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The Politics of Ecumenism in Uganda, 1962–1986

  • J. J. Carney

In standard postcolonial political polemics in Uganda, colonial Anglican and Catholic churches have been castigated for fomenting and exacerbating Uganda's political divisions. These polemics overlook the growing ecumenical ties between Catholic and Anglican leaders that began in the 1950s and continued well into the 1980s. In particular, the shared experience of political oppression forged solidarity between erstwhile Catholic and Anglican rivals, especially during the Idi Amin dictatorship of 1971–1979 and the brutal civil war of 1979–1986. Drawing on an array of archival, oral, and secondary sources, this article offers a synthesis of Ugandan Christian leaders’ political engagement during the quarter-century following independence in 1962. I argue that church leaders in the 1960s embraced a politically quiescent, “social development” approach best embodied in the ecumenical Uganda Joint Christian Council. In the early 1970s, Anglican and Catholic leaders slowly withdrew from active collaboration with Amin's regime, embracing an approach I term “prudent recalcitrance,” entailing shifting stances of official silence, private lobbying, and carefully crafted written critiques. Finally, during the political unrest and civil war of the early 1980s, church leaders adopted a posture of “prophetic presence,” standing for and with the people in opposition to Milton Obote's increasingly violent state.

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1 The Milton Obote government was already propagating this narrative in the late 1960s, arguing that nationalism and patriotism had to overcome Uganda's three historic challenges of “tribalism, religionism, and Bugandaism”: Low, Donald A., Buganda in Modern History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 242 . Such narratives were repeated after Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came to power in 1986. Emblematic here is James Tumusiime's claims that the Catholic-initiated Democratic Party introduced “the politics of religious interests at the expense of other national considerations”: Tumusiime, , Uganda 30 Years 1962–1992 (Kampala: Fountain, 1992), 26 . Even the noted Catholic priest, scholar, and NRM supporter Father John Mary Waliggo posited in the mid-1990s that “without ecumenism, our politics will reverse to the old divisive religious conflicts”: Waliggo, “Priests and Politics in Uganda Today: UNDIPA Executive Meeting, 30 Jan. 1996,” in John Mary Waliggo: Essential Writings 1994–2000, ed. Benedict Ssettuuma (unpublished manuscript, 2002), 481. But multiple scholars have demonstrated that even Uganda's late colonial political parties were by no means “sectarian,” and the Democratic Party (DP) in particular moved quickly to expand its confessional roots in more populist and nonsectarian directions: see Jonathon L. Earle, “Political Theologies in Late Colonial Buganda” (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2012), 190–237; and Twaddle, Michael, “Was the Democratic Party of Uganda a purely confessional party?” in Christianity in Independent Africa, ed. Fasholé-Luke, Edward (London: Rex Collins, 1978): 255266 .

2 The most thorough historical study of the twentieth-century ecumenical movement can be found in Fey, Harold E., ed., A History of the Ecumenical Movement, vol. 2, 1948–1968 (Eugene, Oreg.: Wipf and Stock, 2009); and Briggs, John, Oduyoye, Mercy Amba, and Tsetsis, Georges, eds., A History of the Ecumenical Movement, vol. 3, 1968–2000 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2004). For a concise thematic overview of developments in the middle-to-late twentieth century, see the essay in volume 3 (1968–2000) by Michael Kinnamon, “Assessing the Ecumenical Movement,” 51–81.

3 Kevin Ward's extensive writings on Anglican history in Uganda come closest, especially his The Church of Uganda Amidst Conflict: The Interplay between Church and Politics in Uganda since 1962,” in Religion and Politics in East Africa: The Period Since Independence, ed. Hansen, Holger B. and Twaddle, Michael (Athens, Ohio: James Currey/Ohio University Press, 1995), 72105 . But even here, Ward's primary focus is the Anglican tradition rather than ecumenical collaboration, and institutions like the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) are largely ignored. M. Louise Pirouet's work on ecumenical politics is limited to the 1970s: Pirouet, Religion in Uganda Under Amin,” Journal of Religion in Africa 11, no. 1 (1980): 1329 . John Mary Waliggo's voluminous publications largely focused on Catholic history in Uganda, although his unpublished writings do engage ecumenical history and especially the UJCC in more depth: see Waliggo, “Ecumenism in Uganda in the New Millennium: Evaluation and the Way Forward, UJCC Plenary Assembly, 1 June 2000,” in John Mary Waliggo: Essential Writings, 406–418. Kathleen Lockard's “Religion and Political Development in Uganda, 1962–72” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1974) offers a detailed comparative analysis of Catholic, Anglican, and Muslim political engagement during the Obote I years (the term “Obote I” refers to Milton Obote's first term in 1962–1971 while “Obote II” references Obote's return to power between 1981–1985). David Zac Niringiye's The Church in the World: A Historical-Ecclesiological Study of the Church of Uganda with Particular Reference to Post-Independence Uganda, 1962–1992 (Carlisle: Langham, 2016) is the best study of Anglican political engagement in postcolonial Uganda, but the Catholic Church remains largely peripheral to his work.

