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Janani Luwum

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Janani Luwum
Archbishop of the Church of Uganda
Primate of the Anglican Church in Uganda
ChurchAnglican Communion
In office1974–1977
PredecessorErica Sabiti
SuccessorSilvanus Wani
Personal details
Bornc. 1922
Died16 February 1977 (aged 55)
Kampala, Second Republic of Uganda
SpouseMary Luwum (died 2019 at 93 years)
Previous post(s)Anglican Church Province of northern Uganda,
Archbishop of the Metropolitan Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire

Janani Jakaliya Luwum was archbishop of the Church of Uganda from 1974 to 1977 and one of the most influential leaders of the modern church in Africa. He was arrested in February 1977 and died shortly after. Although the official account describes a car crash, it is generally accepted that he was murdered on the orders of then-President Idi Amin.

Since 2015 Uganda has a public holiday on 16 February, to celebrate the life of Janani Luwum.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Luwum was born in the village of Mucwini in the Kitgum District to Acholi parents. He attended Gulu High School and Boroboro Teacher Training College, after which he taught at a primary school. Luwum converted to Christianity in 1948, and in 1949 he went to Buwalasi Theological College.[3]


In 1950 he was attached to St. Philip's Church in Gulu. He was ordained a deacon in 1953, and the following year he was ordained a priest. He served in the Upper Nile Diocese of Uganda and later in the Diocese of Mbale. In 1969 he was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Uganda at Gulu. After five years he was appointed Archbishop of the Metropolitan Province of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Boga (in Zaire), becoming the second African to hold this position.[4]

Arrest and death[edit]

Archbishop Janan Luwum and Mary Luwum Burial Site in Kitgum by Micheal Kaluba in 2022
Archbishop Janan Luwum and Mary Luwum (spouse) burial site in Kitgum in 2022
Janan Luwum grave in Kitgum, Uganda
Janan Luwum's grave in Kitgum, Uganda

Archbishop Luwum was a leading voice in criticising the excesses of the Idi Amin regime that assumed power in 1971.[5] In 1977, Archbishop Luwum delivered a note of protest to dictator Idi Amin against the policies of arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances.[6] Shortly afterwards the archbishop and other leading churchmen were accused of treason.

On 16 February 1977, Luwum was arrested together with two cabinet ministers, Erinayo Wilson Oryema and Charles Oboth Ofumbi. The same day Idi Amin convened a rally in Kampala with the three accused present. A few other "suspects" were paraded forth to read out "confessions" implicating the three men. The archbishop was accused of being an agent of the exiled former president Milton Obote, and for planning to stage a coup. The next day, Radio Uganda announced that the three had been killed when the car transporting them to an interrogation centre had collided with another vehicle. The accident, Radio Uganda reported, had occurred when the victims had tried to overpower the driver in an attempt to escape.[7] When Luwum's body was released to his relatives, it was riddled with bullets. Henry Kyemba, minister of health in Amin's government, later wrote in his book A State of Blood, that "The bodies were bullet-riddled. The archbishop had been shot through the mouth and at least three bullets in the chest. The ministers had been shot in a similar way but one only in the chest and not through the mouth. Oryema had a bullet wound through the leg."[8]

According to the later testimony of witnesses, the victims had been taken to an army barracks, where they were bullied, beaten and finally shot. Time magazine said "Some reports even had it that Amin himself had pulled the trigger, but Amin angrily denied the charge, and there were no first-hand witnesses".[9] According to Vice President of Uganda Mustafa Adrisi[10] and a Human rights commission, Amin's right-hand man Isaac Maliyamungu carried out the murder of Luwum and his colleagues.[11]


Janani Luwum was survived by his widow, Mary Lawinyo Luwum and nine children. He was buried at his home village of Mucwini in the Kitgum District.[12] Archbishop Luwum is recognized as a martyr by the Anglican Communion and his statue is among the Twentieth Century Martyrs on the front of Westminster Abbey in London.[13] He is honored on the liturgical calendars of the Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Church of Canada, Scottish Episcopal Church, and Church in Wales on 3 June.[14] He is honored on the liturgical calendars of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, Church of England and the Episcopal Church of the United States on 17 February.[15]

Archbishop Janani Luwum Day[edit]

Archbishop Janani Luwum Day is a public holiday in Uganda, celebrated 16 February annually. The holiday is dedicated to the life and service of Janani Luwum, the former archbishop of the Anglican Church of Uganda, who is typically regarded as having been murdered on the orders of the then-President Idi Amin.[16]

Maximilian Kolbe (left), Manche Masemola (center) and Luwum (right) statues – Westminster Abbey

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Why Uganda declared February 16 Archbishop Janani Luwum Public Holiday".
  2. ^ "Archbishop Janani Luwum Day in Uganda in 2023". Office Holidays. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Remembering the life of martyr Janani Luwum". Monitor. 16 February 2023. Retrieved 25 May 2024.
  4. ^ Gordon Landreth, Heroes – Janani Luwum Archived 16 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Emuron, Emmy (16 February 2021). "Archbishop Luwum death & why such history keeps visiting us". The Observer - Uganda. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  6. ^ "Leaders Silent About Torture at Arch. Janani Luwum Commemoration". Uganda Radionetwork. Retrieved 4 September 2022.
  7. ^ "Death of an Archbishop", Time Magazine, 28 February 1977
  8. ^ A state of blood: The inside story of Idi Amin (1977) Henry Kyemba
  9. ^ Amin:The Wild Man of Africa, Time Magazine, 7 March 1977
  10. ^ Moses Walubiri; Richard Drasimaku (14 May 2014). "Mustafa Adrisi: Life during and after exile". New Vision. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  11. ^ Watuwa Timbiti (12 February 2015). "Luwum murder: What witnesses said". New Vision. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  12. ^ "I am glad the day my husband was killed is public holiday - Mary Luwum". Monitor. 5 January 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2024.
  13. ^ "Archbishop Janani Luwum, a martyr of hope and healing". Monitor. 16 February 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2024.
  14. ^ Calendar and Lectionary - The Scottish Episcopal Church
  15. ^ "Janani Luwum, Archbishop and Martyr, 1977". The Episcopal Church. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  16. ^ "Archbishop Janani Luwum Day 2025 and 2026 in Uganda". PublicHolidays.africa. Retrieved 25 May 2024.

External links[edit]

Anglican Communion titles
Preceded by Archbishop of Uganda and Bishop of Kampala
as Archbishop

Succeeded by