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Journal Article

The Purge of Christians at Mwanga's Court: A Reassessment of This Episode in Buganda History

J. A. Rowe
The Journal of African History
Vol. 5, No. 1 (1964), pp. 55-72
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/179768
Page Count: 18
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The Purge of Christians at Mwanga's Court: A Reassessment of This Episode in Buganda History
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Abstract

Mwanga's persecution of the Christians in 1886 was an isolated event, but it set the seal of judgement on subsequent interpretations of his character, his policy and his reign. He was said to have an anti-Christian policy which could be variously ascribed to religious traditionalism, or the political danger of an organized Christian party, or external threats of European encroachment. But closer examination reveals two apparent anomalies. Most Christians were spared during the brief persecution, including many prominent leaders. And shortly afterwards these same Christians were given extraordinary powers which they exercised, with the Kabaka's warm approval, at the expense of the traditional chiefs. The conclusion reached is that while Mwanga had no very consistent policy, he did have a consistently strong motivation-the desire to achieve a secure position of authority independent of those powerful old chiefs who had placed him on the throne. In this he saw the ambitious young Christians as a useful ally. Thus, despite the persecution, during part of his reign Mwanga was, for his own purposes, not anti-Christian but pro-Christian.

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