4 This section draws on Tourigny, Yves, So Abundant a Harvest: The Catholic Church in Uganda, 1879–1979 (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1979); Waliggo, John Mary, The Catholic Church in the Buddu Province of Buganda, 1879–1925 (Kampala: Angel Agencies, 2011); Faupel, J. F., African Holocaust: The Story of the Uganda Martyrs (New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons, 1962); Twaddle, Michael, “The Emergence of Politico-Religious Groupings in late Nineteenth-Century Uganda,” Journal of African History 29, no. 1 (1988): 8192 ; Low, Donald A., Buganda in Modern History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 2750 ; and Karugire, Samwiri, A Political History of Uganda (Nairobi: Heinemann, 1980), 6895 .

5 Muteesa's March 24, 1876 letter to British Colonel Gordon requested priests, clothing, and guns in light of his desire to be a “friend of the white man”: Karugire, Political History of Uganda, 52. Arab traders from the East African coast first introduced Islam in Uganda in the 1840s during the reign of Muteesa's father, Suna. Muteesa sponsored the construction of mosques, the observance of Ramadan, and the adoption of the Islamic calendar, but his and most local men's aversion to circumcision limited the spread of the faith. Several hundred Muslim pages were killed in 1875 for refusing to eat meat from an uncircumcised kabaka, becoming the first “religious” martyrs of the late nineteenth century. On Buganda's early Muslim roots, see Rowe, John A., “Islam Under Idi Amin: A Case of Déjà Vu?” in Uganda Now: Between Decay and Development, ed. Hansen, Holger B. and Twaddle, Michael (London: James Currey, 1988), 267277 .

6 I am indebted to Jonathon L. Earle for this insight (e-mail communication with author, 16 September 2016).

7 Twaddle, “The Emergence of Politico-Religious Groupings,” 84. Twaddle argues that, until 1891–1892, “Ganda Christians behaved in a decidedly interdenominational manner toward one another” (84). These sentiments are echoed and deepened by Waliggo, The Catholic Church in the Buddu Province.

8 On the Catholic exile into Buddu, see Waliggo, The Catholic Church in the Buddu Province, 54–56. On the CMS lobbying campaign to convince Great Britain to establish a colonial protectorate in Buganda, see Low, Buganda in Modern History, 55–83. On the 1900 Buganda Agreement, see Sathyamurtha, V. Y., The Political Development of Uganda: 1900–1986 (Brookfield, Vt.: Gower, 1986), 138174 .

9 In 1949, the Catholic population of Uganda was estimated at 37 percent, versus 29 percent Anglican: Earle, “Political Theologies in Late Colonial Uganda,” 208. By 1991, these percentages were 45 percent and 39 percent, respectively: Niringiye, Church in the World, 49.

10 In Luganda, “Ssi muganda, mukatoliki.” See Earle, “Political Theologies in Late Colonial Buganda,” 198; and Kasozi, A. B. K., The Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 1964–1985 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1994), 65 .

11 A good example comes from Streicher's pastoral instructions in 1916. Writing during the contested years of World War I, Streicher praised the British protectorate for bringing benefits such as “liberty of conscience, abolition of slavery, suppression of barbarous customs, justice, and creation of private property”: Henri Streicher, “Appel à la charité des neophytes en faveur des blesses de la guerre,” 5 September 1916, in Instructions Pastorales de Son Excellence Monseigneur Streicher Vicaire Apostolique de L'Uganda à ses Missionnaires, vol. 2, 1910–1932 (Villa-Maria: s.n.,1933), 119. I am grateful to Ggaba National Seminary library for sharing this with me. In Holger B. Hansen's words, “At a time when the question of nationality was paramount, the Catholic missions clearly felt themselves to be in a weak position in view of their multi-national corps of missionaries. In order to show loyalty they had to be accommodating to the state on which they depended for their educational resources”: Hansen, , “The Colonial State's Policy Toward Foreign Missions in Uganda,” in Christian Missionaries and the State in the Third World, eds. Hansen, Holger B. and Twaddle, Michael (Oxford: James Currey, 2002): 169 .

12 Summers, Carol, “Catholic Action and Ugandan Radicalism: Political Activism in Buganda, 1930–1950,” Journal of Religion in Africa 39, no. 1 (2009): 6090 .

13 Niringiye, Church in the World, 89. Northern Rwanda and southwestern Uganda were the geographic centers of the Anglican charismatic revival that swept through the East African region in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Revivalists were known as “abalokole” (or “balokole”), the “saved ones,” and emphasized individual evangelization and conversion. On the Revival, see Niringiye, 81–123; Ward, Kevin and Wild-Wood, Emma, eds., The East African Revival: Histories and Legacies (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2011); and Peterson, Derek, Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival: A History of Dissent, c. 1935–1972 (New York: Cambridge, 2012).

14 Niringiye, Church in the World, 32. On the importance of clans for Baganda identity, see Kodesh, Neil, Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010). The 1910s and 1920s saw clan leaders challenge the authority of the Mengo-based Christian chiefs who had come to power in the wake of Great Britain's 1900 Buganda Agreement. This “Bataka” movement revived in the post-World War II era, leading to major uprisings in 1949.

15 On the Bataka revolts and the kabaka deportation crises, see Sathyamurthy, Political Development of Uganda, 309–330; Low, Buganda in Modern History, 97–124; and Karugire, Political History of Uganda, 129–167.

