Ajunior minister from the eastern region allegedly roughed up three Anglican priests last Saturday over a land dispute.
The wrangle pits St John’s Church of Uganda Wera and the neighbouring Wera Seed Secondary School, both in Amuria District.
The attack reportedly left one of the reverends bleeding on the head. The minister, whose name has been withheld for legal reasons, allegedly claims the church encroached on the school land he lobbied for.
The injured clergy are Simon Peter Olato, Benjamin Otasuro, and Peter Eriku.
Witnesses said the minister parked at Wera Seed Secondary School and dashed to a nearby garden where he found the priests and other Christians planting cassava stems.
Rev Olato told Daily Monitor that the minister, accompanied by a bodyguard, on arrival called them “idiots” and questioned who gave them authority to open a garden on school land.
“As we looked on in awe, [the minister] pulled a gun and grabbed a metallic rod from the hands of his bodyguard [and] began to sporadically beat us,” he said. The minister did not receive multiple telephone calls from this newspaper or respond to our messages.
Rev Olato said when he inquired why the minister had pounced on them, the attacker instead reached out to the car for more canes which they used to beat them indiscriminately for about 10 minutes.
“I told the minister that I am the Reverend for St Johns Church Wera planting cassava stems under the food security programme which the diocese is implementing, but the minister didn’t heed. The minister caught me by the head, dragged me to the ground, hit me several times at the waist,” he said.
Rev Otasuro of Aten Church of Uganda said the minister hit him on his head.
The assaulted clergy said the minister cocked a gun on children taking confirmation lessons at St John’s Church Wera, who rushed to the scene when they heard the priests’ alarm.
“It is then that he told his bodyguard: Let’s go, leave these idiots,” he said.
Rev Otasuro said they reported the matter to Wera Police Post, but the officer in-charge denied them medical forms for unknown reasons.
“We decided to seek medication in Soroti town after alerting our diocesan headquarters about the incident,” he said. The officer-in-charge of the Wera Police Post, where the victims of assault reached out for help, refused to comment, referring this paper to East Kyoga Region police spokesperson.
The district police commander, Mr Moses Musima, said he received information about the incident, but he was yet to verify the authenticity of the allegations. “I heard about the rumour,” he said, adding that he will follow up the assault case.
Residents said Wera Sub-county land, including where the school sits, was surveyed and wondered why the minister was claiming land outside what is known by the sub-county.
The minister claims that the school needs more land, but the church is seemingly standing in the school’s way. Wera Seed Secondary School, as of February 2021, had less than 300 students.
Mr Basil Epedu, the head of laity at St John’s Church of Uganda in Wera, 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 that land before it resolved to have the land for seed school.”
Mr Epedu claimed that the minister has also frustrated the church from getting a land title by allegedly asking the district land board not to process the papers for St John’s Church of Uganda.
“As Christians, we managed to survey the land and raise money for the deed plan and also money for processing the title, but the minister has blocked the process,” the official claimed.
Diocese priest speaks
Rev Sam Ediau, the secretary of Soroti Diocese, said it is unfortunate that a minister decided to take the law into their hands. He said it should have been the school to act if the institution was aggrieved because the church donated land for the sub-county. He said the disputed area is a small piece of land and the minister is using his position to grab it for the the school.