Today is a public holiday commemorating the death of former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda (1974 to 1977). Archbishop Janani Luwum, 55, was arrested, tortured and killed allegedly on the orders of Idi Amin.
Some say Amin shot him in the head.
The late Field Marshal, Salongo, Dr Idi Amin Dada VC, DSO, MC, CBE ruled Uganda between 1971 and 1979. This regime apparently is used as the gold standard of abuse of power and human rights in the history of Uganda.
What qualified that period as the reign of terror was the abduction, torture death and disappearance of people thought to be opposed to the government.
The news of the death of the archbishop who became an Anglican Saint, shocked the world for it was an indicator that to Amin nothing or no one was sacred. Historians say Luwum’s death galvanised the opponents of Amin to mobilise and remove him from power.
We celebrate St Janani Luwum Day at a time when Uganda is experiencing a wave of abductions, torture, maiming and killing of people in what are known as ‘Drone attacks.’ Those abducting are usually in civilian attire and wield guns forcing their victims into Toyota Hiace Vans, aka drones, in broad daylight.
History is stubborn and has a habit of repeating itself. During the regime of Amin, instead of the Hiace, there was Toyota Crown and the Peugeot 504, aka UVS, which were the letters on the registration plates.
Nile Mansions and Naguru have now been replaced by Nalufeenya and safe houses. The State Research Bureau was the main perpetrator then, but now you have a myriad of actors.
Those who have written extensively about Amin’s regime like researcher Fred Guweddekko and Muwonge C.W.Magembe; whose book President Idi Amin,A Narrative Of His Rule 1971-1979, will hit the shelves this week, admit to the general narrative of the killings by the State. But they also give an insight that should worry the public and President Museveni.
In times where State operatives have a licence to operate outside the law, acting like cowboys arresting in a gangho fashion, Guweddeko and Magembe assert that non-state actors squeeze through windows created by fluid situations.
No one knows who is genuine and who is not since the most popular enforcers are never in uniform and are answerable to no known person .
When they operate in an area, they do not report their presence to the area DPC or LCI chairman to make their their origin known or who sent them, which should be indicated on their matching orders, their target who should be on the arrest warrant and who they are, which should be on their warrant cards.
They simply ambush and take off. If a police officer or citizens stop them, there is a risk of being accused of sabotaging a State operation intended to arrest a terrorist.
So, most people simply look away and lament later. Devilish smart people, who want to settle personal scores come up. Some may abduct others to settle a land dispute or to kill their creditors.
Guns for hire with connections to the security system may evolve as well leading to complex waves of organised crime.
Those who want to make the government look bad also flourish. They do things that expose citizens to the wrath of the State, which has no time for due process.
During Amin’s regime, Magembe writes that one Fredrick Ssembeguya, a former KY politician, was sent a letter thanking him for the ‘support’ to the anti-Amin effort through the post linking him to the exiles in Tanzania, who opposed Amin.
The letter was read in the Post Office by security operatives, who without investigation, killed him.
Others who survived the letter trick include Robert Ssebunya, the late John Ssebaana Kizito and the late Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga. Now with social media and purveying of fake news, letters and photos can generate ‘fake evidence’ against innocent people.
Guwedekko names groups based in Kenya and Tanzania plus other States that would make incursions into Uganda abduct and kill people whose bodies would never be seen. The burden fell on the shoulders of President Amin.
It was his regime that had the power and responsibility to protect the property and lives of the people of Uganda and he was failing. That become his legacy.
An advert responding to last week’s column titled: ‘Suspension of DGF through the eyes of a warrior’ appeared in the New Vision last week. In this column, a rhetorical question was raised regarding the fate of ‘government entities’ that DGF has been funding for the enhancement of skills, education, health, law and order, etc,.
Much as it was not stated either implicitly or explicitly in the column that the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) receives funding from DGF, the Permanent Secretary of the MOES clarified that it was alluded to and sought to ‘distance’ the MOES from DGF funding.
What informed the question in the column was the funding DGF provides to CSO such as Justice Defenders JD (formerly known as the African Prisons Project.)
For instance, there is currently a two year grant to JD from DGF to enhance education and training of Paralegals in Prison for Prisoners and Prisons officers to among others increase capacity of legal awareness in prison.
Some of the beneficiaries are students and Prisons warders in Luzira prison (a government entity), studying for a Law degree awarded by the University of London. JD provides tutors for these programmes.