I recall that I first met young Bamwoze in the first week of February 1952, at Kamuli Junior Secondary School (now Busoga High School). We joined as pupils in what was then called Junior I.
During the three years we spent at KJSS (1952-1954), there was nothing in particular between the two of us. We were neither prefects nor active sportsmen. We did not have any school club to which we belonged together. However, he remained the best student in English language in our class from Junior 1 to Junior 3.
I also inwardly feared him in our class debates and admired him for occasionally reminding us that he would go to Busoga College Mwiri for his senior secondary education.
We both joined Mwiri in January 1955, which in turn transformed our lives in different ways. However, I noted three things about Bamwoze during our three years at Mwiri in Senior 2 to Senior 4.
First, in October 1955, he acted in William Shakespeare play “Julius Caesar”, as one of the mob group, which Brutus (George Kisubi Sendikwanawa) and Mark Antony (John Byamugisha) addressed. The group shrieked when Antony said the following words:
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them. But the good is oft interred with their bones. So, let it be with Caesar”.
Those words stuck into my young mind and later ignited my desire to read Literature in English. They have also continued to remind me that when assessing people’s contributions to their communities, I should pay more attention to their positive achievements than over-drumming their failures.
Secondly, during our December 1955 school holiday, Bamwoze went to Nabugabo camp on the Lake Victoria shores near Masaka, and attended a Christian Conference, where he became a born-again Christian. But we did not know at that time that he had experienced a great transformation in his life, and that Nabugabo had already started him on his unshakeable marriage to the Anglican Church, which marriage has now existed for 59 years.
Thirdly, when in 1957 Bamwoze was made a house prefect in Hannington House, I thought that he would not be very strict on pupils like me who had come with him to Mwiri from KJSS. But I soon found out that I was mistaken. When I refused to do a punishment for an offence I do not remember now, he caused me to receive two to three painful canes. I now believe that by that time he had started being a disciplinarian and very strict with his own life.
When we left Mwiri in December 1957, Bamwoze plunged into Church work, and initially trained as a lay reader at Bishop Tucker Theological College (now part of the Uganda Christian University) at Mukono. And his decision amazed many of us because of our stereotype and naïve thinking that the Anglican Church did not need brilliant people or highly trained persons to join priesthood.
On December 11, 1960, Bamwoze was ordained a deacon and posted to Namirembe. In 1962-63, he went to Lincoln Theological College near Cambridge to train in Church youth work and after his return, I paid him a visit at Namirembe when I was looking for testimonials to study music abroad. But as we talked, he revealed to me that he wanted more educational qualifications in theology and related studies at university level.
I found myself with Bamwoze at Makerere University College in June 1964. We initially shared the same room in University Hall. Between 1969 and 1971, Bamwoze did postgraduate studies in Education and Religious Studies at Makerere, while he was serving as a vicar at St. James Church, Jinja.
Bamwoze was consecrated in Christ’s Cathedral at Bugembe in 1973 at the young age of 38 years. This was obviously no mean achievement for himself, having been born in a poor family to Birusani Munhanhanfu and Budestiana Mukoda, in Nakimegere Village, Kitayundhwa Sub-county, Kamuli District.
A bishop is not only the spiritual leader but also the chief manager of his diocese. That is why in both the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches, his authority is not expected to be questioned by his priests or laity, in his diocese. That is one of the reasons why, within no time Bishop Bamwoze became the most influential person in Busoga sub-region.
The second reason was that after the abolition of the post of Kyabazinga, in 1967 the bishop became the new symbol of unity. Thirdly, although there was a Catholic Bishop in the same Busoga area, his authority was not greatly felt among the ordinary people in Busoga, because the number of Catholic Christians was smaller, compared to the Anglicans.
At the time Bishop Bamwoze took the mantle of leadership, Busoga had only one archdeaconry, a few rural deaneries and not more than two scores of clergy men. So, he had plenty of work to do to make his Anglican Diocese more vibrant. But at the same time he had to move cautiously, because President Idi Amin had established his brutal regime just 20 months earlier. He, therefore, courageously and discreetly worked with other Anglican bishops to keep the Christian candle burning, in spite of Amin’s brutalities.
From the 1970s, the bishop started recruiting more educated persons into Church work. Initially, he attracted a number of primary teachers who agreed to go for diploma and ordination courses at Bishop Tucker Theological College at Mukono.
Additionally, he ordained high profile sons from Busoga who included Dr Tom Tuma, Eng James M.N. Zikusoka and Jacob Vasco da Gama Wangoola.
Bamwoze was the first Anglican Bishop in Uganda to come out with the Multi-Sectoral Rural Development Programme (MSRDP) in his diocese, whose overall aim was to promote the socioeconomic development of both the church employees and the laity as part of Christ’s Gospel. The MSRDP (popularly called “MALUTI” in Lusoga), started in 1979 with technical and financial support from Germany. It included immunisation for women and children against common killer diseases, family planning, protection of spring wells, drilling boreholes, and teaching people about community development, basic hygiene, nutrition and agriculture.
Bishop Bamwoze’s great interest in rural development induced him to build a rural leadership training centre, which still stands today under the name of Busoga Institute of Rural Development (BIRD). Its original aim was to equip the trainees with basic knowledge and skills in project planning and management, resource mobilisation, project assessment and fighting poverty, disease and ignorance.
In a nutshell, the bishop wanted BIRD to help produce (for Busoga Diocese and other organisations/institutions) change agents who not only understand and respect the concerns of the poor people, but also understand that when the same poor people gain confidence in themselves, they can accelerate their own development.
Bishop Bamwoze supported improvements in the Church-founded primary and secondary schools, and tertiary institutions, of that time, and establishment of new and different types of educational institutions.
The best known schools which were founded by the Church during 1972-1999 include St Paul SS, Nasuti, Kiringa SS, Nkutu Memorial SS, Zirabamuzaale SS and Kigulu College (in Iganga District). Others are Kaliro High School, Bulamogi College and Nawaikoke SS, Nawansega SS, Kiyunga SS, Nakabale SS, Kituuto SS, and Ndege SS, among others. In addition, the diocese gave land to Kamuli Primary Teachers College (which now operates under Busoga University) in 1995.
Bishop Bamwoze and Bishop Joseph Willigers (RIP), the first catholic Bishop of Jinja Diocese, saw many advantages in preaching Jesus Christ’s mission through Lusoga.
They jointly supported the translation of the Bible into Lusoga from 1994, and by 1998, the first Lusoga version of the New Testament had been printed. It is also true that translation of the Old Testament has been completed.
After handing over his scepter to Michael Kyomya, Bishop Bamwoze retired to his farm which he had been developing when he was still the sitting bishop of Busoga Diocese.
However, he never stopped preaching his philosophy of combining Christ’s gospel with a hoe and fishing rod. Stated in different words, he transformed himself into a Musoga, Ugandan and African high priest who preaches the word of God, combined with promoting aquaponics farming.
Frank Nabwiso is the former acting vice chancellor of Busoga University