By Robert Mugagga
A day after being declared the winner of the 2013 presidential elections in Kenya, the Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta went to his home village of Gatundu and attended a thanks-giving mass at the Martyrs of Uganda Catholic church. In company of his mother, Mama Ngina, wife Margaret Kenyatta and their three children, the president elect said there was no way he could forget to pay homage to the church’s patron saints (Uganda martyrs) whom he prayed for before kicking off his presidential campaign.
Some may of course wonder what would be the connection between the Catholic church and Uhuru Kenyatta whose father, Jomo Kenyatta was born Johnson Kamau , an Anglican? For starters, the Kenyan president- elect belongs to the club of children born in mixed faith marriages but who ends up embracing the mother’s faith.
Uhuru’s mother and former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta is not only a strict catholic but comes from a staunch Catholic family where one of her relatives is none other than George Muhoho, a catholic priest and former cabinet minister. Little wonder that for his early education, Uhuru Kenyatta attended the strictly Catholic founded St Mary’s school on the outskirts of Nairobi.
Uhuru Kenyatta is not alone. Here at home there is a long list of prominent Ugandans and products of mixed faith marriages whose mother’s influence forced them to embrace their faith and shunning the fathers’ . The Oxfarm boss Winnie Byanyima happens to be one of them. Born to an Anglican Muhima father, the former Democratic Party national chairman Mzee Boniface Byanyima and Catholic mother Gertrude Byanyima, Winne was taken to a Catholic school, Mt. St. Mary’s Namagunga though later switched to King’s College Budo for A-levels as it was the father’s wish that she had to attend to an Anglican school as well.
And who can forget Buganda’s prince David Kintu Wasajja? The former Kabaka and Ugandan president late Sir Edward Muteesa II’s youngest son too experienced factors that forced him to adapt her mother’s catholic faith, yet when most Baganda royals are traditionally Anglicans. Actually of all the 18 children fathered by Sir Edward Muteesa II, prince David Kintu Wasajja is the only one that embraced Catholicism. Reason it was recently announced that his wedding marriage vows slated for later this year will take place at the Roman Catholic Lubaga Cathedral in Kampala.
Late last year Prince Wasajja himself made the clarification as to why he is not an Anglican. He told the press that he was a staunch Catholic, having preferred to embrace his mother Winfred Keihangwe’s Catholic faith. Paradoxically, his late mother came from the Ankole loyal family whose members were Anglicans by tradition. The prince is said to have even been baptized in the catholic church shortly after birth. He was born in 1966 shortly after his mother was released from Luzira prison where she had been detained after former president Milton Obote had invaded Muteesa’s palace at Mengo and forced him to go to exile in Britain. The former Archbishop of Kampala Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga played a major role in securing the release of prince Wasajja’s mother.
Apart from his motherly influence, prince David Wasajja’s Catholic inclination took root at the home of his childhood guardian late Sarah Ndagire of Kalisizo in Masaka. In 1966 after his father, Ssekabaka Edward Muteesa II had left Uganda for exile in Britain he reportedly entrusted the young prince in the care of his great friend, late Sarah Ndagire and ordered that the young prince be brought up in her home. The late Sarah Ndagire was the first female member of the Buganda Great Lukiiko and a staunch Catholic who according to relatives recited the rosary over 10 times a day. It was Sarah Ndagire that donated a large chunk of land in Kalisizo where the catholic church and mission hospital stand today.
She was mother to among others, former Masaka Mayor John Tebyasa Matovu, Late Theresa Bagenda, the former chief nursing sister at Mulago hospital (deceased wife of former minister Henry Kyemba) and Dalphine Zinunula, widow to the late playwright and freedom fighter Robert Sserumaga. In the same Sarah Ndagire’s family hailed a renowned priest late Rev. Fr. Bonifance Mubiru who used to teach Latin at Bukalasa seminary. He was Ndagire’s young brother. It was in this staunch catholic home that prince David Wasajja grew up and groomed into a staunch Catholic. The late Sarah Ndagire was such a close friend of Sir Edward Muteesa that the former king used to refer to her as “Maama Omukulu” (the elderly mother).
Indeed mothers tend to have the biggest influence on children born in mixed faith marriages. Who, for instance knew that Kampala business tycoon and car dealer Mohammed Sebuufu of the Pine fame is actually not a Muslim like many mistake him to be. He acquired his second name from his late Muslim mother who brought him up. Sebuufu is actually a Catholic who on several occasions has been seen attending mass at Lubaga Cathedral.
This apart, the religious issue has in the past been taken seriously by most Ugandan families. Perhaps this is one reason most parents always made sure their children attended only schools affliated to their faith. This was one way of preventing children from being influenced to switch to other faith as has been the case with some prominent Ugandans. Muslims, for instance will never forgive King’s College Budo for “converting” former president Yusuf Kironde Lule. Prof. Yusuf Lule who was born a Muslim in the predominantly Butambala county ended up converting into an Anglican on joining Anglican founded Kings College Budo. It’s said that Lule was extremely and always a smart student but often teased by his Budo teachers that he would have been even smarter if he was not a Muslim!
On the other hand, the vice president’s wife, Margaret Ssekandi was born an Anglican but ended up converting into a Catholic while schooling at Mount St Mary’s College Namagunga. Others like former deputy Chief justice Leticia Mukasa Kikonyogo had to seek special permission from Catholic Archbishop Joseph Cabana before joining Anglican founded King’s College Budo for A-levels. She did her O-levels at Trinity College Nabbingo which by then had no A-level section nor did any other Catholic girls school of the time.