1922 to 1977
The Sculpture to the
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Born in 1922 at Acholi in Uganda, Janani Luwum spent his childhood and early youth tending goats, but earned a reputation as a quick learner when opportunities arose. He became a teacher and was converted to Christianity in the East Africa Revival on January 6, 1948.
Janani Luwum became a Ugandan parish priest during 1956. He faithfully served in that position until 1969 when he was elected to serve the Northern portion of Uganda a Bishop. This too he dis faithfully and with the admiration of others. But these were very troubled times in Uganda. In less than two year after becoming a bishop, the reigne of terror perpetrated by Idi Amin began on January 25, 1971.
It was in 1974 that Janani Luwum was chosen Archbishop of Uganda, a time when Idi Amin's reign of terror was already in full force. Bishop Luwum made it his business to confront the injustices and atrocities of Amin. He did this first by personal , at first with private admonitions. He took his criticism public in a radio address in 1976 at Christmas. His sermon felt the power of censorship before he even finished.
The Bishop then threatened a public demonstration, and for a time worked to bring his Anglicans, other Protestant groups, and the Catholics together in opposition to Amin.
Amin's reaction was swift and without mercy. The Bishop's home was plundered during a 1:30 a.m. raid on Saturday, February 5, 1977. It was said they were looking for guns but none were found. This brought a piercing censure of Amin from the Ugandan House of Bishops. Luwum was then confined and confronted by Amin himself. Two days later he was accused of treason and arms smuggling at a public rally in Kampala. This the set the stage for a second confinement which ended in Luwum's death.
He was tried by Amin's court on February 16. Luwum was not even allowed to speak and it is believed that he was shot that same night.
It was reported in Uganda that Luwum escaped and in his flight, was involved in an automobile accident that resulted in his death. The reality was that his body was riddled with bullets and only planted in a fake car crash.
While the opportunity is there, I preach the Gospel with all my might, and my conscience is clear before God that I have not sided with the present government which is utterly self-seeking. I have been threatened many times. Whenever I have the opportunity I have told the president the things the churches disapprove of. God is my witness. Janani Luwum
Luwum's Heir Keeps the Family Intact, Calls for Reconciliation
When Idi Amin murdered Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Janan Luwum in 1977, his son Ben Okello Luwum, now 53 (as old as his father when he was killed), was only 27 years old.
He was working for the East African Community (EAC) from which he got a scholarship to study in the UK, but when the EAC collapsed in February the same year, he lost the scholarship.
A Kenyan friend, J.B.J Ochieng, offered to pay for his accommodation and food. Later, however, the British government started sponsoring needy students in a scheme called the World University Service.
One Sunday, just before the archbishop was killed, Okello Luwum now a Certified Public Accountant, had read of how the archbishop (his father) was being harassed by the Amin regime. He sensed danger.
That week came to pass, but the following week tragedy struck.
That cruel day, Okello was in the reading room together with his Kenyan friend Ochieng, when the receptionist called Ochieng to answer call.
She had already got the dreadful news but she chose to sermon someone close to Okello to get the details and break the story. The archbishop was dead. Brutally killed.
"I was devastated," Luwum told Sunday Monitor on Wednesday.
Two days later, Bishop Akisoferi Wesonga of the Church of Uganda called him to confirm the death.
"He told me never to attempt to return to Uganda because terror hovered over air. Personally, I never thought about it," says Okello.
Two days later, the Church of England organised a funeral service, which was attended by many Ugandans. Okello was the only relative.
By this time the British newspapers had banner headlines of the gruesome murder of the archbishop.
"People within the college who knew me came to console me. I was confused. I don't know what went in my mind then ," Okello said.
Okello has never got any ocular details of the bloody scenes, but he recollects his mother's description of Luwum's last days:
"After the hostile search for non-existent arms at our residence, I knew his life was in danger. I told him to flee. One day he disappeared. I thought he had fled. I was somehow relieved, but I was shocked when he reappeared the following day. He had just spent a night at Namirembe Guest House," Okello quotes his mother as having said.
On the fateful day, when Mrs. Luwum learnt that Idi Amin had detained her husband, she dashed to Nile Mansions (now Nile Hotel) where she met hostile soldiers.
"One soldier openly told her, go look after your children," Okello said.
The message registered well. The Archbishop had been killed. Waves of horror engulfed Mrs. Luwum. Her husband, the man she had told to flee was no more.
Apollo Lawoko, a Ugandan living in Sweden captures the finer details of the gruesome butcher. Lawoko with scores of other men were in some hell-like cell when the trio, Oboth Ofumbi, Erinayo Oryema and Jannani Luwum, were ushered in.
Lawoko quotes the archbishop as having said, "Let us pray". Soon after the prayers, they were dashed to a room where Amin, Malyamungu and Bob Astles were waiting. They were thoroughly pounded and pierced using crude weapons such as hammers, clubs and bayonets.
Amin is said to have personally pulled out his gun and shot the archbishop through the mouth.
Mrs. Luwum is still alive and strong. Okello says she doesn't like living in Kampala. Although the church gave her a house to live in at Namirembe, she prefers to till the soil at Muchini14 miles from Kitgum town.
Often times when a family head dies, the family disintegrates. This has not been the case with Luwum. His children have kept his legacy eternal.
" Ochieng told me you are old enough, you have to take over from where your father stopped," says Okello, referring to the source of his inspiration to carry on with his father's responsibilities.
A bishop called Okullo, who was then editor of the Church of Uganda province newspaper, The New Day, settled the family at Kisumu until they returned to Uganda after Amin's overthrow in 1979.Okello also returned the same year.
While the church helped to pay school fees, Okello, himself hurting, had to help the family heal. His brother Eric Lakidi (RIP) came in handy to boost his efforts.
Out of nine children, two have died and seven are still alive, but as we celebrate 26 years since Luwum's death, the family that he left behind is still in good shape.
Emima Lakar, the first born, lives in Pader, her husband's home area. Ben Okello Luwum, the second born and heir, a certified accountant and once the state minister for lands in Museveni's government, has a smile on his face.
Irine Abalo is a nurse in the US, Julie Ojwiya a civil servant, Andrew Okot Luwum is a motor engineer in the UK, Phoebe Aber is doing a masters degree in the Netherlands, and Amos Luwum is a businesman.
Okello does not look at the tragedy of his father at a personal level. He believes reconciliation is the best way forward.
"This injustices have hurt many families. I wish one day we could have a sober regime, probably the best thing would be a referendum on what should be done to people who have committed crimes against humanity. Should they be pardoned or should they be prosecuted. But of course I would go for forgiveness," he says.
Testimony: One day Okello had escorted his son to play tennis at YMCA in Wandegeya. The son introduced his friend to him. Guess who the friend was? Malyamungu's son. Okello encouraged the boys to continue being friends. Both boys know the story you have just read better than you and I.