Sunday May 18 2014

Bishop Katoneene locked out of church

Yona Katonene. File Photo

Yona Katonene. File Photo 

By Alfred Tumushabe

What is the cause of confusion in your diocese?
When you critically reflect on this situation, sometimes it becomes very difficult to understand the real cause of this kind of situation. But we can call it passing storm.

What is the conflict about?
As early as 1980s, the diocese had a vision to start a university with our founding Bishop, Yoram Bamunoba. The diocese started seven diocesan secondary schools at ago and a college for tertiary studies. We hoped that this was to lead to a university. In the early 2000, the Synod took a concrete decision that a university be established.

Perhaps, that is what created a problem. From the beginning of the establishment of the university it became a contentious issue on its location and committees and commissions to be constituted.
Eventually, it was recommended that the university should be founded at Kabwohe Hill. The recommendation was that Nganwa High School be relocated to where the present Nganwa Junior is and the latter relocates to another place. That was the time I was coming in as bishop. I wrote a letter to the permanent secretary, Ministry of Education saying that as a foundation body, we wanted to reorganise our educational institutions.

Is the university project what resulted in Christians stopping you from entering some churches?
Exactly. It is about the university. There is nothing more, all the other things they are saying are added to make it look like there is something terribly wrong. That is not the case. As soon as that letter was written and organs of the school like the Board of governors, and PTA started sitting, there was resistance that Nganwa High School can’t be relocated and therefore we found ourselves in a fix.

One of the reasons Kabwohe was selected, there was a promise that Nganwa High School would be relocated, and the land had a title. It was chosen over a place like Ruyonza which has a big chunk of land. We decided to plan again because parents of Nganwa High School could not accept. There was an annex; I think it was formerly Kabwohe Girls’ School, we agreed that we use this place to start and that’s what happened.

Was it documented that you would in future to open branches?
Yes, it is in black and white.
Some people say you want to shift the institute from Sheema to Bushenyi District.
No. In March last year, the former Principal (Prof. Emanuel Karoro) wanted to use the diocese facilities at Katungu (in Bushenyi) because Kabwohe campus was getting overcrowded. He wrote to me as Bishop and I said facilities are open, that is how the current challenges started.

What are disagreements about?
Around February, I received a letter from lawyers of some people threatening to take me to court because I was interfering with the running of the university. Therefore, I was ordered within the specific period of 14 days to disband the committee. The people who are complaining were in the governing bodies and part of the meetings that made the decisions. Now their lawyers were going to sue me. I was surprised.

I decided to refer the matter to our legal chancellor as it was a legal matter and he agreed that we should convene the diocesan council.
We immediately convened the special council to discuss that matter because the Bishop was being sued. The council pronounced itself clearly that the Bishop was not to be sued and it was the council being sued because the Bishop was implementing the decision of the diocesan council.
The council said this letter has no legal standing and must not even be responded to because it was supposed to sue the diocesan council but not the Bishop. So, they started circulating documents targeting the Bishop and portraying him in a negative manner.

Who are these people?
I wouldn’t want to name them.

What is the message in the documents they are circulating?
The documents carry message that distorts facts about what is happening in the diocese. There are lies, they give malicious information about the person of the Bishop and his family. There is a force creating an impression that there is no proper accountability.

How many churches have you been blocked out of?
One of the messages was saying that I should not visit one of the archdeaconries, Rwabutura in Sheema. Somebody came up very early in night put padlocks on the church and run away. We don’t know who did it. I was not locked out of any other church, it’s only that church at Ngoma where they put padlocks. By the time I went there, people had removed them and we had a church service. But what they have been doing is going to people telling them not to go to church.

They move from house to house telling parents who have children not to take them for confirmation not to attend church. When the parent says but I have already paid the confirmation fee, which is Shs5000, they give them reimbursement. And they say if you go we will turn on and burn your house. They use those crude methods and dirty tactics.

Sheema and Igara communities have always been in sort of competition, isn’t it the same politics playing now?
The old rivalries between Igara and Sheema were mainly linked to football that is what I am told. I wouldn’t directly say that it is connected to that. I don’t think it is to that level that people are putting and we have been trying to discourage it. We have very many people in Sheema who are against such a thing.

So, I have tried hard to say there are individuals. It would not be right to make an issue of Sheema against Igara because even currently the people who compose the diocesan council are from all the districts.

Will this conflict end soon?
There is no problem that cannot be solved. I wrote a circular that there is a need for Christians to work for unity and respect one another.
Everywhere I go, after service we sit in Eishaazi (caucus). People have all sorts of questions and I am providing space such that people can talk. I make sure that people get my side of the story. I have met political leaders; we are working to resolve the conflict.

Bishop Yona Mwesigwa Katoneene is the Anglican Bishop of West Ankole Church of the Province of Uganda. He was consecrated in 2005. He was born in Nyamitanga, Kyeizooba Sub-county Bushenyi District. Bishop Katoneene holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Theological Studies from Makerere University and University of South Africa.

He also holds a Diploma in Education from Makerere University and a Diploma in Christian Education (Pastoral and Ministerial Formation) from Emmanuel College of Theology Ibadan, Nigeria. He is currently writing a paper on a Missiological Interpretation of the Kanungu Tragedy: A Challenge to Christian Mission in Uganda. Bishop Katoneene is married to Ellyvaida, a teacher and community development Worker, they have three children.

He has worked as a Provincial Youth and Students’ Secretary, Church of Uganda, Director Lweza Training and Conference Centre, and General Secretary of the African Christian Lay Centres with links to the Nairobi based All Africa Council of Churches (AACC) and the Geneva based World Council of Churches. He worked as Priest at St. Francis Chapel Makerere University Uganda, Christ Church Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya and St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Greendale, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Currently he is a member of the Church of Uganda Provincial Assembly Standing Committee and Church of Uganda Trustees Standing Committee. Bishop Katoneene has a deep commitment to the vision of the ecumenical movement and has been involved in the life and work of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, World Student Christian Federation based in Geneva,
The All Africa Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches. Currently he is a member of the AACC General Committee and Chairs its Finance and Personnel Committee. He is also the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Uganda Joint Christian Council.