Hidden lies in that sad name!
Millions lost in unbelief,
Steeped in blood, and tears, and shame!
Christians, think of millions dying;
Leave them not in darkness lying!
REV. R. P.
stretches along the north-western shores of the Victoria Nyanza, and lies
directly under the equator. It now forms a part of the vast territories of
the Imperial British East African Company. Captain Speke visited the country
a dozen years before Stanley, and suggested it as a favourable field for
missionary enterprise. Having been for generations ruled by kings of the
Abyssinian type, he thought it might even retain a latent germ of
Christianity. The ruling caste call themselves Bahuma, and claim to be of
foreign extraction. [The bulk of
the people are Negroes of a more pronounced type.]
They retain a tradition that they were once half white and half black, with
hair on the white side straight, and on the black side frizzly. The founder
of the monarchy is believed to be Kintu, who arrived from the north-east,
and established himself on the north-west shore of the lake, where he and
his wife were the only inhabitants. The legend says, however, that the
country soon became densely populated, as every year his wife had four
twins; the boys were born with beards, and at two years of age the girls
became mothers! Kintu brought with him a cow, a goat, a sheep, a fowl, a
banana root, and a potato, each of which multiplied at a prodigious rate.
There were soon flocks and herds in abundance - the banana root produced a
forest, while the stems of the potato covered the ground Kintu had been the
priest of an ancient race, and had a great aversion to blood-shedding. His
children, however, discovered the method of making strong liquors, and
became drunken, lazy, violent and murderous. Kintu, therefore, quitted the
country, taking with him the animals he had introduced, also the original
banana and potato roots. His family sought for him far and wide, but in
vain, yet to this day his immortality is believed in.
Captain Speke, nine generations back, Kimera, a descendant of Kintu, gave
the government its definite form. He had soon an army, a navy, a grand
palace, smart officers, and, according to barbarous ideas, every
magnificence. Since his time the prosperity of the country has ever been on
the increase, and the cognisance which he adopted -
viz., a white dog, spear, shield and woman
- is still used by the sovereign.
arrived in Uganda, Mtesa was on the throne. He was an intelligent monarch,
but had an exaggerated idea of his own importance. Speke gives an amusing
account of his first interview with his majesty: how again and again in the
course of an hour he inquired, Have you seen me? and how he handled the
articles which the traveller presented to him, made silly remarks, and
pondered over them like a perfect child, until it was quite dark. Stanley
talks of his dignified expression of face, and of the large, lustrous,
lambent eyes that lent to it a peculiar beauty. The missionaries allow that
he had many kingly qualities, but that he was very capricious and
self-indulgent. Mackay frequently denounced his wickedness to his face, and
yet the king was always disposed to befriend the missionaries. Doubtless his
ambition to imitate the ways of the white men, his respect for their courage
and conscientiousness, and a keen eye for" bintu" (goods) all prompted him
to favour them. Mtesa died in the autumn of 1884, and was succeeded by his
son, Mwanga, a vain, vacillating youth, who lacked the common-sense and
experience of his father.
