Church & Politics: Atubo to Kazimba–You’ve no power to appoint anybody to represent church in cabinet

Former Lands Minister Daniel Omara Atubo speaking to TND News from his Kampala office in 2019. File photo.

Church & Politics: Atubo to Kazimba–You’ve no power to appoint anybody to represent church in cabinet


By Daniel Omara Atubu

Lira—6, September 2021: The National Resistance Movement (NRM) government under President Yoweri Kaguta T. Museveni has had both good and bad criticism in recent years. Many of the critics are those opposed to her methods of governance, and some worked with her in high-profile offices as diplomats, ministers, and advisors.

Among those who worked with, and for NRM government and in particular president Museveni, is Daniel Omara Atubo. He is the former security minister, ex-land minister and also represented Otuke in the parliament of Uganda.

Atubo has remained vocal on cultural, religious and political businesses of not only Lango but Uganda in general. Recently, he castigated the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda–Rt. Rev. Dr Stephen Kazimba Mugalu.

In his view addressed to editors of media outlets, the former minister had this to tell the Man of God:

I am aware that issues of religion are emotive and I wish to apologize in advance for hurting anybody or anyone’s feelings or being perceived to do so, including Archbishop Dr. Stephen Kazimba Mugalu. As a Catholic, I am even more encumbered to be seen to be speaking against our historical competitor.

However, my article is in response to a widely circulated letter authored by Dr. Stephen Kazimba Mugaalu, Archbishop Church of Uganda, purporting to appoint the Hon. Minister Ruth Nankabirwa to be the Church’s representative in Cabinet. My reaction is motivated by goodwill and prayer for a better future of this country. As a senior citizen, I cannot keep quiet on important matters of national interest.

However, I will restrict myself on the constitutionality, politics and division of the appointment. As a participant in the making of the 1995 constitution, we were aware of our sad history caused by religious division and Anglican British colonialists who ensured that, like in Britain, the Church of Uganda shall be at the heart of government in Uganda.

History is rich with how the then Archbishop Leslie Brown contributed to an alliance between the Uganda Peoples’ Congress led by Apollo Milton Obote and Kabaka Fredrick Muteesa II of Kabaka Yekka to deprive Benedicto Kiwanuka on account of his Catholicism from leading an Independent Uganda. Since 1894, wars have been fought laced by religion, and governments have been overthrown supported by religion.

We as a country have suffered enough, and it is important that our children and grandchildren do not go through what we as a nation went through or are still going through. We should avoid a future war based on religious division.

Article 7 of the Constitution clearly states that “Uganda shall not adopt a State religion” thereby making Uganda a secular state. The letter and spirit of the Constitution is to completely leave out religion in our politics. Indeed, religion properly practiced to serve God or Allah should be the uniting factor for Ugandans and even humanity. What Churches ought to do as is the practice with the Catholic Church since 1961 is issue pastoral letters to guide voters in elections.

Article 21 and 29 enshrine fundamental freedoms of creed or religion or belief to be practiced equally by every believer. This does not elevate one religion over another to cabinet representation. What about other Churches that are currently numbering over one hundred, all demanding to be represented in Cabinet?

The reason why I have long supported the constitutional proposal that a minister should also not double as an elected member of parliament with political and religious constituencies is so as to serve the country with absolute loyalty, nationalism, independence and impartiality.

We, as Ugandans, need to ensure that we uphold the lessons derived from our sad past so that anything that is bound to derail these efforts and sink us back into the woes of religious division is avoided. When I hear religious leaders saying,” A Catholic can never be President of Uganda or Won Nyaci/ Cultural Leader of Lango,” I get very disappointed.

During the recently concluded 2021 general elections, some religious leaders campaigned for candidates of their respective churches, thereby dividing their own believers as well. After elections, they continue to influence and impose candidates on political positions, which should not be the case.

My conclusive piece of advice to religious leaders is “please, do the work of God not material greed.” Political and religious leaders should stop missing each other. Churches and their respective leaders have the potential and responsibility to unite and develop Uganda through unity, oneness in God, peace, and love.

Uganda is not only blessed by nature, but by God first.

The author, Daniel Omara Atubo, is also a lawyer.

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