Kaggwa was a pure Munyoro, a native of Buganda’s long-standing enemy, the Kingdom of Bunyoro. At an early age, Kaggwa had been captured and carried off as a slave by a party of Baganda raiding the border county of Bugangadzi and, being a handsome, well-built boy, presented to the Kabaka as part of his share of the spoils. He was placed amongst the royal pages, where his cheerfulness, willingness and kind-hearted disposition soon made him a general favourite both with his fellows and with his elders, who used to refer to him jokingly as ‘that Munyoro’. How long he served as a page is not known, but he was still one when Stanley visited the Court of Buganda.
It was Stanley’s visit and the visits of Colonel Gordon’s various envoys that indirectly gave Kaggwa a change of occupation. Kabaka Mutesa had taken a great fancy to the European drums carried by the escorts of these visitors to his kingdom and, before long, had begged or bought about a dozen of these instruments for himself. He then picked a number of his older pages, among them Kaggwa, and sent them for instruction in the art of drumming to Toli, his general factotum. Leo Kyagwogera, one of Kaggwa’s fellow pupils, says that it was here, in Toli’s compound in the Arab quarter on the slopes of the Natete Hill, that he first met Kaggwa and lived in his company for about four months. ‘At the time,’ he says, ‘we were both Muslims,’ as was, of course, their instructor Toli.
‘Apparently Kaggwa was quick to learn and completed his course of instruction before Kyagwogera, who says, ‘When I returned to the town, my friend Andrew had taken up the Catholic religion, which he then started teaching me’. He describes Kaggwa as ‘an exceedingly kind man. He was of slight build, dark colouring, squint-eyed and a very good bugler. He had also learnt to shoot and was renowned for his courage. He was a friend of persons of every class.’
James Miti (foster brother to Joseph Mukasa) also pays tribute to Kaggwa’s good-nature and popularity. He says, ‘I think Andrew must have been very young when he was brought to Buganda, for he had neither cuttings on his body, nor gaps in his teeth.! He had be¬come a complete Muganda. He was handsome, dark, short and thin; his nose was long and rather sharp: Bahima from Ankole have such noses. He was very sociable and used to joke a lot, so that he always kept us amused.’
It seems likely that Kaggwa first came into contact with the Catholic priests through his instructor Toli, who frequently went to see the Fathers and lent them valuable aid as a carpenter. Certain it is that, after serving his apprenticeship as a bandsman, he lost no time in enrolling himself as a catechumen and, having himself found the pearl of great price, at once wished to share it with his friends. None was closer than the page, Mukasa, so that it was to him that Kaggwa first confided the news that he had found the Messias.
Scarcely had Mukasa and Kaggwa begun to receive instruction in the Catholic religion when their faith was put to a severe test. On 1 June 1880, detailed instructions about the reception of converts reached the missionaries from Bishop Lavigerie. All those under instruction were to be divided into three classes, postulants, catechumens and faithful: all converts must spend two years in the first class, and two in the second, before being admitted to Baptism which, in circumstances when any misgivings about the perseverance of the convert were entertained, must be deferred until the candidate was dying, or in danger of death. It was also to be made clear to those seeking instruction that they must be prepared to lay down their lives rather than deny their faith. The two friends were therefore called upon, at the very outset of their conversion, to make their choice; either to go away sad, like the young man in the Gospel, or to begin a long and weary following of Christ. They chose to follow.
Both the new catechumens received promotion at this time.
Kaggwa, now about twenty-five, became Master-Drummer in com¬mand of all the other drummers, about fifteen in number, who were required to play on all festive occasions such as levees or receptions for distinguished visitors. In course of time he became chief band¬master, in charge of all the instrumentalists, drummers, buglers and cymbals-players, and was given a plot of land at Lunguja crossroads near Nateete. Here he built his house, to which he later brought his bride, Clara Batudde.
