Lwanga, a prelate who spoke truth to power

Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, the Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese who was found dead in his bedroom this 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 yesterday during the Ecumenical way of the cross on Friday when he joined his colleagues under the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) the umbrella body that brings together Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Catholic churches.

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,”  he said.

Hundreds of youth, mostly supporters of National Unity Platform (NUP) were kidnapped before, during and after this year’s general elections.

Many of those that have been released 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 concerned by a rumour that claimed that they were plotting to kill Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine who was the NUP presidential candidate.

“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); 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,”  Lwanga said.

He was also angry over what he called fake news that was spreading on the 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 March 30, 2018, Lwanga dropped a bombshell, accusing the government of spying on him. 

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 [Janan] Luwum,” the caller allegedly told Lwanga.

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 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 the president delivered on December 31, 2017, 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,” he said.

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, he said; “I want people to resist bad politics,” 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,”  the fallen prelate said.

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.

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