The Gallant Martyr, Charles Lwanga and the African Flame Tree
St. Charles Lwanga

The Gallant Martyr, Charles Lwanga and the African Flame Tree

The Africa Flame Tree

All the pain that Ssenkoole inflicted on the twenty five year Charles Lwang was at around noon under an African tuliptrees which is also known as the African flame tree, flame of the forest, fountain tree, fireball, Gabon tulip tree or fire tree, this choice was significant. The African tuliptree originates from the rainforests of Equatorial Africa, belongs the family of Bignoniaceae (bignonia Family) and its scientific name is spathodea campanulata.

Although the African tuliptree is considered to be one of the trees that produce very colourful flowers, in most African cultures it carries a number of mythic stories and it is highly tabooed. Among the Kikuyu of Kenya, when one is infected with mumps, he is required to run around it a number of times and the away without looking back, this is believed to cure the infection. Among the Lango of Uganda, it is believed to harbour lighting and no one is supposed to take shelter under it in case of rain, it is also not supposed to be used as firewood, and if it is, it forces the intestines of the children out.

Among the Baganda that most of the Uganda martyrs like Charles were, it is called ejirikiti, it is totally a despised plant in that in case of death of a dog, its remains are dumped under it. Therefore killing Charles Lwanga under an African tulip tree was intended to despise and belittle him on the level of a dog. This act by Ssenkole came from his long time grieve against Charles, Two years before the Christian executions in Namugongo, the two men had a clash, when Kabaka Mwanga replaced the latter with the former on his desires for a channel of water that he intended to use as quick access to lake Victoria to be excavated, Ssenkole developed grudges with Charles when insults were thrown at him by some of the people he had not treated humanely as the in-charge when latter replaced but called him back to physically participate in the excavations.

Because he wanted to revenge, he decided to belittle Charles by burning him where remains of dead dogs are dumped; this was to send a message that Charles Lwanga is as worthless as a dead dog.

Never the less the African tuliptree is very important in the same culture, after birth of a child, the back and the leaves of the tree are boiled and baby bathed with the water to removed the bad omen, the mother also equally take it. Among some African communities of south Africa, the seeds of this tree is boiled and used to poison the arrows of hunters.

Despite all the efforts by Ssenkoole to torment Charles Lwanga, the youthful Christian leader wore his robe of martyrdom with total bravery and confidence of heavenly joy that the Ssenkole later in his life quested for, Different stories have been told of his last days but the most common is that he drawn in water a catechumen.

The character of Charles Lwanga is boldly reflected in the architect of the current Uganda martyrs basilica / Shrine that stands on the very spot of his execution. This unique structure that was inspired by the looks of an African traditional hut has it’s altered on the point of the blood shade. This holy spot was put at the centre in relation to the pillars that support the roofs of grass arch house, this signifies that just as the pillars of the huts support the building, Charles Lwanga is the pillar of and spot on to which Christianity was established in sub-Saharan Africa.

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