Lira- The Internal Affairs minister has said the hundreds of mushrooming Pentecostal churches in the country would have been closed down two decades ago if it was not for President Museveni’s respect for freedom of worship.
Gen Aronda Nyakairima said the President ignored a recommendation to shut down the churches over allegations that they were recruiting rebels.
The former Chief of Defence Forces made the remarks during a meeting with believers of Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) in Lira Town on Friday.
The meeting was part of the mobilisation campaign that is urging residents to embrace the ongoing identity card registration.
“The leadership of the main country’s churches; Muslim, Anglican and Catholic, had approached the security agencies to inform the head of State to close down the mushrooming born-again churches in the 1990s,” he said.
Gen Nyakairima said the main stream churches had alleged the born-again believers were ‘bad guys’ who were recruiting to topple the Kampala administration.
“We started writing reports that some of them could be recruiting for rebellion. It took a long time for the President to ask us to give [the] report. I don’t think we even convinced him until he found out and said: … Please, leave those people alone,” he said.
“He [Mr Museveni] told the archbishops to leave others alone. I was preparing to round them (born-again) up. They were operating under trees, around stones… You would find them anywhere worshipping, the whole night. They were a nuisance. The President said no, no, let them go and worship.”
His remarks came at a time when there is a rift between believers under PAG and the headquarters in Kampala over the administration of the church activities in Lira.
Last year, the Kampala branch suspended the Lira Pastorate head, Bishop Joel Mukalo, for alleged financial mismanagement. This led some of his followers to reject the suspension and even threatened to leave the church.
The Resident District Commissioner, Mr George Odongo, told the minister that the conflict had manifested itself into a major security concern in the district.
Gen Aronda, however, said his major assignment was the national ID registration, and said he would take interest in the conflict.