Speaker of Parliament Anita Among has today mediated a religious conflict that had since 2019 inflamed tensions in a section of the Teso Sub Region.
The conflict had for a long time pitted Christians of the Church of Uganda Kumi Diocese led by Rt Rev Okwii Esakha against those of the Reform Anglican Church led by Rt Rev Charles Okunya, Upper Nile Diocese in the districts of Kumi, Bukedea and Ngora, prompting the Speaker to convene a meeting between the rival leaders with the view of reaching an agreeable solution.
Speaking during a meeting that was attended by other leaders including the IGP, Ms Among, who also chaired the meeting, urged both Rt Rev Okwii and Rt Rev Okunya to calm the tensions by listening to each other as well as encouraging congregants to stop the fight and the violence that has already injured a number of people as well as causing insecurity in the three districts of Kumi, Bukedea and Ngora.
“We must co-exist and deal with this hostility that is diving our people,’’ she said, noting that religious leaders should be a symbol of unity rather than seeking to divide people along religious, property or politics lines.
The conflicted started after Reformed Anglican Church broke away from the Church of Uganda last year following the cancellation of the Rev Okunya’s election as the second Bishop of Kumi Diocese in 2019 and the subsequent consecration of Rev Okwii in March last year.
The House of Bishops had on November 19, 2019 elected Rev Okunya, but Christians petitioned the electorate, alleging that the Bishop-elect had falsified his age and engaged in extra-marital affair.
He was subsequently replaced with Rev Okwi, which angered a section of Christians, resulting into sporadic episodes of violence in which a number of Christians have been injured while others have lost property.
During the meeting, Ms Among urged the religious leaders to stop inflaming tensions, noting that: “Even where there have been misunderstandings, it is dangerous to choose a path that is first and foremost, against the ways of God, and outside the laws of the land.’’
A number of meetings have been held at different levels in an attempt to find a solution to the conflict but have not yielded much.
However, the two Bishops – Rev Okwii and Rev Okunya – have agreed to reconcile and forge a way forward.
The meeting was attended by the deputy inspector General of Police Maj Gen Katsigazi Tumusiime, who commended Ms Among for volunteering to mediate between the two parties.
However, he warned the religious leaders against continuing with the violence, failure of which will lead to arrests.
“This is the first meeting of the many we have conducted that has yielded some positive results, however, I will not hesitate to arrests anyone if we register any more attacks affiliated to any of the churches.’’ he said.