Mary Luwum, the widow of former Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum, died without occupying a Shs84m house government built for her 14 kilometres off Kitgum Town, saying it was very small and built in a wrong place.
Ms Luwum said she had asked the contractors to build the house at her old home, off the roadside, but the contractors refused.
“I told them they should build it at my home but they insisted on constructing it at the roadside. So they built their house there,” she said in a recent interview at her more expansive family home in Mican, on the outskirts of Kitgum Municipality.
“The house is too small to accommodate us all. I told them I was not going to enter that house; they had to construct another one,” she added.
Ms Luwum said the front was so close to the road that if one wanted to sit in the compound, they would be forced to sit right on the newly tarmacked Kitgum-Musingo highway.
The house was a pledge Mr Museveni made to the Luwum family when he visited Wigweng in Mucwini, the burial site of the martyred archbishop.
Mr Museveni made the stop-over during the presidential campaigns in 2010 before proceeding to Lagot Cugu Primary School where he held his campaign rally.
The seven-roomed house, which was constructed by the UPDF Engineering Brigade, is located near Mucwini Trading Centre. The house comprises two shops with adjoining stores, two bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining, two flash toilets and two bathrooms.
The construction started in February 2010 but there was conflicting information from UPDF sources Daily Monitor talked to on Tuesday. One source said the house was completed after eight months while another said it took three years to complete because of additional unplanned works requested for by the family.
Ms Luwum’s dissatisfaction with the site was the fact that the land was part of a camp where internally displaced persons in Mucwini settled at the height of the LRA insurgency. As a result, the land was strewn with pit-latrines and makeshift structures, which many owners of such land in northern Uganda said rendered it unproductive and unusable.
“They (contractors) said the President had instructed that the house be built on the roadside but I said ‘if the President wanted the house built by the roadside, then he should first get a grader to level the land that was formerly an IDP camp,’” Ms Luwum said then.
“You know with camp life; pit-latrines were dug everywhere and the land can no longer be productively farmed. I then asked: ‘if the house is at the roadside, how am I going to stay there with all the dust? I will live in my house, which my husband built for me. In the meantime, I won’t enter that house of yours yet.”
But UPDF sources familiar with the project said the President wanted a house where Ms Luwum would generate income and that since the design of the house was both commercial and residential, it was imperative that the house had to be constructed on the roadside.
“Such structures are commercial; that is why it was a directive from the President that these two shops be constructed at the roadside where the widow can rent it out to people and earn some money,” the source said.
The source said building a residential house away from roadside as the widow had preferred would have cost much less than the one they put up. He said it would have cost only between Shs65m and Shs70m.
“So the difference was in the cost value. And the President also wanted a house where the widow could generate something, that is why we said; ‘no, let her take the structure next to the road because the cost was more appropriate compared to the site she preferred,” the army source said.
Ms Luwum had also complained that the government had failed to fulfil its promises to level the rugged compound and also fence off the building.
“He also said he would fence off my home but there is no fence. They also promised to close all the pit-latrines left behind in the compound but they never touched a single one. The pit-latrines have rendered the land unusable,” she told Daily Monitor in the 2015 interview.
However, army sources said the fencing, levelling the compound, construction of an outside kitchen; a septic tank and a water tank were not in the original plan for the house but were late additional requisitions by the widow.
A family source also told Daily Monitor on Tuesday that the ceiling board of the house was supposed to be concrete but the contractors instead used soft board. He also said the roof was meant to be tied with bolts and nuts but the builders used nails instead.
But the UPDF the source said the allegations by the family member did not conform to the specifications of the house plan.
“It was not designed for concrete ceiling. In most cases, we follow what is in the plan; the moment you change that is already a big problem. You have to follow the specifications.” The house, although complete now, after nearly three years of work, was never officially handed over to the Luwum family.
“They said the President told them if the house was complete, he would be the one to hand over the keys to me. But since the house was completed long ago, no key has been given to me,” Ms Luwum said during the interview.
“There are soldiers who are taking care of it now; there is one soldier who lives there like it is their home.”
Daily Monitor has established that the lone soldier, who lived in the house for some time and also sold a few shop items while there, left the building several years back. A family source confirmed that the entire house – both shops and residential – are now being rented out by several individuals.
An army source suspected the delay in handover could have come from later requests by the late widow, which had not yet been accomplished.
But a UPDF official suggested that before the official handover was done, a complete renovation should first be carried out on the building since it had taken quite a while after completion.
“If it is to be handed over officially, then it needs renovation,” he said.
Tomorrow in Saturday Monitor, read Mary’s account of how she met Archbishop Luwum, his radical evangelism and trouble with Idi Amin that ended in the prelate’s brutal killing.