A new office, called Kigoowa, was created and Andrew became the first Mugoowa, or holder of the rank. The post, equivalent to Bandmaster-General, carried with it the command of the entire militia from which the royal bandsmen were drawn. The name Kigoowa was adapted from the Swahili, Ki-Goa, because the only other European-type band known in East Africa was that of the Sultan of Zanzibar, which had Goan personnel. With the new commission, Andrew received a grant of land on Kiwaatule Hill, not far from Kigoowa (formerly Kitiibwa), the encampment of the royal bands¬men. Andrew Kaggwa had always been on friendly terms with Prince Mwanga: now their relations became even more cordial, and Mwanga constantly called upon the Munyoro to accompany him on hunting and boating trips.
The Christians and catechumens were delighted at these marks of royal favour shown to their two leaders.
In Andrew’s enclosure at Nateete they had practised their religion more or less in secret: now secrecy was at an end. In a very short time Kigoowa became a Christian centre, and a number of catechumens became retainers on Kaggwa’s estate. Among them were two of Muteesa’s ex-pages, Pon¬tian Ngondwe who was already established there, and Buuzaabalyawo who went there as Andrew’s second-in-command.
Andrew Kaggwa’s monogamous marriage surprised chiefs
Andrew Kaggwa (Kahwa) was a Munyoro youth approaching 30 who led an exemplary life especially as regards the virtue of chastity. When he wanted to marry he searched for a prudent and well-behaved woman. He selected a Muganda woman called Batudde Nakazibwe, daughter of Kizza of the Nakinsige (special bird) clan. They were properly married in the Catholic Church, making their marriage one of the first fully Christian marriages: he himself was baptized in April 1882, and his wife and infant daughter in November 1885.
Kaggwa, as he was a chief of high rank, MUGOOWA (the King’s Band master General) had enough property to pay the dowry for any number of wives he wanted in addition to Nakazibwe. But because of his faithfulness to God and his wife, he did not.
Kaggwa had a big and decent house that Nakazibwe was endeavouring to keep tidy. She scrupulously kept all their property functioning and in good order. On Saturday 14th November 1885, a day before the martyrdom of the Christian leader and Kaggwa’s greatest friend, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, they got a daughter.
The first night after the martyrdom of Joseph Mukasa, Monday 16th November 1885, his wife, daughter and 16 others were baptized at Nalukolongo. Nakazibwe got the name Clare and the daughter Mary. There were also two other women who were baptized, namely: Kayaga, the wife of Matthew Kirevu receiving the name of Adela Monica and Namirembe, the wife of Louis Masinbi. She was named Eugenia. Of the 15 men baptized that night, 7 turned out to die as martyrs and they were: Adolf Mukasa Ludigo, Anatoli Kiriggwajjo, Athanasius Bazzekuketta, Ambrose Kibuuka, Gonzaga Gonza, Denis Ssebuggwaawo Wasswa and Achiles Kiwanuka.
In their home they practiced fraternal charity towards one another, patience, transparency, openness, and assisted one another in their needs etc.
During the very difficult time while the missionaries were away in Tanganyika, their home was turned into the new catholic prayer centre and was swarming with catechumens; Kaggwa was giving catechism classes while Clare Nakazibwe was busy preparing food for the catechumens. As the work became too much for one woman, other women in the locality volunteered and came to her rescue. Some other jobs such as splitting firewood, transporting heavy food or material etc, required male strength and assistance. Thus Adolf Mukasa Ludigo had to abandon catechism lessons, leaving them to Kaggwa and Matthew Kisuule (the King’s blacksmith) and went to assist the women in the kitchen, a job that was despised by men.
To many, this was surprising and to most chiefs annoying. “How can a man of rank with a lot of property have only one woman, he should be demoted,” said some of the chiefs.
Andrew Kaggwa was a tower of strength to the Christian pages, who went to him for instruction and guidance when they needed it; for nursing when they were/sick; and for encouragement and refuge when the Kabaka’s importunities became too irksome. His was one of the first fully Christian families: he himself was baptized in April 1882, and his wife and infant daughter in November 1885. His popularity and the great influence he had with the Christians and even with the Kabaka himself made Andrew a particular object of the Chancellor’s hatred.
