A couple has run to court seeking compensation of Shs600million from Registered Trustees of Church of Uganda and Kampala Diocesan Secretary for the losses they made and mental breakdown resulting from the cancellation of their wedding, 48 hours to the event.
Through their lawyers of Mujurizi, Alinatwe & Byamukama Advocates, Mr Benson Muhwezi and Ms Sophie Akankwasa, the couple, accuses the Registered Trustees of Church of Uganda and Kampala Diocesan Secretary of negligence and cancelling their wedding basing on rumors.
The couple says it went through all the necessary requirements for holy matrimony including the bans of marriage for 21 days as required by law.
On November 28, 2019, the couple says, “without a valid reason and without fair hearing,” their wedding was halted following a directive from the Kampala Diocesan Secretary, Reverend Canon John Awodi. The action, they say got them into irrecoverable losses as they had already paid all service providers.
Canon John Awodi in his letter to Rev. Kenneth Karyeija, the Vicar St. Stephen’s Kitara Church of Uganda directed the said wedding to be halted pending resolution of matters relating to Muhwezi’s alleged customary marriage with a one Sarah Kemigisha.
Reverend Canon Awodi explained that the church had received an objection to the marriage of the couple from Ms Kemigisha claiming that she was legally married to Muhwezi since 2001. The Church said it couldn’t proceed with the said marriage since Ms Kemigisha had complained that the issues relating to the custody of their two children hadn’t been resolved.
“Due to these issues therefore, I direct that the said wedding be put on hold until these matters are amicably resolved. I also request that you furnish this office with all documents that have been tendered by the said Muhwezi Benson and Akankwasa Sophie as soon as possible,” said Rev. Awodi in his letter, warning that, “Going ahead with this wedding prior to the matters being resolved shall be an illegality.”
The couple’s lawyers note that it is a result of this directive, that their wedding was cancelled.
“As the result of the said acts, our clients went through mental breakdown, anguish and devastation plus being named thieves from people who have given contributions for their wedding reception. Our clients believe they are entitled to damages from you for your acts and omissions,” says Tumwesigye in the demand notice.
The notice issued on Monday February 17 also wants the church to publish an apology to the couple and pay them legal fees of Shillings 10m.
“In the unlikely event that you do not honor this polite notice within 14 days from the date of receipt, our firm instructions are to commence civil proceedings against you at your own cost, peril and embarrassment,” the lawyers add.
The couple’s lawyer, Tumwesigye notes that the cancellation of a wedding after three bans of marriage announcements was malicious and intended to financially cripple his clients, having paid almost all service providers for the function.
“A wedding is something where someone is preparing to be in that glamour or mood, in most weddings you find when 98 percent of the service providers have been paid, my client tells me he had invited 1000 guests and then with such you just cancel. The church should pay my client for the emotional breakdown and embarrassment they took them through in the eyes of the public,” he said.
Muhwezi explains that he met his would be bride, Akankwasa in 2014 and started a relationship. Having cohabited with Akankwasa, and had two children with her, Muhwezi sought to marry her through a church wedding.
He said that his issues were discussed extensively by the church leaders at St. Stephen Kitara Church of Uganda in Katwe and he was guided that his old relationship wouldn’t affect his wedding. It is this assurance that made him start the process of formalising his marriage with the full blessing of the Church.
“But since I was a Muslim, we were advised that I convert and follow the Church requirements. I got baptized on October 25, 2019 and was confirmed on November 3rd, 2019. I had been preparing for my wedding with Sophia Akankwasa until Sarah raised an objection,” Muhwezi contends.
On visiting St. Stephen Kitara Church of Uganda along Entebbe road the church leaders acknowledged the matter but insisted that they couldn’t proceed to wed the couple since there were contentious issues to sort out as raised by their superiors at the diocese.
“Even on a wedding day itself, we can stop the wedding as long as someone comes up to object to the marriage,” said an official in the Vicar’s office at St. Stephen Kitara church of Uganda.
But Muhwezi says the church leaders had taken him through the requirements and explained to him that since he had not been married with his former lover, it wouldn’t cost him the marriage. He says he is currently running around to clear debts of a wedding that never took place.
"The wedding preparation cost us about Shs750m, I am now swimming in debts of a function that never took place, it has also got people talking negatively. I went through all the processes that I was required such as baptism, confirmation," he said.
His lawyer, Tumwesigye says there was no proof leading to the cancellation of the marriage.
“First of all there was no proof of any customary marriage, my clients had gone through all the requirements to be wedded under the laws of Uganda. Once a person has been announced in church for 21 days, there is nothing that can stop them from getting married.”
Following the second announcement of bans of marriage at St. Stephens Kitara Church of Uganda, the church received two protest letters, one from Kemigisha’s mother and another from local council authorities in Kitunga Village, Kibingo parish in Buhunga Sub county Rukungiri district.
The November 27, 2019 protest notes were written to the Provost Vicar All Saints Cathedral, Nakasero. In one of the letters, Elizabeth Nantale Mutabazi, Kemigisha’s mother claimed that her daughter got married to Muhwezi on July 15, 2003 in a customary marriage.
She claimed that Muhwezi paid bride price of three cows and a goat at a function at her home.
“As is the culture and practice, if there are issues affecting their marriage, I request that you help them,” noted Elizabeth Nantale Mutabazi.
However, Mutabazi in another hand written letter denies ever entering any customary marriage with Kemigisha, saying the only time he ever stepped at her parent’s home was when she lost her father.