relatives. Does it mean we should murder all French women now? [...]

  2. Holy cow, I didn’t expect actual extensive research! I’ll be more careful before I send you on errands in the future!

    And thanks! This is really helpful stuff. I’m only recently becoming conscious of how often Christian missionaries are just assumed to be good hearted heroes and innocents when meddling in other cultures and getting in trouble for it. *cough*haiti*cough*

    • “Extensive research”? I’ll have you know that when I clicked “publish” I felt terribly guilty for not having read all the primary sources *is obssessive*

      *cough* haiti missionaries *cough* what were they even thinking hate hate hate hate hate *cough*

  3. Denis Muwonge says:

    I am a Catholic, but if the truth be told, Mwanga Killer Rebbels. The converts used to spy on him and tell the colonialists, who held bibles in one hand and a gun in the other. If treason is capital offense now, why would it not be then?….actually we should cry for having betrayed this Hero, who faught tooth and nail to see to it that we remain Independent. We failed him, that is the reason we are paying dearly today. The chaos we have today begun in his times. If he had succeded, we would be very well today.

  4. Denis Muwonge says:

    …..and the homosexuality was never there. It was just propaganda to scare away the pages. The Kings used to enroll from the pages people for various duties, the army inclusive. They had to come up with this so as to deny him the man power he required.

  5. SL says:

    Very englightening infornmation.going to do more research into my history. I believe the homesexual business is untrue just wanted there to missinform people and make the king seem ruthless. There were reasons for their killing, the chistians should not be turned into Angels cos their weren’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if they killed Ugandas at that time and it was never reported. Always to sides to a story.

  6. Fellow Bloggers, I salute all in your different capacities.

    First and foremost, the period of execution happened in the very times when the Kingdom was in need of its entire people to embark on the crucial construction of permanent projects like the Kabaka’s Lake in Ndeeba and others.

    1. Has anyone ever dared to dig to the root cause of the killing of people of Buganda during King Mwanga’s reign?
    2. Do you know why the core to the killing of the “holy martyrs” was a result of rebelling against King Mwanga’s call to the contraction of the Kabaka’s lake?
    3. Do you know why the value of the Lake’s name was diminished to the level of a useless child’s ditch as “Akayanja” instead of a “Nnyanja” yet those very antagonists new that according to Buganda’s Traditions, the King doesn’t do small small thing?
    4. Do you know why that magnificent Lake was neglected by the majority of the prominent Christ-Politian to the extent of diverting the current King Muwenda Mutebi from developing and promoting it?

    It is because the Christ Politicians and the encroaching clergies made him think that that Lake was made by the evil King, Mwanga. (the banks of this lake would have been build with marbles and some boat completions would have taken place on this lake in memory of King Mwanga).

    5. Do you know why there was a lot of resistance from the high offices of foreign religions represented in Uganda against the proposal to restoring back the Kingdom of Buganda?
    It is because the elders who are still surviving would narrate the ordeal, which could result into the breaking of their religious dominance.

    The reason why the people of Buganda were killed is because the missionaries never wanted any kind of development coming forth from African rulers; and as a coincident, more effort was ensured to making sure the people are stopped from supporting the King from carrying out his developmental dreams of man-making this water channel, which was supposed to have reached Munyonyo landing site on L. Victoria. This chaos was created as a strategy to speed up the conversion process.

    The project crumbled to the hands of the missionary’s diversionary tactics. All these backyard movements qualified for a treason case; but the cardinal reason of killing his people, was not because of their religious conviction. The major concern, at that very moment, was to force his people to work. The death penalty did cut across a number of people with different ideologies. More so, it is the reason why, you find other people from different religions who were cornered too; not to mention the conservatives who, you would think, would have been spared; but they were also killed and buried in Nfuufu along Ntebe road and Mpiima-erebera, which later came to be known as Kattambwa because of refusing to work. These conservatives are refereed to as the people who refused to join King Muteesa I ‘s religion as as tactic to divert the people away from from knowing the root cause of the killing.

    We should start looking at the other side of the coin. Baganda were not so stupid to extent of entrusting a Prince to the throne, who will be a nuisance in the future. Unless you have forgotten their visionary powers.

    Generally, the issue was about incitement. If Ugandans wake up one day and wipe off the propaganda dust from their brains, the York of imperialism guised under the name of religion will be no more on this continent of Africa. It is high time African concentrate on rejuvenating their God given way of praising and worshiping God basing the universal core principals of a religion. To me, that will be Africa’s Total Independent (ATI).

    Nigerians have tried it and failed because they are lacking the historical facts about disbanding of their heritages. Though now, the church has bended towards baptizing them using their ancestral names. The introduction African movies is another strategy of breaking down the spinal cord of an African sense of self confidence, as far as seeing God within himself is concerned.

  7. Caleb Gee says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this. That story of Mwanga killing Christian missionaries because they “refused his homosexual advances” is such complete bullshit, but I’ve come to expect it from the right. Anytime an African leader stood up or tried to stop the whites from invading their land, stealing their resources and of course their people, they were demonized this way. Mwanga isn’t even the only one they did this to.

    While I have no idea what turned King Mwanda on or who he enjoyed getting intimate with, I know that Europeans did try to paint the Great Shaka Zulu as a “raving homosexual” who had sex with numerous men, yet neve produced a shed of evidence to support this false assertion. We have to of course remember that, being that Christian Europeans were so viciously anti-gay, portraying an African enemy as “homosexual” was a way of demonizing them for the European public, and served as a way of convincing them that colonialism was a just cause.

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