His Excellency the President, ministers, government officials, members of the diplomatic community, the family of the late Archbishop Janan Luwum whom we remember today, Church leaders, the organizing committee, distinguished guests, fellow citizens, ladies and gentlemen.
On this day, we commemorate the first Janan Luwum day since government declared February 16th a national holiday last year.
As some might be aware, we the family of the late former president Alhajji Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada, had actually requested to the organizing committee that we be present at the memorial day function.
We are glad to have joined the rest of the country in this memorial for late former Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga Zaire.
Even if it is happening 40 years later, it is important for the nation that we publicly reconcile and offer our condolences directly to the family of the late Archbishop Janan Luwum for the first time.
Our father remained silent on this matter until the end.
But we can tell you what we personally witnessed, and two incidents are central to our testimony.
First, on that fateful day 16th February 1977, we remember how our late father had just returned home to State House Kampala from the Nile Hotel meeting where the Archbishop had been publicly questioned about his involvement in armed rebellion.
Our late father then received a phone call informing him of some alarming news. He immediately drove out of the premises.
While we thought he had gone to attend to some distant emergency, a few minutes later we heard his voice again. He had actually just drove nearby to the neighboring government building.
So we went to the rear State House garden where we heard his big voice, and stood at the perimeter fence where we could see him arguing with some men outside the neighboring building below.
He was complaining that he had specifically ordered them to drive the Archbishop and the two ministers to their respective homes, then bring them back the next day for a private meeting with them. He was asking the men “What had happened?” and was furious that his last orders had not been followed.
The second event we witnessed had been about a week earlier. We had been driven to Rubaga cathedral, Kampala, where we found weapons displayed on the Church’s front lawn. We remember specifically seeing a blue truck with a false Pepsi logo that had been badly painted on its doors. The vehicle was parked next to the church.
Apparently the vehicle was being hidden there in broad daylight. The owners probably knew that security services might not suspect an empty lorry.
However the lorry had a false floor that made it look empty. And it is when the floor metal sheet was ripped open, that the weapons (Italian weapons according to the body guards) were discovered hidden beneath. As young children who were used to seeing the normal Uganda army weapons (during holidays we regularly did shooting practice plus dismounting, cleaning and remounting assault rifles) it was obvious that these were new and different. We hadn’t seen anything like them before.
The security men discussed how they had known that something was hidden at the church. But they had failed to find anything the first time they had gone to the check at the Archbishops residence. Only to discover later, and by chance, that the weapons were actually in the empty looking truck that had been parked there all along.
These are what we witnessed.
But since that day, the death of Archbishop Janan Luwum has brought grief to our late father as well, especially whenever the question arose at home.
One thing that is clear is that Amin didn’t order the Archbishops killing. On the contrary, he ordered his release.
But somebody killed the Archbishop either intentionally or was forced to. The story we heard is that he and the two ministers tried to over power the driver, one Moses Okello, so that they could then flee the country.
Only God knows the truth.
And contrary to what is usually said, Idi Amin was actually very respectful to the Church. The Archbishop had a very cordial relationship with him until that incident. Amin felt as if he had been stabbed in the back when he discovered what the Church was doing. It was shocking to him.
However it turned out later that it actually wasn’t the Church as an institution, but rebel loyalists within the Church who were preparing for armed rebellion to bring Obote back, and they had secretly used the institution. All those involved also turned out to be people fighting specifically for Obote’s cause on a sectarian/tribal basis.
In a recent Daily Monitor article, Mrs Mary Lawinyo Luwum the widow of the late Archbishop, recounted a meeting where our late father met the Archbishop a few days before his death. Amin asked a simple question: “Why was the Archbishop tarnishing his name to the western world using defamatory messages? The widow also says Amin then had a photo moment with the Archbishop to prove wrong the rumours circulating that the archbishop had been imprisoned. That was the Amin we know. Tough but always conciliatory. And this shows that right from the start, Idi Amin had no intention whatsoever of arresting the priest.
Today the rebels that the Archbishop was helping are mostly living in exile ever since their UNLA government was overthrown by the NRM on 25/01/1986.
If you hear how they talk about today’s Uganda, it is the same they were trying to do back then.
There were also high suspicions in the Amin regime that Moses Okello, the person who was last with the Archbishop and the two ministers, could have killed them intentionally.
However even the Amin government couldn’t prove it and thereby had to leave the matter where the available investigation findings concluded.
What the nation must understand is that the late Archbishop Japan Luwum’s story is one that had high political stakes for the so-called “Liberators”. The versions we read about clearly show serious disinformation at work in order to justify rebellion. They intentionally demonized our late father so that they could have a chance at ruling the country for themselves and not for the Ugandan people.
Events that happened between 1979 and 1986 prove this.