16 On Brown's perceived “neutrality” and the impact of the kabaka crisis on the political standing of the Anglican church, see Ward, Kevin, “The Church of Uganda and the Exile of Kabaka Muteesa II, 1953–55,” Journal of Religion in Africa 28, no. 4 (1998): 411449 ; and Howell, Caroline, “Church and State in Crisis: The Deposition of the Kabaka of Buganda, 1953–1955,” in Missions, Nationalism, and the End of Empire, ed. Stanley, Brian (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 198199 .

17 Lockard, “Religion and Political Development in Uganda,” 39. According to Lockard, Leslie Brown rejected this collaboration in part due to his conviction that “the Church should not support any political party” (39). On the connections between the Democratic Party and the broader European post-war movement of Christian Democracy, see Ward, Kevin, “African Nationalism, Christian Democracy and ‘Communism’: The Rise of Sectarian Confessional Politics in Uganda 1952–1962,” in Changing Relations between Churches in Europe and Africa: The Internationalization of Christianity and Politics in the 20th Century, eds. Kunter, Katherina and Schjørring, Jens Holger (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008), 7779 .

18 An example of this Catholic frustration emerges in a March 1958 editorial in the Acholi Catholic newspaper Lobo Mewa. “The dispute concerning religion in Uganda is not over doctrinal offices but about JOBS AND SCHOLARSHIPS. The Catholics feel aggrieved and wonder why all such posts like that of a county chief, a sub-county chief and others are held by Protestants” (quoted in Gingyera-Pincycwa, A. G. G., Issues in Pre-Independence Politics in Uganda: A Case-Study on the Contribution of Religion to Political Debate in Uganda in the Decade 1952–62 (Kampala: East African Literature Bureau, 1976), 62 ).

19 Earle, “Political Theologies in Late Colonial Buganda,” 208–209. An example of this anti-Catholic discrimination was the rigging of the 1955 vote to elect a new katikiiro, ensuring the victory of the Anglican Michael Kintu over the Catholic Matayo Mugwanya. Mugwanya was later forced off the Lukiiko in 1957. Much of this stemmed from the souring of his relationship with the kabaka during the latter's 1953–1955 deportation: Low, Buganda in Modern History, 183; Tumusiime, Uganda 30 Years, 25; and Ward, “The Church of Uganda and the Exile of Kabaka Muteesa II,” 428, 440.

20 Tumusiime, Uganda 30 Years, 25–26. The “Kabaka Yekka” (“Kabaka Alone”) party also drew substantial numbers of Anglican Ganda nationalists committed to defending Baganda separatism and the kabaka's political authority.

21 Welbourn, Frederick B., Religion and Politics in Uganda (Nairobi: East Africa, 1965), 1 .

22 For background on ethnic and religious tensions in the Ankole region, see Byabazaire, Deogratias M., The Contribution of the Christian Churches to the Development of Western Uganda 1894–1974 (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1979), 50, 107120 ; Darius Magunda, “The Role and Impact of the Missionaries of Africa in Planting the Church in Western Uganda 1879–1969” (ThD Thesis, Pontifical University Sancta Crucis, Rome, 2006), 289; and Sathyamurtha, The Political Development of Uganda, 335–336.

23 Anglican Bishop Leslie Brown and Catholic Bishop John M. Ogez of Mbarara, Joint Pastoral Letter, 8 April 1960, Archives of the Church of Uganda Office of the Archbishop (hereafter cited as ACUOA), Record Group 5, Reel 71 (hereafter cited by reel number), Uganda Christian University Library Archives, Mukono, Uganda. The ACUOA can also be consulted through Yale University Library, New Haven, Conn.

24 John M. Ogez, bishop of Mbarara, to Secretary General Kitaburaza (Kigezi District Council), 22 April 1960, ACUOA 71.

25 Quoted in The Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Key Texts and Voices, ed. Kinnamon, Michael and Cope, Brian E. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), 244 .

26 As Niringiye notes, the archbishop of Canterbury did not formally relinquish his oversight of the provinces of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi until 1961. But the bishop of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi served as the de facto leader on the ground throughout the colonial period: Niringiye, Church in the World, 3.

27 John Poulton, “The Work of the Uganda Joint Christian Council,” Address to Newman Society Kampala, 27 April 1964, ACUOA 72.

28 Leslie Brown to Joseph Cabana, 24 January 1959, ACUOA 71; and Leslie Brown to J. Gerdes, 15 July 1959, ACUOA 71.

29 Charles M. Kimbowa, “Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka as I Knew Him,” (Twenty-First Annual Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture, Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala, Uganda, unpublished manuscript, 20 June 2013), 6. For more background on Kiwanuka, see John Mary Waliggo, The Man of Vision: Archbishop J. Kiwanuka (Kisubi: Marianum, n.d.).

30 On Masaka as a trailblazer in early twentieth-century African Catholicism, see Hastings, Adrian, The Church in Africa 1450–1950 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 571575 .

