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Dark memories of 1966 evoked as family, friends celebrate Dr. Lumu’s life

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Emmanuel Lumu passed on aged 103

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Dark memories surrounding the 1966 crisis were evoked as friends and family celebrated the life of Dr. Emmanuel Lumu, Uganda’s first native Health Minister. Dr. Lumu, who was born in 1916, breathed his last at his residence in Bakuli on Wednesday morning. He was 103.

He is remembered as a man for all seasons, whose resilience enabled him to juggle medicine and politics during troubled times. Our reporters visited his residence and found several mourners, mostly elderly citizens thanking God for the long and healthy life given to the deceased. Seated in white plastic chairs, the mourners shared what they had heard and knew about Dr. Lumu, who has been one of the two surviving cabinet ministers of the first Ugandan led government.

Although none of the mourners could speak about the early years of the celebrated medic, many recalled events of 1966, which led to his arrest by Dr. Milton Obote on allegations of plotting a coup. “Those were dark days and no one could tell that he could survive,” an old lady who declined an interview told fellow mourners.

Dr. Lumu was one of the five ministers arrested from a cabinet meeting on February 22, 1966. The others arrested with him and detained without trial for five years were Matthias Ngobi, Grace Ibingira, George Magezi and Balaki Kirya. They were released by President Idi Amin Dada in 1971. Lumu’s son, Richard Ssengendo, says despite the fact the deceased and Dr. Obote were friends, matters went haywires as the former opposed the latter on several issues.

He says the deceased’s decision to oppose Obote for setting up a special force, among other factors, could have landed him in trouble.

Henry Kyemba, the then Personal Secretary to Prime Minister (and later President) Obote points out that as tension between Mengo and Obote continued rising, there were a lot of accusations. Kyemba notes that since Dr. Lumu was a personal friend to Kabaka Fredrick Muteesa, who was already at loggerheads with Obote, his arrest was unavoidable.

The deceased’s daughter, Vivian Kityo who is also the Executive Director of Wakisa Ministries, says life changed for them as she was joining secondary education because her father was locked up. She says that her father decided to hang his political boots following his release from jail in 1971 and opted to live a quiet life at his Bakuli based home. He started selling used cars to earn a living, a job most family members didn’t hold in high esteem. Kityo however, notes that Dr. Lumu wasn’t moved and all he did was to live a healthier life.

Esther Nsibambi, one of the mourners at the vigil, says apart from the political angle, Dr. Lumu had a reputation that preceded him. She says to the residents of Mengo-Kisenyi and surrounding areas where he had set up a clinic, the medic was known for being a dedicated professional who ensured his patients received the care that they deserved.

His dedication as a professional doctor came to the fore while at the helm of the health ministry. A local newspaper once applauded Dr. Lumu, saying he led the ‘best health system’ in Uganda, which saw the establishment of Regional Referral hospitals.

In his old age, Dr. Lumu was haunted by ghosts from his youthful days as several people accused him grabbing land in Kampala and Mukono districts. His last public appearance was before the Justice Catherine Bamugemereire Commission where he was grilled over the accusations.

To his son, Richard Ssengendo, Dr. Lumu was framed by unscrupulous individuals to grab his land. He notes that despite his diligent service to the country, his father has never been appreciated by government since he has never received any formal recognition and retirement benefits.

On his part the Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda has described Dr. Lumu as one of the few people who were committed to seeing peace and unity in Uganda during turbulent times. He says that Dr. Lumu’s contribution to the health sector can still be felt today.



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