By Darious Magara
Kigezi Diocese is embroiled in succession wrangles as the seating Bishop, George Katwesigye, prepares to retire soon.
Similar wrangles bedevilled the neighbouring Muhabura Diocese in the recent past over a mismanaged succession process by the outgoing bishop. Muhabura Diocese was carved out of Kigezi.
Katwesigye, who has started bidding farewell to parishes in the diocese, will be replaced in June, when the nomination committee starts its vetting process.
It is expected to finally elect two names that will be sent to the House of Bishops.
Possible court case
Some members of the laity of Kigezi Diocese have written to the provincial chancellor of the Church of Uganda (C.O.U) asking that the recently elected nomination committee (electoral college of the Kigezi Diocese) be disbanded.
They are represented by Hilary Bindeeba, who wrote through his lawyers. The others are Abraham Asiimwe, Honest Tumwesigye, Moses Mayanja, Hope Tukamuhabwa, Gilbert Tumwekwase and Bruce Kyerere, the diocesan chancellor.
“Our clients contend and they have our support in that contention, that the election of the members of the nomination committee was irregular and contrary to the spirit and letter of the constitution of Kigezi Diocese and that of the province of the Church of Uganda on the following terms:
“That the term of the lawful nomination committee, elected to office in August 2009, was still running to the full term of the synod that elected it and the procedure for election of members of the committee, as laid out, was not followed.
"And that the business of election of members of the nomination committee was never on the agenda of August 15, 2012 synod and no vote was taken to allow debate on the new item on the agenda beyond its mention in passing in the communication from the Bishop.
“Our clients, therefore, herby appeal to your good office to rein sanity in their beloved diocese of Kigezi, counsel and recall the election of the new nomination committee, while assuring the duly elected nomination committee/electoral college elected to the office in 2009 of their mandate till expiry of the term of the synod that elected them,” the letter reads.
Bideeba expects feedback from the province within 14 days from the date they were served. His letter is also copied to the Archbishop.
At the said synod, the following persons were elected to constitute the new nomination committee namely: Rev. Reuben Byomuhangi, Rev. Can Warren Byamugisha, Rev. Can Steven Turyamureeba, Rev. Amos Tweteise and Rev. Edward Mwesigwa.
Genesis of the problem
Bindeeba alleged that Katwesigye is trying to lobby for Bagamuhunda to replace him.
Bagamuhunda, before joining the province, worked at Kigezi Diocese as head of the water and sanitation department. He has been a close friend to Katwesigye.
Those opposed to Katwesigye’s leadership think that replacing him with Bagamuhunda would be a continuation of Katwesigye’s leadership.
“We are wondering whether he will continue to work as provincial secretary and as well contest or be thought of as a possible bishop candidate,” a source said.
Some of the laity and clergy have complained that Katwesigye’s management of funds was allegedly not transparent enough and that his policy on the deployment of the clergy left a lot to be desired.
Recently, at All Saints Church, Kabale, Christians forced the transfer of the priest after setting fire to his official residence, threatening to lynch him should he refuse to move.
Bagamuhunda is a practical administrator, who has steered water projects in Kabale and has been key in the implementation of the Church House project on Kampala Road. But some Christians in the diocese questioned the vitality of his spiritual life and stance in direct church matters such as preaching and evangelism.
They argue that he has rarely been seen on the pulpit (preaching) and wonder how he would oversee evangelism if elected bishop.
Bagamuhunda said he does not know of any group that has dragged the church to court over succession issues and succeeded.
“They are not the first. They can go to court. What will they achieve? The church process of selecting the next bishop of Kigezi Diocese will continue. They can succeed in interrupting the process, but they cannot stop it. It is wrong for Christians to take such matters before non-believers,” Bagamuhunda said.
He also said those against the new election were ignorant of the new procedures of selecting a bishop.
When contacted, Katwesigye declined to comment. “I do not want to discuss church succession matters in the press,” he said.
Who will replace Katwesigye?
So far, eight names of possible candidates have been fronted for discussion and voting by the nomination committee (electoral college).
trueThey are: George Bagamuhunda (left), the provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda; Rev Dr. Medard Birungi Byayesu, a lecturer at Kyambogo University; Rev. Canon Geoffrey Byarugaba, the head of African Evangelistic Enterprise and Rev. Frank Tukwasibwe the commissioner in charge of petroleum in the Ministry of Energy.
Others are: Rev Damson Akandwanirira, head of Department of Theology and Divinity at Bishop Barham University and Rev. Can Steven Turyamureeba, the Archdeacon of Nyaruhanga Archdeaconry of Rubanda, Kabale.
Others that may also feature in the race are: Rev. Jotham Byamugisha, head of Five Talents, a church of Uganda micro finance (SACCO) based at Namirembe and Rev Canon Jovan Turyamureeba the deputy Principal of Bishop Barham University.
As much as the Anglican Church discourages the leaders from campaigning, some candidates, especially those based in Kampala, have opted for ‘preaching opportunities’ in various parishes of the diocese, so that they can exert some influence that will favour their selecteion.
Some observers have warned that if not handled cautiously, the succession of Kigezi Diocese may be marred by serious wrangles.
They have advised that seeking the counsel of top political leaders from Kigezi, such as Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, could help salvage the situation.