31 Ganda Anglicans had been requesting an indigenous bishop since 1920, but the first indigenous bishop of Namirembe was not named until 1947. And much to the chagrin of Ganda Anglicans, the new assistant bishop was a Mutoro named Aberi Balya. The first indigenous archbishop of Namirembe did not come until 1965 when Erica Sabiiti, a revivalist from southwestern Uganda, replaced Brown. The Baganda would continue to nurture grievances over these perceived snubs well into the 1970s. On Balya, see Peterson, Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival, 84; and Ward, “The Church of Uganda and the Exile of Kabaka Muteesa II,” 421–422.

32 Joseph Kiwanuka, “Pastoral Letter on Church and State,” November 1961, Rubaga Archives (hereafter cited as RA), Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala, Kampala, Uganda. Muteesa II was so incensed at the letter that he ordered the arrest and interrogation of Rubaga Cathedral's parish priest (Kiwanuka was out of the country at the time the letter was issued). Relations thawed but remained tense until Kiwanuka's death in 1966.

33 Margaret Zzewa, “Archbishop Kiwanuka and the Empowerment of the Girl-Child,” (Twenty-Third Annual Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture, Kampala, Uganda, 25 June 2015); and John Chrysostom Kazibwe, interview with the author, 26 June 2015, Ggaba, Kampala.

34 Tourigny, So Abundant a Harvest, 162, 173. Known later for his work on Ugandan church history, Tourigny was a leader in mobilizing lay ministries and also directed Catholic Action during the 1950s.

35 Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka and Archbishop Leslie Brown, “Joint Statement on Attainment of Independence by Uganda,” October 1962, Offices of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, Kampala, Uganda; see also ACUOA 71.

36 Ibid. This ecumenical collaboration was not without its critics. In one defensive exchange with a skeptical Anglican in June 1962, Brown argued that Anglicans should “work together with them [Catholics] where we can with a clear conscience” even as he reassured his interlocutor that “there is no possibility whatever of union with the Roman Catholic Church in the near future” (ACUOA 25, Brown to Mrs. A. C. Stanley “Zoe” Smith, 7 June 1962). Zoe Smith was the wife of Algie Stanley Smith. Together they were Anglican missionaries who had worked in Rwanda and the Ankole region in southwestern Uganda: Kevin Ward, e-mail communication with author, 15 September 2016. As noted previously, these regions were the geographic heart of the East African Revival that was deeply suspicious of both Anglo-Catholic tendencies in Anglicanism and the Catholic Church's political dominance in Rwanda. On the balokole movement in southwestern Uganda, see Peterson, Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival, 50–77.

37 On the history of the UJCC, see Ojacor, Alex, “Uganda Joint Christian Council and its Engagement with Ugandan Politics,” The Waliggo 4, no. 1 (2013): 108123 ; and John Mary Waliggo, “Ecumenism in Uganda in the New Millennium,” 406–418.

38 See Oduyoye, Mercy A., “Africa,” in A History of the Ecumenical Movement, ed. Briggs, John, Oduyoye, Mercy Amba, and Tsetsis, Georges, vol. 3, 1968–2000 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 2004), 472 .

39 On McCauley's role as first secretary general of the UJCC, see Gribble, Richard, “Vatican II and the Church in Uganda: The Contribution of Bishop Vincent J. McCauley, CSC,” The Catholic Historical Review 95, no. 4 (2009): 736739 ; and Gribble, Richard, The Implementation of Vatican II in Eastern Africa: The Contribution of Bishop Vincent McCauley, CSC (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 2009), 124127 .

40 See Provoscia Nansikombi, “Response of the Roman Catholic Church to Political Conflicts in Uganda: A Case Study of Buganda Region 1945–1971” (master's thesis, Makerere University, 2006), 50–51. Catholics were generally more bothered than Anglicans over the education issue, and Obote targeted Catholic schools in part due to the perception that Catholic youth and educational associations were anti-UPC, especially in Buganda (Kasozi, Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 96–97). It should be noted, however, that notable Catholics served in UPC leadership outside of Buganda, including Cuthbert Obwangor in Teso and Alex Ojera from Acholiland.

41 Brown to Kiwanuka, 17 June 1963; and Kiwanuka to Brown, 2 July 1963, ACUOA 71.

42 John Poulton to Bishop Vincent McCauley, 15 February 1964, ACUOA 72. A British Anglican, Poulton served as editor of the Anglican newspaper New Day until 1966 and collaborated extensively with McCauley and others in the early development of the UJCC.

43 See Emmanuel Nsubuga, “Address to Makerere Students Guild at beginning of 1968 scholastic year, 7 February 1968,” RA. Here Nsubuga notes that the UJCC was founded to address “problems of mutual concern in the social, medical, and educational areas.” He also encourages Catholic students to work with their “separated brethren . . . by praying for them, by initiating conversations on topics of mutual religious concern, by inviting them to their religious rites and functions, by trying to learn as much as possible about their faith.” On Nsubuga's broader commitment to ecumenism, see Kimbowa, Charles M., Emmanuel Cardinal Kiwanuka Nsubuga Still Lives with Us (Kisubi: Marianum, 2005), 143148 .

44 Vincent McCauley, Notes from UJCC Second Plenary Meeting, 26 June 1964, ACUOA 72.

45 “Minutes of First Meeting of UJCC,” 24 January 1964, ACUOA 72; and John Poulton, letter to Vincent McCauley, 18 March 1964. Here Poulton quoted E. M. K. Mulira, chairman of the UJCC's Press-Radio-TV subcommittee and himself a notable political activist in this era.

