Apolo Kagwa

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Apolo Kagwa (right) with his secretary Ham Mukasa, 1902

Sir Apolo Kagwa (standard Luganda orthography spelling Kaggwa) KCMG MBE (1864–1927)[1] is considered Buganda's first and foremost ethnographer. He was appointed prime minister (Katikkiro) of the Kingdom of Buganda by King Mwanga II in 1890, and served in that capacity until 1926. From 1897, Kagwa served as regent until 1914 when the infant King Daudi Chwa came of age.[1]

Apolo Kagwa was an administrative apprentice at the Royal palace of Buganda when the first Christian missionaries arrived in the 1870s. These palace apprentices, referred to as "pages" by European historians of the era, were bright youths from all over the kingdom sent to the palace to train as the next generation of leaders. He was one of the earliest converts to the Protestant faith, and nearly became one of the Uganda Martyrs when King Mwanga II fell out with the Christians a few years later. He was reportedly spared execution because he had already shown himself to be exceptionally capable as an assistant in the Treasury.

From 1885 to 1887 the kingdom fell into a religious civil war with Protestants, Catholics and Moslem factions vying for control. Kagwa, still in his twenties, was from early on recognised as the leader of the Protestant faction. A keen rifleman,[2] Kagwa served actively in combat during these wars. The Moslems were in ascendancy in the early part of the war, and Kagwa and other Protestants spent some time in exile in the neighboring kingdom of Ankole. King Mwanga, temporarily deposed, was restored in 1890 with the assistance of the Protestants, and Kagwa was named Katikkiro (Prime Minister). King Mwanga was again deposed in 1897 when he rejected British rule and led an unsuccessful fight for independence. An infant prince, Daudi Chwa, was named King with Kagwa as one of three regents. Kagwa was one of the negotiators of the Uganda Agreement, by which Buganda became a British protectorate with limited internal autonomy.

He visited England in 1902 in his capacity as Katikkiro (Prime Minister), for the coronation of King Edward VII, accompanied by his secretary, Ham Mukasa.[3]

Kagwa authored many books on Buganda, including a general history Bassekabaka ba Buganda, a treatise on laws and customs Empisa z'Abaganda and a collection of folklore Engero z'Abaganda. His history of Buganda included brief histories of the neighboring kingdoms of Bunyoro and Ankole. He was a strong supporter of the establishment of modern education in Uganda. In particular, he was appalled by what he saw as a tendency of the sons of the nation's leaders to grow up spoiled (in contrast to the spartan upbringing his generation received from the palace apprenticeship system). He worked with British missionaries to establish boarding schools, notably King's College Budo, explicitly to keep young noblemen from growing up spoiled.[4]

His manuscripts and personal papers are in the Africana collection of the Makerere University library in Kampala.

During the later years of his ministry his relationship with the British colonial government was tense; Kagwa believed Buganda's autonomy was being repeatedly encroached upon.

He was the first African to receive the honour of knighthood.[citation needed] In 1918 he was made an honorary member of the Order of the British Empire for services in raising and organising native levies and local Defence Corps in the Uganda Protectorate.[5]

He had 23 children, including Michael Kawalya Kagwa (who served as Buganda's Katikiro from 1945 to 1950)[6] His grandchildren include Apollo Kironde, Uganda's first Ambassador to the United Nations. He has many Great Grand children which include; Rebecca Kakonge, James Lule, and Apollo Kabuye Kawoya.


  1. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Britannica
  2. ^ Wright, M. Buganda in the heroic Age, Oxford University Press 1971
  3. ^ Mukasa, Ham (1904). Uganda’s Katikiro in England: Being the Official Account of His Visit to the Coronation of His Majesty Edward VII. London: Hutchinson & Company. 
  4. ^ Hattersley, C.W. The Baganda at Home. Frank Cass Ltd, 1968
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30576. p. 3289. 12 March 1918.
  6. ^ World Statesmen: Uganda