In Summary
  • According to the book, African Holocaust- The Story of Uganda martyrs by J.F Faupel, a Mill Hill missionary.
  • The wait. What would it take Clara Nalumansi to be a canonised? Explores Paul Murungi.

The Buganda Lukiiko expressed interest in Clara Nalumansi, the first female martyr. The kingdom wants her beatified and declared a saint. This stems from the fact that she was a sister of Kabaka Mwanga and thence a princess in the kingdom. Archbishop Charles Lwanga also hinted on her beatification in October last year while celebrating 52 years of Kampala Archdiocese. But will she pass the test?

Big test awaits
It took the Uganda Martyrs 80 years to become saints. Religious experts opine that Nalumansi’s beatification and canonisation might take time. Rev Fr Richard Nyombi, the vice postulator in the department of canonisation and beatification in the office of the Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese, says Nalumansi has not yet started the first stage to sainthood which is called the Servant of God.

“People must show that when they pray through the intercession of Nalumansi,they get what they pray for,” he says, adding: “So for Nalumansi, people have started coming up with testimonies that whenever they pray through her name, they get what they want. For instance, people speak about receiving favour in marriage, school fees and work. But such are understandable and can be explained.”

Fr Nyombi is in charge of collecting evidence about Nalumansi’s life which will be presented to the Vatican. He has also written several publications about her.
However, he says Nalumansi has contradictions which must be streamlined.
“One challenge is going into the archives where we think, there’s something said about Nalumansi. As Catholics, we almost have all the information. But we shall need clarification on the side of Protestants because that is where she began her journey.

They need to find out what they wrote about her. For example, “in their museum in Namugongo, the way the Anglicans present Nalumansi’s killing is not the historical death. They present her as if she was killed like the Uganda Martyrs through burning yet she was shot using a gun by the King’s army”.
“We also need to find out from the Anglican Church, which name she got, because Clara is a Catholic name. At that time, the Anglicans would baptise from the Old Testament but when the Protestants talk about her, they use Clara. Other books say she had a gun, and had to fight back, and that’s one of the challenges for the church to consider her a martyr because she fought, and usually martyrs don’t fight back. But the church considers her because she died for her faith,” Fr Nyombi expounds.

In the Anglican Church, Nalumansi has not yet been declared a martyr.
The Rev Micheal Wasswa, a historian on religious affairs and the deputy principal at the Uganda Martyrs Seminary of the Anglicans, Namugongo, argues that it is debatable whether Nalumansi should be declared a martyr in the Anglican Church.
Currently, they recognise her for bravery during the turbulent times of religious persecution in B(U)ganda in the 1880s.
“The bishops have to sit and see if she qualifies to be a martyr. The debate is especially in women movements,” he says adding, “Nalumansi was killed because of political motives when she disobeyed Kabaka Mwanga, and by the time she was killed, martyrdom period had passed. Other scholars say, she tried to defend herself during her killing.”

“As God’s revelations continue to manifest, she may be considered a martyr in future and remains an important figure in church because of her commitment, bravery and her act of getting converted to a better faith. People need to emulate her and she remains a model to Christians and women who should look up to her as an inspiration.”
Regarding her name Clara being used by the Anglicans yet it is Catholic, the Rev Wasswa says it should not be surprising since the both religions share similarities including names.

Process to Sainthood
Fr Nyombi says, “Christians must show that there’s devotion to Nalumansi, and she is a source of inspiration. For instance, Nalumansi lived according to the Christian faith, therefore, she’s a role model but miracles have not yet happened and we are waiting for one. If somebody prays through her and gets a miracle, for instance healing from cancer, automatically, Nalumansi will become blessed and then a saint.”

He adds that only God knows when Nalumansi will be declared blessed and then a saint. It may take a short or long period. For instance, Mother Teresa was declared a saint after a few years. It all depends on God and the miracles.
“It took the Uganda martyrs almost 80 years to reach sainthood. That’s why we ask people to pray through Nalumansi and report back. Most miracles today occur through healing. If a Christian receives a miracle through healing of an incurable disease, he or she must report back to the archdiocese backed up by evidence from doctors.”

Who was Nalumansi?
According to the book, African Holocaust- The Story of Uganda martyrs by J.F Faupel, a Mill Hill missionary. Nalumansi was born around 1862 to Kabaka Muteesa I and Nagaddya. She was a half-sister of Kabaka Mwanga.
She first interacted with the Protestants and later, the Catholics. When Nalumansi became a Christian, she considered all the traditional beliefs satanic. This annoyed the religious chiefs in the kingdom who advised Mwanga to eliminate her because she was allegedly undermining the kingdom. Kabaka Mwanga, under immense pressure was forced to send Abambowa (Royal soldiers) to kill her. She was attacked in her enclosure in Kazo, Bwaise and shot at in 1888 at the age of 26.