The Archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga has wasted no time in responding to President Yoweri Museveni’s harsh criticism against the clergy in his New Year’s message.
On Saturday Museveni said religious leaders are behaving as if they are an authority on everything, speaking in favour of people they fancy so they can get them into political power.
“Some of our religious people are so full of arrogance. They talk most authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth. This is assuming they do not have evil intentions which would be worse. That would make them into the Kayaffas, the Chief Priest, that betrayed Jesus”, Museveni said.
But less than 24 hours later, Archbishop Lwanga in his New Year’s homily at Rubaga cathedral on Monday hit back at the president, saying the clergy are simply playing their cardinal role as citizens to participate in nation building, and as well as resisting bad politics as President Museveni himself once asked Ugandans to.
“The president, one day said all of us belong to the Movement system and he explained to us why he started the National Resistance Movement. He said; ‘I want people to resist bad politics’. So he commanded people to resist bad politics. He said we should resist bad politics, and I think he was right there. Clap for it [loud and long clapping]. Let us resist bad politics, let us resist bad politics and promote national unity because we’re all interested in this country and also to build a strong future for this country”, Lwanga said.
This was the gist of Dr Lwanga’s New Year’s message that hinged on promoting democracy, good governance and resisting bad politics. Since the tabling of the age limit bill in September and its subsequent passing by parliament in December last year, religious leaders have increasingly become more critical of the political leadership especially members of parliament for ignoring the views of their people on the bill.
The controversial and largely unpopular Bill lifts the upper age limit previously capped at 75 years. It also lowered the lower age limit from 35 to 18 years. Following the clergy’s fierce criticism, government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo said the religious leaders had overstepped their mandate. He implored them to stand for political positions if they want their views to be considered.
On Monday, every time Archbishop Lwanga quoted the Constitution on freedom of expression or Museveni’s historical remarks, he was loudly cheered by the congregation. He referred to the National Resistance Movement (NRM’s) 10-point Programme stipulated by Museveni in his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed, as a good guide in the work of national renewal.
Lwanga said as he read the 10-point programme that in democracy, people give in their views and then governments choose the best. “All these ten points are very good for nation building,” he said amidst applause.
Lwanga noted that all Ugandans have the duty to promote not division or bad politics but national unity for the development of the country. He referred to Article 17 and 29 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution that gives all Ugandans the right and freedom to speak. He noted that they are not yet about to stop speaking about national issues unless they are also “amended.”
“Another good guide in this country in our work of national renewal, is the 10-point programme of the National Resistance Movement stipulated by the president in his book, Sowing the Mustard Seed. He enumerated the 10 points, By the way, they are very interesting .
The first one is to restore democracy. What does that mean? People trade in views and then you choose the best. Two; restoration of security of person and property…consolidation of nation unity and elimination of all forms of sectarianism. So we all have a duty to promote nothing else, not divisions but national unity. These 10 point programme are very good for nation building. We thank our dear president for having highlighted them in his book. Let us implement them and do nothing else but for God and our country,” Lwanga said.
Not done, Archbishop Lwanga went on to remind the president and Ofwono Opondo, the Uganda Media Centre executive director and government spokesperson, who last week argued that religious leaders, who, think they command people’s thoughts are deceiving themselves that the Constitution grants everyone the freedom of expression.
Opondo accused Lwanga last week of letting his congregation heckle the Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi as he delivered his Christmas message. Lwanga said religious leaders are citizens whose freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 29 of the Constitution “if it has not also been amended.”
“We have all the right to speak, Article 29 stipulates the protection of freedom of conscience, freedom of own expression, freedom of movement. This means, that every citizen or every person has a right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of thoughts.
All of us should therefore be aware that the life of our nation is not a responsibility of a few individuals alone but a common social responsibility of all citizens of this country. I therefore appeal to all concerned especially politicians or even journalists, please read and understand the Constitution of Uganda before making abusive utterances on innocent people – be it religious leaders, politicians or others. That Constitution is for all us without any category of people,” he added.
On Opondo’s suggestions that the clergy remove their cassocks and join the murky waters of politics, Lwanga said religious leaders are not and will not be interested in politics but their views must be respected as well.
“Today people are calling us, especially religious leaders names and even at times abusing us, saying religious leaders must not talk about national issues. ‘If they want to talk about them, let them come out and stand for political posts’. I would like to assure everybody, don’t get worried of us. We’re not interested in political posts.
What we’re just doing is our work. So whoever maybe worried that we do what we do and say what we say because we want to stand, it is not true. We’re not interested and we shall not have interest either. What is being said is a wrong approach which diverts people from the sovereignty of the people which the national Constitution gives us all…Amongst the duties stipulated of a citizen in the Constitution, is to respect the freedom and rights of others to speak”