The unstated role of faith/religion in the political future of Uganda


The writer: Ruhindayo Rumanda Michael is an International Relations Analyst.

This micro-State conglomeration of tribes, chieftaincies and nation states was bound together by the whims of some adventurous ‘bazungu’ who combed this land 150 years ago, has been beleaguered by religious tensions from inception to date. Uganda’s political history has been aligned to faith and religion from the beginning. Is religion still relevant in chatting our political future?

Right from the arrival of the first Muhammedians in the 1840s the King’s court was split in two. As some of the royals took on lslam to the chagrin of the others. The Buganda King’s court (the Kabaka) was split in two.

Matters were made worse by the arrival of the feuding Roman Catholics and Protestant Anglican 30 years later. These 19th century feuds provided the fuel for the political turmoil of the 20th century Uganda. Given the fact that these feuds are still with us, one only wonders what the future holds given the changing trend in the protagonists of Uganda’s religeous history!

Little wonder then that this part of Africa provides the church-body of Christ with a set of famous martyrs whose death according to me was more a political statement of reaction to rebellion than affirmation of faith. Whose authority ruled the 1880s Buganda kingdom?

The King needed to sort out a personal matter of insubordination of his pages in the face of arrogant visitors who needed to be put in their place. Once again religion caused turmoil in rather sublime quiet lands. The ensuing decade was marked with turmoil with opposing faiths installing one king after another until the Muzungu decided to rain in sanity and installed a boy King bound by the Protestant Anglican faith of the colonial Protectorate master. All subsequent Kings of Buganda profess the Anglican faith.

Fast forward, the 1950s, return veterans from the second world war sought equity and equality over the dominion Anglicans held over them . The exposure to other lands where Roman Catholics served in power and authority with no qualms was the catalyst to encourage rebellion .

Civilised rebellion it was, formation of political parties to counter Protestant Anglican dominance. This is against a background of massive rural recruitment and conversions over the 80 years living the Anglicans to bask around the Kabaka’s court and administration centres.

This is how the Democratic party was formed, championed by among others- the venerable Ben Kiwanuka(RIP). By inference any other polarization in Uganda of 1950s had to bear Anglican polarization. And hence UPC which was roots in the labour movement ended up the party of choice for the Roman Catholic foes- the Anglicans.

The lesser favoured conservatives also had their organisation. It was against this background that Uganda received its independence. And befittingly chose a national motto – For God and My Country. Albeit, deeply divided and polarized on religeous grounds.

Uganda Peoples congress was led by a great strategist who made great blunders, nevertheless. And by the early 1970s President Obote was ripe for extrusion by a people so deeply divided and needed a breath of fresh air which they sought in a monster.

Talk about jumping from frying pan to the fire. In come Field Marshall Idi Amin. The two antagonistic religions needed to bond together to fight the monster they sought refuge. Even the centenary celebration of Christianity in Uganda was not spared and was desecrated with killing of Archbishop Luwum 1977.

Amin stripped the church of all dignity. He was ruthless. Post Amin period was a situation of remembering nothing and forgetting nothing. The return of President Obote rekindled old wounds and old feuds resurfaced. Sectarian based killings and insurgency Characterised the post Amin governments. Revenge killings and destruction of property because of their faith was common.

Muslims butchered in Bushenyi, Protestant UPC similarly hunted down, cattle hacked down in the fields, banana plantations slashed down, Muslims hunted and criminalized in west Nile to highlight but a few. One government after the other out did itself in condoning revenge acts premised on religeous affiliation. The Amin era however made a grave mistake, in banning all non main stream Christian fellowship which went underground .

In going underground it germinated into a strong tree of Balokole because while underground its roots went deep. The Balokole indeed allied with the anti Obote movement along with the Roman Catholic Democratic Party axis and indeed Obote and his system was toppled .

Its didn’t take long, 6 years post Idi Amin came in a new ‘neutral force’. And over the last 3 decades or so, this ‘neutral force’ is a major political force in its own right. Love it or hate it, deny it or accept , Balokole are a force to reckon with on the political landscape day.

In my sequel missive, I will analyze the role the neutral force is plying in todays political arena. Is it still together ? Has it split ? What happened to the old forces? How have they transformed to suit the modern trends and challenges of the church? The political history of Uganda has always been aligned to faith and religion, undeniably

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