“That is a security issue and we shall see how to handle it. Most of the serious embassies verify with us. So those who don’t, can go ahead and get deceived,” Canon Kaweesa said.
Msgr John Wynand Katende from Catholic Church said he knows people forge documents, but he has never heard of a forged marriage certificate from Rubaga.
Many Ugandans going out of the country to work abroad are using forged Church marriage certificates, known as a record of legal marriage in migration terms.
Fake marriage certificate are easier and faster to get than having to go through the process of a church wedding.
Marriage certificates are important in confirming marital status and for parents travelling out of the country with children to avoid child trafficking.
This forgery has become so notorious following an upsurge in labour export that people are advertising without fear. Saturday Vision followed a WhatsApp advert calling for people who want academic documents, marriage certificates, air tickets among others. The advertiser revealed that those documents can be processed in a short time at a fair fee. He gave his number for proper directions.
When Saturday Vision called using a false identity, the person who answered the call gave directions to his office as Equatorial Mall, Room 600F, Block B. He assures the undercover journalist that he did certificates for all religions and that they come complete with the church leader's signature.
He said he could give me a marriage certificate for Lubaga Cathedral or Namirembe Cathedral with the registrar's signature in less than an hour.
A negotiation for one from a Catholic Church was made and the one with a seal was costed at sh250,000 and one without a seal, at sh60,000. He said his certificates have worked for people going to Sweden, Dubai and Canada successfully.
He asked whether the undercover was legally married and the answer was no. The undercover was going to the US and wanted it as a requirement for a Visa.
He tried to argue that the one with a seal was more convincing, but when the reporter insisted on sh60,00, he conceded saying: "Depending on where you are taking it, even one without seal is recognised. Just that one looks more real than the other.
If I were you, I would take the one with a seal. But anyway, either will work," he said.
Our undercover reporter narrates: I arrived at Hotel Equatorial on Bombo Road at 11:00am. He directed me to Block B which is accessed through the main Equatorial building.
His directions lead me to a closed shop which looks like a bridal shop with stickers mentioning Genius Media Events, just next to Al-shifaa Herbal Pharmacy.
I call again and he asks me to wait for him for 10 minutes. But after about 5 minutes of waiting, a gentleman in his mid-20s comes with a black back bag and opens the door.
I first mistake him for my host, but he expressed ignorance. He asked me for the number I was communicating with and confirms it belongs to Davis. He then called him and asked him to rush for his visitor.
He opened the bridal shop and offered me a seat. But it turned out to be a photo studio. There are only two seats and two tablets.
Davis showed up about 30 minutes later. The short, slender and dark skinned man called Davis Byaruhanga and sometimes Savina Byarugaba Asiimwe, started by apologising for late coming.
"Rubaga certificate is hard to get at that amount (sh60,000). As I earlier told you, the one from Rubaga needs sh250,000 and it has the Archbishops stamp, which I cannot get today.
But for Namirembe, we have a lot of them, so why don't you take that of Namirembe since they are all recognised? You know I deal in all of them and since I have given it to many people, you should not worry about anything.
The ones we make are actually more genuine than church ones, remember? And they have the registrar's signature," he bragged.
He asked for money and told me to wait for 10 minutes. After he left, his friend told me Davis works with a tour and travel company.
About 10 minutes later, Davis called again and asked for more information about my age, groom's name and age, profession and my father's profession, age and name, my area of residence groom's father names and profession, specific date we wedded, plus four witnesses.
30 minutes later, he showed up with the marriage certificate.
"I cannot get you a Catholic one at that price. The Anglican and Pentecostal certificates are easier and so, cheaper. But you take that; it will also work for you because people I have given it have positive testimonies. I can refer you to my clients for their personal testimonies," he said.
He promised to refund my money if the certificate fails me. I asked if I can find him in the same place and he says I should call and he will direct me. But he assures me it won't happen.
Catholics marriage certificate
Not many forging persons will agree to work on a marriage certificate from the Catholic Church.
The search for one leads the undercover reporter to Nasser Road. A short dark-skinned, medium sized man standing on the entrance of one of the buildings and holding a piece of newspaper with a document inside offered to help and called someone of phone.
He then took the reporter up stairs on the first floor in Room no. K3 282 at the extreme end next to washrooms. The place was busy, people seated on the balcony others inside working on customers, others selling stamps and whoever entered alone was received by brokers.
There was a slim brown lady later identified as Prossy seated on a computer at the entrance of the room. She offered to make one for sh22,000 regardless of the denomination.
She allowed the undercover reporter to sit next to her as she perused through certificate sketches on her computer. After discovering that she didn't have the Catholic sketch, she proposed to offer the protestant one.
When the reporter insisted on the Catholic one, she called in someone called Kalule to help her with a sketch, but Kalule also did not have it. She then tried the internet and landed on one.
She made one for 2015, wrote on it, asked her office workmates to sign and took it somewhere for stamping. Then she folded it and roughed it up so that it can look old to avoid being intercepted.
Church speaks out
Rev. Can. Nelson Kaweesa, the assistant secretary from Namirembe Catherdral, said he was aware that most forgeries are made from Nkrumah Road, but he had never imagined that marriage certificates from Namirembe were included.
"That is a security issue and we shall see how to handle it. Most of the serious embassies verify with us. So those who don't, can go ahead and get deceived," he noted.
Msgr John Wynand Katende from Catholic Church, also said he knows people forge documents, but he has never heard of a forged marriage certificates from Rubaga.
"I'm not surprised because a marriage certificate is not as complicated as a passport. If people can forge a passport; why not a marriage certificate? I will put the issue forward to authorities and we see what element to add to protect against forgery. People should be taught that forgery is a crime."
How to identify fake Marriage certificate
While the original certificate and the fakes are similar flame, font size, emblem and the logo, there are differences experts have pointed out.
There is no serial number on forged Catholic marriage certificate while on the original, it is written with a pen.
The stamp on the forged certificate has a star and faded logo and the stamp is straight while on the original, the star is different and slants a bit.
For Protestants, the logo on the forged certificate is darker.
The word Holy marriage certificate on both certificates have the same font but the word certificate on genuine is in brown colour while on forged one is red.
The number on the genuine certificate has six digits while on forged certificate, there are four digits.
The signature of registrar/priest on forged certificates is way different from the forged certificate, but the registrar's names used as Rev. Benon Kakande on both certificates are the same.
The stamp on the forged certificate has St. Paul's Cathedral Namirembe in between, an address on top and telephone below while the genuine one has St. Paul's Cathedral Namirembe on top, date, month and year in the middle and telephone number and address below.
The frame of both certificates is the same but the seal on the forged one looks very clear and noticeable while on the genuine one, it's very strong.
On its back, all the design, information is the same but the last word on forged certificate is in Runyankore while on genuine one is in Luganda.
Marriage certificate is only got from church leaders and registrar by two legally married people after making an oath.