137. Telegram From the Embassy in Kenya to the Department of State1

2168. Subject: Death of Ugandan Ministers and Archbishop.

1. Dept. will have noted Kampala radio report that three prominent Ugandans accused of coup-plotting were killed in auto accident on Feb. 16, allegedly while trying to escape from custody as they were being transported away from public meeting attended by Amin to condemn coup plot. The three are Most Rev. Janan Luwum, Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Zaire; Minister of Lands and Water Resources Lt. Col. Erenayo Oryema, and Minister of Internal Affairs Charles Oboth-Ofumbi.2

2. According to Western diplomats who have been in Uganda recently, Protestant and Catholic Church leaders had been worried in recent weeks about Amin move against the Church. Despite this apprehension, Anglican clergy reacted sharply to security forces’ efforts to intimidate Archbishop Luwum by searching his house at gunpoint on Feb. 5 and accusing him of involvement in coup plot allegedly [Page 365] masterminded by former President Obote. According Nairobi Standard (confirmed by British diplomat here), eighteen Bishops signed forceful letter dated Feb. 10 deploring atrocities committed by Amin’s security forces, asserting that guns in hands of these elements are in effect “pointed at every Christian . . . and have been increasingly used against the Ugandan to take away his life and property.”

3. Comment: Majority of Ugandans are Christian and have long resented Amin’s use of Muslim minority tribesmen from the north to maintain control of populace. Killing of Archbishop and two Ministers who are said to be strong Christians may arouse more unified opposition to Amin than has been seen for several years.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770057–0372. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to Addis Ababa, Bonn, Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Khartoum, Kigali, Kinshasa, London, and USCINCEUR for POLAD.
  2. Carter noted the deaths in a press conference on February 23 in response to a question on human rights. “In Uganda, the actions there have disgusted the entire civilized world.” (Public Papers of the Presidents: Jimmy Carter, 1977, Book I, p. 220)