Family of Idi Amin reconciles with executed archbishop's kin
“This extends to all scarred communities in Uganda through our country’s many brutal regimes.”
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 recently.
“We also want to forgive those who wronged us during the time.” – Canon Gelenga
“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, Gelenga said: “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,” Gelenga said.
“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.”
“At around 40 years, I began to understand my dad’s passion for serving God.” – Phoebe Aber
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.”
“Both communities and the country feel the deep and sad impact of what happened during Amin’s regime.” – Daily Monitor
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 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.
* Anglican Communion News Service, printed with permission.