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Church leaders petition Museveni to stop ‘oppressive’ regulatory policy

Church leaders in Uganda are ramping up a challenge against a proposed policy that will deepen government oversight and regulation of religious and faith organisations (RFOs) in the country.

ICRAD's Rev Stephen Bamutungire and Wisdom K Peter addressing press on Wednesday

The RFOs Policy 2023 is being steered by the Directorate of the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity and the Office of the President.

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It among others requires formal training of all religious leaders, and for them to obtain permits before they can qualify as leaders. They must also seek permission before they can set up worship premises.

RFOs will also be required under the new policy to give an account of all their dealings to the government as a way of promoting accountability and transparency.

Officials from the International Center for Religious Advocacy and Development (ICRAD) on Wednesday addressed the press where they announced their plan to fight the policy.

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The organization is currently drafting a petition that they plan to send to President Museveni protesting the policy and calling for its scrapping.

We are running a public petition which has been on for two months now and we have been to traverse 20 districts and garnered 10,000 signatures of church leaders,” said Simon Ssenyonga, the Director of ICRAD

We are bringing this petition to your office Mr President because in your own house, you have a pastor. You have professed yourself to be a former leader of the Scripture Union. Would you want to see your legacy going down as one of the oppressed religions?

Wisdom K Peter, another ICRAD director said the RFO Policy could potentially put the entire country in harm's way.

Quoting Prophet Elvis Mbonye, who last year predicted devastating natural disasters in neighbouring Kenya when they passed a similar policy, he said similar disasters could soon hit Uganda.

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“Kenya’s current flood situation is a result of the nation’s leaders ignoring the warning issued by (Mbonye) in October last year,” he said.

Wisdom also condemned what he called, the “insolent, disdainful and condescending attitude of the authors of this draft policy.

“In making their case justifying the need for the policy to regulate RFOs, they refer to vagabond rebel groups like the ADF, Al Shabaab, Kibwetere, Alice Lakwena and the LRA. It is very clear to these people, that RFOs to which 99% of Ugandans subscribe are nothing more than antigovernment rebel groups that must be nipped in the bud. It is quite unfortunate that we have elements in government that think of us like that,” he said.

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Rev Stephen Bamutungire from All Saints Cathedral said the RFO Police said their initiative is in line with the upcoming Martyrs Day celebrations as it mirrors the stern stance that was taken by martyrs against Buganda King Mwanga, which cost them their lives.

Uganda historically has had such things happening, not only with the murdering of the Uganda Martyrs but also in 1977 when Idi Amin killed innocent Christians, including Archbishop Janani Luwum. But that did not stop the church from advancing the gospel,” he said.

Hon Angelina Osege, the former Soroti District Woman MP warned that such disruptions of God’s work were the reason for the downfall of Idi Amin.

There is nobody from history that has antagonized God and escaped scot-free. It may seem like you are trying to regulate human beings but these humans are acting in the name of God,” she said.

On his part, Michael David Kyazze, the senior pastor of Omega Healing Center said as church leaders, they will stand firm to resist the policy.

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This is an old law that was killed many years ago, and it is trying to manufacture a resurrection. But this will not work because it has met a formidable force and has found us even wiser than when it first came,” he said.

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