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The Story of the Life of MacKay of Uganda
Chapter XVIII - The Region of Terror

"It happened that upon the shores of Afric's upland lake,
Whence the famed waters of the Nile their journey northward take,
Where Nature spreads her bounteous gifts beneath a tropic sky,
Three bright young lads were seized and bound, and led away to die!”

*          *          *          *          *          *

“Not long since they had pledged themselves to serve their heavenly Friend,
And manfully to fight beneath His banner to the end;
That fight how fierce they little knew! nor guessed the rich reward
That waits the faithful soldiers of a world-rejected Lord.”

*          *          *          *          *          *

“The faithful three of old came forth out of the fiery glow,
To witness for their heav’nly Friend and serve Him here below;
To these upon Nyanza’s shore another lot was given -
Christ took them from the burning flame to be with Him in Heaven!”


KING MWANGA was not long before he showed himself in his true colours; and the katikiro, seeing his sovereign’s mood, became also hostile to the missionaries, although he pretended friendship with them. His enmity reached a crisis on one occasion, when Mackay was about to start in the Eleanor with letters for Europe.

The king had given him permission to take the mail to the south of the Nyanza, but told him he had better get leave from the chief judge also. This worthy not only granted Mackay’s request in a most gracious manner, but actually gave him a couple of goats as food for the voyage, while at the same time he had made arrangements to entrap him on his way to the port.

Mackay started for the port on January 30th, 1885, Mr. Ashe and two boys accompanying him. After walking for three hours, and just as they were entering a tangled forest, they were suddenly confronted by a Mohammedan chief – Mujasi - with a band of armed men, who drove them back and insulted and ill-used them, giving no reason for their proceedings. Mackay and Ashe never carried arms, and had only their walking-sticks in their hands. These were rudely taken from them, while the hands of their boys were tied. They, however, showed no resistance, but, tired and dazed as they were, quietly marched back under guard to the capital. When they neared the mission-house they were told to go home, but their boys were carried off and they saw them no more. The missionaries, fearing the worst for their boys, went at once to the katikiro to know the reason. They expected justice from the man who had appeared so friendly on the previous day, but they were sadly disappointed. The judge was enraged, and would scarcely give them a hearing, but ordered their false accuser, Mujasi, to tie them both up and bundle them out of the country next day. They were then driven out of court with great violence; but the judge, not wishing matters to go too far, ordered that they should be molested no further.

They went home with sad hearts and ordered all their pupils to fly, but had great trouble in persuading them to do so; but it was well they did, for soldiers were soon sent down to search the premises for pupils, as Mujasi was determined to burn them all. At night, the missionaries, after prayer and consultation, sent up six bales of fine cloth to the katikiro, six to the king, and one to the wicked Mujasi, begging the release of their boys; but although the presents were accepted, the news reached them that the two dear boys and another young man (all of them baptised Christians) were burnt to death. Some said that in the fire they sang, in the Luganda language, “Daily, daily sing the praises.” Mackay writes: “Our hearts are breaking. All our Christians dispersed. We are lonely and deserted, sad and sick.”

Feb. 8th. - Ashe and I busy printing all the week. If driven off, we hope to leave some truth in print. We hope also to establish Christian centres with an ‘elder’ in each. Now is the time. May God thus make His work to grow, while the converts need not come much to our place. Who knows when persecution may break out again? Any visitor may be accused of serving us, and be burnt.”

Meantime the king had sent for Mackay, and pretended that the mission lads had been burnt without his knowledge. Mackay feared not to utter his reproof, even though death should be the penalty. He told him plainly that he “had committed a great sin against God in murdering innocent boys.”

Strange to say, the danger of this time increased the desire of many to become professing Christians. Lads flocked to the mission house in the darkness of the night, and many were baptised. Many also who were in great danger, being “wanted,” were bold enough to go in the daytime, being determined to face the consequences. The missionaries strongly advised them to get away into the country for some months, and failing that, to commence to hold worship in their own houses, but to keep away from the mission house.

By the end of February more clouds loomed on the horizon. Reports were circulated on every hand that the chiefs were threatening rebellion, probably because the new king was entirely in the hands of the katikiro.