46 Ojacor, “Uganda Joint Christian Council,” 118.

47 “Minutes of UJCC 10th Plenary Meeting,” 20 October 1969, ACUOA 72.

48 Pirouet, “Religion in Uganda Under Amin,” 16; and Darius Magunda, interview with the author, 2 June 2015, Kampala, Uganda. Magunda is professor of church history at Ggaba National Seminary.

49 Hastings, Adrian, A History of African Christianity 1950–1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 154 .

50 Sathyamurthy, The Political Development of Uganda, 443. “Bugandaism” referred to the perception that Baganda saw themselves as superior to the rest of Uganda's ethnic communities. This elitism stemmed from precolonial conquests as well as the privileged place within Britain's Uganda Protectorate occupied by Buganda province during the colonial period. Kabaka Muteesa II and the Baganda Lukiiko (legislature) resisted full integration into federal Uganda until the final exile of Kabaka Muteesa II in 1966.

51 Vincent McCauley and the UJCC, Letter to President Milton Obote, 7 March 1967, ACUOA 72; and UJCC Sixth Plenary Meeting, 7 March 1967, ACUOA 72. It should be noted that Anglican Archbishop Erica Sabiiti protested the inclusion of his name on the expulsion protest letter, noting that he was absent for this meeting (ACUOA 72, Minutes of UJCC Seventh Plenary Meeting, 12 September 1967). Most of these missionaries were Italian Verona Fathers who were noted for their political activism in northern Uganda. Comboni Father Tarcisio Agostini had been a key advisor to DP leader Benedicto Kiwanuka and founded the magazine Leadership in 1955 to help form a new generation of Catholic leaders in Catholic social thought: Ssekitto, Freddie, Uganda Martyrs Canonisation: 50 Years After 1964–2014 (Kisubi: Marianum, 2015), 88 . Their political activism may help explain why the Combonis were repeatedly targeted for deportations under both Obote and Amin.

52 On the political crisis of 1966 in which Obote ultimately ordered Colonel Idi Amin to burn down Kabaka Muteesa II's palace, see Sathyamurtha, Political Development of Uganda, 419–438 and Mutibwa, Phares, The Buganda Factor in Uganda Politics (Kampala: Fountain, 2008), 121138 .

53 “Statement of Catholic and Anglican Bishops of Uganda,” 27 June 1967, ACUOA 72.

54 “Minutes of UJCC Eighth Plenary Assembly,” 26 November, 1968, ACUOA 72.

55 Erica Sabiiti, Letter to Emmanuel Nsubuga, 2 April 1969, ACUOA 72.

56 Church of Uganda House of Bishops, Minutes 37/69, 23 April 1969, ACUOA 71.

57 Richard E. Lyth, bishop of Kigezi, Letter to Archbishop Sabiiti, 27 March 1969, ACUOA 71.

58 Erica Sabiiti, Address on Visit of Pope Paul VI to Namugongo, 2 August 1969, ACUOA 71.

59 Lockard, “Religion and Political Development in Uganda,” 241.

60 “Thanksgiving Prayers to be Held at Namugongo,” Uganda Argus, 18 February 1971; and “Amin Meets Religious Leaders for the First Time” Munno, 1 February 1971. Uganda Argus was the primary government newspaper in the early 1970s; Munno was the primary Luganda-language Catholic newspaper between 1911 and the mid-1970s.

61 “Memorandum of the Bishops of UJCC submitted to the ministerial committee on the setting up of religious affairs,” 12 February 1971, ACUOA 72. In lieu of this, Catholic and Anglican bishops called for an advisory desk in the president's office that could consult on shared issues of concern such as “health, education, broadcasting, land, cultural activities, and marriage affairs.” This is an example where the ecumenical nature of the UJCC aided their cause, as they could argue that there was no need for a national “religious affairs ministry” when the churches were already cooperating with each other.

62 Donald A. Low, “Uganda Unhinged,” International Affairs 49, no. 2 (April 1973): 226–227; and Lockard, “Religion and Political Development in Uganda,” 244–247. Low also notes how Amin donated his June 1972 salary toward the Namugongo martyrs’ shrine building fund; this shrine was completed in 1976 and is the largest pilgrimage site in East Africa today.

63 Hastings, History of African Christianity, 194.

64 On the political subtext of Amin's religious rhetoric, see Low, “Uganda Unhinged,” 219. Amin himself was not a devout Muslim in terms of either religious or moral practice.

65 Erica Sabiiti, “Short Sermon of Welcome on occasion of Visit of His Excellency President Idi Amin Dada, St. James Cathedral Mbarara,” 15 August 1971, ACUOA 13. A similar example from 1973 saw Sabiiti repeating that “one of the most important characteristics of the second Republic is the emphasis on putting God's name on almost all the public speeches made by H.E. the President of Uganda, stating that he does everything in the Name of God and for his country”: Erica Sabiiti, “second Anniversary of second Republic Message,” 25 January 1973, ACUOA 13.

