Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze, the retired bishop of Busoga Diocese, is a man of all seasons. After retiring as bishop in 1999, Bamwoze is currently living a humble life in Nakakabala village, Kamuli district. The man of God says he has done his best and has no regrets
Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze, the retired bishop of Busoga Diocese, is a man of all seasons. After retiring as bishop in 1999, Bamwoze is currently living a humble life in Nakakabala village, Kamuli district. The man of God says he has done his best and has no regrets, writes Watuwa Timbiti
He was known nationally as the bishop of Busoga Diocese and even after he retired and tucked himself away in Nakakabala village in Kamuli district, many people, seek Cyprian Bamwoze to drink from his brimming gourd of wisdom. His words roll out in both his sing-song Lusoga and fine English.
Bamwoze spends most of his time attending to visitors and supervising his vast farm comprising fish, local cows, hybrid goats and a piggery. After breakfast, depending on his health, Bamwoze goes to the farm to provide his management input.
He returns for lunch and rests shortly before going back to the farm. He finally returns home between 6:00pm and 7:00pm in time for supper and then sleep.
The amount of time he spends on the farm is determined by the number of visitors he gets and the purpose for their visit.
“Some visitors are married people in need of counselling. Others are couples in need of pre-marital counselling.
Over the weekends, I carry out weddings,” Bamwoze says, adding that other people come to discuss development issues or to consult him on fish farming.
Bamwoze's house in Nakakabala
In the 1990s, Bamwoze’s name was synonymous with the overt resistance he faced from a section of Christians in Busoga Diocese that forced him to leave his seat at Christ’s Cathedral in Bugembe.
The conflict lasted several years with seemingly no success in resolving the warring sides. Unverifiable rumour then had it that the struggles originated from clandestine operations of elements that did not want him to become archbishop of the Province of the Church of Uganda.
It was rumoured that, as one of the senior bishops then, he was the likely successor to then Archbishop Yona Okoth who was about to retire. But Bamwoze pours cold water on those rumours.
“I have heard that talk. Although I was perhaps one of the most senior bishops at the time, I must say the idea of becoming the next archbishop did not ever cross my mind,” Bamwoze emphasises.
“Many of those who were against my leadership have passed on. But, what is important is that they owed me nothing and I owed them nothing. That is why I presided over some of their funeral services. As church leaders, we are supposed to be ministers of reconciliation and it is incumbent upon us to live a life of reconciliation,” Bamwoze adds.
When handing over as bishop in 1999, Bamwoze preached to the congregation the same message and apologised to all he had hurt and comforted those who had hurt him not to bother about it anymore.
A life well-lived
Bamwoze says he has no regret. “I have never had occasion to look back and say I wish I had not done or done this or that in life. I have never even wished I were young again. There is no wasted aspect in my life that can cause me to regret — I must say I have had a blessed ministry,” he says.
That is not to say that he has never experienced failure. He cites an afforestation programme he had started for Busoga that did not go well. He hired qualified people and farming assistants with facilitation such as bicycles, but they never internalised the significance of the programme.
“I was hit by the reality that people need to see before they share any vision. The effect of the failure of that programme is now evident: trees have been cut down, and in the villages, people have food, but no firewood to cook it with,” he says.
Life must be focused
He recognises the need to analyse why qualified Ugandans lose confidence when faced with challenges in their own fields of study.
“For instance, look at agriculture — there are so many with bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in agriculture, but the sector is instead declining in terms of productivity. But, ask them to go for training or a workshop and they will all be there because of the aspect of allowances,” Bamwoze observes.
The country’s deficient training system, according to Bamwoze, is to blame: it produces qualified people with no practical solutions to problems.
“I am in fish farming now, but often I have brought the so-called qualified people to help me solve a problem, and they run away,” he notes in a tone dripping with disdain.
On a serious note, however, he observes that agriculture in Uganda is suffering because most people treat it as hobby, yet ironically they expect that hobby to give them a livelihood.
