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Deliverance Church Pastor narrates how he survived the Amin regime

Pr. Edward Kiwanuka (General Overseer) and wife Monica Kiwanuka.

By Edward Kiwanuka

During a Wednesday afternoon service, men armed with AK-47s attacked the church. The service leader blew a trumpet and commanded everyone to kneel down and pray in tongues.

The soldiers ordered us to crawl to a small compound in front of the church building and lie flat on our bellies, from where we were loaded onto a truck and driven off to a place which I learnt later was the most feared Nakasero State Research Bureau known for it’s dungeons and torture chambers.

Upon arrival we were off-loaded gathered in one group at the entrance of one of the buildings, I overheard one of the soldiers ordering for gasoline so they set ablaze some of us to set a lesson for the others. This by the grace of God didn’t happen.

I was stripped of all belongings together with the other members, the shoes and belts and everything was taken and later led into an airtight lipped dark room where there was hardly any space for one to squat.

While there, I remembered how it had all started…

I got saved in the third term of senior two when university students from the then only university, Makerere University, came to minister to non­catholic students at St Mary’s College Kisubi.

I responded to an altar though I didn’t fully understand its significance. I could later learn that it was the best and most important decision I have ever taken in my life.

I got introduced to Deliverance Church by a school mate Nicholas Masozera during the school holiday that followed.

Before, I attended early morning service at All Saints Nakasero. One-day, Nicholas offered to take me to the church where the people who had led us to Christ met.

During that time Deliverance Church Kampala met at YMCA­ Wandegeya. My experience of a first Pentecostal Sunday fellowship was in 1975 and everything I saw was very new to me.

I was used to a quiet, orderly and liturgical service, but this one was noisy, vigorous, not very structured but captivating. Some people were speaking in a language I did not understand, while others were singing with a lot of energy and sweating profusely. Later in the service, pastor Stephen Mungoma stepped forward to share the Word.

I could only make it to church during the holidays because I was in a boarding school and stayed with my brother in Kamwokya before relocating to Kabowa then to Bunga, still the distance never deterred me. When the church was banned in 1977, I was not a grounded member of the Cell fellowship so I lost touch with the brethren and went to Christ the King.

During April 1978, I somehow learnt through a church brother, Richard Jawino, that Full Gospel Church had re-registered under a new name ‘Glad Tidings Incorporation’ as a company without guarantee, and that they were going to open their churches under the new name. My thirst for the Pentecostal style of worship drove me to their fellowships to enjoy the beautiful Sunday worship.

Day of the attack

At a Wednesday service, during the afternoon session, President Idi Amin’s notorious State Research men attacked the church. The service leader ­ Joseph Nyakairu (RIP) blew a trumpet and told everyone to kneel down and pray in tongues. I was not yet baptised in the Holy Spirit, so I only watched what was going on. (The Bible tells us to watch and pray. I was doing the watching). One of the soldiers called Hussein, as I later heard from his colleagues calling him at the Bureau, kept firing at the organ (piano) on the platform in the church where some people were had hidden, no one was shot. 

After the incident at the church hall, trembling in fear, the soldiers commanded us to crawl to a small compound in front of the church building and lie on our stomachs, then they ordered for a lorry, loaded us on and drove us to Nakasero State Research Bureau.

As we sat at the entrance of one of the buildings, one soldier told his colleagues to order for fuel so they can burn five of us for others to learn. Thankfully this did not happen though we had had of stories of how people brought to this place could be set ablaze.

Stripped of all our belongings

I and other brethren were stripped of all our belongings including shoes and belts and later led to a dark humid airtight lipped room where you could not tell what time of day it was. These rooms had each only a metal grill door which served as an entrance and only ventilation.

At the beginning I was near the entrance so I had a breath of some fresh air. I retreated to the inner part of this congested room for fear of being shot after I overheard gunshots and footsteps of soldiers nearing to the door. The inner part of the dungeon was terribly humid and squeezed in a way that one only had room enough to squat very closely.

Though I never witnessed, we could hear gunshots which was an implication of some shootings of people. Gripped with fear, the leaders among us instructed us to hold a chain and we began to pray. We kept in prayer, dosing off a bit and when your turn came to pray, you prayed quietly and on numerous occasions reciting the bible verse in 2 Corinthians 10:4­6 that says​:

“Our weapons are not carnal, but they are mighty through God to pull down strongholds. Let us employ them­ prayer, the Word, the name of Jesus, love, forgiveness, the blood of Jesus and all others”.

We bid our brethren farewell

After about twenty hours in the detention the soldiers came down and ordered all students to come out. This caused a lot of anxiety, we did not know why we were being called.

We bid our brethren farewell and were led to the entrance. When it grew dark ,we were put on a truck and driven to the Central Police Station in Kampala where we were served a meal of Posho with beans. While here, we had it in mind that we were to be released. Unfortunately later that night we were transported in three batches to Luzira maximum security prison.

We learnt much later that one Obura had stopped the release of students because that would cause chaos out there.

At Luzira I was in the first batch, upon arrival at the gate we were frogged thrice, that night the sudden cold from the nearby lake breeze got us all shivering.

An opportunity to share Christ

When morning came we were ordered out, paraded and given two new blankets and a plastic mug. Since we were detainees, we never went out to work like other prisoners. Our main duty was to receive visitors who brought along with them foodstuffs and bibles for us. This kept our spirits high together with the daily fellowship with one another which was carried out in intervals, it increased our hope in God.

We only interacted with other prisoners during the day before they went to workshops and after, It was during that time that we shared our faith with them and a number received Christ. On a Saturday 30​th​ June 1978, after two and a half months in prison we were released.

Although not immediately, I cannot say prison experience did not hurt me. I later discovered that the ordeal had traumatised me. Back at school my attention span had reduced greatly, my body would tire so quickly resulting in a deep wave heaviness resulting in poor performance during the A’ level final exams, I had to repeat A level, losing two years which now I count as a lost gain.

Following our release, we later learnt through a rumour that president Idi Amin had assigned his Vice, Maj. Gen Mustafa Adiris the task of killing us and that body bags had been prepared for the disposal of our bodies. Around that same time, the Vice President got involved in a serious motor accident on Jinja Road and was airlifted to Cairo (Egypt) for treatment. That is how we escaped death.

“The Lord said he would give Egypt for our ransom. Our God remains strong, dependable, powerful and faithful. He says that even when you walk through fire you shall not be burned (Isaiah 43:2­3)”

Prison taught me how to share the word. I made very good friends and became very courageous. If I had remained out of prison and only heard that some Christians had been arrested and imprisoned, I probably would have drawn back due to fear. The courage drew me into looking for where the underground cell that I belonged to had relocated.

“I still count that loss as gain, because my life is in his hands. He makes all things­ good and bad, sweet and painful to work for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:28).

Pr. Edward Kiwanuka is the General Overseer, Deliverance Church Uganda. The Church which started in 1967 as Young Ambassadors Fellowship now runs 460 churches, schools, medical centers, childcare projects and water and sanitation programmes in various parts of Uganda. Article First Appeared Here

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