Government and religious leaders remained silent about torture as Uganda commemorated one of the biggest critics and victims of torture- Archbishop Janani Luwum.
Luwum, the former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire, was one of the most influential leaders of the modern Church in Africa and a leading voice in criticizing the excesses of Idi Amin’s regime, among them the torture of citizens, arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances of civilians and soldiers.
But he was killed on February 16, 1977, shortly after delivering a note of protest to Amin against the said excesses. He and other churchmen had been accused of being agents of the exiled former president Apollo Milton Obote, and for planning to stage a coup against the Idi-Amin administration.
The next day, Radio Uganda announced that Luwum and three others, among them two government ministers; Charles Oboth Ofumbi and Lt. Col. Erinayo Oryema, had died in an accident in Kampala. Luwum was buried at Wii Gweng in Mucwini sub-county, Kitgum district.
Today, Ugandans remembered the services of a man, who stood tall to challenge a regime that many could not, and carried the cross on behalf of millions of Ugandans, endured persecution until his life was terminated while on the same slippery path. The main commemoration Service was on Wednesday held at Kololo Independence Grounds under the theme “Hope Beyond Affliction”.
The events came in the wake of public uproar over the reported torture of citizens by security agencies, as well as increased cases of detention without trial, and missing persons. President Yoweri Museveni who was the Chief Guest delegated Vice President Jessica Alupo to deliver his message.
“The arrest, torture and murder of the Archbishop were not only criminal but also grave sacrilegious acts. There is a command in the Book of Psalms, Chapter 105, Verse 15. The Lord says: “Do not touch My anointed ones; do My prophets no harm.” Religious leaders carry the anointment of the Almighty God to shepherd and guide the people in spiritual matters,” Museveni said.
He added that when one harms an anointed person, they are directly obstructing the progress of God’s work and bringing a terrible curse upon themselves. According to the President, Idi Amin brought a curse upon himself by murdering Archbishop Janani Luwum. The President said that the Janani Luwum day is also an opportunity to reflect on the valour and courage displayed by Ugandans in the fight against bad leadership and dictatorship.
“We honour the memory of the dead and celebrate them for their sacrifice and contribution to Uganda’s liberation from the shackles of oppression. For instance, two Cabinet Ministers, Charles Oboth-Ofumbi and Erinayo Oryema were murdered alongside the Archbishop by Idi Amin’s soldiers,” Museveni added.
Museveni said that it is sad that Archbishop Luwum and many others became victims of a broken and bankrupt state. He applauded Luwum for displaying great courage in the face of danger humiliation and intimidation from Amin even when he had the option of running into exile.
Museveni urged Ugandans to guard the values and principles for which Luwum laid down his life.
The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Dr Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu said that Janani Luwum day is a great day and that it is being commemorated by all Churches in the Anglican Communion with Special Services. He prayed for a peaceful, harmonious, prosperous, educated, healthy and caring country.
The Bishop of Bukedi Diocese, Samuel George Bogere Egesa said that Archbishop Luwum believed in hope after death and that is why he was never afraid of persecution. He said that during Idi Amin’s regime, Uganda was actively dying, describing it as a final phase of the dying process.
‘There was a scarcity of peace, no freedom of worship. This country, this nation during the regime of Amin Dada was actively dying. There was no freedom of speech,” said Bishop Egesa. He appealed to Ugandans not to abuse the freedom of speech that they are enjoying today.
The Bishop-elect Kumi Diocese, Micheal Okwi asked God to give Church courage and boldness to preach the genuine gospel and speak truth to power and to communities.
Rose Lilly Akello, the Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity described Luwum as an outstanding leader, a great martyr and a compelling role model for all Ugandans.
Milly Babalanda, the Minister for the Presidency also said that Luwum showed courageous leadership in opposing Amini’s dictatorship that had seen innocent Ugandans violently murdered with no chance of defence. She however said that the country is still faced with a few challenges that must be dealt with like people using their platforms to sow seeds of ‘divisionism’ and hatred and those who use religion to defraud the public.
It is now 45 years since Janani Luwum was murdered. At a commemoration event in Kololo, his son Ben Luwum and wife Pauline Luwum was in attendance as well as Julie Luwum, the daughter to the later Archbishop together with her husband Dr Eric Adriko, the former 2nd Deputy Prime Minister.
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