But by any standards, a truck full of weapons is a serious national security concern anywhere in the world. Today, any government would treat the Archbishop’s actions as terrorism. He wouldn’t even be invited for a chat with the president or a live interview, but might instead be immediately incarcerated in a maximum security prison comparable or worse than Guantanamo Bay.
What led to the famous public inquiry that was aired live on TV was Amin telling Ugandans and the international community to see for themselves what was going on. Transparency.
He wanted everyone to witness what had been prepared by Obote’s rebels.
At the time, our late father told Ugandans that all these weapons couldn’t be there to kill just him alone. And that it is the whole country that they were aiming at putting ablaze, and all Ugandans would suffer if they succeeded. Indeed that is what happened for a whole two decades from the day the Tanzanian forces and the Ugandan rebels marched together into the country.
Uganda Television should rebroadcast that live telecast so that todays Ugandans can see for themselves how the Archbishop pointed to Erinayo Oryema and Obote Ofumbi as his co-conspirators.
It is worth noting that prior to that, the two ministers hand’t even.been suspected in the matter and had actually come by themselves as respectable government ministers to the Nile Hotel meeting. All that changed only after they were pointed at by the Archbishop. This is in the recording.
Meanwhile in regards to our late father’s relation with the church, as president he had endeavored to treat the three major faiths equally as well. While there are claims that he had shared Indians properties with his friends and relatives, he actually didn’t have a single personal business his entire life.
Last year, we told the public how he had decreed that certain properties be given to the three major faiths: Old Kampala hilltop for Muslims, then Mapeera House land, Kampala road to the Catholic Church, and the new Church House premises, Kampala road, to the Anglican Church.
Maybe the two Churches can own up to Ugandans that Idi Amin initiated and encouraged these now beautiful towering developments in the center of Kampala?
Today, we want to help foster national healing. However it is something that is done in a reciprocal and/or multilateral way, and others also have an honesty role to play.
Today the nation can say let us never regress to the conflicts that existed, and where our country fought itself for more than four decades.
In that spirit, we would like to add our voice to the many who know that though there are still obvious challenges, we can also confirm that Uganda has largely progressed in terms of peace and stability, rule of law, economic development, democracy, and freedom of expression.
The people who purposely caused insecurity during Amin’s regime, and who have extensively confessed about their 8 year operations then, are here to celebrate the peace.
Today, we for example, have been voters since the first general elections under the 1995 constitution.
We lined up with everybody on that day in 1996 to choose Uganda’s leader. Our late father was glad that we had taken civic duties seriously.
So we salute progress as the best medicine for the country’s long term stability. It has made it possible for the Amin and Luwum families to live peacefully in the same country.
However, we call on all leaders, especially the younger generation that wasn’t actively present during the Archbishops days, or weren’t mature enough during the gruesome years that followed particularly from 1979 to 1986, to make sure that justice becomes an even bigger priority for this country.
Because we all know that justice, the rule of law and continuously rejecting impunity, is what will ultimately ensure that the country doesn’t regress to any future chaos.
For example, it was shocking for us to learn that concerning the death of the late Archbishop, even though some original video and documented records existed, none of the subsequent governments tried to organize a judicial inquiry or official forensic investigation. We wondered how can the state and the public rely on an individuals books as the official verdict yet there are designated government departments whose task is specifically to check crime?
Why hasn’t any government for example followed up Moses Okello, the last person with the Archbishop taking him home as ordered by our late father?
Also, why has one Mr. Lawoko made unscrupulous financial gain from the family’s grief? When he writes a book titled “Dungeons of Nakasero” claiming to be the last person to have seen the Archbishop alive inside a purported dungeon, also claiming that they were both incarcerated together, further alleging that Amin personally came and killed the Archbishop, yet that very day Mr. Lawoko was actually the head at Uganda Television/Radio Uganda, dispatching journalists to Nile Hotel and monitoring the live coverage.
We call that parasitic opportunism. Earning from other peoples grief.
Mr. Lawoko’s subordinate for example, veteran Radio Uganda journalist Mr. Charles Byekwaso, already publicly attested how he received his news assignments that very morning from his boss Mr. Lawoko himself at the national Radio station. We wonder has Lawoko at least made regular donations to Janan Luwum’s family from his unscrupulous earnings?
We for example, plan to make commemorative products with our late fathers picture and avail them to interested Ugandans soon. There has been huge interest for Amin memorabilia from the public.
We hereby pledge to make a donation from any earnings to the Archbishops family or community. Because we saw the sadness that his death caused to our late father. It is probably the one incident during his presidency that hurt him the most.
And it is because of that pain we saw on our late father’s face that we would also like to make the donation to a children’s charity since they are the country’s future. But we ask Mr. Lawoko to apologize to the family and the nation for his behavior.
But the important point as we look ahead is to always try and have justice served on any crime.
