Luwum murder: What witnesses said
Today, Watuwa Timbiti brings you excerpts from the Human Rights Commission Report as told by witnesses. ...
The inaugural national celebration to recognise St. Janani Luwum’s contribution to the fight against Idi Amin’s tyranny, will be held on February 17. New Vision is until February 16 publishing stories about the fearless, outspoken leader who stood for justice Today, Watuwa Timbiti brings you excerpts from the Human Rights Commission Report as told by witnesses.
Following the assumption of power by the NRA in 1986, the government, cognisant of the country’s human rights history and perhaps the desire to establish what went wrong, instituted a commission of inquiry into the breaches of the rule of law.
This included excessive abuses committed against people in Uganda by regimes in the government, their servants, agents and agencies by whatever name called. Justice Arthur Oder’s commission looked at the period between October 9, 1962 and January 25, 1986 and in its report, made the following observations, specifi cally about Amin’s regime. It is reported that when he came into power from 1971 to 1979, Amin swiftly moved to consolidate his position by first liquidating his enemies and by recruiting Kakwas, Nubians, Lugbara and Sudanese soldiers in large numbers to ensure his survival.
“Evidence received by the commission from a cross-section of witnesses, confirmed that Amin’s immediate and most serious opposition, sprang up from the army and that he dealt with it in the most ruthless and crude manner,” the report reads. It cites one Daniel Mulemezi, a witness, who was working with the Criminal Investigations Department. He reported that hundreds of people died during and after the coup.
“In less than a week, the flying squad, which he commanded, had collected over 150 bodies in Kampala alone,” the report stated. It explained that in 1973, Mulemezi’s squad had picked over 150,000 bodies in and around Kampala, excluding soldiers killed in the barracks all over the country.
The State Research Bureau, the Military Police at Makindye barracks, the Public Safety Unit based in Naguru and Bob Astle’s Anti-Corruption Unit — the four security organs, left behind a legacy of ruthlessness hitherto unknown in Uganda’s history.
It is noted that the commonest factor was the brutality with which the killings were committed. These murders were of well-known figures such as the two ministers Erinayo Oryema, Oboth Ofumbi and Archbishop Janani Luwum.
The inquiry into Luwum and the ministers’ murder in February 1977 had Mustafa Adrisi, Amin’s vicepresident, pulls the veil off the coverup: All these were Amin’s personal doings and I, as vice-president, was there to advise him but though I always honestly did, he was adamant.
Amin was a bad leader and should take all the blame for his bad government for everything always ended with him. Isaac Malyamungu, who became the army chief of staff, was recruited into the army by Amin in 1967 and was instrumental in the 1971 coup. He drove a tank from Malire barracks to Entebbe and took over the airport.
Since then, Malyamungu rose through the ranks of military intelligence to the top. He was also instrumental in the death of the archbishop and the two ministers. I did not accept the accident theory. He (Amin) told me that the accident happened around Nakasero near the President’s Lodge. He showed me the photo of the car in which they got the accident. But this surprised rather than convinced me.
I had just used the same route and had seen no sign of an accident. One would reasonably expect to fi nd many people gathered at the scene of accident. I, therefore, never believed him. Told by the commission that Oboth Ofumbi’s grave was guarded by soldiers for two years, Mustafa responded: I never knew that the grave of Ofumbi was guarded for two years and soldiers only left with the change of government.
If that happened, then it was a mistake by the president because if they indeed died in an accident it was not necessary to guard his grave. Asked about the guns that were displayed and claimed to have been found with them, Mustafa said: The guns that were displayed at Nile Mansions to my conviction should have come from the armoury of the State Research Bureau.
I did not know how they came to be displayed, nor what happened to them thereafter. Testifying about Major Moses Okello, the man said to have been in the other car that is said to have collided with that of Luwum, Ofumbi and Oryema, and was paraded while heavily bandaged at the army hospital, Mustafa said: Major Moses Okello is the man who they claimed collided with the vehicle in which the three men allegedly died.
I later met him at the Offi cers’ Mess drinking, eating and enjoying himself. Okello was Malyamungu’s deputy. When journalists tried to talk to him, he refused and claimed to have fractured his chest and said he wanted to see a doctor. I do not know if Malyamungu was in the same vehicle with Okello. But the two men must be responsible for the death of the three men and it is Malyamungu who arrested them perhaps on Amin’s orders.
On where the three men could have been killed, he responded: I knew Major Adam Dowson of Makindye Military Police. He used to be the quartermaster there, but was seconded to work outside. Gabriel Yoga was the C.O. Makindye. He is now dead. I did not know that these people together with Simba, Ochwo and Mudodo, were the ones who brought the bodies to Mulago.
From left Mustafa (Amin’s vice president), Justice Oder, Oboth Ofumbi and Erinayo Oryema
This brings in the presumption that they could have met their death in Makindye since all the men were of Military Police. After that, many Langi and Acholi in the forces died. All unit commanders were ordered by Amin to kill them. Most commanders were at the time Kakwa and foreigners. Lt. Col. Mukili killed the district commissioner of Kumi. I tried disciplinary measures, but Amin stalled my efforts.
