Bazzekuketta’s early life and how he joined Christianity
Bazzekuketta, another page who served both Muteesa and Mwanga was the second of the eleven children of Kafeero Kabalu Sebaggala of the Monkey (Nkima) clan and Namukwaya of the Buffalo (Mbogo) clan. Bazzekuketta is first heard of as belonging to the household of Sembuzzi, the chief chosen by Stanley to command his escort on his journey through Bunyoro, the same who later deserted and ab¬sconded with one hundred and eighty pounds of beads. He was known as Sembuzzi’s brother-in-law although actually a nephew-in-¬law, one of Sembuzzi’s wives, Namuddu, a sister of Ddumba, being his aunt. The name Bazzekuketta, which means they-have-come-¬to-see-whether- their-brother-in -law- treats-them-well-or-ill, was given him when he first joined Sembuzzi’s household; there is no informa¬tion about his original name, nor any certainty about the place of his birth.
It was while he was still at Sembuzzi’s that Bazzekuketta caught the small-pox that left its scars upon his face and, in the throes, of the sickness, was approached by Raphael Sembuya, one of his com¬panions, with the suggestion that baptism was the only remedy for his illness. He agreed to be baptized and was taught the Sign of the Cross and other prayers but not then given the sacrament, as he began to mend. This incident illustrates the charity shown by these early Baganda Christians and their zeal for sharing the good-tidings with others. It also provides an object-lesson for the complacent Christian who considers his religion to be a purely private and per¬sonal matter between himself and God.
After his recovery, Bazzekuketta persevered with the study of the Catholic religion and, on entering the Kabaka’s service, evidently in a humble capacity because he was nicknamed Bisasiro (Rubbish) by his companions, he found there able instructors in Joseph Mukasa, Jean-Marie Muzeeyi and, later, Charles Lwanga. He could also often be found sitting at the feet of Andrew Kaggwa in the latter’s com¬pound at Nateete and, later, at Kigoowa.
Bazzekuketta, who was about twenty at the time of his martyrdom, was one of Muteesa’s pages re-appointed by Kabaka Mwanga. He was then put in charge of the Kabaka’s ceremonial robes and ornaments, to keep them clean and polished, and also had the duty of polishing the palace mirrors.
Mwanga appoints Bazzekuketta his treasurer
Bazzekuketta was one of the pages served King Muteesa I and later reappointed by King Mwanga after the death of Muteesa. He was a clean, orderly, faithful and obedient young man of about twenty years of age.
Because of his sleekness, he was selected to be in charge of the king’s ceremonial robes and ornaments. Athanasius was chosen to be in charge of the king’s treasury of money and ivory, in spite of the fact that he was still young.
It is crystal clear that Athanasius’ trustworthiness was so great that it drew the king’s confidence in him to the extent of entrusting his treasury and other property with this young man.
The heroism and death of Bazzekuketta
Immediately after his condemnation by the Kabaka, while being led to the executioners’ quarters for detention, he had remarked, ‘So you want us to bite through the stocks (i.e. keep us in prison)? Are you not going to kill us? We are the Kabaka’s meat. Take us away and kill us at once!’
‘This fellow talks as if he longs for death,’ said one of the execu¬tioners, hitting him with a stick.
When taken out of prison at Munyonyo, Bazzekuketta again objected to the delay: ‘The Kabaka ordered you to put us to death. Where are you taking us? Why don’t you kill us here?’
Perhaps the sight of Ngondwe’s blood, which Denis Kamyuka says they saw on the road, encouraged the youth to hope that he could at last goad the executioners into granting him the martyr’s crown, for at Ttaka Jjunge, near the residence of Kulekaana, he stopped and sat himself down on the road, exclaiming, ‘I am not going to walk after death all the way to Namugongo. Kill me here!’
The guards laid about him with sticks until he said, ‘Very well!
You can stop beating me. I will march. I was only thinking that you would kill me here.’
The prisoners reached Mmengo late in the evening, and were lodged for the night in the executioners’ encampment.
In the morning, the executioners informed them that they intended putting one of them to death at the near-by execution- site, where Joseph Mukasa had met his death some six months earlier. Immediately, Athanasius Bazzekuketta, still thirsting for martyrdom, volunteered. ‘Take me!’ he exclaimed. Mukaajanga, who had been informed of the youth’s behaviour on the previous evening, gave his assent. ‘Since he has given you trouble,’ he said to his assistants, ‘go and kill him at once. Later on the Kabaka might remember (i.e. pardon) him.’
Athanasius was promptly taken to the spot at the foot of Mmengo Hill, just at the back of the present Nakivubo Stadium, and there hacked to pieces, his executioners chanting, as they went about their task, ‘The gods of Kampala will rejoice’. Thus died the fifth of the Blessed Martyrs of Uganda, on the morning of 27 May 1886, aged about twenty.
Having butchered the gallant Bazzekuketta and granted him the martyr’s crown which he had craved with such holy impatience, the group of executioners returned to their other victims and glee¬fully told them what they had done. ‘The Christians,’ they said, ‘are getting what they deserve; they are simply asking for death.’ Far from being dismayed by the gruesome recital, their prisoners said to one another, ‘Our friend Athanasius has proved his courage; he did not shrink from laying down his life in God’s cause. Let us be brave like him!’ The cortege was then assembled and, shortly after, set out on what was to be for most of the prisoners their last journey on earth, the journey to Namugongo.