Review of the year 2014

There have been signs of progress in the long awaited building of Church House. After years of failing to find adequate finances, apparently the CoU found a way of raising money by the sale of ‘unutilised assets’ owned by dioceses throughout the country. As a result building resumed. It then came to a halt when rival building contractors disagreed and a court case ensued. This has now been settled and building is under way. It is reckoned that some time in 2015 16 floors of the building can be brought into service.

The new Diocese of West Lango, created out of part of Lango Diocese, was inaugurated in October. As far back as 2009 it was agreed that Busoga Diocese, probably the most populous in the Church of Uganda, should be divided into three (with new dioceses being based at Iganga and Kamuli). But this has not yet happened.

Muslims are involved in bitter disputes, to some extent a revival of the old ethnic tensions between the Kamuli and the Old Kampala factions, to some extent expressive of tensions between more conservative and more radical movements within contemporary Islam.  President Museveni has expressed his disquiet that five Muslim clerics have met their deaths in recent months in very suspicious circumstances. The latest death was that of Sheikh Mustafa Bahiiga, who had been involved in a feud over control of the Masjid Noor mosque in Kampala with Sheikh Younus Kamoga, the leader of the Tabliqi group of Muslims. The Tabliqi are a group of fervent Muslims (sometimes compared to the Balokole in wanting a purified and strict form of their religion): but they are not by any means an extremist political group like Boku Haram of Nigeria or the Islamic State terrorists of Syria and Iraq. The well respected Muslim academic, Badru Kateregga, has argued that the Muslim community in Uganda needs to adopt a proper religious constitution, Sharia based, ‘but practicable and applicable in a multi-religious Uganda’, so that its interminable wrangles can be overcome. Professor Kateregga is no extremist, but an advocate of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, an eirenic figure in Uganda’s religious life.

Pentecostals have been reflecting on over 50 years of existence in Uganda. The National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches in Uganda recalls that the first clearly Pentecostal church, the Full Gospel Church, was established in the early 1960s in Naguru, soon moving to Makerere. It was nick-named Ggugudde, because of its refrain ‘Fallen (gguggudde) is the baggage of sin’. A Pentecostal pastor, Dr Joseph Sserwadda, reckons that there are now some 5 million Pentecostals in Uganda.

Economically, the oil discoveries in the Lake Albert region continue to offer possibilities for economic growth but also concern about the adequate compensation and re-settlement of farmers whose land has been compulsorily purchased, as well as potential hazards to the environment. A new 92 km tarmac road from Hoima to Kaiso Tonya, in the oil field, has recently been opened. After a slip in 2012, Uganda’s economy has seen growth rates of 5 or 6% over the last couple of years. But corruption remains a persistent worry for Ugandans. The Lord’s Resistance Army has not been active in Northern Uganda in recent years but the arrest of LRA deputy commander, Dominic Ongwen, in Chad, may be an important milestone in the final demise of the LRA.

When I was compiling the Review last year, the question of whether President Museveni was going to sign into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was hanging in the balance. In the event he signed it in February but in August the Supreme Court ruled the law invalid, on the technical grounds that a quorum had not existed in Parliament when the law was passed (there had been some disquiet about the way in which the bill had been hurried through at short notice). It is worth noting that while the Archbishop in his Easter message welcomed the introduction of the Act, he went on to say: ‘[Homosexuality] is not our most pressing issue in Uganda. Our biggest challenge is greed. Our right relationship with God through Jesus Christ can put greed to death in our country and see generosity rise in its place.’ A new bill has now been tabled and is likely to be discussed and voted upon in 2015.

On a personal note: you’ll remember that I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer two years ago. It appears that the chemo and radio therapy which I had at that time has been successful. But it has left me with persistent swallowing problems. These were recently treated through an operation which has much improved matters, and I am now more or less eating normally. It is a great relief. In 2014 I formally retired from my job at Leeds University, though I continue to supervise a number of PhD students. I am at present a Visiting Professor at the Chung Chi Divinity School of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, teaching a course on Modern Western Christianity. It is a joy to be teaching in a theological seminary again, reminding me of my 14 wonderful years at Bishop Tucker College. It is also a privilege to be working with Chinese Christians, many from mainland China, and discovering something of the rich life of the Christian Church in China. I am here until May, and so will miss the UCA AGM at Easter time. I will be thinking and praying for you and for Uganda at that time.