66 Quoted in Niringiye, Church in the World, 201.

67 Quoted in Ward, Kevin, “Archbishop Janani Luwum: The Dilemmas of Loyalty, Opposition and Witness in Amin's Uganda,” in Christianity and the African Imagination, ed. Maxwell, David and Lawrie, Ingrid (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 212 .

68 Sabiiti served as Obote's personal chaplain and baptized his two sons. He met with Obote for two hours during the height of the kabaka crisis in May 1966 and issued an immediate statement calling for positive church-state relations. He also cancelled public prayers in Namirembe Cathedral for Kabaka Muteesa II after the latter's death in December 1969: Lockard, “Religion and Political Development in Uganda,” 192. In general, though, Anglican scholars like Ward and Niringiye see Sabiiti as more of an apolitical revivalist than a close political ally of Obote: see Ward, e-mail communication with author, 15 September 2016; and Niringiye, Church in the World, 174.

69 On the Anglican Namirembe crisis of 1971, see Niringiye, The Church in the World, 165–173.

70 On Anglican political developments in the 1970s, see Ward, “The Church of Uganda Amidst Conflict,” 72–105; Mujaju, Akiiki B., “The Political Crisis of Church Institutions in Uganda,” African Affairs 75, no. 298 (January 1976): 6785 ; Pirouet, “Religion in Uganda Under Amin,” 13–29; and Sentamu, John, “Tribalism, Religion and Despotism in Uganda: Archbishop Janani Luwum,” in The Terrible Alternative: Christian Martyrdom in the Twentieth Century, ed. Chandler, Andrew (London: Cassell, 1998), 144158 .

71 Lockard, “Religion and Political Development in Uganda,” 248.

72 Pirouet, “Religion in Uganda Under Amin,” 17. As early as 1959, the Baganda boycotted Asian businesses due to discriminatory practices. The UJCC vacillated on the Asian issue throughout 1971–1972. In April 1971, the UJCC expressed hope that “the fate of the Asians may be completely changed for the better” with the rise of the new Amin government: “Notes from UJCC Meeting,” 23 April 1971, ACUOA 72. But the UJCC did not welcome a WCC offer to provide a resettlement office for Asian noncitizens (W. R. Billington, “The Asian Community in Uganda,” [speech, UJCC meeting, 13 April 1972], ACUOA 72).

73 Quoted in Ford, Margaret, Janani: The Making of a Martyr (London: Lakeland, 1978), 54 ; and Sentamu, “Tribalism, Religion and Despotism,” 152.

74 “People are very Happy,” Uganda Argus, 7 September 1972.

75 “Church Leaders, Do Not Interfere,” Uganda Argus, 9 September 1972. For his part, Anglican Archbishop Sabiiti never publicly broke with the Amin regime over the expulsion of the Asians. In his message on the second anniversary of Amin's coup, Sabiiti borrowed Amin's language of “economic war” and noted that since Amin had “put all the businesses into the hands of Ugandans, if we fail it will be our fault” (Erica Sabiiti, “Message on the Second Anniversary of Second Republic,” 25 January 1973, ACUOA 13).

76 Lockard, “Religion and Political Development in Uganda,” 69.

77 Decker, Alicia C., In Idi Amin's Shadow: Women, Gender, and Militarism in Uganda (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014), 117 .

78 Niringiye, Church in the World, 197. See also Rowe, “Islam Under Idi Amin,” 267–277.

79 The literature on Amin's regime is voluminous, but two nuanced recent accounts are Decker, In Idi Amin's Shadow and Peterson, Derek R. and Taylor, Edgar C., “Rethinking the State in Idi Amin's Uganda: The Politics of Exhortation,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 7, no. 1 (2013): 5882 . On Amin's relationship with the churches, see Ward, “The Church of Uganda”; and Pirouet, “Religion in Uganda Under Amin.”

80 Dunstan Nsubuga, quoted in “UJCC Agenda, 9 November 1973,” ACUOA 72. Ward also emphasizes Luwum's lobbying role with Amin, especially in 1974–1975: Ward, “Archbishop Janani Luwum,” 213–214.

81 Kivengere, Festo, I Love Idi Amin: A Story of Triumph Under Fire in the Midst of Suffering and Persecution in Uganda (Old Tappan, N.J.: New Life Ventures, 1977), 28 . The ban applied to nearly all non-Anglican Protestant, Pentecostal, and Charismatic groups, but not the Orthodox Church of Uganda.

82 Janani Luwum and Emmanuel Nsubuga, “UJCC Memorandum on behalf of the Executive Committee to his Excellency the President of Uganda, May 1975,” ACUOA 72.

83 Emmanuel Nsubuga and Janani Luwum, “Deportation of Expatriate Personnel from Uganda between June and July 1975,” 24 July 1975, ACUOA 72.

84 Kivengere, I Love Idi Amin, 32.

85 In June 1976, Esther Chesire, a student at Makerere University and niece of Kenyan Vice-President Daniel arap-Moi, was arrested and later killed by Amin's security forces. This incident drew international attention, and Amin's security forces tried to force Mukasa-Bukenya (who knew Chesire) to sign a statement implicating Chesire in sexual promiscuity. After Nanzire refused, she was killed on June 24, 1976. Father John O'Donoghue at Makerere called for a commission of inquiry, but was soon threatened himself; he escaped into exile in Kenya in July. The Catholic priest who celebrated Nanzire's funeral, Father Clement Mukasa, was kidnapped from the altar in Masaka in July and later killed. See Pirouet, “Religion in Uganda Under Amin,” 20–21; and Ford, Janani, 70–72. On Mukasa's kidnapping, see Dial Torgerson, “Priest Feared Dead in Uganda,” The Victoria Advocate, 21 August 1976.

