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The day Luwum was killed: Kyemba tells the story

Janani Luwum and President Idi Amin Dada (Courtesy Photo)

Former Minister in President Idi Amin’s government and Principal Private Secretary Henry Kyemba reveals that archbishop Janani Jakaliya Luwum had shortly before his death been seeking audience from Amin in vain.

Kyemba who served as a minister of health at the time said he was privy to the events that led to the death of Luwum and so were he one of the people who chanced at the grim body of the archbishop, riddled with a litany of bullets.

However, Kyemba claims that a number of times, Luwum had wanted to meet the president but the latter continued to feign being busy.

Meanwhile, on February 5, 1977, Soldiers under command of one Ongom broke into Luwum’s house on Namirembe hill.

They searched the house upside down to get hold of arms, but could not find any. They allegedly abused the family of the archbishop both physically and verbally.

Following the debacle, all bishops attached to the church of Uganda collectively issued a letter to Amin expressing disappointment.

One of the recipients of the very widely circulated letter was Henry Kyemba.
“The copies were sent to many people including me, when I read the letter, I was amazed,” Kyemba claimed.

He said, following the letter, Amin decided to organize himself and soon summoned the archbishop for a meeting on February 14th.

“The meeting was at Entebbe State House, I was around. It was a very bad encounter, Amin was riled and he shot accusations and abuse to Luwum with so much spite,” Kyemba narrates.

According to Kyemba, the restraint Amin showed not to take out Luwum during that meeting could have been imposed by the presence of Luwum’s wife Mama Mary, who was a surprise party to attend.

“Luwum’s wife was not expected in the meeting, but her insistence to attend it could have given Amin different reasons because he managed to let Luwum walk out of that meeting with his life out of respect for Mama Mary I suppose,” Kyemba says.
But Amin was still irked by Luwum, that he would soon organize another opportunity to face him.

On February 15th, the archbishop and several other leaders of the church were summoned through a radio announcement via the only broadcast Radio Uganda.
The announcement claimed there was a very important meeting at Nile Mansions (present-day Serena Hotel) and there was no chance to miss it.

“Amin organized for a meeting at the Nile Hotel and invited all. In front of Nile Hotel, there was an array of brand-new guns, they had invited soldiers to witness the parade. I sat next to Mustafa Adrisi (VP), and they made various people read statements implicating themselves,” Kyemba narrates

“Maliyamungu was at the microphone to make sure no one missed a single word. It is here that accusations were made against Luwum and he shook his head, Amin came and left.”

After the accusations sunk in, soldiers seized Luwum and said the president required to meet him at once.

When they reached Amin’s office, he was very irked that they had been manhandled in public, so the meeting did not happen immediately.

“The soldiers went and took Janani, Ministers; Oryema and Ofumbi, they were rushed out of the compound to the State Research Bureau.”

Kyemba had scheduled to take a visiting delegation to the Northern region the next day, so he chose to call upon Amin and seek permission to brief him.

“I was taken aback by his reaction this time, because normally he was the man who wanted to chat much about anything whenever u brief him, and this particular time he very brief and disinterested.”

Luwum was visited by Amin later at the State Research Bureau and it is here that the latter shot the former several times to death. Time check: 9:00pm.
Kyemba says he was called by Vice President Mustapha Adrisi who gave him the grim news just after he had reached home.

“I was surprised Amin did not call me over the death of Luwum, because he used to call me up whenever there was such a matter, he treated me like a medical doctor. Killings were rampant and I got called on many, but this is one murder I would never have envisaged,” Kyemba said.

“Many never thought Amin’s madness would go to the killing of Luwum. At least we all had an idea that he would kill the likes of me and others, but the Archbishop! That was unfathomable,” he added

He said the bodies of Luwum and the two ministers were dumped at Mulago on the floor and he was there to witness.

“The archbishop in his vestments, ministers still in suits, bloodied. I saw the images and dashed out, it was the reality that I needed to be far away from this that hit me,” Kyemba said.

“I went and told my mother that the archbishop had been killed, my mother said I do not want to see you here again, it is then that I developed the idea of fleeing to exile,” he added.

To Kyemba much was still coming his way as he would later learn that a statement on the death of Luwum was attributed to him; Luwum had been killed in an accident alongside the ministers, and that would be the story.

“All of a sudden I was being quoted issuing statements in the media, but I did not have an independent media house to go to and say no. that was not me.”

The vehicles that were purported to have been involved in the fatal accident had all been involved in much earlier accidents and the Range Rover in which the Archbishop and the Ministers were said to have been killed was one of Amin’s personal cars.

Luwum’s body was snatched from the hospital and taken by soldiers to his ancestral home, where they struggled to bury him for days.

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