Religious leaders attack government over Mao, Besigye arrest
On the day when Christians commemorated the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, Uganda’s main religious leaders have condemned the violence used by the state to quell public demonstrations over rising fuel and food prices and the jailing of two main opposition leaders, Dr Kizza Besigye (FDC) and Norbert Mao (DP).
The men of God are asking government officials not to misuse their authority to oppress those who oppose the government, but emulate Jesus Christ who did not abuse the rights of those who opposed him. The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda Henry Luke Orombi said, in his Easter message, that the prevailing circumstances in the country have left people disappointed because they are crushed whenever they attempt to remind the state that their expectations have not been fulfilled.
“Leaders are servants of the people, using your power and mechanisms to oppress others is ungodly. Leadership should have space to talk and listen to their people,” the archbishop said. “When food and fuel prices are soaring; when our young ones remain unemployed; and when our mothers, wives and sisters die during child birth. Like the disciples, we wonder what happened to the solution we had so much hope and faith in to make our world a better place.” He added that like Jesus’s disciples, Ugandans should “always hope for a better tomorrow.
The Archbishop reminded government security agencies; including the police and the military that their role is to serve the people and that they should stop abusing their power because that will produce a vicious cycle of unrest. He also appealed to those who are affected by the current inflation that while exercising their right to demonstrate, they should endeavor to respect the rights of non-demonstrators.
The Bishop of Masaka Diocese, Right Rev John Baptist Kaggwa, condemned government officials who give orders to security organs to start terrorising the people they are expected to protect. “People should be handled with respect, dignity, and with love. They should be told the truth and in a convincing manner. But violence, tear gas, rubber bullets, beating, kicking, and panda gari will not solve the issues,” he said.
Call for dialogue
Bishop Kaggwa called for dialogue between the opposition and the government to find the solutions to the current high inflation rate. Sheikh Kirya Hassan, the Spokesman of the Kibuli-based Muslim Council yesterday asked government to open meaningful dialogue with opposition groups because “what they are raising is a national matter” “We are seeing a confrontational approach which cannot resolve anything at this moment,” he said.
The chairperson of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, Archbishop Jonah Lwanga, said a team from the inter-religious body had been set up to mediate talks between the government and the opposition. Archbishop Lwanga also condemned the use of excessive force by the state and the arrest of the opposition leaders which, according to the bishop, could have been averted through dialogue.
Bishop Lwango, also the head of the Orthodox Church Metropolitan told Saturday Monitor that they will dedicate this Holly Week to preach the gospel of reconciliation to the two parties to end acts of violence. The Anglican Bishop of Busoga Diocese Rt Rev Dr Michael Kyomya said instead of arresting opposition leaders, the Ugandan government should have acted swiftly to avert protests by slicing taxes on fuel, like it was in neigbouring Kenya
Additional reporting by Ephraim Kasozi, Michael Ssali &Andrew Gulumaire