15 February 2017

Uganda: Janani Luwum Was Killed for Speaking Out Against Injustice

Photo: Julius Ocungi/Daily Monitor
Hundreds of people from different walks of life have this morning gathered at Mucwini Sub-county Kitgum District for 40th anniversary commemoration of Archbishop Janani Luwum.

I take this opportunity to appreciate the government of Uganda and the Church of Uganda for a befitting memorial service organised at Namirembe Cathedral on February 5 in honour of St Janani Luwum, marking 40 years since he was murdered.

It's documented that Sgt Moses Okello stated that Idi Amin had ordered him to take Archbishop Janani Luwum, Erinayo Wilson Oryem and Charles Oboth Ofumbi from Nile Mansion to their homes and bring them back the following day. But just about an hour after their departure, they were allegedly involved in a tragic accident.

Amin launched inquiries with his chief of security to investigate the death of the trio and the inquiries started with Sgt Okello who explained that as he was driving the trio as instructed, they attempted to strangle him probably with the intention of escaping with the vehicle. That he drew his pistol and shot the assailants and that during the scuffle, they got into a head-on collision with an on- coming vehicle.

The questions would be; would a state leave the trio to be transported by only one army officer? Secondly, how could Sgt Okello fight with the trio while at the same time driving and how come that the three died instantly with unexplained bruises on their bodies?

At Namirembe Cathedral during the memorial service in honour of the Archbishop, eulogies stated that the Archbishop's body was found with a bullet which protruded through his throat to his back. The position of the wounds suggest that a pistol was well aimed in the Archbishop's mouth and that this couldn't have been done by Sgt Okello alone, but that the trio must have been killed prior to the staged accident.

Amin thereafter ordered a live broadcast claiming that the trio had been caught red-handed with trucks of Italian made weapons. He claimed to have discussed a treason case with the deceased and that he had chosen dialogue, leniency and diplomacy because the case involved senior officials including his cabinet ministers. These were allegations brought forward to justify the murder of the trio.

Arcbishop Luwum confronted Amin's injustices and atrocities. He made his criticism public in a radio address on Christmas of 1976. The bishops then threatened a public demonstration because at that time, he had worked hard to bring together the Anglicans and Catholic faith and they were working as a team to oppose bad governance.

On February 5 1976, his home was raided at 1.30am by soldiers who said they were looking for guns but none were found. Luwum was confined and confronted by Amin himself who accused the trio of treason.

On February 16 1977, Amin summoned religious, government and military leaders to Kampala to whom he condemned Luwum for subversive acts.

The Archbishop together with six other bishops were publicly arraigned in a shame trial for allegedly smuggling arms yet Amin's interests were to get rid of the Archbishop.

As the bishops were ordered to leave one at a time, Archbishop Luwum remained behind and its believed that he was shot that very night. His body was riddled with bullets and planted in a fake car crush.

The story now changed from the trio attempting to strangle Sgt Okello who was taking them to their homes, which act was claimed to have caused the accident alleging that the trio were trying to escape from a car that was taking them to their respective homes.

Ugandans are quiet, resilient, good at accommodating situations before them, whether bad or good, but they should never be lied to.

Amin's regime was marked with tribalism, human rights abuse beyond imagination, rampant kidnaps and murders among others.

As we mark 40 years since Luwum was murdered, this shouldn't be seen to be a simple occasion but as a time to reflect on the wrath Ugandans faced due to bad governance.

The overthrow of Amin acted as a stabilising factor for Uganda. It was during this regime of murder and terror that my dear father was kidnapped and never seen again. When some members of Amin's family praise him for being a nationalist and a Pan Africanist, we feel bad because our wounds have never healed.

Amin's family should request the Church of Uganda to give them a slot at Mucwini, Kitgum where the second part of the anniversary will be held today, to officially apologise to the families that lost their loved ones during that regime.

Mr Galabuzi Mukasa is a human rights advocate.


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