One day the chiefs and katikiro went to celebrate a feast over Mtesa’s grave on the occasion of the tapestry and hangings of the tomb being finished; but Mwanga was afraid to go, lest another prince might be placed on the throne in his absence. He felt very uncertain of his position, as but two days previously the katikiro had robbed him of two hundred cows, which were being sent him as a present from Busoga!

Mackay writes: “Mwanga has paid out gunpowder to officials and servants in the palace grounds; evidently he fears an alarm. God grant there may be no rebellion! If chiefs win, there will be no quarter for us. The situation is most serious. Commend ourselves to our God in prayer, and wait for the morrow. Our boat swamped at such a moment seems mysterious. God is leading us, and He will preserve His own.”

The greatest difficulty which the missionaries, and indeed all foreigners, had to contend with in the country, was perhaps the want of liberty to go about. The Church Missionary Society men were not allowed to live near the lake, neither dared they go to look after the boat when they heard she was wrecked, without a mubaka (messenger) to accompany them. On this occasion Mackay made many attempts to see the katikiro, but in vain; he then sent him a handsome present, requesting a mubaka at once, as he wished to go to the port, as, if the Eleanor went to the bottom in twenty feet of water, no one could save her.

But the answer was, “Mackay must come himself;” and when he did go, he was referred to the king, who in his turn sent him back to the judge, and so on; ending in nothing but a promise of a mubaka on the morrow, which morrow of course never came.

This was a time of great anxiety to Mackay and Ashe, while the apprehension of danger prostrated Mr. O'Flaherty with a severe and tedious fever; but God “stayeth His rough wind in the day of His east wind”; and the news reached them that the great chief Mukwenda had been seized and put in stocks, and his all plundered in town and country, also that seventeen other chiefs had been deposed and several friends of the mission put in good positions. Mackay says: “The king has saved himself and us by this sharp stroke. God be thanked.”

Mackay now tried to get an audience of the king, who asked him if he did not intend to cross the lake? Mackay said, “No, I am not going away; I only wish to rescue the boat.”

Ultimately a mubaka was ordered, and the king appointed Gabunga, Lord High Admiral, to supply canoes to aid in the rescue.

Mackay started immediately, with men carrying ropes, grapnels, buckets, axes, etc., but on nearing the lake they were stopped by armed men, who beat their drums and said they had orders not to let Mackay reach the port. There was no help but to hasten back and again plead with the king for further authority. This was obtained, but, with all the speed he could make, it was the next morning before he arrived at the lake, and found, to his dismay, the Eleanor almost invisible and the surf breaking over her. No sign of any of the canoes ordered, so he took four small fishing ones, and joining two and two together, went out to examine the boat. She was lying on her starboard side, with masts in water, and the waves were breaking over her port side. After countless difficulties, too tedious to enumerate, she was at last hauled near shore and baled out, then hauled up the beach and found to be undamaged.

The missionaries now began to appoint regular services in different little communities of Christians, so that they might get into the way of self-instruction and extension, and thus the work of the Lord would go on whatever happened.

Mackay’s skill in handicraft again got him and his brethren into favour with the authorities, and for a time there was peace. The following extracts from his journal show the change of mind at court:-

May 4th. - The katikiro shook me warmly by the hand as I was entering Baraza, and said ‘I was now a great favourite, and he would give me his daughter.’ I merely asked him how many days his favouritism would last? King very gracious. Said that now he hoped former good relations were again restored. Talk about the Mahdi and about European skill and excellence. I told him that it seemed unreasonable that he and his people should value so highly our goods and workmanship, while he would have none of our other world of mind and soul, and was only suspicious of our presence. King said I was right, and the katikiro also said that we ‘white men were evidently men of truth, for our cloth measured exactly as stated, a box of powder held the proper number of tins, with no sand mixed to adulterate it, and guns fired without exploding and killing the purchasers, while Arab traders in salt mixed ashes to adulterate it and make it look more!’

“The katikiro praised my work on his gun, saying that it looked exactly like new. The king replied that he had done well in giving his chiefs men of such value!

May 9th. - Several times seen the king again. He repeatedly renewed his assurances of friendship. Set up a shelf for his clock, which pleased him much. Talked to him on the evil of having people killed on the highway, as they were not the thieves he meant to catch. He said he would order it to be stopped, and that it would not be done again. Talked to him on the folly of beating people, and tried to show him that liberty was better than force, and having his people instructed in the way of truth the surest way to have peace, and freedom from rebellion. Advised him to excel all in reading and knowledge, and asked if I might come to-morrow (Sunday). He said, ‘Come.’