On Wednesday, 26 May 1886, the day Christians were condemned to death, and many of them had been arrested, Andrew Kaggwa was still at liberty when the Chancellor arrived.
As soon as the Chancellor entered his house, he sent an urgent mes¬sage to the Kabaka, his third that day, on the subject of Andrew Kaggwa.
The first message, sent from the court-house where he was hearing cases, had been a polite reminder to the effect that ‘that Munyoro’, a prominent Christian, was still at liberty. To this Mwanga replied that he could not afford to lose the chief drummer of his European¬ type drums.
The second message had been couched in stronger terms. The Chancellor had pointed out that it was not right to kill the children of the chiefs and allow the leader of the Christians to go on teaching religion. ‘Religion will continue to be taught,’ he added, ‘as long as that man is alive. He has even instructed my own children.’ To this, Mwanga seems to have made no reply.
The third message, which Mukasa sent from his own residence, took the form of a peremptory demand: ‘Give me the chief of the Kigoowa! I will dispose of him myself.’ To forstall any further attempts at temporizing by his royal master, he added that he was quite determined not to sit down to a meal until Kaggwa had been arrested.
Reluctantly, Mwanga acceded to the demand of his imperious Chancellor but, ashamed to face Andrew himself, told Ssaabakaaki Wamala, chief of the Palace staff, to apprehend Andrew Kaggwa and hand him over directly to the Chancellor’s own servants. Wamala, accompanied by the executioner Gongobavu and by his fellow Muslims, Lutaaya the Chamberlain and Muvwewo, at once set off for the house of the Christian leader.
Andrew Kaggwa was ready for them. He had been waiting patiently all morning for the call to bear witness to his faith. The suddenness with which the crisis had arisen had prevented the other martyrs from fortifying themselves by a reception of the sacraments but Andrew, living outside the royal enclosure and left at liberty until the afternoon had, according to Archbishop Streicher, seized the opportunity, like his great friend Joseph Mukasa, of receiving Holy Communion on the day of his death. If this is correct, he must have gone to the mission during the early hours of the morning, because at dawn he was back at his post at Munyonyo. He could easily have fled, but he had been a loyal servant of the Kabaka and flight would have given the appearance of disloyalty and desertion of his post. He does, however, seem to have sent the other members of his household into hiding, while he himself waited calmly for whatever might befall.
Some time after two in the afternoon, the summons came.
Wamala and his companions arrived at his house and demanded of him: ‘Deliver to us the Christians in your house.’
‘If you are looking for Christians,’ replied Andrew, ‘there is but one here. I am myself a Christian.’
He offered no resistance or objection while they bound him and then led him along the road, which skirted the Kabaka’s enclosure, to the Chancellor’s residence.
‘I followed him for a few moments,’ says Aleni Ngandazakamwa, a witness of the arrest, ‘together with a friend of mine, Gwotamwa Lutagajjo; then, halting near the main entrance, we watched him being taken into the enclosure of the Chancellor.’
Andrew was at once ushered into the presence of his mortal enemy.
According to Nikodemo Sebwato, a Protestant sub-chief, and to other reports, the Chancellor pretended not to recognize Andrew, and asked:
‘Are you the Mugoowa?’
‘Have you forgotten me?’ replied Andrew, ‘We have met often enough, in particular when I came to thank you, with my men, after my promotion to the Kigoowa.’
‘Was it you that taught my children religion?’
‘Yes, it was I. What of it, have I taught them the plague?’
‘Yes, you have given them the plague. Are they not dead, or as good as dead?’
‘Why, then, did you have to put them to death? Why not let them die a natural death, or wait to see whether my teaching would prove fatal to them?’
‘Tell me: Why have you learned religion, and why do you teach all Buganda?’
