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Archbishop appointment of Nankabirwa is strategic

It would be utter irresponsibility for the Church of Uganda not to interest itself in what happens in cabinet

COMMENT | SABIITI MARTIN RWABIHURWA | In yet another masterstroke, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Most Rev. Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu, appointed Ruth Nankabirwa, the minister of Energy as Church of Uganda representative to the cabinet of Uganda.

In my opinion this is the most strategic move to be made by an Archbishop in recent times. However, this appointment has rubbed some people; including the former Minister of Lands Omara Atubo the wrong way. Atubo wrote an article which appeared in various online newspapers one which is www.pmldaily.com.

In his article, Atubo made a futile attempt to show the dangers of such an appointment. However, the article is full of inaccuracies and Atubo’s imaginations.  He attempts to invoke the constitution in this appointment. I do not think the constitution of Uganda suffices in this matter since Nankabirwa is not in cabinet by virtue of Archbishop Kazimba’s appointment. She is duly appointed by the President and approved by parliament. The Archbishop is simply leveraging on the presence of his human resource in cabinet.

Atubo asserts that Uganda is a secular country according to Article 7 of the constitution. Can he, Atubo, explain to us why the constitution in Article 29 mentions the establishment of Qadhi courts for muslims? He could not see danger in creating separate courts for one religion but now he sees it in a mere appointment of a person to represent another religion in cabinet?

Parliament which Atubo served for many years has chaplains for Anglican and Catholics as well as an Imam for Muslims. How come he never moved a motion to abolish those arrangements since he believes by constitution Uganda is secular?

Is Atubo not aware that there are religions in Uganda that run schools where members of other religions are not allowed to attend? He is clearly applying selective memory and his article is not in good faith.

There was an insinuation in the article that by this appointment, the Anglican Church is attempting to appear to be on top of other religions. The New Vision of September 6 2021 carried a headline about Mubajje and Kibuli signing a deal. In that story we are told that the agreement will be presented to the President. I was waiting to see Atubo write another article about this but alas! The idea of religious groups endearing themselves to the sitting President is not new and not only limited to Church of Uganda.

The Archbishop is the spiritual head of the Anglican Church and therefore has powers to exercise authority on all Anglicans in the province of the Church of Uganda. According to canon 1.3.4 of the provincial canons, the Archbishop has pastoral authority over all of the province, he speaks and acts on behalf of the Church of Uganda. He therefore has powers to appoint anyone he deems fit to serve in any role.

I liken the appointment of Nankabirwa to Mordecai sending Esther to the palace of King Xerxes of Persia. Mordecai sent Esther on a mission to pacify the Jews who were on the verge of extinction. Guided by God Mordecai entered his niece into a queen searching competition. This is captured in the book of Esther. I believe the Archbishop has a specific assignment for Nankabirwa to accomplish for Church of Uganda in cabinet.

For a long time now, Church of Uganda has coexisted with other religions in Uganda. It is a fact that Church of Uganda is the most tolerant and liberal religious group in Uganda. There is no reason to think the Archbishop Kazimba has any ulterior motives against other religious groups.

Why should Church of Uganda interest itself with what happens in cabinet? Cabinet is where legislation and policy papers are generated from. Apart from Private Members Bills, which are rare in Uganda, most of the legislation or laws we have originate from cabinet. Policy guidelines for implementation also originate from there.

When Ministers were appointed, many groups came out to complain that they had not been considered. It is an open secret that in Uganda ministers are not necessarily appointed on merit. In most cases the President is balancing many interests which are mainly political, regional, and religious.

Church of Uganda is both a church and an institution that runs other programs which are not necessarily ‘spiritual’.  It is among the top 3 land owners in the country, it founded 5172 primary school, 591 secondary schools, 5 Universities and 261 health facilities; including hospitals. From these simple statistics, it is clear that COU is a key stakeholder in this country. Many policies and legislations that affect education, health, land etc. originate from cabinet. It would be utter irresponsibility for COU not to interest itself in what happens in cabinet.

Currently there is a move by Government to have land reforms. As a big landlord Church of Uganda’s interests on land must be taken care of. The Church cannot afford to be a disinterested spectator when some of the reforms might affect its land ownership.

In his new mandate, President Yoweri Museveni and the NRM Government have come up with the Parish Development model as the new approach to economic transformation of Uganda. Church of Uganda must position itself as a worthy partner in the implementation of this model since it has presence in almost every parish in Uganda and has structures to match.

The Master Strategic Plan of Church of Uganda 2015/2025 already provides for the construction of silos at every parish for storage purposes. Decisions pertaining to the implementation of this model are made in cabinet and, therefore, it is important to have someone close to COU in cabinet.

Church of Uganda seeking to strategically influence cabinet decisions is plausible and it should not apologise for it. People must understand that COU has genuine concerns which are far above the pettiness of religious fights.

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Sabiiti Martin Rwabihurwa is a member of the Church of Uganda

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