People & Power
Janani Luwum’s last moments
Posted Sunday, February 9 2014 at 02:00
Memory lane. It was on February 5, 1977 that armed men attacked Archbishop Janani Luwum’s residence in Namirembe. Less than two weeks later on February 16, 1977, he was pronounced dead in a motor accident. A few days earlier Luwum had presented a letter to president Idi Amin, complaining about the deteriorating state of affairs in the country. Sunday Monitor’s Henry Lubega relays Luwum’s account of what happened the night his house was raided.
On Saturday Morning at about 1:30am on February 5, I heard dogs barking wildly and I knew something was wrong. Without switching on the lights I walked down the stairs from my bedroom. At the door I looked through the curtains and I was able to see one man standing in front of my door.
The man at the door was Ben Ongom and known to me in the past.
The man called out; Archbishop open we have come open, when I opened the door armed men sprang up shouting Archbishop, Archbishop, show us the arms, I replied what arms, they insisted they were in the house.
The men who came to my house were commanded by an Arabic speaking man putting on a red Kaunda suit. The man in the red Kaunda put a cocked gun against my stomach asking me to get back into the house, he was shouting ‘show us the arms, take us to your bedroom’ when we got to the bedroom we woke up Mary (The archbishop’s wife) and they started searching crawling under the bed, climbing into the wardrobe, opening the suitcases, boxes and they found nothing.
From my bedroom they went to the children’s bedroom and they repeated the same, the young ones were left sleeping the older ones woke up and went around the house with us.
After checking the entire upstairs of the house and failed to discover anything the security men moved downstairs, at this point Mr Ben Ongom who was handcuffed began to say “Archbishop, you see some time back we bought ammunition and divided it with My Olobo who works in the ministry of Labour in Kampala. I kept some and Mr Olobo kept some. Now mine has been found and certainly because of involving myself in politics am going to die in any case for it. When we went to Olobo’s home with the security people they searched his house they found nothing but they arrested him.
I thought that Olobo might have transferred his share of the arms to Dr Lalobo’s home (medical superintendent of Mengo hospital) since he was also an Acholi and they seem to be related. We have been to Dr Lalobo’s home and searched his home but found nothing.
The security men had arrested him. Then I suggested to the security men that Dr Lalobo might have transferred the ammunition to the Archbishop’s house, this is why we have come to you. Please help us. If the arms are not here tell us the location of any Acholi or Langi homes in Namirembe so that they can be searched.
No arms, please
I told Mr Ongom that I did not come to Namirembe for the Acholi or Langi but I was the Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire and there was no arms in my house. Our house was God’s house. We pray for the president. We pray for the security forces in whatever they do. We preach the gospel and pray for others. That’s our work not keeping arms.
All the same the search continued. They demanded we open the study. They searched there. We opened the Chapel. They searched there, even looking under the Holy table. They searched the food stores putting their hands into sacks of sim-sim (Sorghum) millet, groundnuts trying to feel for hidden objects. We went to the guest wing. They searched through the toilets, bedroom etc. They searched cars parked in the compound.
Cry for the church
Finding nothing, we continued to complain that the incident was a serious one for the whole church since we knew nothing of any arms. I said “what will Christians think of this incident when they hear about it since we shall certainly not keep quite.” I told them I was going to talk to the president immediately.
The security thought that since arms had been brought into the country to overthrow the government and since Ben Ongom suggested our house, they had no alternative but to follow his suggestion. I told them they must have come in a more respectable way, their leader who was a Nubian, remarked that they had to come in a military way since the matter was a serious one. I told them I had done nothing wrong to warrant the treatment of a rifle being put in my stomach.
My neighbours Bishop Kauma and the Provincial Secretary, had rung Old Kampala Police Station when they saw there were men with arms in our compound, thinking they were robbers. When the military police came these men sent them away before they could enter our compound.
About 3:00am these men left. They requested that we open the gate for them to go out, but my wife suggested they go the way they came. I said we would open the gate for them. They left and entered their cars which they (had) parked down the road. The number plates were covered. Eventually they drove away.
Earlier on Friday evening at 7:00pm I had heard from the hospital that security men had searched Dr Lalobo’s home and that the doctor was missing.
His Excellency Al-Haji, Field Marshall
Dr, Idi Amin Dada, V.C., D.S.O., M.C.,
Life President of Uganda
10 February 1977
We the Archbishop and Bishops of the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga-Zaire meeting at Namirembe on Tuesday 8th February 1977, humbly beg to summit our most deeply felt concern for the church and the welfare of the people whom we serve under your care.
In presenting this statement, we are in no way questioning the right of government in administering justice, to search and arrest offenders. We believe that government has established structures and procedures for carrying out such procedures that give the citizens a sense of what to expect of their Government. These structures and procedures give the police, the intelligence, and the security forces a framework within which to work. When these procedures are carried out in their day to day duties this gives the ordinary citizens a sense of security. It creates mutual friendship and trust between such officers and general public irrespective of uniform. But when the police and the security officers deviate from these established structures and procedures in carrying out their day to day duties, citizens become insecure, afraid and disturbed. They begin to distrust these officers.
We are deeply disturbed to learn of the incident which occurred at the Archbishop’s official residence in the early hours of Saturday morning, 5th February. In the history of our country such an incident in the church has never before occurred. Security forces broke through the fence and forced their way into the Archbishop’s compound. They used a man they had arrested and tortured as a decoy to entice the Archbishop to open his door to help a man seemingly in distress. Using a man under duress and torture as a source of information can lead to unnecessary suffering of innocent individuals. The Archbishop opened the door. At that point armed men who had been hiding sprung up to attack cocking their rifles demanding arms. When the Archbishop asked what arms, the answer was the muzzle of a gun pressed against his stomach and immediately he was pushed forcefully into his house with the demand “Archbishop show us the arms run into the bedroom” The full story as told by the Archbishop is appended.