On February 16, 2015, President Yoweri Museveni, while officiating in Mucwini, Kitgum, at the commemoration prayers at Wii Gweng Church, for the murder of Archbishop Janan Luwum, 38 years earlier, declared that, thereafter, the day would be a public holiday in remembrance.
Other events have followed that gesture, including, the World Anglican Communion canonizing Luwum as a martyr; and erecting a statue in his honour at the prestigious Westminster Abbey, in London, the United Kingdom.
Subsequently, the Provincial Assembly of the Church of Uganda resolved that, the building, then being constructed as the headquarters for the Anglican congregation in Uganda, be named Janan Luwum House. A short while ago on completion, however, a logo and the naming of it is visibly: Church House; and not Luwum House.
So far, there is no indication that the Provincial Assembly has changed its mind on this. Even if it did, it would be a negation and a disservice to the spiritual and physical passion Luwum went thorough against the dictatorship of president, Idi Amin.
In killing Luwum and many other Ugandans in 1977, Amin perpetrated lies against the Christian Church that, “You people were plotting to kill me and overthrow my government, and thought that you would get away with it. But before you kill me, I will kill you first.”
The others he shot outright in this murderous rage at the-then dreaded State Research Bureau (SRB) in Nakasero (by present-day Nakasero State House), were: Lt. Col. Erinayo Oryema, who was the minister of Lands, and Oboth Ofumbi, who was the minister of Internal Affairs. To cover up his heinous crime, Amin cooked up a car accident to explain the deaths.
Nobody believed him, anyway. Events leading up to the executions were very clear. Moreover there were other people in the SRB, arrested alongside the Archbishop, who attested to the crime – of course, this came up a lot later. One of these is the-then Radio Uganda Head of Programmes, Apollo Lawoko.
He wrote a very chilling account of Amin’s dastardly act. At the marking of last Saturday’s events in Mucwini, lawyer and prolific writer, George Alenyo, passed out a pamphlet describing those events of 42 years ago. With Uganda’s flag, that of Israel and the Yiddish year, 5779 as a logo, the newsletter is simply titled: “The 42nd Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Archbishop Janan Luwum – 16th February 1977-16th February 2019.”
The most captivating testimony of the murder starts from the letter Luwum wrote to Amin in which he says, inter alia … “we have buried many who have died as a result of being shot…and many more …whose disappearances are connected with activities of the security forces.” That was a week before Luwum’s murder.
Thereafter, Lawoko as “a living witness” goes on to give gruesome details of the activities in the SRB headquarters. “I was arrested on the 15th February, 1977, from my office in Broadcasting House and driven to State Research Bureau headquarters….Next morning, I recovered my senses in a pathetic prison Cell Number One, situated deep underground.
“Seated by my side were: James Kahigiriza, formerly Land Commissioner, a Mr. Bwire from the Ministry of Animal Resources, Mr. Ongom-Okuk from Apach Local Government, Mr. Ecel, the Gombolola Chief from Lango, among many other captives….” Then, “The heavy wooden door to our Cell No. 1 was thrown open and Charles Oboth-Ofumbi, the-then minister of Internal Affairs, was thrown in among us, already stripped to his underpants; followed by Erinayo Oryema, formerly Inspector General of Uganda Police and the-then minister of Lands, Water and Natural Resources.”
Then, “Someone was being beaten and dragged downstairs; that was none other than Archbishop Janan Luwum, who was being beaten by gun-butts, jabbed and kicked by a swarm of guards led by Maj. Farouk Minawa, himself. Janan Luwum maintained his composure, despite the heavy blows he was receiving.
He kept saying in a calm voice: ‘I keep telling you I am innocent. I have not offended any person, or plotted against any government in the world. I am prepared to stand and die….You have broken my jaw. I tell you I have done nothing wrong to the State…I am firm on that fact’.”
Then, “He prayed for Uganda as a nation; that the Almighty may deliver the country from the suffering it was subjected to…. After the prayers, Minawa appeared and read out the names of persons to get out of Cell No. 1…. We were lined and instructed to go upstairs…. When we reached the ground level, we found Idi Amin, himself, standing in the ground reception in the company of Robert (Bob) Astles and the-then minister of Planning, Mr. Jumba Masagazi. They were joined by Major Farouk, Hajji Kabugo, Lt. Latiff and Sgt. Adrapi….
“Idi Amin himself, wearing fatigue uniform, was wearing pistols on both hips. He entered with his entourage into Farouk’s office, and there were cries of agony of torture. We could hear Amin shouting, ‘You people were plotting…’ and as we were being headed back from the room, we heard two gun- shots in Farouk’s office, and there was relative silence for a time….” [Amin shot Luwum through the mouth].
So much, for the so-called traffic accident. Yet, Janan Luwum had the last say and advice on a government – and to Uganda’s future generations. “Never lose faith in God, whatever they do to you. One day, the world will get to know of these evils.”