Rubaga, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, the Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese who was found dead in his bedroom Saturday morning, was a prelate who always spoke truth to power.
Lwanga has always been distinct among his peers who always preferred to stay quiet on critical issues affecting the nation or when they speak, choose to speak vaguely. Be it condemning recent abductions, torture, corruption or responding to his critics, Lwanga never threw away opportunity to speak when leading Eucharistic celebrations.
And Lwanga’s forthrightness often earned scathing responses from several government officials, including the head of state.
Lwanga’s last public message — which he delivered Friday during the Ecumenical Public Way of the Cross when he was among religious leaders under the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) umbrella that brings together Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church and Orthodox — is a tribute of forthrightness.
Lwanga said religious leaders are deeply concerned by the actions of some security personnel that have resulted in disappearance of people, especially the youth. “This is brewing anger, division, fear and anxiety within the population and totally contravenes the human rights frameworks to which we are signatory as a country. We are troubled that the disregard of these God given rights and freedoms shall weaken our social fiber of harmony, social cohesion and responsive leadership.”
Hundreds of youth, mostly supporter of National Unity Platform (NUP) were kidnapped during the election season. When released from kidnap, many returned with scars, limping, and many signs indicative of torture.
Plot to kill Bobi Wine
During his New Year message, Lwanga, said he and the Catholic Church were being accused of plotting to kill Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, a NUP presidential candidate. This was days before the end of presidential election campaigns, ahead of January 14th election.
He said some people he did not name were lying that he wanted to poison Bobi Wine through Holy Communion: “Some people came out to say I and the Catholic Church were plotting to kill Bobi Wine and we would poison him through the (Eucharistic) Host,” Dr Lwanga said during the homily, “That was a big allegation, I can’t do that. I am the one who wedded Bobi so that means I have a personal attachment to him. Bobi loves his Church and he should not be made to hate it just like that!”
During the homily, Lwanga also said there were fake news spreading on social media that he had been bought my Museveni. “People were on social media spreading lies, abusing me, and saying all sorts of things that I have been bought (by Museveni). If you ask such people to provide proof, they can never get it.”
Spying on him
The 2018 Easter season was when the Dr Lwanga — government relationship ebbed to its lowest point. During the Way of Cross on 30th March, Lwanga dropped a bombshell: government was spying on him, he revealed. Lwanga said he had received a call from someone who informed him that government had recruited priests and nuns to spy on him. He said the president was acting on wrong information provided by security agencies.
“Government thinks you want to overthrow government, be careful your grace. You must be the next Luwum (Archbishop Jonan Luwum murdered Ida Amin in 1977),” Dr Lwanga quoted what the caller had told him. Dr Lwanga said another unidentified person came at night at his gate and threw a letter. “When I opened the letter, I saw a list of those who have been recruited to work for the security agencies.”
When government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo dismissed his assertion as unfounded, Lwanga responded by revealing more details during Easter Mass on April 1st. He said one day, security agencies officials turned up asking to check room of a priest who had died to retrieve government stores. The archbishop said the security officers claimed they had given that priest a pistol. But he did not explain if soldiers got the pistol they came looking for or not. Lwanga urged religious leaders to stop spying for government.
A week later—on April 8th 2018, Museveni held a face to face meeting with Dr Lwanga at Nakasero State Lodge. The relationship thawed thereafter.
Quoting Museveni, preaching democracy
But by end 2018, Lwanga was fired up again, hastily responding to Museveni New Year speech (which he had made on the night of December 31st) accusing religious leaders of behaving as if they are an authority on everything, speaking in favour of people they fancy so they can get them into political power.
“Some of our religious people are so full of arrogance,” Museveni had said. “They talk most authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth. This is assuming they do not have evil intentions which would be worse. That would make them the Kayaffas, the Chief Priest – that betrayed Jesus.”
In response, Lwanga said the clergy are simply playing their cardinal role as citizens to participate in nation building, and as well as resisting bad politics as President Museveni himself once asked Ugandans to do.
“The president, one day said all of us belong to the Movement system and he explained to us why he started the National Resistance Movement, hee said; ‘I want people to resist bad politics’,” Dr Lwanga said. “So he commanded people to resist bad politics, he said we should resist bad politics, and I think he was right there. Clap for it [loud and long clapping]. Let us resist bad politics, let us resist bad politics and promote national unity because we’re all interested in this country and also to build a strong future for this country.”
As Lwanga quoted the Constitution on freedom of expression and Museveni’s historical remarks on democracy, he was loudly cheered by the congregation. He referred to the National Resistance Movement (NRM’s) 10-point Programme stipulated by Museveni in his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, as a good guide in the work of national renewal.
Lwanga’s sudden death has elicited different reactions. “Who has killed my favourite Archbishop?” former Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Venanscious Baryamureba tweeted. “May his soul rest in eternal peace. We shall join you at the appointed time!”