Police close Kumi church over planned consecration of bishop

Police seal off St Phillip’s Cathedral in Ngora District, where the planned consecration  of the Rev Charles Okunya (inset) was slated to take place. PHOTO/SIMON PETER EMWAMU

What you need to know:

  • Bishop John Charles Odurkami,  the caretaker of Kumi Diocese, says for a consecration to take place, and be recognised, it has to be conducted by the archbishop and at least five bishops should attend.
  • The election of a bishop has to start at the diocesan level, names have to be sent to the House of Bishops by the diocesan synod, and the bishops then sit to elect the overseer.

Police in Ngora District yesterday called off prayers at St Phillip’s Cathedral Church of Uganda to prevent a clash with a group residents who wanted to forcefully consecrate the Rev Charles Okunya as the bishop of Kumi Diocese.
The district police commander, Mr Francis Masereka, was seen commanding a group of more than 20 police officers at the church as early as 6am as they sealed off the premises.
Mr Masereka said the deployment aimed at preventing mayhem.
Mr Oscar Ageca, the East Kyoga police spokesperson, told Daily Monitor that they arrested more than 51 people in connection with the illegal activity.

He said police received a report from Mr Bashir Oroni,  a guard at the church,  the day before claiming that a group of people riding motorcycles assaulted  him.
“Consequently, they broke an assortment and damaged property and threatened to disarm him,” Mr Ageca said.
He said some residents attempted to set up tents at the church, while another group was making head way into Kumi Municipality to mobilise people for consecration.
“The police have thus opened a case of threatening violence,” he added.

Mr Ageca said 26 people  were arrested from Ngora, 25 from Kumi, and seven motorcycle ,one bicycle, and one vehicle impounded.
“The police in its function to maintain public order, safety and enforcing the law stopped the illegal activity. We urge residents and Christians not to attend or attempt to conduct consecration exercise,” he added.
The Resident District Commissioner, Mr Asanasio Kayiizi, said the decision was taken to prevent violence since the planned activity was illegal.

During the burial of James Akabwai, a former head teacher of  Teso College Aloet, on Thursday last week, Bishop John Charles Odurkami,  the caretaker of Kumi Diocese,  said the planned activity was not known to the Archbishop of Church of Uganda.
Bishop Odurkami said the diocese still remains under the custodian of Archbishop Samuel Stephen Kaziba Mugalu and him as caretaker.
Mr Odurkami said there was no consecration known to the church yesterday .
The Kumi Diocese bishop seat fell vacant upon the retirement of Bishop Thomas Edison Irigei in 2019 upon clocking mandatory retirement age. 

Later, the House of Bishops elected the Rev Okunya, but his appointment was revoked after a group of Christians lodged a petition challenging his age and marital status. 
His consecration was cancelled and a team of bishops appointed to investigate the matter but the report has not been made public. Rev Okunya and his faction sued the Church over the nullification of his appointment, but the court dismissed the suit last year.

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