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Marriage and divorce still grey area for Ugandans

Pastor Aloysius Bugingo

Pastor Aloysius Bugingo

Pastor Aloysius Bugingo of the House of Prayer Ministries located off Sir Apollo Kaggwa road, has been in the news for all the bad reasons.

His marital woes crept into public view for all to see and comment. His wife of 29 years Teddy Naluswa accused him of pressuring her into a divorce so he could marry Suzan Nantaba Makula, a member of his church.

The debate has been: should Naluswa consent to the divorce so that Bugingo moves on with his life? If yes, how much of their estate should she take? And should she decline to divorce him, what can Bugingo do in recourse? We don’t have the answers, but we have examples of public figures who had courts dissolve their marriages.

Norbert Mao

On May 27, 2019, High Court judge, Godfrey Namundi dissolved the marriage of Democratic Party president general Norbert Mao to Naomi Achieng Adong. The two contracted a civil marriage on August 8, 2003 and had two children from the union. Achieng who filed the petition, accused Mao of cruel treatment and desertion of his home for eight years. 

In his response to the petition, Mao never objected to the divorce. The only bone of contention was on the sharing of the property and custody of their children.  In his judgement, Namundi issued an order dissolving the marriage, granting Mao the primary custody of the children but also allowing Achieng reasonable access.

Prof Gilbert Baalibaseka Bukenya

The country was stunned on May 17, 2019 when Dr Margaret Mary Musoke, wife to former vice president Prof Gilbert Baalibaseka Bukenya, filed for divorce at the Makindye Family Division.

She accused Bukenya of abandoning his marital obligations. The two have been married since September 21, 1974. In the divorce suit, Dr Musoke contends that Prof Bukenya deserted their matrimonial home and engaged in adultery and infidelity.

She goes on to enumerate the different incidents where Bukenya has been unfaithful to her, which resulted into the birth of several of Bukenya’s children who include among others the late Captain Brian Bukenya who died in a motor accident a few years ago.

Musoke also names several women with whom Bukenya has had affairs. Those listed include, Stella Njuba (RIP), Jamila Nakku, Margaret Kabasinguzi Nyabongo, Irene Namubiru and Princess Sheila Nvanungi, among others.

In his defense, Bukenya admitted having other sexual relationships, claiming separation from Musoke did not make him celibate. He wants court to allow the divorce but stay away from dividing his property so that his wife of 40 years takes a share.  Court is yet to give a ruling on the matter.

Olive and Moses Kigongo

For more than 20 years, the country had come to know Moses Kigongo and Olive Kigongo as husband and wife. So much so that the only surname many Ugandans know for Olive, is Kigongo, which she took from Moses.

However, the cover was blown by a January 2015 petition by Olive who is the president of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry to have court wind up Mosa Courts Apartments as the two owners fell out.

The Kigongos

Moses, the NRM vice chairman, owns 85 per cent while Olive owns 15 per cent shares in the lodging facility in leafy Nakasero. In the petition, Olive told court that due to irreconcilable differences, it was no longer possible for the two to work together as shareholders despite their relationship as husband and wife.

But in his defence against the petition, Moses, who was then dating NTV journalist Farida Nakazibwe, denied ever having been husband to Olive and there was nothing to prove to the contrary.

In his ruling, Justice Namundi held that indeed there was no compelling evidence to prove that Moses was husband to Olive despite claims that Moses contracted a customary marriage when he visited Olive’s home in Mbarara in 1992. The two have adult children, which made the case all the more dramatic.

Betty Amongi

The case of Betty Amongi, the minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development is an interesting one. Amongi was married to Dr James Ocwa but the two divorced after Amongi accused Ocwa of cruel treatment.

Memorably, Ocwa applied to court to have Amongi return the bride price he paid. Having got a divorce, Amongi in April 2013, got married to Jimmy Akena, a son of former president Apollo Milton Obote (RIP). Akena is also the MP for Lira municipality and the president of the Uganda People’s Congress. Before marrying Amongi, Akena had a relationship with journalist Lynn Musiitwa with whom they had two children.

Drake Lubega

Many people were left speechless when in 2012, Benita Lubega filed for divorce from Kampala business magnate Drake Lubega, accusing him of relentless harassment. The two had been married since December 2000.  Unlike in many cases, Lubega opposed the divorce, accusing business rivals of being behind his woes.

It is not clear whether his stance was motivated by the desire not to share his property with Benita, who had asked court to give her nine of Lubega’s 25 commercial buildings in Kampala. Lubega owns Majestic Plaza, Qualicel Building, Vienna House, Jesco Plaza, SB Plaza and Energy Centre, among others.

Jacqueline Rivanga/Andrew Rugasira

If there is a marriage that had got the whole of Kampala talking, it was that of businesswoman Jacqueline Rivanga and Andrew Rugasira, the Good African Coffee owner. They were Kampala’s power couple, both by looks and business acumen, until their marriage went belly up, leaving associates shocked.

In 2015, Rugasira divorced Jacqueline, accusing her of infidelity although she still vehemently denies that was the cause of their breakup. She says the two although still loved each other as always, it was just no longer feasible to continue staying as husband and wife.      

Their fairytale story was no happily-ever-after, as they divorced and Rugasira also suffered business setbacks, although his ex wife still runs a café, Jack and Drew at Forest mall.

Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah

Less than three years in marriage to Lady Winnie Amoo Okot, Jacob Oulanyah, the deputy speaker of parliament, filed a petition in the High court seeking for the nullification of their marriage.

The two married on January 19, 2013 and sought for divorce in August 2015. He accused her of being cruel to him by denying him his conjugal rights for eight months and also mistreating his older children resulting from his first marriage.

Jacob Oulanyah with Winnie Amoo Okot

On the other hand, Amoo also accused Oulanyah of being overly obsessed with his dead wife to the extent of wanting her to put on her dresses even in bed.

Justice Namundi allowed the divorce but ordered Oulanyah to continue looking after two children he had with Amoo.

Pastor David Kiganda

Pastor David Kiganda filed a petition in 2006 to have his marriage to Hadija Nasejje terminated, accusing her of infidelity. The couple was for weeks the subject of ridicule and speculation, after it emerged that Nasejje had cheated on the pastor with a rolex/chapatti maker.

The court granted him the divorce alongside the custody of their child Kiganda Joshua Yatulwanira. Kiganda soon after remarried, taking a Zimbabwean wife.

URSB answers your FAQs

Charles Benjamin Nsimbi, the manager, Civil registry, at the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, the entity in charge of marriage registry, said many Ugandans are oblivious to the importance of registering their marriages. The Observer sounded him out on these issues of the heart:

How many people have registered their marriages?

The numbers look good although they are still very poor but it is not the people who are supposed to register; rather, the organizations that wed them.

We have the Muhammadan, Hindu, Civil, which is also Christian marriage, and Customary marriages. All these marriages are equal before the law.

Other than customary, all the rest are registered by the entities that wed the people. The church will wed you in the name of God and we will wed you in the name of the government; like Jesus said, give unto Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to God.

For as long as your church is registered and files returns, you should not be bothered. But unfortunately, this is not happening because many churches don’t know about it. But we are working to sensitize people about it and the numbers look encouraging.

For example, the traditional churches have literally licensed all their churches except a few a remaining in the North. A church without a license is like a school without a Uneb center number; it can’t contract legal marriages.

What do the numbers look like?

Faith-based returns in 2016/17 to 2018/19, numbers grew from 4,700 returns to 9,756 returns. Then civil marriages have grown from 1,400 to 1,700; and customary grew from 22 to 938.

But we have got over 3,000 registered churches; this translates to about three marriages per church per year, which is very decimal.

What happens if a marriage was never registered and I want to divorce?

You cannot divorce if you are not married. For you to be married, your marriage must be registrable. Therefore, if you contracted it in a licensed place, it is legal but not yet registered. So, you have to go through the normal process of registering it and then go ahead and apply for divorce. If the place wasn’t legal, it is like sitting exams in a school which has no Uneb center number.

Talk about the customary marriages.

This is the only marriage that is not officiated by a registrar; a priest or Imam who files the returns. Customary marriage is done at home and the couple must go to the registrar with witnesses to register it.

It becomes effective on registration. For you to divorce, you must produce a registration certificate. Originally you had to return the bride price; now that was struck out by court. If you hold a kwanjula with one woman and then change your mind and choose to wed another in church, that is bigamy.

If you want to hold kwanjula for all your women, you cannot take any of them to church. But there are so many such cases. When you go into a polygamous marriage, there is no way you can cross to the monogamous one unless you divorce first.

Does URSB play any role in divorce?

Our only role is to confirm your marriage and when you want to divorce, the law talks about an extract of the registry book or certificate certified by the registry of marriage. That is our only role.

When I divorce, do I come to you for deregistration?

There is a lacuna in the law; it doesn’t say you have to deregister with us but we are trying to work to see that we have an amendment that will cure that lacuna so that among the orders that the judge gives is to deregister.

For now, we are encouraging our people that when they divorce, they file a copy with us to change their record of marriage.     

What happens to someone who contracted a marriage in a place that is not registered?

There is nothing they can do but to repeat the marriage; otherwise, they are boyfriend and girlfriend.

If you had been here for a day, you would have seen how many people come here with such a problem. Maybe they want to travel outside the country and they have to prove their status, others when their husbands have died and can’t prove that they were married.

In customary marriages, if the partner dies, you can’t even register it because you and the spouse have to be present to register it. This has been a common problem with women because we have more widows than widowers.

It doesn’t matter how long you have been together; you have no say whatsoever. I wonder why these women activists don’t address it, because the area where women are most marginalized is registration of marriages. If you’re not registered, you are completely naked; you have no protection of the law. 

When you contract whatever marriage especially customary (eg kwanjula), come and register it as you wait for church; otherwise, when your partner drops dead, you have no claim; you are not known anywhere.

When I do the kwanjula and then a wedding, do I have to register both?

You may or you may not. Most people don’t consider kwanjula a wedding; they wait for the church wedding. But if you register kwanjula and then wed, it is converted from a customary marriage to a monogamous one.



+1 #1 WADADA roger 2019-08-20 21:03
It is better to have short term contract marriages
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+1 #2 WADADA roger 2019-08-20 21:09
We just need to learn to let go, if somebody is tired of you, it is only fair that you allow them to move on
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0 #3 Samuel 2019-08-22 15:40
What if A man congulard a lady and received a marriage certificate from Either Imam or Buganda kingdom. and dowery paid. stayed for 8 years in marriage and produced 3 children with that lady, and that woman drops that man as husband.

can the man file divorce? and wants his children with him. And is that lady entitled to his property ?
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