Kampala. The ongoing debate about political transition in Uganda cannot be left to only politicians but must involve all citizens, a coalition of religious leaders said yesterday.
In a joint message calling upon Ugandans to actively engage in the country’s governance, the religious leaders under their umbrella body, ‘United for Social Justice and Peace in Uganda’, said there is a deliberate misinterpretation of the Holy Scriptures to suggest that politicians should do “Caesar’s bidding and religious leaders God’s”.
“We wish to put to rest, in no uncertain terms, the incessant suggestion and insinuation that politics is off-limits to religious leaders. This notion has been propagated mainly by political (appointed and elected) leaders, including those occupying the highest echelons of government,” said Fr Gaetano Batanyenda, who read the joint statement.
At yesterday’s media briefing, the religious leaders said politicians and men of God are all citizens with an equal stake in Uganda’s future.
Leaders present included retired Soroti Diocese Bishop Charles Obaikol, Kitgum Anglican Diocese Bishop Macleod Baker Ochola II, retired assistant Bishop of Kampala Diocese Zac Niringiye, Rev Canon Francis Mutatiina, Sheikh Muhammad Katuramu and Imam Kasozi (Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly), among others.
“A true religious leader is one who identifies himself or herself with the suffering and oppressed… Without a doubt, therefore, we are convinced that it is our cardinal duty to be the voice of the voiceless and to take the lead in enlightening our people…,” they said.
The religious leaders also paid tribute to Archbishop Janani Luwum and Ben Kiwanuka, the first prime minister of pre-independence Uganda, and others who were murdered for their convictions and urged Ugandans to emulate them.
“We call upon all Ugandans to know that the path they are treading has been trodden before and if God did not forget Uganda in the tumultuous times of Idi Amin, he surely will not forget Uganda in this time when we see the dark clouds of oppression fomenting a storm over our beloved motherland.”
The clergymen also asked Ugandans to use the holy months of Lent and Ramadhan to pray and work towards reconciliation and peaceful coexistence.
Museveni criticism. President Museveni has in the past criticised religious leaders for what he has said was the turning of their pulpits into political campaign platforms.
Defence. However, Mr Museveni’s critics have always insisted the clergy have a duty to comment on issues affecting the country such as corruption, and especially at this time when respect for human rights, constitutionalism and the rule of law are seen to be under attack.
Recent criticism. Recently, many religious leaders have denounced what they referred to as the heavy-handedness of the government to any opposition to it.