Monday, 24 November 2014

Janani Luwum knew of a coup plot by Acholis - Ford

Ms Margaret Ford during the interview in Kampala last week
I am a farmer’s daughter who grew up in a typical village in Nottinghamshire [in the UK] overlooking Lincoln Cathedral. I come from a Christian family but was dismissive of the Billy Graham sort of evangelism, until when I attended a youth rally in Sheffield in 1970, then I was a secretary with the Church Missionary Society (CMS) youth department in London.
When the Church of Uganda wrote to the CMS requesting for a missionary secretary to work with the new Bishop of Gulu, I was posted to Uganda where I arrived in January 1972. When he left Gulu after being appointed archbishop in 1974, I stayed there working with the new Bishop Benon Ogwal.
Two years later when Janani’s secretary, also a missionary secretary from the CMS in London, went on leave and got engaged, Janani asked me to come and work with him in Kampala. I recall one Saturday morning Bishop Ogwal called me to his office and said, “I have received a letter from the Archbishop asking you to go and work with him in Kampala.”
By May 1976 I was a resident of Namirembe hill, residing just below the provincial office. On Namirembe hill we lived as a family, food and water were in short supply. Kampala turned into a city of rumours. No venturing out after sunset and at night we kept awake, fearful of midnight knocks on the door.

