On Tuesday 31 March, 2015, I moved a motion in Parliament to honour and pay tribute to the late Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire. I paid tribute to an icon who stood for truth, justice, faith and respect of human rights in Uganda and beyond.
Archbishop Janani Luwum was a pre-eminent Christian leader, a great Martyr of the 20th Century, and a compelling role model for the world, regardless of faith or any other background.
The legacy and resonance of Janani’s testimony and example far transcends all levels of his personal heritage.
Janani Luwum, served as the Arch-bishop of the province of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda and Boga Zaire. He resisted intimidation of the brutal regime of Idi Amin, and ended up paying the ultimate price with his life
Remembering and paying tribute to the late Archbishop Luwum by Parliament and the country is important and timely. Important because it is key that we remember our heroes, and let present and future generations know the people who have sacrificed for this country. The testimony, martyrdom and example of Janani should not only be known but celebrated and emulated in our nation Uganda, in Africa, and all-over the world.
WHO WAS LUWUM?
Born in 1924 in Mucwini, Chua County, present day Kitgum district to Eliya Okello and Aireni Aciro, Janani Jakaliya Luwum attended Primary School in Puranga, Gulu High School for Secondary and Boroboro Teachers college in Lira where he trained as a teacher.
He then went for further training at Bishop Usher Wilson Theological College, Buwalasi in Mbale and then St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury in 1958-1959 where he enrolled for a one year course in Anglican leadership.
He then returned to England for a 3 year Diploma Programme at the London College of Divinity. But because of his aptness, he completed this programme in two years.
On return to Uganda, he was ordained Priest of the then Upper Nile Diocese, at St. Phillips Church Gulu, thereafter he served as Chaplain and as a Parish Priest in several schools and parishes.
In June 1965, Janani Luwum was appointed Principal of Buwalasi Theological College, where he served with diligence, honesty and dedication.
In September 1966, Janani Luwum became Provincial Secretary of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire.
On 25th January 1969, he was consecrated Bishop of Northern Uganda.
On June 9th 1974, barely five years after his consecration as Bishop, Janani Luwum was installed as successor to Bishop Erica Sabiiti as Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire.
FOR A JUST SOCIETY
The late Archbishop Luwum had a heart for a just society. He made it his business to confront the injustice and atrocities of Amin. He made his criticism public, for example, in a radio address on Christmas Day of 1976, he condemned Idi Amin’s atrocities
The late Archbishop Luwum never wanted to live in peace elsewhere in the world while his people suffered in Uganda. At the height of the extra-judicial killings, it is reported that the British contacted him and were ready to take him away from Uganda but he refused to run away.
He is quoted to have said: “If I, the shepherd flee, what will happen to the flock? I am not afraid. In all this I see the hand of God’
Archbishop Luwum would have fled to the comfort of London, England but he chose to suffer with the rest of Ugandans who were being tormented by the Amin regime. This is a clear sign of love for his country and a strong sense of patriotism which he ultimately paid for with his blood. He became a major uniting factor and healing a force within a fractured church and a country in agony and riddled with fear.
During his life, he confronted tribalism, religious rivalry and despotism in Uganda. On 10th February 1977, he led the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire in writing to Amin, condemning the manner in which the Archbishop’s house had been searched. His wise and courageous leadership encouraged the people of Uganda not to disregard but to confront issues of the church and state in Uganda
On 16th February 1977, Archbishop Janani Luwum was murdered by the Idi Amin regime. Soldiers secretly transported his desecrated body to Mucwini for burial and dumped it in a hurriedly dug grave at the primary school at Wii Gweng where he rests to date. His death was indeed a tragedy. He was a gift to Uganda, Africa and humanity.
His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni condemned this extra judicial killing and declared 16th February a public holiday. The President also directed that the ground where Janani Luwum is buried be improved to include a museum to serve as his memorial and a perpetual reminder that extra judicial killings should never be tolerated.
Uganda lost a gallant son. The Church lost the shepherd, the family lost a loving husband and father and the world lost an icon, and a courageous leader.
His death is to be celebrated because it marked a pivotal turning point for the liberation of Uganda. It was his death that united Ugandans and martyrdom that galvanised international attention for the liberation of Uganda. It set the stage and mood that greatly facilitated and buttressed the subsequent and ultimately the successful Tanzanian led campaign to remove Idi Amin regime.
The life of Janani Luwum could not be more pertinent and powerful for Uganda, Africa and the world than it is today. In him we have an authentic hero, a giant at so many levels, a compelling role model whose example should inspire and challenge us all regardless of our faith and affiliations.
I salute the widow, Mama Mary Luwum and the family for keeping the memory of Janani Luwum alive and for sharing with Uganda the tremendous gift that he was. I salute the fraternity of the Church and the people of Uganda for nurturing this gallant son of Uganda
May his exemplary life and powerful testimony continue to inspire and challenge us.
The author is the prime minister of Uganda