The Bishop of Mbale Diocese, Rev Patrick Gidudu, has criticised the ruling NRM government for what he called disrespecting and ignoring religious leaders’ advice on issues that affect the stability and economic growth of the country, including the presidential age limit.
Rev Gidudu told a press conference at St Peter’s Church of Uganda in Mbale Town on Friday that religious leaders are losing trust in the government because of repeatedly failing to respect their views on issues of national importance.
“Whenever we come up with a decision, we are ignored. We have talked and talked but our advice is ignored by government,” Bishop Gidudu said.
The bishop said their advice on the process of amending the Constitution to remove age limits, which they offered through their umbrella organisation, the Inter-Religious Council (IRC), was ignored.
“We advised that Bill should be subjected to a referendum because this was the only way Ugandans we would be satisfied with the outcome,” he said.
Recently, the presidential age limit Bill was passed after 317 legislators voted in support to scrap presidential age limit from the Constitution against 97 who opposed it.
The bishop, who has been silent over the controversial age limit debate since its inception, said MPs never presented the views from the voters on the floor of Parliament, saying this sets a bad precedent.
He added that the President Museveni should respect voters and religious leaders by not signing the Bill into law in order to bring about unity, saying the MPs’ decision has caused disunity and uncertainty in the country. Rev Giddudu said he was concerned that some MPs never consulted their voters but they went ahead to support lifting the age limit cap for their selfish reasons.
“It’s not enough to say you’re representing the people and yet you’re not presenting their views in Parliament,” he said.
Bishop Gidudu said the government should start respecting religious institutions and its leaders.
“We are the voices of God and a God fearing country must have religious leaders and respect them,” he said.
Several government officials, including President Museveni, have consistently argued that religious leaders should not speak out on political matters.
But during the process to push through the controversial removal of the age limits which was concluded shortly before Christmas, a number of religious leaders spoke out, with the religious leaders from northern Uganda led by the Archbishop John Baptist Odama saying that amending the Constitution in such a manner would be treason.