Though he is under investigation for allegedly condoning sectarian talk which appears to prop up his political ambitions, the Minister for Security, Amana Mbabazi, seemed to stake his neck when he heaped praise on the Anglican bishop who made the sectarian remarks that kicked up a storm in Kigezi.The minister commended Bishop John Wilson Ntegyereize of Kinkiizi Diocese –the man at the centre of controversy for his “good leadership” and also donated a Friesian cow and a Bible.
The minister also donated the same items to the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi on July 26, 2009 during the installation of his wife, Jacqueline Mbabazi as a Canon in Kinkizi Diocese.
It was alleged that while preaching to a congregation at Kihihi Church of Uganda in the presence of Mbabazi on June 7, the bishop asked Protestants to contest for all political positions in the district and implored the worshipers to vote only those candidates who subscribe to the Anglican faith.
The remarks didn’t go down well with a select group of politicians from Kigezi who accuse Mbabazi of mobilising Protestants to counter Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya who is also accused of holding secret night meetings with leaders of the catholic church in a bid to gain political advantage.
By praising Ntegyereize, Mbabazi most likely handed more ammunition to his critics who have since faulted him for not condemning the remarks.
Some local leaders in Kanungu have told The Observer that the clergy indeed made the remarks.
Mbabazi’s name has been dragged in the debate because he was among the worshippers when the bishop allegedly made the remarks, but remained silent. His critics say he did not speak against the remarks because he is one of the intended beneficiaries because he is reportedly mobilising Anglicans for political support.
Bishop Ntegyereize has told The Observer that he does not regret his remarks. “If I said anything, I said it after I had thought about it and I have no regrets.”
The Observer recently reported that President Museveni had instructed the minister for Presidency Beatrice Wabudeya to find a recording of what transpired at Kihihi Church to establish whether the Bishop’s remarks where indeed sectarian and if Mbabazi should have condemned them, (See: Museveni probing Bukenya, Mbabazi, The Observer July 16-19, 2009.)
The President made the directive while meeting MPs from Rukungiri, Kabale, Kisoro and Kanungu districts.
GENEROSITY OR MOBILISATION?
So is the NRM secretary general simply generous or he is indeed fortifying his political base? The answers to that question vary depending on whom one speaks to.
Mbabazi is also building a new Church in Kinkizi Diocese. He showed the plan and design to the congregation that attended the church service. He says construction will commence in September.
He also acknowledged receipt of an invitation from Bishop Jackson Nzerebende Tembo of Rwenzori South to visit his diocese. The minister says he will soon visit the diocese and contribute to the construction of the church there.
His critics within the NRM say the installation of his wife as a Canon and his new-found generosity towards the Anglican Church is an indication that Mbabazi is indeed mobilising Protestants to gain political advantage. His wife’s influence in the Anglican Church is also reportedly helping him make inroads in the church.
Jacqueline Susan Mbabazi became a Canon in the Anglican Church “because of her exemplary service” to the church.
She single-handedly built a church at their home in Karubizi. She also bought Bishop Ntegyereize’s official vehicle after his consecration as Bishop in 1995. President Museveni also attended his ceremony but did not donate a vehicle as he has always done.
That is why Ntegyereize thanked NRM for electing Mbabazi as secretary general of the party in November 2005. He beat the Minister of Trade and Industry, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire and the Minister of Defence, Dr. Crispus Kiyonga to the post.
There is growing bad blood between Mbabazi and his fellow MPs from Kinkizi that is likely to define the political landscape in Kigezi in 2011.
For example, during the church service, Mbabazi refused to acknowledge the presence of Jacqueline Kyatuheire
(Kanungu woman MP) and Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkizi East) in whose constituency St. Peter’s Cathedral Nyakatare is located where Mbabazi’s wife was installed as a Canon.
Mbabazi, Baryomunsi and Kyatuheire are the only MPs from Kanungu with the minister as its caucus chairman.
During a recent meeting of MPs from Kigezi with President Museveni, Kyatuheire accused Mbabazi of condoning what she termed as sectarian remarks made by Bishop Ntegyereize.
The speaker of Kanungu LCV local council, Peter Mugisha said that he was part of the congregation addressed by the Bishop but added that the man of God actually lacked facts. “I was in church and we have those tapes but he didn’t have facts at all,” he said.
Mugisha said that contrary to the Bishop’s claims, most people in the district council and civil service in Kanungu are Protestants.
He said the district is organising parish meetings to ignore the bishop’s remarks but instead forge “unity and development.”
The Observer has also learnt that the Bishop’s remarks were discussed in a recent NRM district executive meeting after it was raised by Byaruhanga Frank, an LCV councillor.
Byaruhanga confirmed raising the issue but said it debate was postponed to the next meeting.
Religion has been cited in the politics of Kigezi region as a whole. It is said to have influenced appointments in the NRM in Rukungiri district, according to a local news paper, Entaasi.
The paper reported that people close to Rujumbura MP, Brig. Jim Muhwezi, lost because they were Protestants.
The paper reported that Dr. Alex Kamugisha and Rubaabo county MP, Paula Turyahikayo, fronted Catholics.
Turyahikayo however denied the allegations. She said that of the 11 people who were voted, only three were Catholics and the rest Anglicans, including two Canons.
She however didn’t rule out sectarianism in other parts of Kigezi, “I am speaking on behalf of Rukungiri, Rubaabo in particular but I can’t rule it out in other districts in Kigezi like Kabale where it is common knowledge.”