There also hasn’t been justice for Lubiri 1966 for example. Neither for Mukura, Luweero, Ombachi, Mbarara, and other probable serious mass crimes committed between the State and citizens by people whom most are alive and either living in Uganda or hiding abroad.
Yes, they have been increasing calls for a new independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission to review every major incident since independence.
We are surprised that criminals who unrepentantly massacred innocent peasants, have become national heroes, or are living comfortably in western countries. If one checks the names on the official list of national hero’s, one wonders if this is how they are supposed to pay for their crime in this country.
That is why there should also be the word “justice” in the Truth and Reconciliation commission’s title.
Just last week, Archbishop Desmond Tutu who headed the South African Truth Commission right after Apartheid, was expressing regret that dangerous criminals managed to walk scot-free to this day, yet the Commissions recommendations had been that punishment for serious crimes ought to be pursued by the South African government. The South African people are today questioning the relevance of that commission since Apartheid criminals are enjoying today’s multi-racial South Africa unpunished.
In that spirit, we would hereby like to make a humble request that the idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be pursued vigorously to a just close for the bereaved and the country.
Also, that this important day February 16th be a day of remembrance for all who perished since independence.
This country has far so many unrecognized martyrs. People who died for the country. Some even didn’t know why they died.
We should remember them all together.
We sincerely hope that His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni, or whoever will be elected in two days, considers the matter for the sake of more peace, justice, political civility and long term stability.
Uganda today is a different place. Citizens are also called voters. This new generation of Ugandans are now choosing their own political destiny albeit with a few regrettable incidents during campaigns where we tend to regress to what looks exactly like the police state we have all heard about in the countries turbulent history.
But there has largely been tangible improvements. We once told our late father that he wouldn’t recognize Kampala with the development that the Ugandan people themselves have managed to achieve against all odds. We told him that here people say he opened their eyes.
The point is that we have long moved on together with the new generation in this country, and that is a good thing. We are therefore committed to always being with Ugandans as the country continues towards more economic growth and stability.
However it is justice that ultimately breaks the cycle of violence. We sincerely hope that the cycle hasn’t secretly grown and that another bout is possibly still coming ahead. Yesterdays incident where one citizen was shot by state agents as he supported his preferred candidate is highly regrettable and should be investigated until prosecution and punishment.
In that regard, and as we remember this country’s past, it is our constitutional duty to call upon the police and security services to cool down on national elective politics as they face civilians. As we said recently, our history should remind the state never to point guns at civilians whether during peace-keeping duty abroad or during elections at home. This is something we all need to consciously agree on as a country.
It is our constitutional duty as well to also request that the state puts in place greater guarantees that every citizen who so desires is always able to peacefully express their political views. That is another lesson from the widely circulated Archbishops legacy. Yes he took a decision against the sitting president. And that is important for any citizen to be able to continue to do peacefully.
It is days like today that should help us remember where the red line is in the actions of the state. Sadly, the Archbishop’s death was a red line that isn’t supposed to have happened.
And that is one way we can use his memory. As a guide to prevent mistakes from happening again.
We can achieve that with the memory of the late Archbishop in mind. I personally also have my own mothers memory, the late former first lady Kay Amin whose gruesome death on 14th August 1974 remains a motivating factor for me to advocate for peace and womens rights for example. Others might want to struggle for religious rights and increased political freedoms when they remember the fallen Ugandans.
In fact, one thing that could also help is that we include all the forgotten fallen Ugandans on this national day, so that as a nation we do some serious introspection to value each citizen regardless of political affiliation or the political impact of their rightful activities.
The just concluded presidential debate proved that increased political decency was just nearby yet Uganda hadn’t ever practiced it. We now realize that it brought added civility to the country’s politics. Anything that has the capacity to help us check our own political behaviors and help the citizens see political competition live with their own eyes so as to then choose from a level perspective, must be institutionalized so that we increasingly move beyond any personality cult and towards more institutionalization.
We therefore need to build on the present national consciousness that encourages constructive open debate. This might also be best served if the “Baraza” citizen’s debates are encouraged again rather than curbed as has been the case recently.
We might then be able to gain from each others ideas and thereby uplift the country’s common political consciousness.
It is a day like today where we need to remember the root causes that led to the numerous conflicts the country has experienced since independence day 9/10/1962.
The causes haven’t changed: Sectarianism, tribalism, nepotism, corruption and greed for power.
As we look at the new generation of youths living in a totally different time today compared to what the older generation has survived, it is our humble wish that the bright young men and women we see enjoying life to its fullest, including those struggling to get an education or looking for jobs, that they will live beyond war, abject poverty and darkness. Which wasn’t the case for some generations before them.
And finally, we also pray that the memory of all Ugandans who perished through the turbulent years be best served by today’s citizens gaining more peace, faith, quality education, improved health, freedom, individual rights, hard work, plus unity and reconciliation for all present and future.
For God And Our Country.
Hussein Lumumba Amin