On 22nd September 2017, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Makerere University launched one of its latest publications titled; “The Ugandan Churches and the Political Centre: Cooperation, Co-option and Confrontation”. The launch ceremony took place in Senate Upper Conference Hall and was presided over by the Minister of State for Northern Uganda, Hon. Grace Kwiyucwiny on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda.
“The Ugandan Churches and the Political Centre” largely explains how the Christian faith and the political centre have been intertwined from the outset in the Ugandan Christian story. Its chapters take examples from this story where the churches have cooperated with, been co-opted by and confronted the political centre. The examples come from different periods and regions and are based on pioneering research. The chapters include: “Festo Kivengere’s Preaching on Reconciliation into post-Amin Uganda” by Alfred Olwa, “The Growing Role of the Pentecostal Churches in the Political Arena” by Dr Paddy Musana, “Religious Rituals to Reintegrate Girl Child-soldiers in Northern Uganda” by Dr Christine Mbabazi Mpyangu, “The Relationship between the NRM Government and the Churches” by Mr Ofwono Opondo and “Being Church in Turbulent Uganda 1980-92: National Identity and the Confluence of Religion and Politics” by Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye. The book was edited by Dr Paddy Musana, Dr Angus Crichton and Dr Caroline Howell, and is dedicated to the Archbishop martyr Janan Luwum, who paid the ultimate price for being a prophet to the rulers of Uganda and for not condoning injustice and bad rule in Uganda.
According to Prof. Edward K. Kirumira, Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences; “the book gives the reader a powerful and often nuanced insight of the interwovenness of church and politics in Uganda. For example how church leaders too often mirror their political counterparts by using ecclesiastical power selectively in the face of Christian theology and traditional culture that demand power is wielded for the benefit of all”.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, the former Bishop of Madi and West Nile Diocese, the the Rt.Rev.Dr. Joel Obetia implored church leaders to actively participate in the fight against social injustice in society. “Churches should not be cheerleaders for governments, no matter how good. They should be a critical eye that will see injustice, misrule and disempowerment and speak on behalf of the poor, voiceless and the weak,” he said. Dr Obetia expressed concern over the wrong motives behind the amendment of the Constitution. “There is nothing wrong in amending the Constitution. Ugandans are only opposed to the spirit of the amendment. As the only regulator of our fragile democracy, once it is raped, there remains no other censor to guide the evolution of this nation state into a mature democracy,” he explained. He noted that Ugandan politics is devoid of ideas of progress but the concern for perpetuity of individuals and of sleeping well.
In his presentation, Makerere University Law Don, Prof. John Jean Barya said the case studies in the book contain raw materials crucial for the construction of Uganda’s political theology. Commenting on the role of the church in shaping Uganda’s politics, Prof, Barya said religious leaders were not doing enough to confront bad leadership. “Church leaders should always take an independent stand and fight for the rights of the people. They should castigate wrong leaders instead of praying for them,” he advised. Prof. Barya called for a deeper study on Pentecostal churches citing lack of a coherent theology.
The Guest of Honour, Hon. Grace Kwiyucwiny called for increased cooperation between the Church and Government. “Confrontation cannot take the country anywhere. Churches should work towards supplementing government’s development programmes for the socio-economic transformation of our country,” she said.
The book project was supported by the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide in the United Kingdom. Copies of the book can be accessed in bookshops around Kampala at UGX35,000.