In death, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga has become the subject of fresh and contentious speculation spurred largely by his sudden passing.
At 9 o’clock on Saturday, April 3, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga was found dead in his residence near Lubaga cathedral. He has been archbishop of Kampala archdiocese since September 2006.
His death was particularly shocking to the nation because a day before, he publicly took part in the ecumenical way of the cross; a mimic of the journey Jesus Christ took before he was crucified on the cross. Many Ugandans are quietly finding it hard to believe that Lwanga died innocuously in his sleep without an ominous incident.
Some believe something more sinister caused his death. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, the president of the opposition National Unity Platform, was the first to publicly question the cause of Lwanga’s death.
A former presidential candidate, Kyagulanyi who is widely believed to have been greatly supported by the Catholic Church largely because priests especially in Buganda spoke glowingly about him during the campaign period, said the death of Lwanga is a continuation of a long-running trend of outspoken religious leaders dying under mysterious circumstances.
“There is a very disturbing pattern of outspoken eminent religious leaders dying in inexplicable circumstances. We saw the death of Sheikh Anas Kaliisa, the unexplained death of Sheikh Nooh Muzaata, the death of Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa and now the death of Bishop Lwanga. His death raises more questions without answers and I encourage all Ugandans to ask all the important questions and demand for answers,” Kyagulanyi said after the Easter Sunday Mass at Lubaga cathedral.
The tone and tenor of his viewpoint seemed to speak to the suspicions of the other faithful who applauded him vigorously. Neither, the Lubaga Cathedral Administrator Father Achilles Mayanja nor the Vicar General of Kampala Archdiocese Monsignor Charles Katende who were present sought to clarify or refute Kyagulanyi’s imputation.
Dr Chrysostom Muyingo, the state minister for Higher Education, who spoke on behalf of government, accused Kyagulanyi of politicking. Muyingo said many Ugandans have died and will continue to die due to diseases such as Covid-19.
“During the elections, people used very bitter words but now elections are over; we shouldn’t be using such words. We should all come together to work for our people instead of seeking to divide them,” Muyingo said.
Earlier on Saturday, while addressing the media, the minister of ICT and National Guidance Judith Nabakooba cautioned people against speculating about what killed Lwanga. Everyone who spoke about Bishop Lwanga described him as a man unafraid to speak out on issues that afflicted society.
Even in death, he urged government to release all people who have been arrested or kidnapped and kept in ungazetted places. In his Easter message read for him by the Vicar General of Kampala Archdiocese Monsignor Charles Katende, the archbishop said; “As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we call for the unconditional release of many young people who are being held in various detention centers without being taken to court. In case they committed crimes, let those holding them follow the Constitution and take them to court for trial,” Lwanga’s message read in part.
On April 5, the archdiocese of Kampala issued a statement explaining the death of the Archbishop. The cause of death according to the statement was Ischaemic Heart Disease following coronary artery thrombosis (Heart attack due to blood clot in the heart vessels. According to the deceased’s personal physician Dr Andrew Sekitoleko, the finding is consistent with the previous known history of illnesses that the Archbishop had.
In 2012, he wrote a pastoral letter to President Museveni imploring him not to contest again in 2016 after he clocked the upper 75-year age limit for a presidential candidate to seek election. He was alone in doing so and it never bothered him.
In 2017 when the government moved to amend the Constitution and remove the age limit caps for presidential candidates, Lwanga vehemently opposed the move. He nudged President Museveni to reconsider his opinion and retire peacefully. In the end, the Constitution was amended and Museveni contested for the 6th term. But his most shocking revelation firmly etched in our memories came in April 2018.
In April 2018, just as he did last week, the archbishop took part in the way of the cross and used his speech at the end of the walk to reveal a plot to kill him because he was allegedly plotting to overthrow President Museveni’s government. That revelation sent shock waves throughout the nation. Government strenuously denied the plot. It took a meeting between the president and the archbishop to calm things down.
A church insider said that since 2018, the archbishop stayed way too cautious – very picky with what he ate and where. Insiders said the archbishop avoided eating food in public largely because of an ever-present fear of being poisoned.
Last Friday, Bishop Lwanga was invited for lunch at the home of the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Dr Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu after the way of the cross. Lwanga politely declined the lunch, saying he had to lead an evening mass at Lubaga.
On April 5, 2018, we published a story about Bishop Lwanga’s poison threat. You can read the article here