Sunday February 19 2012

SEVEN QUESTIONS: We forgave Amin, says Luwum family

Mr Ben Okello Luwum (far right) during the interview in Kampala.

Mr Ben Okello Luwum (far right) during the interview in Kampala. PHOTOS BY STEPHEN OTAGE 

1. Could your father have done things differently to avoid death or having confrontations with Idi Amin and to what extent should religious leaders get involved in politics?
Amin and his men were terrible people. Just seeing you drive a beautiful car; you are dead. If his soldiers liked your house, they would kill you. So, I don’t know the kind of answer I can give but I know he handled it well because Amin would kill for any reason.
There was no rule of law. Every religious leader is like I and you. They can comment about political issues whenever they get an opportunity because like any other Uganda, they should ask questions about political decisions in the country.

2.Do you think in Uganda we have religious leaders who are bold enough like your father and what does the death of your father mean to Ugandans - especially the Christians?
I think they are there. You have been hearing them, some of them retired. They have been commenting about where government has gone wrong. As I told you there have been big improvements in governance because if this was Amin’s regime, most of them would be dead by now.
As long as there is bad governance, lack of rule of law and injustice, people should not keep quiet like my father didn’t. We should not keep quiet if there is misrule so as the corrections can be made. My father did not keep quiet and was killed but barely two years after his death, wasn’t Amin overthrown. The whole world united against him. Since then, the successive governments have not committed atrocities Amin committed. The bad governance Amin exhibited was unequalled. Yes, there are still some challenges, but I think gradually, we will arrive there. As Ugandans, we should never keep quiet whenever there is bad governance.

3.If Amin was still alive and you met him, what would you tell him?
I don’t know what I would tell him! I don’t know what to say. Sincerely I don’t know what I would tell him. But I’m a calm person and as a family we had many options. I could have joined the liberators who came with guns (UNLA) but we didn’t choose that path. We are a family that believes in prayers. With life you have to forgive. You will be haunted if you are going to live with the horrible thoughts inside you and I think time heals everything.

4. Do you remember the day your father was picked from his home, taken away and later saw him dead?
I was not here. I was in London. I was working in the East African Community and the community sponsored me to study in the UK. But a week before I had read in papers about soldiers who went to his house and ransacked it looking for guns. I remember the late Bishop Wesonga from Mbale, he rung and told me I should not come to Kampala.

5. As a family you have heard many stories about the killing of your father. Which ones have you heard that disturbed you?
His death didn’t come as a result of a single incident. The situation became tense because every time people were arrested, their relatives would run to my father. My father would contact or confront Amin. Sometimes they would be released. But I hear what annoyed him most was Church of Uganda House project. They wanted to start building it after getting a big donation from Germany.
There were also Mercedes donated to the church. I understand this did not please Amin. I’m told he wanted those cars. Therefore, those are the incidents that kept building his anger until the archbishop was killed. But you shouldn’t forget that he started off by killing Langi and Acholi before the killings spread to other part of Uganda.
We were targeted tribes during Amin’s regime. All the time he thought we were fighting him yet my father’s weapon was the Bible. Even when they went to his home in Namirembe, they found nothing.

6. Have you ever met the children of Amin and if yes, what did you talk about? Could you be having information on individuals who really carried out the killing of the archbishop?
One time from a distance here in Kampala, I saw Taban Amin but we didn’t talk. But there was a time I was in Wandegeya, I had taken my son for basket ball and somebody came and introduced himself as the son of Maliyamungu. I greeted him. He is an innocent man. But of course he knows the notoriety his father did during the time of Amin. On those who killed him, there is a book that mentions names of those killers.
He was killed here in Nakesero at the State Research Bureau. I think up to now, it is still housing some government intelligence. I don’t have their names off my head but that book mentions them. It was written by a certain gentle man who was there in that house by the time the Archibishop was killed. That man was also a prisoner in that house. He was called Apollo Lawoko.

7. What is your comment on politicians who tell religious leaders to leave politics and remain in the pulpits preaching the Gospel?
These politicians you are talking about want to use religious leaders when it’s convenient to them. There are many times when these religious leaders have looked for votes for these politicians. The politicians go to church and request religious leaders to do some campaigning for them. For example, if a religious leader participates in campaigning for agricultural projects, isn’t that politics? Commenting is not a problem but if they want to actively join politics, they have to resign.