May 10th. - Saw king quite alone. Gate and doors all closed for fear of intrusion. Gave him long lesson on God’s purpose in creation and redemption. He listened well, and gave me a fat cow when I was done. Promised to learn to read, but said that he was thwarted by old chiefs. I told him he was king, and powerful when he liked.”

About this time Mackay had many interviews with the king, who professed much friendship. One day he said, “I will never let you leave me; and while I live, and my son’s son, I am determined to have white men in my country.” Mackay begged of him not to let his kingdom stink with blood and fire, for God had raised him up to save men and not to kill them, and that no blessing would rest on the country while murder and cruelty and oppression lasted. He also gave his Majesty advice on several sanitary measures necessary to drive off the plague and small-pox, which were causing men to die off like flies; and last, but not least, to cease to trust in charms, which were valueless, but to give God the honour due to Him, and a blessing instead of a curse would rest on the land.

Meantime, the katikiro was building a shrine to Mtesa, and he sent for Mackay to go to see it. Mackay was glad of the opportunity to talk seriously to him. He told him that he hoped the day would soon come when he would build a church to the living God, who would help him more than the spirit of a dead king, and that God would call him one day to account for despising Him and His word and His Son.

The katikiro answered, “I have the Book, and I do not believe in charms made by men. I will send for you privately to teach me to read, and then you can explain to me your religion!” But, alas! as in the case of Felix, the convenient season was never found.

Mackay knew this would be so, and he embraced the opportunity of showing him the folly of raids and robbery, by which no blessing nor even profit came to him. He told him that instead of selling his children (slaves), he ought to keep them, and make them till the ground, and rear cattle, and work like Europeans, and he would become far richer, and in a more righteous way, than by his robbing system. [Mackay drew out the following ten rules to assist the boy-king in protecting the life and liberty of his subjects, and their property from arbitrary spoliation:-

1.   King to receive all honour, and regulated tribute settled in council.

2.   All matters of importance - peace or war - to be settled by king and chiefs in council.

3.   No sentence of death to be passed on any man - free or bond - except in public court, and by consent of the whole court.

4.   Justice not to be sold. Capital punishment to be restricted to cases of murder only.

5.   Executioners to be abolished. No cruelties or tortures to be tolerated - e.g., roasting alive, taking out eyes, cutting off ears, hands, lips, teeth, or other mutilation.

6.   No chief to be deprived of office except by common consent of council, and then only for grave offences. No poor man to be robbed, or apprehended but by law.

7.   Selling of slaves to be absolutely forbidden. Any trader found taking any women or slaves out of the country to have all his good s confiscated.

8.   Raids for plunder either in country or against other tribes to cease. Wars to be waged only for just cause. On such expeditions only cattle to be taken. Men, women, and children not to be taken out of their country.

9.   No wounded or live prisoner of war to be put to death.

10. Perfect freedom of religion to be granted to all creeds. No one to be arrested for his belief, nor liberty of worship to be interfered with either by king or chiefs [The French priests, having heard of the success of the C.M.S. missionaries, had returned to Uganda.] In August of this year the king took a trip on the lake, and ordered Pere Lourdel** and Mackay to accompany him. The very first day twenty poor natives whom they met were killed. Mackay writes in his diary: “This bloody work must stop. I hope to try, by God’s help, to show the evil of such murder, and if it continue I must enter my protest and return to the capital.”]

There were eighty canoes in the Royal fleet; but, instead of enjoyment, there was terror on all hands of the head man-killer, Mukajanga, whom the king had authorised to kill whomsoever he pleased, without reporting!

The king had a strange idea of the way of spending a holiday. Every night he encamped at some part of the mainland, and before dawn he set off with reed lights, on a walking expedition, or rather a running one, over hill and down dale and through swamps (some of which were most objectionable), as fast as he could, and his multitude of women rushing after him! Many things transpired which Mackay did not like, and he was most thankful when the king returned to Mengo, to which he was escorted with great gun firing and flourish of trumpets. He entered the palace courts with shield and spears, taking his own capital by storm!

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