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The origins of the ‘Bulokole’ movement

By Vision Reporter

Added 3rd September 2007 03:00 AM

On Friday, the Uganda Christian University, Mukono named a hall of residence after Semyoni and Eva Nsibambi, the parents of Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, the Prime Minister.

On Friday, the Uganda Christian University, Mukono named a hall of residence after Semyoni and Eva Nsibambi, the parents of Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, the Prime Minister.

On Friday, the Uganda Christian University, Mukono named a hall of residence after Semyoni and Eva Nsibambi, the parents of Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, the Prime Minister. Below is his speech...

On behalf of the Nsibambi family, I wish to thank the Council of the Uganda Christian University for having accepted Vice-Chancellor Prof. Stephen Noll’s proposal that a hall of residence be named after our late parents Semyoni and Eva Nsibambi. A hall of residence is important because it will inter alia enable students of diverse cultures and behaviour to learn to live together amicably.

Our late parents made an important spiritual contribution to East Africa through the East African Revival.

What is the East African Revival?

The East African Revival is a movement of spiritual renewal that was started and articulated by my father, Semyoni Nsibambi. He began preaching Obulokole in open markets and other public places and many people repented of their sins. The Bulokole was exported beyond Uganda by among others Blasio Kigozi, William Nagenda and Yosiya Kinuka. Later on, amongst the most articulate people to carry on the work was Bishop Festo Kivengere.

Importance of the East African Revival?

First, although it remained part of the Church of Uganda (formerly Native Anglican Church), the East African Revival challenged the Church of Uganda about its spiritual coldness. Some members of the Church secretly practised witchcraft, while others engaged in extramarital sex. Others habitually consumed alcohol and were corrupt. Indeed, many Christians committed other sins which they never repented.

Some of the religious leaders resented the challenge of the East African Revival. For example, William Nagenda and Edward Kakudidi were sent away from Bishop Tucker Theological College where they had gone for training for ordination. They were sent away because they were considered fanatics.

Yet another challenging feature of the Revival entailed confession and repentance of sins. For instance, related to the challenge of confession was the practice of restitution by the saved people. When people became saved, they had to return things they had stolen to their owners.

One saved person confessed that he had sex with a married woman. The husband of the woman beat the saved man, but forgave his wife who trembled with fear. This method of repentance was improved upon. Ideally, the saved person should have apologised to the married woman with whom they had illicit sex, without informing the husband. These confessions carried the risk of disrupting marriages and other relations if they were not properly carried out.

The overall impact of confession and restitution was that bishops, archbishops and other people who got saved publicly confessed their sins. Indeed, many religious leaders sang Tukutendereza Yesu in their places of worship. Tukutendereza is both a greeting and rallying hymn or anthem for the Balokole. It means “We praise You, Jesus”. Although it is in Luganda, it has been exported abroad. It is gratifying to point out that the Church, which was spiritually cold, has answered the call to be the salt of the earth. Nsibambi frequently quoted Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, it is thrown outside and trodden upon.” In other words, the Church of Uganda was assisted by the East African Revival to regain its saltiness. Indeed, other Churches outside East Africa, which had become spiritually cold, also regained their saltiness, thanks to people who had been touched by the revival.

Second, the East African Revival enhanced trans-ethnic integration. The problem of national integration is that different ethnic or tribal groups such as Iteso, Karimojong, Baganda, Banyankore and Acholi do not accept each other as brothers and sisters. Absence of linguistic intelligibility between these ethnic groups means that they harbour prejudices against each other.

How has the East African Revival enhanced trans-ethnic integration?

By enabling people of different ethnic tribes to unite as brothers and sisters in Christ. The Balokole repented of tribal prejudices that used to divide them and they greatly treasured their new relationships.

During our upbringing, we interfaced with people of different tribes who were referred to as Ab‘oluganda (brethren). And so we imbibed trans-ethnic integration from childhood. We thank our parents for having inculcated into us the values of trans-ethnic integration.

Third, the East African Revival gave the believers hope for eternal life and therefore, the Balokole stopped being frightened of death. When Eseza, my sister died, my parents told me that she had gone to heaven.

The brethren sang Tukutendereza and other songs cheerfully, and they gave testimony of her life. My parents and other saved people did not weep. However, when a daughter of our neighbour who was not saved died, there was a lot of wailing and I was frightened by what I saw and heard. I asked my father why the neighbours were weeping when their daughter had died and he explained that they lacked hope for eternal life because they were not saved.

We wish to conclude this matter by quoting 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14: Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

Our parents emphasised these verses to us.

Fourth, the Bulokole inculcated in the Church the practice of “walking in the light”. If a Mulokole was greedy, selfish, dishonest or suffered from some other blemish, other brethren would point out his or her weakness to him/her and ask him/her to repent. The brethren would pray for the weak brethren and these would give testimony as to how God enabled them to overcome their weaknesses.

The culture of walking in the light enhanced the virtue of transparency. Our parents would preface walking in the light by confessing their weaknesses and by indicating to us how the Lord helped them daily to overcome the weaknesses. Thereafter, they would gently, but firmly indicate to us our own weaknesses. This procedure persuaded us to repent of our sins.

Fifth, the brethren were encouraged to be hygienic and clean. If a Mulokole was dirty, the brethren would visit him or her and “walk in the light” about this matter. Consequently, many Balokole learnt to keep their bodies clean in every part. Also homestead hygiene benefited from this teaching.

We are happy to observe that the Revival has deeply penetrated the Church of Uganda and increased its level of spiritual saltiness. The Revival was exported by Ugandans to East Africa and other parts of the World.

The Nsibambi Family is pleased to donate to the Uganda Christian University sh1m towards the wiring of the computer lounge in Semyoni and Eva Nsibambi Hall.

The origins of the ‘Bulokole’ movement

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