Revd Dr Kevin Ward 

 

 

 

Economically, the oil discoveries in the Lake Albert region continue to offer possibilities for economic growth but also concern about the adequate compensation and re-settlement of farmers whose land has been compulsorily purchased, as well as potential hazards to the environment. A new 92 km tarmac road from Hoima to Kaiso Tonya, in the oil field, has recently been opened. After a slip in 2012, Uganda’s economy has seen growth rates of 5 or 6% over the last couple of years. But corruption remains a persistent worry for Ugandans. The Lord’s Resistance Army has not been active in Northern Uganda in recent years but the arrest of LRA deputy commander, Dominic Ongwen, in Chad, may be an important milestone in the final demise of the LRA.

 

When I was compiling the Review last year, the question of whether President Museveni was going to sign into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was hanging in the balance. In the event he signed it in February but in August the Supreme Court ruled the law invalid, on the technical grounds that a quorum had not existed in Parliament when the law was passed (there had been some disquiet about the way in which the bill had been hurried through at short notice). It is worth noting that while the Archbishop in his Easter message welcomed the introduction of the Act, he went on to say: ‘[Homosexuality] is not our most pressing issue in Uganda. Our biggest challenge is greed. Our right relationship with God through Jesus Christ can put greed to death in our country and see generosity rise in its place.’ A new bill has now been tabled and is likely to be discussed and voted upon in 2015.

 

On a personal note: you’ll remember that I was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer two years ago. It appears that the chemo and radio therapy which I had at that time has been successful. But it has left me with persistent swallowing problems. These were recently treated through an operation which has much improved matters, and I am now more or less eating normally. It is a great relief. In 2014 I formally retired from my job at Leeds University, though I continue to supervise a number of PhD students. I am at present a Visiting Professor at the Chung Chi Divinity School of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, teaching a course on Modern Western Christianity. It is a joy to be teaching in a theological seminary again, reminding me of my 14 wonderful years at Bishop Tucker College. It is also a privilege to be working with Chinese Christians, many from mainland China, and discovering something of the rich life of the Christian Church in China. I am here until May, and so will miss the UCA AGM at Easter time. I will be thinking and praying for you and for Uganda at that time.

Approaching elections February 2011

By the time you read this 2011 Newsletter, Uganda will have gone to the polls. There will be a new parliament. It’s almost certain that President Museveni will still be president. But there are a number of other contenders. An alliance of parties called the Interparty Coalition is putting forward Kiiza Besigye, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change,  as their candidate. He was the main opponent to Museveni in 2006, and has found himself in and out of court ever since on various charges. The two grand old parties, the Democratic Party and the Uganda Peoples Congress, decided that they would better keep their distinctive identities. Norbert Mau, an Acholi (but with a Munyankore mother) and a Catholic, is the candidate for DP. Olara Otunnu, an Acholi and a Protestant, is the candidate for UPC. Otunnu’s father, Justo Otunnu, was one of the first Balokole in Northern Uganda, a friend of Janani Luwum, but he eventually left the Church of Uganda to form his own  church, the Chosen Evangelical Revival. Olara Otunnu was part of the Obote II government. Then he worked for many years abroad, latterly at the UN in New York.

 

Buganda

Buganda’s problems with the central government had flared up in 2009 when the government seemed to be supporting various secessionist movements from Buganda, in Buruli, Bugerere and Rakai. These disturbances have not been so prominent in 2010, and the Luganda radio station which was banned last year is now again broadcasting. Meanwhile, in the North, the country has been fairly peaceful, though Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army is still at large somewhere in the central forests of Africa.

 

CAPA

The Church of Uganda hosted a meeting of CAPA – the Conference of Anglican Provinces of Africa – which met at Entebbe in August. The agenda was focused on the social and development  issues which focus on Africa, though the press was more concerned with the crisis over gay people, especially as the Archbishop of Canterbury was a speaker at the conference. The Church of Uganda met in Mukono for its own Provincial Assembly just before the CAPA conference.

 

Rolling Stone tabloid

At the end of 2009 a Kigezi MP, David Bahati, had introduced  an Anti-Homosexuality Bill, to strengthen the existing laws against homosexual practice and to punish more harshly such offences. This resulted in an enormous amount of international criticism. The government seemed to want the bill to flounder. It  has avoided  raising this hornets’ nest as an election issue in the run up to the election. It may wish to bury the issue once the election is over, too, to avoid the hostile gaze of the world, but  LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Ugandans are not certain that this climate of fear will be relieved. But, if the issue had gone quiet in the middle of the year, it returned with a vengeance at the end: with the publication by a new newspaper Rolling Stone (red top in English terms) of the names of prominent gay people. In-fighting among Pentecostal pastors also was responsible for a spate of accusations against rival pastors for indulging in homosexual practises. And then on 26 January 2011, a prominent human rights campaigner, David Kato, was murdered at his home in Mukono in broad daylight, and that has further exacerbated tension.