86 Ford, Janani, 74; and Kivengere, I Love Idi Amin, 42. Luwum's increasing protests in 1975–1976 belie David Niringiye's claims that “there is no record of any confrontation [between Luwum] with Amin or any of the agents of the regime prior to the cataclysmic events of February 1977”: Niringiye, Church in the World, 213.

87 This incident is recounted in the December 27, 1976 issue of the independent newspaper Uganda Empya. I am grateful to George Mpanga and Alex Kimpa for their translation assistance on this and other Luganda-language documents at Makerere University Library and Rubaga Archives, Kampala.

88 See “A Prepared Response of the House of Bishops of the C.O.U. – Rwanda – Burundi and Boga-Zaire to his Excellency on Wednesday 16 February 1977, at the Conference Centre in Kampala,” in “Fellowship of His Suffering: A Theological Interpretation of Christian Suffering Under Idi Amin,” Edward Muhima (PhD diss., Northwestern University, 1982), Appendix E: 149–150.

89 “Letter from the House of Bishops to President Amin,” in Muhima, “Fellowship of His Suffering,” Appendix D: 144–145.

90 Kivengere, I Love Idi Amin, 49. As an Anglican bishop and close confidant of Luwum, Kivengere was a close observer of the events surrounding the latter's death. He was present with Luwum at the Nile Conference Hotel on the last day of Luwum's life.

91 Charles M. Kimbowa, interview with the author, 25 June 2015, Kampala, Uganda. Kimbowa served as a personal secretary under Nsubuga at this time.

92 See M. Louise Pirouet, “The Churches and Human Rights in Kenya and Uganda since Independence,” in Religion and Politics in East Africa, ed. Hansen and Twaddle, 247–259. Paul Gifford echoes this argument: Gifford, , African Christianity: Its Public Role (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 121 ). Pirouet may be too harsh in her judgment of Nsubuga, however. For example, Margaret Ford, Luwum's personal secretary, claims that Nsubuga offered to write a supporting cover letter for the Anglican document: Ford, Janani, 82. It is unclear why this offer was turned down.

93 Ward, “Archbishop Janani Luwum,” 220–222; and Niringiye, Church in the World, 216–217. Ward thinks Luwum may have known of the plot, but doubts his active involvement. Niringiye thinks his involvement went deeper, noting Luwum's close personal relationships and frequent early 1977 meetings with conspirators Ben Ongom and Erinayo Oryema. This suspicion of Luwum's involvement in the assassination plot was raised repeatedly in 2015 interviews I conducted with Ugandan Catholic scholars and survivors of the period.

94 Ward, “Archbishop Janani Luwum,” 216.

95 On Luwum's status as an international Anglican martyr, see ibid., 202. Archbishop of San Salvador between 1977 and 1980, Oscar Romero spoke out against government abuses of the Salvadoran people and was ultimately assassinated while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980. Beatified by Pope Francis in May 2015, he remains the most prominent Catholic political martyr of the late twentieth century. If Luwum was party to the assassination plot, the German Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer might be a better model. On Bonhoeffer's involvement in the plots to assassinate Hitler, see Marsh, Charles, Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York: Knopf, 2014), 284347 .

96 Ward, “Archbishop Janani Luwum,” 217–218; and Kivengere, I Love Idi Amin, 56.

97 Kimbowa, interview; and Charles Ssenngando, interview with the author, 29 June 2015, Kampala, Uganda. Ssenngando also served as a personal secretary to Nsubuga in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

98 On the economic and political decline of Amin's final years, see Southall, Aidan, “Social Disorganisation in Uganda: Before, During, and After Amin,” Journal of Modern African Studies 18, no. 4 (December 1980): 627656 .

99 Kevin Ward, “The Church of Uganda Amidst Conflict,” 81.

100 On the post-Amin political transition of 1979–1981 and Luweero War of 1981–1985, see Kasozi, Social Origins of Violence, 132–182. Kasozi estimates that upwards of 300,000 died during Amin's regime and over 500,000 during Uganda's 1979–1986 civil unrest and war: ibid., 4.

101 Signatories included Anglican Archbishop Silvanus Wani, Anglican Archbishop Dunstan Nsubuga, Catholic Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, the chief Muslim Kahdi of Uganda Sheik K. Mulumba, and Theodorus Nankyama, bishop of Uganda's Orthodox Church.

102 “The Four Religious Leaders' Concern Over the Current Affairs in Uganda,” 9 July 1979, dossier 995, folio 79, RA.

103 “Memorandum by the Religious Leaders of Uganda to his Excellency President G. L. Binaisa on the Current Situation in Uganda,” 18 April 1980,  dossier 911, fol. 4, RA.

104 “A Letter by the Four Religious Leaders of Uganda to His Excellency President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania on Insecurity and the Coming Elections in Uganda,” 3 September 1980, dossier 911, fol. 4, RA. Milton Obote was a longtime ally of Julius Nyerere, dating to the 1960s.

