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The best of WhatsApp: A tribute to Archbishop Janani Luwum by Prof. Ezra Suruma.

In the year that Archibishop Janani Luwum died, I was living in self-imposed exile in Florida, USA, working as an Associate Professor of Economics at Florida A&M University. As part of my duties there, I obtained a research grant to study the sources of mining equipment in Zaire (now DRC). I went to Kinshasa and then to Mbuji Mayi, the main source of industrial diamonds. It was incredibly backwards then compared to Uganda and afterwards while in Kinshasa I spent some days in bed suffering from Malaria.

I then proceeded to Nairobi hoping to get some news of Uganda before returning to the USA. Two years earlier I had left my job as a lecturer at Makerere University in order to complete a PhD in the USA. On completion, I was advised not to dare return as conditions in Uganda had consistently worsened.

While in Nairobi I met some Ugandans who came to visit Nairobi for many reasons. I will never forget the sight of then Makerere University academic registrar, the late Bernard Onyango on the streets of Nairobi. Pain and suffering were alarmingly written and visible on his face. When I saw him, I knew for certain that I could not return to Uganda then. Although I was stranded without a visa I stayed with my relative, Dr John Muguma for three months after which my university in the USA persuaded the US Embassy to grant me a visa to return there.

Id Amin was a soldier trained and promoted by the King’s African Rifles, a colonial force that enforced obedience of the people within the boundaries that they named Uganda, by the arbitrary force of arms. He knew how to use force to keep the people under subjection and he did. I doubt if anybody knows the number of Ugandans his regime killed but it is certainly in the hundreds of thousands including both soldiers (especially Langi and Acholi) and civilians.

As we remember His Grace Janani Luwum who was martyred by Idi Amin in 1977 I cannot help wondering if we have learned anything from his martyrdom and of course the slaughter of so many other Ugandans.

Will, there come a time when we live in peaceful and fair coexistence in this British creation, these boundaries they named Uganda?

We, the Africans, were of course here for millions of years before they came. They used their military might to distribute us into arbitrary colonies and then a time came when they told us that we are now “independent “ and should be proud of their creations, the post-colonies! That the colonial arrangements they had created forcefully were superior to our tribes and religions. Anybody who didn’t see that was a fool, a traitor and unpatriotic! Really? Did they consult us when they were drawing the boundaries in Berlin in 1884? Of course not. But now we must defend and even die for those boundaries they created in 1884 at the Congress of Berlin? We were not even there!

Perhaps the consolation we can accept is that we were neighbours even before they came. So can we work out arrangements for good neighbourliness not because of what the colonialists did but because we were already neighbours before they came? Not by denying our tribes and languages, who we are, but rather we recognize that we have always been neighbours of one another and we desperately need to coexist in peace and prosperity?

In such an understanding and arrangement the use of force to keep us together is exposed as a colonially imposed heritage that was used to maintain the colonial constitution or structure. What we now need and seek is a new constitution that allows all of us tribal and religious freedom and flexibility instead of the global framework which insists on the colonial arrangement and declares that only colonial boundaries are observed and represented as such in the United Nations’.

Archbishop Janani Luwum wanted us to live peaceably together. We wish to live peacefully together. The best and lasting formula for us to live together is to recognize each other’s human rights, each other’s history, each other’s culture, each other’s language and each other’s humanity and the right to coexistence in equity, fairness and justice and good neighbourliness. No tribe or religion or organization should dominate and torment others on behalf of colonial boundaries. That is truly neocolonialism. Maybe we can take a leaf from America which after winning independence from Britain recreated the boundaries and created the formidable United States of America. Despite their problems, they have significant numbers of citizens from virtually every human race and they are struggling to perfect their union.

Unfortunately, it seems we have yet to discover a formula for peaceful cooperation and coexistence of African tribes and religion. We are at constant war with each other. I shudder to think of the bloodshed in Uganda in virtually every decade since independence. Will a time come when tribal and religious cooperation is founded and maintained by mutual trust and love instead of being ruled by brutal force?

Must the Janan Luwums of these African lands continue to die by the hand of the neocolonial sword?

I believe that the Ugandan ‘nonsectarian’ model could have continued to work and to be welcomed if all the structures of power were systematically and predictably shared by all tribes and religions. This is what Nigeria has tried to do and I think all African countries should consider it. Just as the ‘winner takes all ‘ model of democracy in which one tribe or one religion wins and rules over the others was seen as unsuitable for Africa (see Arthur Lewis’s Politics in West Africa) Stability can only be assured if there is not only democracy but even more importantly, Africans yearn for credible Justice and equity in the distribution of power and resources.

I know of course that it all sounds like a pipe dream; mere wishful thinking. Mere words. It is. And so Africa goes on and on from slavery to colonialism to human trafficking to neocolonialism and constant civil wars among tribes that are trying to impose the colonial structure and constitution upon each other. This is the curse of the Blackman. He is now killing himself to protect the colonial designs and structures he inherited at “independence”.

As we remember Archibishop Janani Luwum, I call upon people of all tribes and religions to commit their lives, as he did his, to an Uganda that is one body. One body of which every tribe, every religion and everyone is a necessary and essential part. In this body, no part sees itself as more important than another. Let us transform ourselves from the colonial constitution to the human constitution in which we are all parts and cells of one living body. Some of us are hands, some are ears, others are eyes, heart, lungs, bones and so on.

We need each other to survive and prosper. No part of the body looks down upon another part. All parts, all tribes, work together to contribute to their interdependent wellbeing. I believe that this is the hope for which Archibishop Janani Luwum died: a place in Africa where the love of Christ transformed all its parts into one beautiful and vigorous body that glorified God. Let us honour him, not by taking up guns like those who killed him, but by transforming ourselves into one body, one faith, one people under God.

From today, while I have this fleeting breath, I pray and commit to serve in humility, gentleness and patience and to “make allowance” for each other’s faults because of love: the love of God and the love of my neighbours (Ephesians 4). And may the Lord favour me to embrace Janani Luwum with joy when my time comes to be with him in heavenly fellowship (Revelation 20).
Amen.

Note: I received this article on my WhatsApp mobile as a forward. I do not write it. And I don’t know the original author/s. The article will teach you a lesson, and that is why I am sharing it. If you share, add this disclaimer.

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