No tension between gov’t and church – Ugandan Reverend Simon Lokodo

No tension between gov't and church - Ugandan Reverend Simon Lokodo
The Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Hon. Simon Lokodo addressing journalists in Kampala. Photo by Racheal Ajwang

State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Fr Simon Lokodo allays fears of tensions between the government and the church. Lokodo says the relationship between the two most influential institutions in any society as cordial and harmonious.

His comments come amidst a pile of dissenting voices from religious leaders on political developments in the country. On Saturday, Reuben Kisembo, the Bishop of Ruwenzori Diocese told president Museveni to retire, when they met during the commissioning of St Elizabeth Chapel at Kyebambe Girls’ School in Fort Portal.

In response, President Museveni said that he does not need lectures on what to do for Uganda adding that religious leaders have for a long time been provoking him through their comments.

“The religious leaders have been provoking us and me in particular, it should stop. I don’t want people to lecture me about what to do for Uganda. A person who wants to lecture me must have the qualifications,” he retorted.

Museveni had earlier in the year told off religious leaders who were against the amendment of the constitution to erase age limit.

“Some of our religious people are so full of arrogance,” Museveni said, adding that most religious leaders talk authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth.

It is such hard-hitting comments and counter-responses that have ignited a debate of an acrimonious relationship between the church and the state. But Father Lokodo says the fears are far-fetched, adding that Ugandans are rather trying “to implicate a tension between government and religious leaders.”

He says the president has been calling religious leaders for advice, guidance and dialogue. The pronouncements and statements from these institutions, Lokodo argued are always made in good faith.

If there is any government that respects religious leaders, Lokodo argues, it’s the current government. If there is any president who listens and respects religious leaders, he notes, it’s Museveni. Lokodo urges Ugandans drop any perception that there is disagreement between the government and religious leaders.

However, the Archbishop Church Uganda, The Most Rev Stanley Ntagali insists that religious leaders will continue to use their prophetic voice to speak and give advice to politicians. He says President Museveni has invited them and they will talk in a cordial mood.

The comments come as Uganda celebrates the legacy of Archbishop Janani Luwum, The fearless and outspoken critic of the Idi Amin regime who was killed in 1977.

Luwum became Archbishop of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Boga-Zaire in 1974; three years after Idi Amin overthrew Milton Obote. But tension between Church and state worsened late 1976 as religious leaders concurrently spoke against the murderous Amin regime.

Luwum was at the forefront in condemning bad leadership. Before he was murdered, he had personally delivered a note of protest to President Amin against the policies of arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances of civilians and soldiers.

Shortly afterwards, the Archbishop and other leading churchmen were accused of treason. Luwum was accused of being an agent of the exiled former president Milton Obote, and for planning to stage a coup. The next day, Radio Uganda announced that he and three others had been killed in an accident.

Soldiers secretly transported his desecrated body to Mucwini – Kitgum district, his ancestral home hurriedly dug grave and buried him. Declared a saint of the 20th century by Church of Uganda, Luwum remains a living inspiration to clergies in Uganda. In recent months, religious leaders have been firmly critiquing political leaders, especially president Museveni.