‘If I choose to practise religion,’ replied Andrew, ‘surely that is my own business.’
Baffled, the Chancellor tried a new line of attack.
‘Why did you, at the time of Joseph Mukasa’s death, conceal his gun? To shoot the Kabaka, I suppose?’
Andrew made short work of this ridiculous charge. He replied: ‘At his death, Kabaka Muteesa left you a number of guns; in doing so, did he mean you to shoot his successor? If I had wanted to shoot Kabaka Mwanga, would not the gun he himself gave me have done the job equally well?’
The Chancellor was obtaining no satisfaction from this interroga¬tion of the prisoner, so he cut it short and turned to the executioner in attendance, a man named Bidandi, and said: Take this man away and put him to death.’ Then, knowing full well that the Kabaka was liable to change his mind at any moment and deprive him of his victim, he added, ‘Be quick about it, and bring me his arm to prove that you have done your work. I will not touch food until I have seen it.’
Bidandi and his helpers led Andrew Kaggwa out of the Chancellor’s enclosure and then hesitated. The executioner was in a quandary. He dare not offend the Chancellor, but he knew just as well as the latter that the Kabaka had given up the prisoner with great reluctance, and was likely to send a pardon at any moment. His victim was an important man, a favourite of the Kabaka, a man of considerable means. If he could delay the execution until the expected pardon arrived, he might expect to be richly rewarded, and he remembered how the executioners of Joseph Mukasa had lost their chance of a reward by a matter of moments only. He did not know what to do for the best.
His prisoner came to his assistance in making a decision. Andrew left the Chancellor’s residence with a radiant face and brisk step. He knew why the executioner was hesitating, and, with the same im¬patience shown by the martyr Ignatius on hearing the roar of the lions that were to devour him, he said:
‘Why don’t you carry out your orders? I’m afraid delay will get you into serious trouble. If your master had asked you to serve him a kid, would you keep him waiting? You would go and kill it at once. Well, he wants my arm, and he cannot eat until he gets it. Take it to him without delay!’
Eight executioners, clad in skins, surrounded the martyr. They took him to a thicket at the back of the Chancellor’s residence, and at a spot near the palisade, facing the property of the Chamberlain, they dispatched their victim.
‘I had not long to wait,’ says Aleni, who still stood watching from the gateway to the royal enclosure, ‘for in a few minutes the Chan¬cellor’s gate-keeper re-appeared, carrying, suspended from a length of fibre, Kaggwa’s bleeding arm, severed at the shoulder.’
The actual martyrdom was seen by four young girls, one of whom was Rakeri (Rakeli or Rachael) Binimumaso, then a child of four¬teen. Her testimony, obtained by Pere Joire in 1927, is to the effect that she and her companions attempted to conceal themselves nearby in order to see who was being killed. Her description of the scene is as follows:
Andrew was dressed in reddish-brown bark-cloth and a white loin¬cloth. He was holding a small book in his hand. He begged the executioners not to strip him naked, and they agreed. Then they threw him down and, after laying him flat on the ground, cut off his arm with a knife, so that the white tendons could be seen hanging out. The only sound that came from Andrew’s lips was the invocation, Katonda (My God!). After this they cut off his head and finally chopped his body into pieces, which they scattered over the ground.
The four witnesses of the martyrdom were most barbarously punished for their curiosity. Their presence was detected by one of the executioners and reported to the Chancellor who at first had them imprisoned in a hut, near the scene of the martyrdom, from which they could watch the vultures descending from a big tree to feed on the martyr’s remains. Later they were brought before the Chancellor and sentenced with inhuman savagery. Rakeri and one of her companions were committed to the Kabaka’s harem, while the other two girls had their hands cut off and their eyes gouged out.
Andrew Kaggwa died at about three o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday 26 May. Later, as is mentioned in Black Martyrs, some of his friends searched for the body but failed to find it. Their failure, it appears, may have been due to the fact that others had already reverently buried his remains.