The first Christian missionaries were sent to the kingdom of Buganda by the CMS in 1877; the RC mission was inaugurated by the White Fathers in 1879. Despite rivalry between the missions, the early preaching was welcomed by many at the court of King Mutesa. Under his successor (King Mwanga) both Churches suffered a persecution, provoked in part by the refusal of Christian boys at court to submit to Mwanga's sexual demands. Over 40 Christians were martyred between 1885 and 1887, the RCs being canonized in 1964. In the conflict that preceded the establishment of the British Protectorate in 1894, missionaries were expelled. A young leadership was established, the laity came to play a major role in Church life, and mass conversions took place. British rule enabled evangelization to spread from Buganda throughout the Protectorate of Uganda. An impressive network of schools was established and by the late 20th cent. 75 per cent of the population professed Christianity.
Uganda was notable for the speed with which a local clergy developed, both Anglican and RC. In 1939 an entire Vicariate Apostolic, Masaka, was handed over to African priests under the first Black African RC bishop in modern times.