When dying was easier than living

Wednesday August 20 2003

Idi Amin Dada had many prominent people killed during his reign. The deaths of Archbishop of Church of Uganda Janan Luwum and Ms Dora Bloch a British Israel hostage during the time that an Israeli plane was hijacked and kept hostage in Entebbe are among those that have had more than one story to it.

Luwum was arrested in February 1977 together with two cabinet ministers, Charles Oboth Ofumbi and Lt. Col. Erinayo Oryema, for conspiracy in a coup plot.

Lt. Col. Oryema was Obote's Inspector General of Police and was later appointed Minister for Water and Mineral Resources.

The two ministers' were said to be the last batch to survive Amin's original cabinet. They had earlier worked in Obote's government.

In the book the Rise and Fall of Idi Amin, Amin reportedly told the soldiers that there would be no summary executions; the trio would be given a proper trial. The three were however killed in a suspicious motor accident.

The book however, quotes other reports that Luwum was first beaten severely before he was shot - by Amin himself.

Another unconfirmed report stated that Maj. Moses Okello is the person who actually pulled the trigger on the three.

The official reactions on the deaths were dismissed as a pack of lies and sparked off protests from churches.

Mr Henry Kyemba, a former minister in Amin's government has his version of the circumstances surrounding Janan Luwum's death in the book titled A State of Blood.

Kyemba states that Luwum was murdered over a letter of protest against the treatment of Anglicans in the country. Archbishops from Rwanda, Burundi, and then Zaire co-signed it.

Kyemba writes that Ben Ongom led the security personnel into the house of Luwum where they searched for firearms.

The "stage-managed" accident in which the three died involved a Toyota belonging to State Research Bureau with the registration UVS 299 and a Range Rover, which was Amin's personal car, UVW 082 that he often used while hunting.

The two vehicles according to Kyemba had been involved in a crash earlier to the one that claimed the Archbishop's life.

A post-mortem result revealed that Luwum and the two ministers died form multiple injuries on the ribs and to the internal organs. Their bodies were taken to their respective villages of Kitgum, Gulu and Tororo and buried in low-profile ceremonies. Soldiers guarded the graves for sometime.

Kyemba writes on Ms Dora Bloch's death too.

Bloc held British and Israeli citizenship. She was an elderly woman who was among the 106 Israeli hostages in the 1976 Entebbe raid.

She was however, left behind after she developed complications arising from choking on a piece of meat that caused her breathing problems.

She was rushed to Mulago hospital and a simple operation was done to remove the piece of meat.

After the Israeli raid at Entebbe International Airport, Amin directed his officers to get her out of the hospital and take her to an unknown destination where she was murdered.

She was frog-matched out of the hospital by two security men from the State Research Bureau, headed by Maj. Farouk Minawa, and Capt. Nasur Ondonga.

When the British High Commission wanted to know about her whereabouts, Amin said he did not know. Her body was dumped 20 miles along the Jinja-Kampala highway; burnt except for her white hair that remained untouched.