Things fall apart
A number of events started happening that grabbed the Archbishop’s concern. First was the death in June 1976 of Teresa Nanziri-Bukenya. The eight-months-pregnant then warden of Africa Hall [Makerere University] paid with her life when she refused to sign a false statement about the disappearance of a Kenyan girl. When Janani heard of her death, he wept.
When students learnt of Teresa’s death at the beginning of a new academic year, they wanted to stage a strike to register their protest, but the vice chancellor prevailed over them.
However, on August 3 when the army had surrounded the university because students had opposed the way Amin’s son who was flashing his gun around the university and the way his security detail was treating them Janani went to the university where he found all offices closed.
The following day he returned to the university with Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga to meet the vice-chancellor, who did not tell the two religious leaders what exactly was happening at the university. He painted a calm picture at the campus only to hear later that students had been herded into trucks and taken to Makindye Military Police Barracks. It took the intervention of the vice president to have the students released.
Outside the university fiasco was the raid at Entebbe airport by the Israeli commandos to rescue their nationals in a hijacked plane. Amin reacted by accusing the Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta of supporting his enemies. In response, Kenyatta reminded him of Uganda’s trade debts to Kenya, and ordered no more goods to come into Uganda through Kenya until all the debts were settled.
This caused a fuel crisis; public transport came to a standstill making the already bad situation worse. Church officials and government institutions were given a small allocation of petrol, for instance Mengo hospital was allowed to keep one ambulance on the road.
These events forced both the Anglican and Catholic churches to make political criticism, a thing they had desisted from doing for some time. The first of the joint religious efforts to bring government to account for its actions was when Janani and Cardinal Nsubuga agreed to call the bishops of both churches to a joint meeting at Lweza. Also invited was the Mufti of Uganda.
I drove to Lweza with Janani on the morning of August 26, it was Thursday. Janani was asked to chair the meeting and I was one of the three secretaries appointed to take minutes of that meeting, one from each religious group present. Those in the meeting were convinced that it would be wrong to keep quiet about what was happening in the country. They discussed the killings, harassment, looting and the excessive power given to the intelligence officers.
The meeting ended having agreed to have a meeting with the president to talk things over and to share their concern, but it was never granted. Instead, Amin sent a warning to Janani reprimanding him for having held a meeting without permission, and demanded minutes of the meeting, which were also sent to him. From this time on, Janani was seen by the authorities as the leader of those opposed to the government.
After the daily office prayers at 8 O’clock, people would walk in the office saying “My husband has not come back,” or “my son has been taken” and Janani would jump into his car and go to the various places where people were often taken and ask why a particular individual had been arrested.
Initially, the security men would apologise saying “Oh your Grace, we are very sorry, we did it by mistake” and release the person. But this was short lived as the killing and disappearance continued in bigger numbers.
During the annual coup anniversary in 1977, Amin declared a number of days public holidays to celebrate the anniversary, with the main celebrations at Nakivub stadium. Janani attended. When he returned, I asked him who else was there.
“I, the cardinal, Amin, and the soldiers were [at Nakivubo], but there were no people. This upset Amin very much,” Janani said.
The following weekend was the consecration of the new Bishop of Ankole at Bweranyangi grounds where close to 30,000 people attended.
In his sermon that day, Bishop Festo [Kivengere] said to the new bishop: “You have now been given a position of leadership, are you going to use it to uphold people or to push their faces into the dust.” People knew that Festo was saying this to Amin; his leadership was not upholding people but putting them down. On the way back to Kampala I recall Bishop Okoth saying to Janani, “If you and Festo are not careful you will get us all killed.”
Journey to martyrdom
Janani’s official residence was raided by security operatives who searched for weapons and accused him of being part of a group plotting a coup against the government. When this happened, everybody was disgusted and this led to the calling of a meeting for all Anglican bishops. After the meeting, a small team was set up to draft a response to the raid at Janani’s home.
Festo and I were part of the draft committee, his choice of words was very critical of the government. I typed the letter that was to be presented to Amin, but I can tell you there is always a Judas in every situation. This letter was leaked from the provincial office because Amin got wind of the letter before it got to him.
However, Janani had told me earlier that there are some Acholis planning a coup. He knew something was afoot, he knew his people and they confided in him. But I know he was not involved in the coup plans, his idea of forgiveness was against that of the Acholis of kill your enemies. Amin knew the best way to get Janani was to accuse him of plotting against his government.
I had plans of travelling to Kisumu [in Kenya] to sort out tuition related issues of one of the girls I was supporting before the events at Namirembe happened. Following these events, I decided to postpone my travel but Bishop Festo insisted that I leave and take the letter to Bishop Henry Okullu of Kisumu.
Bishop Festo told me, “Tell Henry time has come for the world to know what is happening in Uganda.” Bishop Okullu had contacts in foreign media having been a journalist earlier. I confirm that it’s me who took that letter out of Uganda and it found its way to London before Amin received his copy.
With that letter in London, Amin could no longer hide what he was doing. Thereafter, he was determined to get rid of Janani. He called together a big meeting which was like a trial of Jesus where they separated him from the rest and later killed him.
I returned from Kenya on a Thursday just after the death of Janani and on Saturday the bishops decided that I should not stay in the country and must leave immediately. I was taken over the border by a fellow called John; he had been involved in smuggling bibles in the country, pretending to be two expatriates going to Kenya for a weekend break.
Along the way, I tore the minutes of the last bishops meeting and scattered the pieces along the road. Also before departure, I and the provincial secretary then, Canon Wesonga, burnt all church records showing how much foreign aid it was receiving, thus creating a gap in the church archives.
When I got to Kisumu, Bishop Henry asked me to write what had happened in Uganda. And in May 1977, I went back to England and I did some research and wrote the manuscript for the book Janani, the making of a martyr published in 1978.

Missionary refuge

While in London, the CMS got a request from the archbishop of Juba asking for a secretary missionary. That was how I ended up in Juba in late 1978 where I stayed until 1983. My leaving Juba was caused by a book The Uganda Holocaust in which the author mentioned me by name as the person who had taken the Bishop’s letter out of Uganda.
When my identity was made public, it was no longer safe for me to stay in Juba. The authorities in Sudan learnt that I had been living in Juba and they sent police to pick me up, fortunately I was in London on leave, my neighbour alerted the CMS in Nairobi of the situation and they stopped me from coming back.
I stayed in London until 1984, until another request a missionary secretary from the Bishop of Egypt came and I was assigned to Egypt where I stayed for 10 years, and eventually I retired in Lincoln in 1995 because by that time I was 65 and at that age I could not be hired. I had reached the retirement age. But I kept my links with the Anglican Church in Uganda, Sudan and Egypt.

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