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Former minister Daniel Omara Atubo: Here are the dangers of appointing a Minister to represent a religious section in Cabinet

Mr. Daniel Omara Atubo is a former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in Cabinet, a position he served in from May 2006 until May 2011 (PHOTO /Courtesy

Mr. Daniel Omara Atubo is a former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in Cabinet, a position he served in from May 2006 until May 2011 (PHOTO /Courtesy

I am aware that issues of religion are emotive and I wish to apologize in advance for hurting anybody or anyone’s feelings or being perceived to do so including Archbishop Dr. Stephen Kazimba Mugalu. As a Catholic I am even more encumbered to be seen to be speaking against our historical competitor.

However, my article is in response to a widely circulated letter authored by Dr. Stephen Kazimba Mugaalu , Archbishop Church of Uganda, purporting to appoint the Hon. Minister Ruth Nankabirwa to be the Church’s representative in Cabinet. My reaction is motivated by goodwill and prayer for a better future of this country. As a senior citizen, I cannot keep quiet on important matters of national interest.
However, I will restrict myself on the constitutionality, politics and division of the appointment.

As a participant in the making of the 1995 constitution, we were aware of our sad history caused by religious division and Anglican British colonialists who ensured that like in Britain, the Church of Uganda shall be at the heart of government in Uganda.

History is rich with how the then Archbishop Leslie Brown contributed to an alliance between the Uganda Peoples’ Congress led by Apollo Milton Obote and Kabaka Fredrick Muteesa II of Kabaka Yekka to deprive Benedicto Kiwanuka on account of his Catholicism from leading an Independent Uganda. Since 1894, wars have been fought laced by religion and governments have been overthrown supported by religion.

We as a country have suffered enough and it is important that our children and grandchildren do not go through what we as
nt through or are still going through. We should avoid a future war based on religious division.

Article 7 of the Constitution clearly states that “Uganda shall not adopt a State religion” thereby making Uganda a secular state. The letter and spirit of the Constitution is to completely leave out religion in our politics. Indeed religion properly practiced to serve God or Allah should be the uniting factor for Ugandans and even humanity. What Churches ought to do as is the practice with the Catholic Church since 1961 is issue pastoral letters to guide voters on elections.

Article 21 and 29 enshrines fundamental freedoms of creed or religion or belief to be practiced equally by every believer. This does not elevate one religion over another to Cabinet representation. What about other Churches that are currently numbering over one hundred, all demanding to be represented in Cabinet?

No religious leader has power at all constitutionally or spiritually to appoint anybody to represent his Church in Cabinet. Articles 111,113 and 114 of the Constitution stipulate that it is only the President who has the power to appoint persons to Cabinet with the approval of Parliament.

The conferred functions do not include representation of any Church. Such appointment can cause disloyalty and clique formations by the appointed minister to her appointing authority.

The reason why I have long supported the constitutional proposal that a minister should also not double as an elected member of parliament with political and religious constituencies is so as to serve the country with absolute loyalty, nationalism, independence and impartiality.

We as Ugandans need to ensure that the lessons derived from our sad past are upheld so that anything that is bound to derail these efforts and sink us back into the woes of religious division is avoided. When I hear religious leaders saying,” A Catholic can never be President of Uganda or Won Nyaci/ Cultural Leader of Lango,” I get very disappointed.

During the recently concluded 2021 general elections, some religious leaders campaigned for candidates of their respective churches thereby dividing their own believers as well. After elections, they continue to influence and impose candidates to political positions which should not be the case.

My conclusive piece of advice to religious leaders is “ please, do the work of God not material greed.” Political and Religious leaders should stop misusing each other. Churches and their respective leaders have the potential and responsibility to unite and develop Uganda through unity, oneness in God, peace and love.

Uganda is not only blessed by Nature but by God first.

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The writer, Daniel Omara Atubo is a former Cabinet Minister

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