The most serious killings were in Bondo, Tororo, Mbarara and Nakasero State Research Bureau. But some humane commanders like Lt. Col. Lambert, an Etesot from Kumi, who was second in command of Eastern Region, saved most of them by sending them on leave. Even Lt. Col. Kisuule did the same and Lt. Col. Abdulayi saved some. Because of these mass killings, Acholi and Langi ran into exile and after Amin’s fall, they also massacred the people of West Nile.
Amin had killed them because he had received intelligence reports that they were planning to attack Uganda from the neighbouring countries. So he decided to eliminate their contacts. By doing so, Amin started a cycle of violence, which has continued. The other witness before the commission on the murder of Luwum, Ofumbi and Oryema, was James Kahigiriza, a former prime minister (Enganzi) of Ankole from 1963 to 1967 and was also the chairman of the Uganda Land Commission from 1974 to 1979.
According to the commission, Kahigiriza was arrested on February 15, from his offi ce and taken to Nakasero. The next day, according to the report, Ofumbi, who was minister of internal affairs and later Oryema, a minister of lands and minerals, were brought in. All the other prisoners in the tunnel were ordered out into another cell, but the ministers were told to stay. It is at this point that Kahigiriza tells the gruesome experience: Then it is at this juncture that they brought in Archbishop Janani Luwum. He had been stripped of his robes and he was wearing dark grey trousers with a shirt and a collar…they were preparing food when he was rushed in.
A young man…. He must have been a State Research (operative) started asking him who he was. And before he could answer he struck him, he hit Luwum on the jaw. Kahigiriza said another man was also involved – one of them he was told was a brother of Sarah Amin, wife of President Amin and this other was a brother of Mike Ssebalu, the man who used to talk sports: They hit him hard, so much so that he told them that they had broken his jaw. And then they sarcastically told him, ‘Do you think you are Chief Mufti here?
He had nothing to answer at this juncture…. Then they brought food for him and for us, but we Afterwards, according to the report, they called the archbishop out and got him to dress up in his robes and shoes and pushed him into the tunnel again.
After some time, he and the two ministers, and some leading civil servants were called out again, and Kahigiriza testifies: After about two or three hours, a young man who looked wild was shouting, ‘I am Nyangau (Swahili for hyena)……. and then started shouting that he wanted to shoot Y.Y. Okot. When I raised my hand and said, ‘Please do not shoot’, he abused Then the man told us, ‘Now, where are the three…Archbishop, Oryema and Ofumbi, where are they now? You call them, tomorrow is yours! It is at that point that we knew that those people had died.
One of the cars allegedly involved in the accident that claimed Luwum’s life
Immortalised in London (Online source)
On January 6, 1948, a young school teacher, Janani Luwum, was converted to the charismatic Christianity of the East African Revival, in his own village in Acholi, Uganda. At once, he turned evangelist, warning against the dangers of drinking and tobacco, and, in the eyes of local authorities, disturbing the peace. But Luwum was undeterred by offi cial censure.
He was determined to confront all who needed, in his eyes, to change their ways before God. In January 1949, Luwum went to a theological college at Buwalasi, in eastern Uganda. A year later, he came back a catechist. In 1953, he returned to train for ordination. He was ordained deacon on St. Thomas’ Day, 21 December 1955, and priest a year later.later. His progress was impressive: after two periods of study in England, he became principal of Buwalasi.
Then, in September 1966, he was appointed the provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire. It was a difficult position to occupy, and these were anxious days. But Luwum won a reputation for creative and active leadership, promoting a new vision with energy and commitment.
Only three years later, he was consecrated the Bishop of Northern Uganda on January 25 1969. The congregation at the openair services included the prime minister of Uganda,Milton Obote and the Chief of Staff of the army, Idi Amin. Amin sought power for himself. Two years later, he deposed Obote in a coup. In government, Amin ruled by intimidation, violence and corruption Atrocities, against the Acholi and Langi people in particular, were perpetrated time and again.
The Asian population was expelled in 1972. It was in the midst of such a society, in 1974, that Luwum was elected Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire. He pressed ahead with the reform of his church in time to mark the centenary of the creation of the Anglican province. But he also warned that the Church should not conform to “the powers of darkness”.
Amin cultivated a relationship with the archbishop, arguably to acquire credibility. For his part, Luwum sought to mitigate the effects of his rule, and to plead for its victims. The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches increasingly worked together to frame a response to the political questions of the day. Soon, they joined with the Muslims of Uganda.
On February 12, 1977, Luwum delivered a protest to Amin against all acts of violence that were allegedly the work of the security services. Church leaders were summoned to Kampala and then ordered to leave, one by one. Luwum turned to Bishop Festo Kivengere and said, “They are going to kill me. I am not afraid.” Finally alone, he was taken away and murdered. Later his body was buried near St. Paul’s Church, Mucwini. Amin’s state was destroyed by invading Tanzanian forces in 1979. Amin himself fled abroad and escaped justice. His statue is among the Twentieth Century Martyrs in front of Westminster Abbey in London.