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Are you someone interested in exploring historical and cultural sites during your safari in Uganda? Then the Bukaleba Palace and Fort Thurston should not miss on your bucket list.

This spectacular site is actually the area where Bishop Hannington was killed by Omukama (King) Mwanga II of Buganda Kingdom and was constructed by the colonialists who later left the area in 1898 due to the sudden outbreak of sleeping sickness. Fort Thurston in specific is surrounded by natural verdant forest that overlooks Lake Victoria with a wide range of wildlife and aquatic bird species.

James Hannington (born on 3rd September 1847 and murdered on 29th October 1885), was an English Anglican Missionary, Martyr and Saint and is said to be the first Anglican Bishop of East Africa. In the 20th century, Missionaries pushed through the dense African jungles and deserts and made sure they learnt local languages but most importantly endured the pestilential climates to build hospitals, schools and churches while some were murdered while others contracted debilitating yet by the end of the century their presence was throughout the globe. However, martyrdom and diseases claimed lives of many missionaries as well.

After getting to Freetown near Mombasa in Kenya, James Hannington was determined to pioneering a shorter and healthier highland road to Buganda Kingdom thus using Christian porters and undertaking the interesting Arab Slave route to the south. This committed missionary was not aware of the political consequences of crossing Busoga Kingdom, a strategically sensitive region for the state of Buganda. Therefore, the abrupt intrusion of the German Imperialism at the Coast made then King of Buganda-Kabaka Mwanga even more suspicious of James Hannington’s moves and motives. According to an oracle, the conqueror of Buganda would come from the East thus the King chose to forbid Hannington from proceeding through Busoga and sent him boats to take him to “Sukumaland” but the latter refused. He together with his team however reached an area close to Victoria Nyanza on the 21st October but his arrival didn’t go unnoticed and under the orders of the King, the different Missionaries were arrested and imprisoned within Busoga by the Chiefs of Busoga.

After about 8 days of captivity, King Mwanga ordered Hannington’s porters to be murdered and on the 29th October 1885, Hannington himself was attacked with a spear in both sides but as he died, his last words to the people that killed him were “go tell Mwanga I have bought the road to Uganda with my blood”.

This was followed by widespread persecution of Christians while others were sold to the Arabs as Slaves. Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, a famous Roman Catholic and Official at Kabaka Mwanga’s court rebuked the King for the dead Christians but also paid a high price for it-with his life by beheading. James Hannington and his friends were therefore among the first Martyrs of Uganda.

How to Access Bukaleba Palace and Fort Thurston

Bishop Hannington’s death place is found at approximately 20 kilometers north of Mayuge district in Eastern Uganda, on Kiando Hill, an ancient home of Chief Luba of Busoga Kingdom.