Everybody everywhere in Uganda is busy with the activities leading to elections in 2016. Our church leaders are no exception. Politicians, especially those aspiring to be voted to various offices, have targeted church leaders and their projects. I have deliberately used the word church leaders and
By Daniel Omara Atubo
Everybody everywhere in Uganda is busy with the activities leading to elections in 2016. Our church leaders are no exception. Politicians, especially those aspiring to be voted to various offices, have targeted church leaders and their projects. I have deliberately used the word church leaders and not religious leaders.
Article 7 of the 1995 Constitution provides that Uganda shall not adopt a state religion. The simple meaning is that religion and state shall be separate and that nobody should misuse religion in politics and governance of the state. Religion is basically “the belief in and worship of God”. It is a personal affair and not a state matter.
In Uganda today, we have majority Christian religion and minority Muslim believers. Within the Christian religion, there are many churches with their own leaders and tendencies. Article 29 of the Constitution protects the freedom to belong to and practice any religion.
The role church leaders should play in politics and governance of the state should be moral, ethical, prayful, educative, uniting, reconciliatory and non-partisan. They should be the voice of the voiceless, the weak and the oppressed.
They should exhibit clean exemplary leadership and they should be above suspicion. They should not be opportunistic, materialistic and greedy. They should not be compromised nor accept bribes.
They should not be subordinate to earthly leaders on fundamental matters of human rights and good governance. As representatives of God on earth, church leaders must be fearless in the promotion of God’s messages as enshrined in the Bible and Quran just as they have done by courageously rejecting homosexuality.
Politicians want to acquire power using any possible means available. Church leaders must act as guiding and restraining factors. When church leaders remain silent or become part of the dirty politics, the end can be tragic. Next door in Rwanda, church leaders failed to play their proper role. They were part of the repressive state which resulted into terrible genocide. The church leaders also became victims.
In 1999, the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) tried to mediate between the multipartyists and movement on the controversial issue of the referendum on political system. I was privileged to lead a powerful delegation of multiparty Members of Parliament to the negotiation. Our uncompromising position was that “freedom of association” through political parties was a fundamental human right just like freedom of religion, which could not be subjected to a referendum. The mediation failed and UJCC failed to take a firm position. At the end the referendum was forced through, which set a bad precedent.
The multipartyists rightly boycotted the referendum and the churches shot themselves in the feet. We await a referendum on the freedom of religion to be held one day.
Church leaders in Uganda must steer clear and clean from the temptations of politicians who want to misuse them to acquire or continue in power. It is detestable and derogatory for church leaders to accept billions of shillings in order for a leader to be voted.
I can sympathise with the poor peasant from Otuke doing that but not a bishop. Many fundraisings are being organised where state leaders pour out lots of money during such functions. The wrong message to ordinary believers is simple. If my church leader accept the bribe why not me.
There are certain fundamental matters on which church leaders must never be compromised. These are human rights, justice, peace and democracy. They must continuously defend, preach and promote these matters. There can never be democracy without an independent electoral commission, free and fair election, respect of human rights, constitutionalism and good governance. When our church leaders meet President Museveni, do they also preach to him about those fundamental matters and beseech him to respect them or they simply collect the monies and depart with pleasure?
My sincere advice to church leaders is that their acceptance of money from politicians should be conditional upon politicians being good and clean leaders. If not, reject the dirty moneys for the good of human rights, justice, peace and democracy just as they did from homosexual donors. Commercialisation of elections produce bad leaders.
It is acceptable for the state and politicians to assist churches and to promote development through churches but they should not be based on patronage and promotion of personal rule and bad governance. The public moneys given out should be budgeted for and equitably distributed through state institutions. Currently what is being said is that church leaders are being bribed in order for the givers to win the 2016 elections. The church leaders are undermining their own credibility which is bad for democracy, good governance and stability.
The writer is a lawyer and former Cabinet minister and Member of Parliament for Otuke County.
The church leaders should keep of partisan politics