105 Ugandan Religious Leaders, “In Search for Peace and Development for our Nation Uganda: Proposed Background Thoughts for Discussion with Government Leaders,” 25 September 1981, dossier 911, fol. 4, RA; “Points to Form a Basis for Discussion between Religious Leaders and the President and Government Officials,” Religious Leaders Memorandum, 24 September 1981, dossier 911, fol. 4, RA.

106 “Press Statement of His Eminence Emmanuel Cardinal K. Nsubuga Concerning the Events of Ash Wednesday, 24 February, 1982 at Rubaga Cathedral,” 1 March 1982, dossier 1090, fol. 1, RA.

107 Harun Andema, interview with the author, 2 July 2015, Arua, Uganda; see also Kasozi, Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 160. Andema was a survivor of this incident. Catholic parishes also served as refuges in the Luweero region that was an epicenter of the 1981–1985 civil war: Dominic Ndarhuka, Lay Catechist of Luweero Subparish, interview with the author, 28 May 2015, Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral, Kasana-Luweero Diocese; and Joseph Kakooza, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral Parish, Kasana-Luweero Diocese, interview with the author, 31 May 2015, Kasana, Uganda.

108 Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, interview with the author, 25 June 2015, Kampala, Uganda.

109 Kasozi, Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 159.

110 Tumusiime, Uganda 30 Years, 63; Ward, “The Church of Uganda Amidst Conflict,” 98; and Ojacor, “Uganda Joint Christian Council,” 114.

111 Kasozi, Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 144.

112 Quoted in Niringiye, Church in the World, 286. On the longstanding connections between Obote and Okoth, see Niringiye, 259–262, 284.

113 Benedict Ssettuuma, interview with the author, 31 May 2015, Kampala, Uganda. A nephew of Father John Mary Waliggo and keeper of Waliggo's writings, Ssettuuma teaches at Ggaba National Major Seminary and has written extensively on the Church's public role in Uganda. It should be noted that Nsubuga also chaired peace talks between the NRM and the Ugandan government in Nairobi in late 1985.

114 Further scholarly analysis of the grassroots story of Ugandan ecumenism in the 1960s and 1970s would be a welcome future development, including the “bottom up” effect this might have had on hierarchical engagement with the state.

115 Quoted in Niringiye, Church in the World, 257. These sentiments were echoed in my own interviews with Catholic survivors from the period, especially John Chrysostom Kazibwe and Lawrence Magera, 26 June 2015, Ggaba Kampala.

116 For example, Nairobi became the first African city to host a WCC general assembly when it welcomed the WCC's fifth general assembly in 1975: Oduyoye, “Africa,” 470.

117 See Peterson, Ethnic Patriotism and the East African Revival, 281, 293. Peterson develops this argument in depth in his contextual chapters analyzing the Revival in Buganda, Kigezi, and Toro.

118 Even the Catholic lacuna in pastoral letters between 1962 and 1979 has been attributed in part to regional, racial, and ethnic divisions within the episcopal conference: Brother Anatoli Wasswa, interview with the author, 30 June 2015, Bunga, Kampala, Uganda; and Magunda, interview.

119 Sabiiti lacked legitimacy in Buganda; Wani remained a Kakwa kinsman of Amin; Okoth was a pro-UPC partisan. Ward argues that Luwum's legacy is celebrated more outside Uganda than within the country. The ambiguous memories of Luwum's death in Uganda continue to reflect historic and contemporary regional cleavages within church and nation alike. See Ward, “Archbishop Janani Luwum,” 222–223.

120 Ugandan scholars Ssettuuma, Waliggo, and Emmanuel Katongole have attributed this pattern of “great silence” to a “social history of repression, and the gradual naturalization of violence and a culture of survival”: Waliggo, J. M., Katongole, Emmanuel, and Ssettuuma, Benedict, “The Social Teaching of the Uganda Catholic Bishops: 1962–2012,” The Waliggo: A Philosophical and Theological Journal 4, no. 2 (2013): 21 . It should be noted, however, that Emmanuel Nsubuga in particular was never renowned as a writer; he used to joke, “I have only one certificate—the baptismal certificate”: Kimbowa, Emmanuel Cardinal Kiwanuka Nsubuga, 48.  Among many Catholics, Nsubuga is recalled as a forceful, fearless oral speaker: Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, interview with the author, 25 June 2015, Kampala, Uganda; Matthias Kanyerezi, Vicar General of Kasana-Luweero Diocese, interview with the author, 20 June 2015, Kasana, Uganda; Albert Gavamukulya, interview with the author, 2 June 2015 Kampala, Uganda; and Ssettuuma, interview.

121 Nor is Janani Luwum's embracing of martyrdom rather than exile free from any ambiguity. There are elements of spiritual pride in Luwum's last words to his wife: “If I die, my blood will save Uganda” (Quoted in Niringiye, Church in the World, 218).

An initial version of this essay was delivered at the January 2016 annual meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association, Atlanta, Ga. I am also grateful to Jason Bruner, Jon Earle, and Kevin Ward for their feedback on earlier drafts of this article.

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Church History
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