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Fr. Byaruhanga’s balancing act

By Vision Reporter

Added 3rd December 2006 03:00 AM

THE involvement of religious leaders in politics has always been a controversial issue. However, the Rev. Fr. Albert Byaruhanga, President Yoweri Museveni’s special adviser on development and religious affairs, has proved that religious and political leaders can be partners in development.

THE involvement of religious leaders in politics has always been a controversial issue. However, the Rev. Fr. Albert Byaruhanga, President Yoweri Museveni’s special adviser on development and religious affairs, has proved that religious and political leaders can be partners in development.

By Mathias Mazinga

THE involvement of religious leaders in politics has always been a controversial issue. However, the Rev. Fr. Albert Byaruhanga, President Yoweri Museveni’s special adviser on development and religious affairs, has proved that religious and political leaders can be partners in development.

On November 8, the government of Austria gave Byaruhanga an award, in recognition of his services to Austria and Uganda.
The ambassador of Austria to Uganda, Roland Hauser handed over ‘Decoration of Honour in Gold’ to Byaruhanga at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala. Hauser also gave Byaruhanga a handwritten letter from the President of Austria.

Franz Breitwieser, the head of the office of development cooperation at the Austrian Embassy, said Byaruhanga has played a crucial role in the development of relations between Austria and Uganda.
He also credited him for his effort in establishing and implementing the Austrian government’s programmes.

“Byaruhanga attracted several NGOs here. He was also involved in the opening up of the Austrian Regional Bureau for Development Cooperation in Kampala,” Breitwieser said.

Background

Byaruhanga was born on June 13, 1951, at Mugusu, Fort Portal to Tereza and Patrick Babuuza. He is the fifth born in a family of eight children.
Byaruhanga owes his priestly calling to the rich religious background of his family.
He joined St. Mary’s Seminary (Fort Portal) in 1966.

He also attended St. Joseph’s Seminary, Hoima, after which he proceeded to Katigondo National Major Seminary in 1972.
In 1975, he went to Ggaba National Seminary for Theology.

He was ordained a priest at Fort Portal’s Virika Cathedral on October 19, 1980.
Between 1980 and 1984, he taught at St. Mary’s Minor Seminary (Fort Portal), while doubling as chaplain and teacher at Virika School of Nursing.
He was also chaplain of Fort Portal’s St. Maria Gorette and Kyebambe Girls Secondary Schools.

Byaruhanga served as editor of Rwenzori Echo (a diocesan magazine) and was the diocesan director of social development.

He is now based at the Uganda Catholic Secretariat, Nsambya, where he serves as the Executive Secretary of the Education Commission of the Uganda Episcopal Conference.

Byaruhanga’s involvement in politics began in 1981 in Fort Portal, when the bush war had just started. Realising that Church work had been hampered by instability, Byaruhanga and the late Bishop Serapio Magambo started off a dialogue between Obote’s government and the NRA/M in order to create peace.
The ideas Byaruhanga put across impressed Museveni so much that he named him the shadow commissioner for education and rehabilitation in the bush government.

When Museveni took over power in 1986, he wanted to make Byaruhanga the education minister. However, the laws of the Roman Catholic Church restricted Byaruhanga, in his capacity as a priest, from getting involved in active politics.
After intense negotiations with the Vatican, Museveni made Byaruhanga his adviser.
Surprisingly, Byaruhanga’s ministry has not been jeopardised by his involvement in politics. He has continued to serve the Church with zeal.

“I cherish my priesthood, which is why before I do anything, I first ask myself whether it compromises my sacerdotal ministry or my faith. If I am not sure that what I intend to do will promote the common good, I consult. But most importantly, I dedicate all my activities to God through prayer,” Byaruhanga says.

Byaruhanga’s qualities

Many people speak highly of Byaruhanga’s unique qualities, which they say have enabled him to maintain the delicate balance between spiritual and temporal obligations.

The deputy secretary general of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Fr. Augustine Lukenge, says, “He has deep faith. He is mindful of people’s needs. He strives for the common good and the integral development of the people.”

The Omukama of Toro, Oyo Nyimba Rukidi III refers to Byaruhanga as “a great priest endowed with unique human qualities.”
The Bishop Emeritus of Fort Portal, Paul Kalanda calls Byaruhanga a “faithful, principled and hardworking priest, who balances his spiritual and temporal obligations well.”

Former German ambassador Klaus Holderbaum refers to Byaruhanga as a “unique priest, who had fixed his legs firmly both in the secular and spiritual realms.”

Prof. Oswald Ndoleriire of Makerere University marvelled at Fr. Byaruhanga’s virtues of patience, punctuality, moderation and discipline. Ndoleriire said it were these qualities that had enabled Byaruhanga to deliver, and to become a darling of both the state and Church authorities.

Byaruhanga owes his achievements to the love and trust that President Museveni and his wife Janet have extended to him over the years.

He also credits the Roman Catholic Church for supporting him.

Fr. Byaruhanga’s balancing act

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