Three Anglican and Catholic bishops have denied claims in a much-publicised secret police tape that they are supporting and promoting Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi’s supposed presidential bid in 2016.
The one-hour-thirty-minute recording, which police now say was stolen from them by unknown people, features the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, debriefing a National Resistance Movement (NRM) party youth leader from Kayunga District.
The party youth leader, Mr Alex Kasirivu, claims on the recording that he had been recruited by Mr Mbabazi’s wife, Jacqueline Mbabazi, to mobilise NRM leaders in Buganda to support her husband’s alleged scheme for presidency.
Mr Kasirivu alleges that Mr Mbabazi’s presidential bid is supported by the Catholic Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and the Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali. The name of the retired assistant Bishop of Kampala Diocese, Bishop Zac Niringiye, is also mentioned in the recording.
The Anglican bishops respond
However, speaking to the Sunday Monitor of Friday, Archbishop Ntagali said: “That is a very untrue and false allegation. We have never met that individual [Mr Kasirivu]; me and my colleague (Archbishop Lwanga).”
“I have never been involved. That person [Mr Kasirivu] only wants to make political propaganda,” the archbishop added.
In the recording, Mr Kasirivu seems confused over Archbishop Ntagali’s name during the conversation with Kayihura.
While naming religious leaders whom he says have been “meeting” and “counselling” Mr Mbabazi’s supporters, Mr Kasirivu says: “The Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, then the recent one for…, the Anglican bishop, Bishop Niringiye.”
At this point Gen Kayihura interjects to clarify that it cannot be Bishop Niringiye because he retired, but Archbishop Ntagali.
Bishop Niringiye retired from church service last year and started advocating for the restoration of presidential term limits.
When the Sunday Monitor contacted Bishop Niringiye on his alleged support for Mr Mbabazi’s presidential scheme, the bishop burst into laughter.
“I don’t even know where Amama Mbabazi lives. I am told he lives in Kololo but I don’t know where exactly he lives,” Bishop Niringiye said bemusedly. Unable to restrain his laughter, Bishop Niringiye said, “Go away, I have no time for these things.” He hung up.
Archbishop Lwanga responds
Mr Kasirivu, who Gen Kayihura said had met him for the first time when the recording was taken, claimed that Mr Mbabazi was most supported by the Catholic religious leaders. “What I am trying to say is that religious leaders, especially Catholics, are supportive,” Kasirivu said.
Mr Kasirivu alleged that one Saturday, he met Archbishop Lwanga at Mr Mbabazi’s home and that Mr Mbabazi asked the Archbishop “to pray for his boys so that they may do their work very well”.
“I repeat this; they had tea at Amama Mbabazi’s home last Saturday and Archbishop was there. He came and by the time we reached his home, they were there the two of them. He even asked him to pray for his boys so that they may do their work very well,” Kasirivu tells the IGP.
Regarding this statement, the Rev Fr Lawrence Mutikka, the private secretary to Archbishop Lwanga, challenged Mr Kasirivu to name the date and time when he met the Archbishop at Mr Mbabazi’s home.
“I am in charge of the Archbishop’s programme and I can account for his movements at any time, whether day or night,” Fr Mutikka said.
Fr Mutikka said when Mr Kasirivu names the date and time of the alleged meeting, he will release the Archbishop’s programme to show where he was at the time.
We could not verify Kasirivu’s claim as he neither showed up for a scheduled interview nor answered our follow-up phone calls.
Fr Mutikka pressed further for evidence from Mr Kasirivu, asking: “Did he take a picture with the Archbishop during that meeting? These days it is easy to take pictures using mobile phones. I don’t know whether that person is a believer, because you cannot just play around with names of important people like that. What he said is a typical lie which is tantamount to character assassination,” Fr Mutikka said.
Bishops and Museveni’s supposed challengers
It is not the first time religious leaders, especially those of the Catholic faith, have been named in backing President Museveni’s perceived political challengers.
The former vice president, Prof Gilbert Bukenya, was repeatedly accused of attempting to build a power base to bolster his alleged presidential bid by allying with Catholic bishops.
Prof Bukenya has since said allegations that he was mobilising for the presidency through the Catholic Church were a ploy by his opponents to create a rift between him and the President.
It is difficult to tell whether or to what extent it contributed to his eventual fallout with the President and subsequent sacking from the vice presidency. Prof Bukenya has since declared his intention to stand for presidency in 2016.
Mbabazi’s wife, in an interview with Sunday Monitor last week, accused Gen Kayihura of trying to cause antagonism between her husband and President Museveni. She accused the police boss of “coaching” witnesses to frame her husband, including dragging religious leaders into Mr Mbabazi’s alleged presidential bid fracas.
Gen Kayihura, in a statement responding to Ms Mbabazi’s interview, said he receives a lot of information as the police chief, some false and some authentic, which is then treated professionally to sieve the truth from lies. He said that he had met Mr Kasirivu for the first time during the recorded conversation.
Ms Mbabazi’s word
When the Sunday Monitor asked Ms Jacqueline Mbabazi in an interview last week whether the two Archbishops have ever met at the Prime Minister’s home, she said only Archbishop Ntagali had ever visited the home sometime last year when they hosted a betrothal ceremony of a relative. “He came and sat in the tent like all the other guests. He blessed the function and never stayed to the end,” she said.
As for Archbishop Lwanga, she said he had never visited their home and that his only recent interaction with the Prime Minister was when he went to his office to discuss preparations for the June 3 annual Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations at Namugongo.
Prime Minister Mbabazi is Anglican and his wife Jacqueline is a Canon in the Anglican Diocese of Rukungiri.