Bishop asks Museveni to punish minister Ecweru for beating up clerics

Tuesday May 11 2021
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State minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Mr Musa Ecweru. PHOTO/ FILE

By Simon Peter Emwamu

The Bishop of Soroti Anglican Diocese,  Rev Kosea Odongo has appealed to President Museveni to call to order the State minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Mr Musa Ecweru, who is accused of beating up three Anglican clerics over land.

The minister allegedly assaulted the men of God who were attached to St John’s Church of Uganda Wera.
Th Church is embroiled in a land dispute with the neigbouring Wera Seed Secondary School, both in Amuria District.

Mr Ecweru reportedly lobbied for the establishment of the school.
Bishop Odongo, during a press conference at Soroti Anglican Diocese headquarters yesterday, said his junior clergy, who suffered at the hands of the minister while planting cassava stems, are receiving treatment at a medical centre in Soroti.

“I don’t have any ill feelings against my honourable minister, he is a synod member who is also my MP, but what he did is barbaric, it’s unfortunate,” Bishop Odongo said.

On Saturday, the junior minister, in the company of his bodyguard, Juma Odiope, allegedly pounced on Simon Peter Olato, Simon Peter Eriku, and Benjamin Otasono as they planted cassava stems on the land.

Mr Odongo said the diocese received cassava cuttings, orange and mango seedlings through the government’s Operation Wealth Creation programme.
“I have not heard from him on the matter. I have tried calling him but his phones remain switched off,” the Bishop said. 

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He said the minister could have used other legal means to solve the dispute, other than taking the law in his hands.

President petitioned 
Bishop Odongo asked the President to take over the matter.  

Quoting Psalms 24:1, the Bishop said trying to grab Church land is like stealing from God.
He also expressed disappointment at the way the police handled the matter.
Rev Olato said when he went to lodge a complaint at Wera Police Post, one of the minister’s brothers approached them seeking mediation.

“He approached me pretending that the diocese has sent him to pick us up, which wasn’t true,” Mr Olato said.
The minister, however, reportedly told his voters that he was defending the interests of Wera Seed Secondary School, which he alleges is being denied land for expansion.

Rev Abraham Eruku, the estate manager for Soroti Diocese, said the diocese has land across Kaberamaido, Kalaki, Serere, Soroti, Katakwi, Amuria, and Kapelebyong and have never encountered such an incident.

Mr Oscar Ageca, the acting police spokesperson for east Kyoga region, said the police are investigating the matter.
Mr Ageca also denied claims that the men of God were not helped at Wera Police Post.
“Our officer wanted them to file statements against the bodyguards, who assaulted them as they tried to rescue them from harming the minister,” he said.

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Bishop Kosea Odongo (right) after addressing a press conference at Soroti Diocese yesterday. PHOTO / SIMON PETER EMWAMU

Mr Maxwell Ogwal, the regional police commander for east Kyoga declined to comment on the matter.

Minister's response 
The minister for the second day running refused to answer our calls to give his side of the story.

One of his bodyguards, who answered our phone call,  said he would ask his boss to talk to the media later.

However, in an interview with one of the local radio stations, Mr Ecweru said the area where the church leaders were cultivating is school land meant for construction of a dormitory for students.

The minister who didn't deny beating the clergy, said the land disagreement started during the reign of retired Bishop George William Erwau.

"Some wrong elements are using the church to do bad things but we shall not allow this. No one is trying to grab church land. We know the boundaries of the church land and it is clearly demarcated,” he said before adding that the church leaders had blown the matter out of proportion “to suit their interests.”

Residents said Wera Sub-county land, including where the school sits, was reportedly surveyed.
Wera Seed Secondary School, as of February, had less than 300 students in total.

Background
Mr Basil Epedu, the head of laity at St John’s Church of Uganda in Wera, on Sunday said: “In 1992, the late then Bishop Geresem Ilukor cultivated groundnuts where the school sits and everyone here knows that it is the church which gave the sub-county land before it resolved to have the land for the seed school.”

Mr Epedu also claimed that the minister has also frustrated the church from getting a land title by allegedly asking Amuria District land board not to process the papers. “As Christians, we managed to survey the land, we also managed to raise money for processing the title, but the minister has blocked the process,” he said.

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