YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of the capital Kampala has urged Ugandans to “resist the bad politics” prevailing under President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled the East African country since 1986.
The archbishop accused Museveni of political dishonesty during his New Year’s homily, a few hours after Museveni slammed the nation’s clergy for meddling in politics.
“Let us resist bad politics, let us resist bad politics and promote national unity because we’re all interested in this country and also to build a strong future for this country,” said Lwanga.
During his New Year’s message to the nation, the president called on religious leaders to stay humble and focus on the things they are supposed to be doing.
“Some of our religious people are so full of arrogance. They talk most authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth. This is assuming they do not have evil intentions which would be worse. That would make them into Caiaphas, the chief priest that betrayed Jesus,” Museveni said.
Lwanga waved the criticism aside, reminding the president that the clergy are simply playing their role as citizens, which Museveni himself once exhorted all Ugandans to do.
“The president one day said all of us belong to the ‘movement system’ and he explained to us why he started the National Resistance Movement. He said; ‘I want people to resist bad politics.’ So he commanded people to resist bad politics. He said we should resist bad politics, and I think he was right there,” Lwanga said.
The archbishop then criticized Museveni for political hypocrisy, pointing out that the president has failed to keep the promises contained in the 10-point program of the National Resistance Movement – which was the movement that led Museveni to power 30 years ago.
The 10-point plan of the NRM promised to restore democracy, foster the security of persons and property, enhance national unity, and eliminate all forms of sectarianism.
“All these ten points are very good for nation building,” Lwanga said.
After seizing power in 1986, Museveni’s early rule restored stability after years of civil war. But he has over the years used clientelism and political authoritarianism as modes of governance, buttressing his position by tightening control over key institutions, including the army and police.
He has centralized political power into his own hands and those of his family, and crushed dissent.
The New Year spat between the president and the clergy comes after Museveni and his allies worked to scrap age limits on presidential terms.
The Ugandan constitution required that anyone running for the office of the president must be between 34-75. This means Museveni, now 73, will be ineligible when fresh elections are organized in 2021.
Last year, that article of the constitution was repealed.
“I salute the 317 MPs who defied intimidation, alignment, and blackmail and opted for a flexible constitution to deal with destiny issues of Africa,” Museveni said in his New Year’s address about the issue.
According to polls, the move was highly unpopular, and the Catholic Church led the campaign against the constitutional change.
Bishop Paul Ssemogerere of the Kasana-Luweero diocese told the Monitor, a local newspaper, that members of Parliament did not listen to religious leaders on the issue for one simple reason: “We do not have money to give them.”
Ssemogerere said the politicians have forgotten “that they derive their mandate from the people.”
The accusation of bribery is not without merit: A report carried out by The Economist said that MPs were bribed $10,000 each to vote for the bill.
It is not only the Catholic Church entering into the fray. The bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Luweero, Eridard Nsubuga attacked MPs who voted for the bill in his Christmas sermon.
“Some of our legislators chose to lie in broad daylight that you – the electorate – told them to extend their term of office and lifting of the presidential age limit,” Nsubuga said.
“Corruption is an evil that is condemned by scripture,” said the outgoing chairperson of the Uganda Joint Christian Council, Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali.
The council issued a joint statement signed by Ntagali, Lwanga and Jonah Lwanga (no relation), the Metropolitan of the Uganda Orthodox Church.
The Christian leaders accused Museveni of failing to tackle corruption in the country, which is ranked 151 of the 176 countries in the 2016 corruption perception index (CPI), the annual report released by Transparency International.
Catholics make up over 40 percent of the population in Uganda, while Anglicans account for 36 percent.