 

Kampala

Kampala continues to expand. It has a fine western bypass, which makes, for example, travelling from Jinja to Masaka or Gulu relatively painless. But Kampala continues to suffer from too many vehicles, and roads which have not  been repaired for  years. The way in which Kampala drivers negotiate these hazards is impressive. The traffic really does move, if too slowly. If this amount of chaos happened in London or New York then traffic would grind to a standstill, but somehow Kampala drivers weave in and out, with a remarkable good humour by and large. The quickest way of getting about is, of course, the boda boda, now entirely motorised.

 

Al-Shebaab bombings in July

The most serious event of 2010 was the bombing of two public halls/clubs in Kampala by a terrorist organisation, suspected to be a Somali terrorist organisation called al-Shebaab, said to be linked with al-Qaeda. People were gathered to watch one of the matches of the South African World Cup. 74 people, including many young men and women, were killed. Security was understandably tight in the aftermath, not only in Kampala, but, for example, at the consecration in Mbarara of Bishop Fred Mwesigwa later in July, and at the Uganda Christian University. Life suddenly became difficult for the many Somali residents in Uganda. Many were long-term residents in Uganda, many had fled from the chaos and insecurity of their own country. But the suspicion of complicity with al-Shebaab fell on them too.

 

Transport

Some of the roads out of Kampala have deteriorated badly since their last repair. The road to Masaka is being repaired, but people are complaining that the work is taking for ever. It is a slow and dusty ride to Masaka, since almost the whole of the route seems to be occupied by diggers and other heavy equipment, there are many detours, and the journey takes twice as long as necessary. After Masaka, the road to Mbarara and then to Kabale is slightly quicker, in that repairers haven’t started, but sooner or later, this road will need attention too. The road from Ntungamo to Rujkungiri, completed some years ago, is a delight. There is also a wonderful new road from Kabale to Kisoro – well, it hasn’t quite reached Kisoro yet. The contractors started from both ends – the Congo border and Kabale. The Congo end of the work has now  reached Kisoro, but there are 15 or so miles after Kisoro which remain to be tarred. This section is horrendous, with roads a metre thick in fine dust. The journey still took over 3 hours. But once the road is completed, people are hopeful of reaching Kabale within an hour and a half – there is even talk of people working in Kabale and commuting back to Kisoro.

 

Muhabura and Kinkizi

It was good to find Muhabura diocese in good heart. Bishop Cranmer Mugisha has done a very good job in healing the wounds of the conflicts which meant that Muhabura was without a bishop for so long. The retired Bishop Shalita lives in Kisoro, and is in charge of an NGO which looks after orphans. Canon Wilson Baganizi lives in retirement on his farm. The church goes apace.

 

Having recovered from the scars of a disputed episcopal election it was sad to hear that in Kinkiizi diocese there were all the makings of a repetition of the Muhabura disputes. Bishop-elect Bernard Bagaba was accused by a group of Anglicans in Kinkiizi of being an unsuitable choice. A case was brought against him, in which he was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock some 15 years before. A DNA test cleared him of paternity. But the dispute refused to die down. In the end, the Archbishop concluded that there was no chance of going ahead with Revd. Bagaba’s consecration. A new election was called and a new candidate has been elected: the Rt Revd. Dan Zoreka. He was consecrated in October 2010. He had been the diocesan health co-ordinator. Revd. Bernard Bagaba has signified his willingness to work with the new bishop. Hopefully, this will bring this controversy to a satisfactory conclusion and enable the diocese to move on.

 

Two new bishops

Two new bishops have been elected who have had strong links with the Uganda Church Association Newsletter over the years:

 

Fred Mwesigwa was made Bishop of Ankole in July 2010. He has written extensively on educational matters while teaching at the Uganda Christian University. We wish him well as he devotes his energies to the new diocese.

 

Godfrey Makumbi was consecrated Bishop of West Buganda in January 2011. He has been Headmaster of Buzzibwera Church of Uganda secondary school in Luweero diocese for nearly a decade. During that time he has built up the school to be one of the best schools in the area, serving the community and offering a strong Christian ethos. We offer our support for his energetic work in this new sphere.