“This is not possible — just imagine a man who has a goat, two cows and eight children. He is not serious,” Bamwoze says.
Bamwoze also decries the increasing lack of integrity in the public domain, which he blames on irresponsible parenting and a valueless education system. He says in his time, education emphasised values inculcated from home, which is key in character formation.
“Unlike today, schools in our time emphasised producing people, and not just results,” Bamwoze says.
He argues that the outcome is people who lack professional pride and so can do anything to get money at the expense of their professions.
He says society must undergo a radical rebirth, with emphasis on the family, while schools should endeavour to inculcate values in students.
Society at large, Bamwoze notes, is only as strong as its constituent units, part of which is the institution of the family. He argues that every success in society has its genesis in the family.
Some of the cows in Bamwoze's farm. The retired bishop spends most of his time at the farm
On Busoga's kingship
On the power struggle that has shrouded the kyabazingaship, the traditional kingship of Busoga, Bamwoze blames political meddling, which he sees as a force stronger than the institution can contain.
“People have asked me before about the issue of the Kyabazinga. I have told them quite often that there was a time when we pushed for things to get better and we pushed up to a certain degree — we cannot push anymore,” Bamwoze says.
He warns that there are diverse interests in the matter, especially from outside Busoga, and unless external influence is sorted out, there will be little progress.
“Although the institution and the process of electing a Kyabazinga should be apolitical, the 11 chiefs who should elect are a small group — they are easy to influence in any direction one wants,” he notes.
“One would say it should be a free process, but what is to be free? There are so many factors that impinge such freedom. For instance, there is monetary influence. As you know, the English say he who pays the piper calls the tune,” he adds.
Bamwoze observes, therefore, that the poor are vulnerable to manipulation and other circumstances. He adds that the cultural institution itself is reluctant about effective leadership.
“The aspect of leadership in society is not a luxury, but a necessity whose success ideally depends on the nature of society,” Bamwoze argues.
Living like a rabbit
Despite being of old age, Bamwoze is fairly strong and this is partly due to the fact that he remains conscious of his health.
“I am living like a rabbit — I eat a lot of vegetables and little meat. For chicken, I only eat the ends of the wings. I do all this not because I fear to die, but because I do not want to die irresponsibly,” he jokes.
He adds: “The real killers are carbohydrates and eating a lot of food at night before sleeping — the energy in the body is not spent and before you know it, you have a pot belly. To keep fit, I take walks on the farm to avoid having my feet swell.”
My father wanted me to be a priest
Retired Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze was born on May 15, 1934 to Birusaani Munhanhanfu and Budestiana Mukoda, of Naminage-Nakimegere, Kitayunjwa sub-county, Kamuli district.
His father was a peasant farmer who wanted Bamwoze to study up to University and become a priest.
Bamwoze attended Naminage Primary School (1944 -1950) before joining Kamuli Junior School (1952-1954) for secondary education.
Between 1955 and 1957, he was at Busoga College Mwiri. However, his father died before he finished his “A” level.
In 1960, he went for a course in Religious Education at Mukono and later to London to study Theology (1962-1963), where he was ordained Priest.
Prof. King, the then Archbishop of Uganda, summoned him to study a Bachelors in Religious Education and Philosophy at Makerere University (1964-1967), before he was deployed at St. James Church Jinja.
Between 1969 and 1972, he enrolled for a post graduate course in religion and arts and was named Busoga Diocesan Bishop in 1973.
He sourced funds for relief projects like school, health and modern framing until the mid-1990s when a section of christians launched resistance against his leadership.
In 1999, he retired and handed over the mantle to Bishop Michael Kyomya, who has since then led the Anglican Church.
He is now a prominent farmer of cross-breed cattle, crops and fish at Nakakabala in Mbulamuti sub-county, Kamuli district. He earns about sh120m annually from agriculture.
Compiled by Tom Gwebayanga
Bamwoze still a man of the people