OPINION: Why Fallen Archbishop Janani Luwim Is A Celebrated Hero

One of Uganda’s cerebrated martyrs and heroes is Janani Luwum, the former Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Mboga Zaire (Eastern DR Congo) who was killed in 1977 on orders of the then President, Idi Amin Dada.

It will take long to get full details that led to the killing of Luwum and two cabinet ministers; Oboth Ofumbi, who was in charge of Internal Affairs, and Erinayo Oryema, who was in charge of Lands, minerals and Water Resources.

The commission of inquiry into the violation of human rights from 1962 to 1986 did not fully get it and its report has never been published. President Yoweri Museveni promised a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2005 during state funeral for former President, Milton Obote, but has not been put in place.

At a press conference held by Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda and the then UPC President Ambassador Olara Otunnu, l asked whether Arch Bishop Luwum was a student of liberation theology especially in Latin America where the clergy and the church actively participate in the armed struggle to liberation of their country and people from dictatorship, or was a mistaken identity.

Ambassador Olara Otunnu answered that, Luwum was outspoken and used to come out to criticize Idi Amin regime for its excesses and that was the reason, Amin used the pretext of arms that were said to have been smuggled from Tanzania to be used to overthrow Government, and murdered him.

According to Bishop Festo Kivengere (l LOVE IDI AMIN 1977), there was a coup plot that was scheduled to take place on January 25th 1977, the very day Idi Amin’s coup took place in 1971. This was as a result of arms that had been smuggled into the country.

Amin started a witch hunt of Langi and Acholi people including the Arch Bishop after the House of Bishops under his chair had condemned the killings and witch hunt, supported by the Uganda Episcopal Conference under the late Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga and Uganda Muslim Supreme Council under the late Mufti, Sheikh Sulaiman Yusuf Matovu.

One Ugandan exile, put on Ugandans at Heart Forum, which is popular among Ugandans in the Diaspora that, the plot to overthrow Amin’s regime was real. But a section of the Ugandan exiles were not comfortable with replacing Amin with Milton Obote as the plot had been master minded.

They decided to leak it to Amin. That was not new as Tanzania’s intelligence services were also said to have been a good source for Amin whenever there was a coup plot which was intended to replace him with another person other than Milton Obote.

According to this exile, this time, a prominent Ugandan based in Nairobi was given the full plot and Amin’s hot line and he told him everything. Amin summoned his aides including Isaac Maliyalmungu and wondered how they could guard Uganda’s frontiers yet they could not detect arms that had been smuggled to the country under religious books.

He narrated to them real and imaginary suspects including the Arch Bishop and the two ministers, and the rest is history.

One cannot condemn Luwum for having joined other Ugandans to fight Idi Amin regime for it was despotic. But had Amin become civil and committed the Arch Bishop, the ministers and other treason suspects to a fair trial even if it was a special military tribunal, as it was the case then, at least it would have been far better.

Instead, Amin and his people chose for summary executions which earned Uganda a bad name and it was after the killing of the Arch Bishop that the then Health Minister, Henry Kyemba, who was a Principal Private Secretary to Obote and Amin, run away to UK and published a State in Blood, that exposed all Amin’s excesses.

So, as we cerebrate Luwum day, we should emulate the late Arch Bishop for being a voice of the voiceless. But we should also caution our clerics never to be partisan as their folks cut across political divide.

Moreover, unlike in the seventies and early eighties, there is now democracy and rule of law and no Ugandan be cleric or laity should be part of a plot to overthrow government by force of arms. We have regular free and fair elections, which are improving every after five years.

The Writer is a Communication Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.