I remember the day my dad was killed – Late Arch. Janani Luwum’s daughter narrates.
Many violent deaths in Uganda’s history shocked the world but the gruesome murder of the Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum sparked fear among the clergy, activists and other categories of people. Today would have been his 97th birthday but he was killed 42 years ago.
Born in Wigweng village, Mucwini Sub-county, Kitgum district, northern Uganda to Eliya Okello & Naume Abalo in 1922, Janani Jakaliya Luwum passed different levels of education from different schools including Gulu High School before being trained as a primary teacher at Boroboro Teacher’s College.
Archbishop Luwum became a Christian and joined the Leadership of the Chosen Evangelical Revival Movement in 1948 which supported him as he trained for ordained ministry in the Native Anglican Church. He was ordained Priest of what was then the Upper Nile Diocese in 1956, serving as Parish Priest and Chaplain in many schools and parishes, and went to England to study at the London College of Divinity, which is now St. John’s College, Nottingham, where he completed a three-year meant degree in only two years.
On return to Uganda, he was appointed provincial secretary to Archbishop Erica Sabiti who was the first African Archbishop and he later succeeded Archbishop Sabiti, becoming the second African to hold the position, serving as the archbishop of the Church of Uganda from 1974 to 1977 after several activities when he became one of the most influential leaders of the modern church in Africa.
Since this period of his service suited in the then president Idi Amin Dada Oumee’s regime from 1971 to 1979, a rule that gained notoriety for its sheer brutality and oppressiveness, the man of God became a leading voice in the criticism of Idi Amin and this caused the archbishop’s murder on February 16, 1977 a day after he was arrested along with other two ministers Erinayo Wilson Oryema and Oboth Ofumbi on false charges by former president Idi Amin. Luwum had allegedly announced intentions to lead a protest against the dictator regarding unexplained disappearances and murders of both leaders and ordinary people.
42 years after her husband’s death, Luwum’s widow Mary Lawinyo Luwum,97 years is still joyful, strong and healthy. “I remember the day my dad was killed. I was preparing to go to school but mum told me ‘you are not going to school’. I cried because people were crying but surely I was too young to know what was going on,” Phoebe Aber, the 2nd last born of Luwum’s nine children who was about to celebrate eighth year when her father was killed says. There was a time when we had issues with my brother Erick and I called him stupid. My dad called me and I expected to be beaten but he instead asked me for the meaning of the word stupid. I was left embarrassed and ashamed. He told me to apologize and since then I have learnt that this is the best way to raise children rather than simply caning them, Phoebe adds.
In 2016, President Museveni declared February 16 a public holiday in Archbishop Luwum’s memory and the ministries of Education & sports, and the one of Gender, Labour and Social Development were ordered to erect a statue in Kampala in his honor.