Bamwoze: A religious leader with a big heart for Busoga

Tuesday February 12 2019

Deceased. Bishop Cyprian Kikunyi Bamwoze. PHOTO

Deceased. Bishop Cyprian Kikunyi Bamwoze. PHOTO BY OPIO SAM CALEB 

By Isaac Mufumba.

Cyprian Kikunyi Bamwoze was the first bishop of Busoga. He presided over the diocese for 26 years, the last seven of which were turbulent.
Bamwoze, who was born on May 15, 1934, in Nakimegere Village, Kitayundhwa Sub-county in Kamuli District, to Birusaani Munhanhanfu and Budestiana Mukoda, was consecrated bishop in 1973 and it was not by accident. His father, a peasant farmer, had always wanted his son to become a priest.

He went to Naminage Primary School in 1944 and proceeded to Kamuli Junior School before joining Busoga College Mwiri in 1955. Bearing in mind the fact that his father had always wanted him to become a priest, he in 1960 enrolled for a religious education course in Mukono before going on to study theology in the United Kingdom. He was ordained a priest in 1963.

Impressed by his brilliance, the then Archbishop of Uganda, Prof King, had him enroll for a Bachelors’ Degree in Religious Education and Philosophy at Makerere University. He graduated in 1967 and was posted to St James Church in Jinja from where he rose to become Busoga’s pioneer bishop.

Twice widowed
Bamwoze was widowed twice. His first wife and mother of his six children, Beatrice, died in 1986. In 1988, he married Naomi but he was once again left widowed on June 12, 2016 when Naomi succumbed to diabetes and high blood pressure.
That marked the beginning of the deterioration of his health. Early in February 2017, he was admitted to Nakasero Hospital complaining of stomach complications. In August, it was established that he had leukemia.

The developer
Bamwoze believed that Christianity was more than spiritual welfare of his people.
“He believed that Christianity was also about the social and economic welfare of the believers. That is what informed his involvement in activities aimed at uplifting the living standards of Christians,” says Patrick Waiswa.
Under Bamwoze’s stewardship, the diocese set up the Family Life Education Programme (FLEP), which provides for treatment for, among others, HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and reproductive health services. He was instrumental in the formation of Busoga Trust, an NGO that works to improve water and sanitation in rural communities.

The educationist
In 1993, the Board of Governors of Busoga College Mwiri, which he headed at the time, passed a resolution to establish a university. In May 1995, the diocese then offered 100 acres of land in Iganga, the seat of Busoga University today.


What caused the rebellion in the diocese and why it remained for seven years remains a mystery. It was believed that some members of the House of Bishops sparked it off because they viewed him as a threat to their own ambitions to succeed the late Yona Okoth as archbishop.

It is, however, also likely that he was always misunderstood by his flock. His messages were often difficult to decipher. The homilies were always punctuated with sayings and proverbs. Even when he would try to speak plainly, the speech would be so pregnant with meaning. A case in point was the 1999 handover to late Archbishop Mpalanyi Nkoyooyo, who was caretaker of the diocese until Bishop Michael Kyomya was enthroned a year later.

“You see who I am handing over your diocese to. Look at him critically,” he said.
His message was that had they not allowed themselves to be used to fight a war that they never understood, he would have been directly handing over the crozier to his successor.

Bamwoze retired into farming. By April 2008, he was doing so well in fish farming that President Museveni, who was in Busoga to popularise the “wealth for all” programme, lavished praise on Bamwoze and promised to boost his work with Shs600 million. Years later, when the delivery boys turned up, it was with Shs400 million.
“Take it back until President Museveni gets all the Shs600 million that he promised me. After all, I never asked for it,” he told them.
The delivery drove out but were back in a jiffy. They had somehow found the other Shs200 million.

Bamwoze’s politics
He belonged to the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) and was one of the architects of Jinja, Iganga, Kamuli (JIK), a body headed by the late former minister of Internal Affairs, Dr Luwuriza Kirunda. JIK brought together MPs and UPC constituency chairpersons to plan for the region’s development.

JIK spearheaded the renovations of Busoga College Mwiri, Wanyange Girls’ School, Kiira College Butiki, helped Namasagali College to expand and led to the establishment of new schools such as Bukooli and Kisiki colleges; Nkutu Memorial, Bunya, Bugobi, Bubinga and Nakabugu girls secondary schools. JIK also helped to complete Christ’s Cathedral Bugembe.

There were efforts to convert him to NRM. He led prayers during Mr Museveni’s last rally in Kamuli ahead of the 1996 general elections and has been very close to all NRM big guns in Kamuli, including Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga. It was, therefore, a surprise when he was named chairperson of Mr Aggrey Awori’s national campaign taskforce ahead of the 2001 general elections.

On the other hand, Bamwoze, a man of modest size, did not go down with the botched Awori campaign. He remained standing tall like a giant sphinx.
It was not until he was weakened by chemotherapy that he scaled down Christian ministry. Otherwise, his homes in Nakakabala and Bugembe were always teeming with Christians in need of counselling.
Despite the fact that the diocese has since been split into two, each with its own bishop, many Christians from either of the two have approached him to preside over their functions.

Bishop Bamwoze succumbs to leukaemia

Cyprian Bamwoze, the first Bishop of Busoga Anglican Diocese, yesterday succumbed to Leukaemia at the Uganda Cancer Institute in Mulago, Kampala, where he had been undergoing treatment since December 2018.
Mr Stephen Muwanguzi, 60, a family member who has lived with the deceased for 54 years, said Bishop Bamwoze passed away at 9am.
“I last saw him last week but he was generally weak and would hardly talk. And a team of doctors from the United Kingdom seemed to tell us last week that they had done all the best they could,” Mr Muwanguzi said.
As news of Bishop Bamwoze’s death swept through the sub-region, people started paying tributes. Busoga Diocese Bishop Paul Naimanhe said: “Bamwoze was the first bishop of Busoga Diocese for about 27 years and when one serves that long, he leaves a great legacy.” “He kept the Church together and when he found Bugembe Cathedral incomplete, he worked within his term to make sure that it was complete,” he added.

According to a tentative programme shared by Mr Muwanguzi, burial will be at Christ Church, Bugembe, on Sunday. He said the burial has been delayed because some of his children stay abroad. There will be a funeral service at Namirembe Cathedral and thereafter the body will leave for his ancestral home in Nakakabala, Kamuli District for an overnight vigil.
On Saturday morning, there will be prayers at the same family home before the body leaves for Christ Church, Bugembe for a night vigil ahead of the burial. The family has reportedly contacted government so that its programme should be harmonised with that of the family.
By Philip Wafula