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The East African revival: The treasure of Ankole region

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Added 19th August 2016 11:54 AM

ne of the few surviving first Barokore of 1936 is the 95-year-old Zabron Kabaza who edits the Kishumuruzo, Runyankore for ‘The Key’, a Runyankore daily guide to the study of the Bible.

The East African revival: The treasure of Ankole region

Rt. Rev Dr. Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa (Phd) is the Bishop Ankole Diocese

ne of the few surviving first Barokore of 1936 is the 95-year-old Zabron Kabaza who edits the Kishumuruzo, Runyankore for ‘The Key’, a Runyankore daily guide to the study of the Bible.

By Rt Rev Dr Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa (Phd)

The East African Revival Movement, an evangelical spiritual awakening movement that has become synonymous with the Anglican Church of Uganda, simply described as okulokoka, Luganda for getting saved, was birthed in Gahini, Rwanda around 1931 and spread to Kigezi in 1935 and Ankole in 1936.

One of the few surviving first Barokore of 1936 is the 95-year-old Zabron Kabaza who edits the Kishumuruzo, Runyankore for ‘The Key', a Runyankore daily guide to the study of the Bible.

The Revival movement was mainly ignited following spiritual reflection, fervour and calling to repentance of sins and the call to preach the word of God so as to win souls for Christ. The harbingers of this new spiritual dispensation included William Nagenda, father of John Nagenda, Semyoni Nsibambi, father of Prof. Apolo Nsibambi and Blasio Kigozi.

An English medical doctor, Joe Church, whose grandchildren will attend the 80th anniversary celebrations of the East African Revival at Ruharo from September 5, was another pillar of the revival during its inception. Perhaps the most recognised figure of the East African Revival world over is the late Bishop Festo Kivengere. While the East African Revival Movement was pioneered by the laity and was initially resisted by the clergy, it has now become the overarching tradition of the Church of Uganda and more so, Dioceses in Ankole region, comprising districts of Isingiro, Mbarara, Bushenyi, Nyabushozi, Ibanda and Ntungamo.

Ankole region is generally one of the most developed regions of Uganda in terms of social and economic indicators and in my view, the single most defining factor of this development is the embracing of the Revival Movement and some of its values even by non Balokole. Balokole have been known to espouse values such as truthfulness, honesty, sexual purity, love for all irrespective of background, an abhorrence of alcohol and smoking and the shunning of witchcraft and ancestor worship.

Another key value has been the promotion of good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle whereby hygiene is paramount. There has been a correlation between faith and longevity in Ankole region.

Three years ago, research that was conducted by the Diocesan office revealed  about 200 couples who clocked 50 years and above in holy matrimony and more than three quarters were Barokore! The longest surviving couple until August 10, had made 79 years in marriage!

The 104-year-old Murokore Agnes Begumisa passed away and has left behind her 107-year-old Murokore husband. Two years ago, the Church census revealed that Ankole Diocese had 35 Anglicans who were 100 centenarians and 23 of these were abarokore with the 12 ‘good practising Christians'.

Barokore have been instrumental in the education of their children and most of their children, following rigorous discipline, have gone on to excel in academia, political, security, civil and other fields of human endeavour.

Notable of Barokore children include President Yoweri Museveni, Gen Elly Tumwine, John Nasasira, Justice Kakuru, Justice and Yorokamu Bamwine, Flight Capt. New Man, Sam Kuteesa, Keith Muhakanizi, Canon Barnabas Tumusingize COU Chancellor  etc. As regards economic transformation, abarokore were in the lead of embracing western culture of advancement through buying land, acquiring land titles and registering improved crop or animal variety which in turn resulted in a relative level of disposable income that enabled majority to send their children to ‘good schools' then. 

The social economic transformation in Ankole region is best summed by retired Archbishop Henry Orombi who on several occasions while preaching in Ankole Diocese would say, ‘I never stop falling in love with Ankole where the fruits of revival are evident in the well-coming nature of the people. When I am approaching Karuma on my way home I often see men with bicycles carrying jerry cans of ajon but when I approach Lyantonde on my way to Ankole I start seeing men with bicycles carrying matooke and cans of milk.'

The writer is the Bishop Ankole Diocese

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