This website is best viewed with CSS and JavaScript enabled.

Janani Luwum’s family and Idi Amin’s kinsmen reconcile on 42nd anniversary of martyrdom

Posted on: February 20, 2019 12:19 PM
Archbishop Janai Luwum was arrested on the instructions of Idi Amin on 16 February 1977. The following day, authorities announced he had died in a car crash, but when his body was handed to relatives it was found that he had been shot at least four times through the mouth and chest.
Photo Credit: Church of Uganda

The family of Archbishop Janani Luwum, the former Primate of what was then the Church of the Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga-Zaire, have reconciled with kinsmen of the former Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, who ordered his killing. Uganda’s Black Star News website reports that Canon Stephen Gelenga, from the same Kakwa tribe of Amin, delivered an emotional apology to Luwum’s family and the people of Acholi tribe during commemoration events over the past weekend.

“What happened during the reign of Idi Amin, who is my kinsman, we still feel the pain after forty years”, he said. “As the new generation, we need to put to end all the bad past and we move forward as reconciled Ugandans. Ugandans cannot heal this country if we pay evil for evil.”

Quoted by Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper, Canon Gelenga said that “As Christians from the Kakwa Community, we said we should put aside what happened in the past and let it die completely.”

He told the newspaper that Christians from Kakwa met with Archbishop Luwum’s widow at their family home in Wii Gweng where they held prayers together.

“Mama Luwum forgave us; we slept at their home, we asked for forgiveness on behalf of the people who sinned. We also want to forgive those who wronged us during the time.”

The retired Bishop of Kitgum, Macleod Baker Ochola, welcomed the move, saying: “After 40 years, the people of Kakwa asked for forgiveness for the killing of Archbishop Janani Luwum, the people of Arua, Koboko and the people of Uganda are witnessing this great miracle happening in Mucwini.”

In an interview with the Daily Monitor to mark the anniversary, Archbishop Luwum’s daughter, Phoebe Aber, said of her father: “I have heard that he loved people but I was too young to comprehend that. Remarkably, he never forced us to go to church. We used to pray together as a family in our chapel and going to church was always an option.”

She added: “When he was killed, I heard people speak: ‘I told him his life was in danger’. Then there were people coming home for refuge. He was always helping them. I started thinking, why did he have children when he loved the church more? My mum was always crying. I heard her cry a couple of times. For a child it is traumatising. If he was committed, why didn’t he play it safe? But at around 40 years, I began to understand my dad’s passion for serving God.”

In an editorial, the Daily Monitor called for the anniversary of Archbishop Luwum’s assassination – 16 February – to be marked as an annual National Day of Reconciliation. The editorial described the weekend’s events as “an unparalleled resolve, soul-searching, and great walk of faith by Christian faithful from Koboko District, who accepted to carry the burden of remorse and sought reconciliation from Christian counterparts from Mucwini in Kitgum and the country.”

It continues: “We should equally commend the Luwum family and Christians countrywide for genuinely casting off any bitterness and embracing their brethren from Koboko District.

“At a wider level, this reconciliation extends to all scarred communities in Uganda through our country’s many brutal regimes. As the Rev Can Stephen Galenga from Koboko said, both communities and the country feel the deep and sad impact of what happened during Amin’s regime and successive regimes, scarring communities and country.”

  • The retired Bishop of Busoga, Cyprian Kikuni Bamwoze, who was with Archbishop Luwum when he was martyred, died this month from leukaemia at the Uganda Cancer Institute. At a state funeral on Sunday (17 February) attended by President Museveni, the Anglican Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, described him as among the few crop of church leaders who dared speak out for the flock and meant the best for them in the true sense and word of a shepherd, the Daily Monitor reported.