believed that the climate of Uganda was far healthier than anywhere on the
coast of Zanzibar, and much less enervating, although more so than Unyamwezi,
because moister. The lake itself is a centre of atmospheric disturbance, and
the very broken nature of the surface of the country certainly encourages
rainfall, yet it is very far from being a regular rainy region. On the
whole, he considered that rain contributed more to comfort and pleasure than
nine months of drought. There is an enormously greater rainfall in Busongora,
on the west side of the lake, than in Uganda. He says: The constant
southeast wind, which blows all day across the lake, gets its vapours
condensed on the bold metamorphic cliffs, which, rising terrace above
terrace to a thousand feet above the Nyanza, I call the galleries of
Busongora. There seems to be a connection between the amount of rainfall and
darkness of skin of the natives. The moister the climate the darker the
complexion of the black. The inhabitants of Busongora and Karague are black
as coal, while the Banyoro are more of a chocolate colour, and the tribes
from the hills of Busoga and Gambaragara are, some of them, not much darker
than Arabs. It remains to be proved, but is I think true, that the darker
the skin the deeper the degradation; at any rate, the more agricultural, and
therefore peaceful and timid, the tribe; while the lighter shades own herds
of cattle, are freer and livelier and more addicted to war. The country is a
constant succession of hills and swampy hollows, and the soil is wonderfully
fertile. It is true of Uganda as of the Promised Land that each man sits
under his vine and under his fig-tree, for the banana - the king of fruit
trees - each bunch being as heavy as the renowned cluster of grapes of
Eshcol - flourishes everywhere, as also the ficus - from the bark of
which the national dress is made. There are several species of fig, which
yield the fibrous bark for clothing, some having a pale yellow colour of
texture, while others shade into darker rays of red and even brown. The
trees never attain great size, being probably stunted by frequent stripping
- which is begun at an early age, the younger trees yielding a finer and
more uniform bark. The stem is peeled from a height of six or eight feet to
close on the ground. ,The soft fibrous pad is then beaten out into a thin
fabric by being laid on a long beam and struck with round (cylindrical)
wooden mallets, finely grooved, thus giving the cloth a corrugated
appearance. After the bark is stripped off, the stem is carefully wrapped in
plantain leaves, firmly lashed to the trunk.
shows no signs of injury from the process, and a new bark soon forms, which
is again removed when ready.
I have never
seen fruit on a fig-tree in Uganda. At Kagei I found plenty, but there the
art of barkcloth making is not practised.
several varieties of plantains, one being manufactured into strong liquor.
planted indiscriminately among these trees.
hitherto been the principal cereal, and yields from three hundred to five
hundredfold. One can sow and reap any day, and in any month, although not to
such advantage as when timing these processes by the equinoctial rains. It
is strange that while tilling the soil is health in a cold climate, it is
next to death in the tropics. The great amount of decaying vegetation
suddenly brought to the surface in freshly turned-up soil produces malaria,
which gets imbibed at every pore of the body. When the soil is dry there is
less poison generated, but then the ground cakes like brick beneath the
fierce rays of the sun and is practically unworkable. Unless after heavy
rains, one can no more dig or plough in the tropics than Scotch farmers can
turn over hard-frozen ground.
looked upon with some contempt by the people, especially by the chiefs. One
reason is that they walk about alone, and unattended by a retinue of idle
fellows, as the chiefs are whenever they appear in public. Then, again, the
missionaries have no wealth like them - wealth of women, cattle and slaves;
but the chief reason of the inferiority of the white man is that he works
with his own hands. Work is only fit for slaves in Uganda, and even they
refuse to dig the soil. Women only perform such humble tasks as cultivating
the ground, repairing dilapidated walls, and making parapets of reeds. The
men are warriors, robbers and idle loungers. They almost all smoke, as do
the women. Their pipes have a small bowl of black clay, with stems of wood,
four or six feet long, sometimes longer. These stems are made of green
saplings, - pith wood, the pith being forced out by a long piece of wire.
missionaries have had to contend against the belief in witchcraft, in the
Lubare, and charms and spells; also a particular fear of the spirits or
ghosts of dead men, which the Baganda fondly cling to. Polygamy and general
licentiousness all over the country have also been a great hindrance to the
entrance of the Gospel. The people are, however, remarkably intelligent and
apt at learning. Mackay soon saw that his first duty was to learn the
language, and as speedily as possible reduce it to writing. As soon as this
was accomplished, and he and his brethren were able to translate portions of
the Scriptures and print them, a new world opened to the natives. They
flocked to the mission premises, and often crowded Mackay's workshop in
their eagerness to learn to read the Word of God, and as fast as they
learned they taught others.
At the present
time there are upwards of twelve thousand devout worshippers, and nowhere in
the annals of missionary history have converts stood better the repeated
tests of fiery trials and persecutions, many having suffered martyrdom for
the name of Jesus Christ.