Rules are made never to be questioned or disobeyed or else your life will be in the hands of Mwanga and his guards. The setting is Buganda the time period the late 1800’s and as you read this book you might think you are watching a documentary about this ravished country.
Mwanka is the Kabaka and he runs the government and the country with an iron hand. He rules the French Catholics and is opposed to the white man’s way of doing things including medicines and their beliefs in the British Anglican church. There are Arabs who are Muslims living here and the colonists. The author introduces us to the Mwanga and his relationship with his page Kalinda, his second wife Nagawa and to Reverend Clement, Father Leonardo who practices the white man’s medicine, Richard who appears to be outspoken and you wonder where his loyalties lie, Reverend Clement and Kawaddwa.
The story intertwines with the voices of many of the characters that at times are controlled by the actions and will of others. Sekitto and Babirye are two pages that are interesting as one wants to become baptized and the other is caring and wants to be needed. The head of the government is power hungry and afraid when someone burns down his home and all of his worldly possessions are gone. Thinking it’s the white man who wants to take over his throne what he does and what is enacted seems like right out of a terrorist plot planned by ISIS. Added in we learn more about Nagawa and her feelings about her husband and then the first wife who has children learning there is going to be a third. Resentments fly, even dealing with Nagawa’s family and her mother’s demands makes it hard for anyone to forge ahead and be their own person. Buganda has three separate kings French, British and Arabs and let’s not forget Kalinda and his obsession with Mwanga. Each time another page or someone gets closer to him it draws on his feelings of importance but when the two main pages are considered traitors for their religious beliefs and are beheaded and burned the story takes on a dark turn and the reader learns to really dislike the Mwanga and not care much for his having control.
When the premier arrives Mwanga is defensive and wonders why he is angry for having the Bishop killed because he entered his country from the East. Paranoid to a fault he thinks that they want to take away his country and his throne to be told not to worry. Babirye is close to Nagawa and enjoys her trust at least for now but treating her maids kindly but yet in her heart knowing her husband’s rule is in question. Three kinds in one year each one wanting the power. It’s about control and taking prisoners, killing opposition and feeling no remorse or guilt.
Betrayals are at the heart of many of scenes and the novel and when Kalinda who loves the Mwanga in the wrong way betrays him, you wonder why as he joins in building the pyres that burn those that he admires and some that he loves enjoying as those burned his new found religion as the Mwanga justifies to the assembly about his murder of Bishop Hannington which really made no sense. Mwanga takes ill and his eyes are bad and Father Leonardo uses white man’s medicine to help him. Richard seems outspoken and you often wonder whose side he is on each time he goes to the Mwanga or is at the mission. The fires in the palace starts the second half of the book and the murders of those who are foreigners and he feels are trying to overtake him throne. Part two talks about the war that has been declared and how the other side is planning to take Mwanga out for good. The players are Reverend Clement who Mwanga imprisoned for a while and the death of Nagawa brother, the death of Bukenya comes to light and then just what role does Ankole play? Each time we meet Nagawa we are reminded that she has not and a child and that Kabaka seems to not service his second wife as much as his first and definitely the third who seems when we meet her with the other co-wives holds court and wants the limelight for herself. Then we learn that Mwanga has his own sister killed hardening the heart of readers wondering just how far he’s going to go but things will take on an ugly turn very soon as the war begins and the plots unfold.
Betrayals are at the heart of this novel and the Mwanga gets overthrown and someone else takes his place but for how long. Loyalties are not only broken but even Kalinda betrays him as the three wives juggle for position, they are taken out of Buganda and sent to live as slaves while others look upon them as nothing more than chattel. Even worse we hear the voices of the Muslims who are against the Christians and if you listen to the news today it reminds you of the strive between so many countries in the world where there is so much unrest and fighting.
A letter sent to Levelandi informing him that they arrived in Nkole after many died, fighting and following the Catholics from Kabula to Nkole. They were attacked and the King of Nkole, Omugube has been kind to them and after the successful cattle raid in Buddy, the Nkole rule granted them what they wanted. With wars on the decided their only option was to restore Mwanga . Reverent Clement might be imprisoned several times but his strength and fortitude was unbelievable and his memory of the bodies he saw and the carnage had to be pushed aside and returning to Buganda seemed paramount. Forces united as Clement and Father Leonardo[s request to help restore Mwanga was strangely received yet “Mwanga is with you and his disposition is better bring him to us. We will take him back to his people because the Baganda have become conscious now that they made a mistake in permitting him to be exiled.” But, was this the real answer and would restoring him to the throne unite the people?
Richard returns and Bishop Peterson wants to know how this works and how he can help Mwanga. Richard explains that he is leaving for Bukumbi to take Mwanga and his people back to Buganda but how will they be received? Clement wrote to the British Counsel in Zanzibar explaining what Richard’s intentions were to provide Mwanga with ammunition. Captain Johnson arrived with a reply later detailing Richard’s misfortune.
Nagawa and Kaddulubaale the second wife had to deal with their own hardships and the second and third wife’s children as we hear the voice of Sskamaanaya stating what group he would lead and Mwanga would command the Bulingugwe ISlan and Lubwama would command Mfu Island near Entebbe. But, some endings are sad beginnings when the final scene is revealed and those that survive enter Buganda but first things change for the wives, they woman assigned to them, Biship Peterson insisted on carrying a gun in case things get ugly and Clement’s senses lit up when he realized everyone had taken safe positions. But the ending is not what you would expect and many roles change and Mwanga and the Chief are followed by Ssekamaanya and now the limping Kalinda who you wonder which side he is on and if he is really so loyal to Mwanga. Will the Mwanga allow people to be baptized in the Church of England? What role did the Anglican Party play in this land war one that had been more important than the water war Mwanga had fought with his pagan and Catholic friends.
Mwanga ye Kabaka: Will he reign? How long and what was Kalema’s fate after all of this? When Nagawa sees her world that is now in front of her and her fate what she sees will remind her that some endings are going to be sad beginnings. Should they have returned? Should they have remained somewhere else? Author Nakisanze Segawa gives readers an inside view of what happens when power is on the table, control is the only thing that matters and the will and care of the people take a back seat. Kalinda, Nagawa, Mwanga, Clement, Richard and the rest what is their fate going to be? Sometimes shapes take only different pictures and Kalinda, Nagawa, Mwanga each a point of the Triangle have recreated it in their own way but who will be the strongest and hold the base?
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine