The unwritten deal Museveni must cut with the pastors
By Joachim Buwembo
‘Pastors report Father Lokodo to Museveni’ the New Vision banner headline of Tuesday 24th September 2019 announced. While a Literature student would quickly point at the two words ‘Pastors’ and ‘Father’ both being titles of religious practitioners who compete for the same flock, there is more than religion that meets Lokodo’s eye in this matter. That is if Father Lokodo has not yet seen it.
But as he must have keenly followed the meeting between the angry pastors and the president, the honourable minister of ethics and integrity Simon Lokodo, architect of the policy must have noted the point that the convener Pastor Robert Kayanja made with emphasis thus: “We wonder why they bring it up every time we are heading into an election!”
Pastor Kayanja then put the question which he said the 55,000 pastors of Uganda have been asking: “Has Mzee abandoned us?”
The presidential and parliamentary elections are 16 months away.
Even though President Museveni will not blatantly cut a deal with the pastors, as a candidate in the coming elections there is one thing he will not do: He will not be the candidate to be accused of ‘persecuting the pastors’. Why should he arm his opponents with an additional weapon? The numbers mean a lot in these things. Pastor Kayanja spoke of 3.9million in the country, being ministered by the 55,000 pastors.
Some things are rather too obvious to require pointing out. The new kid on the political block – new as in not having been played in the last elections of 2016 – is Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine. And the pastors have already largely indicated through overtures where they want to stand. When he released his rendition of ‘Tuliyambala Engule’, Bobi Wine gave the pastors an early opportunity to take their side in the upcoming political contest. They roundly denounced him and accused him of blasphemy for politicizing a religious hymn. The pastors’ condemnation of Bobi Wine was an overture to President Museveni, who has already been endorsed by different communities as their 2021 candidate.
Then comes minister Lokodo with his policy proposal requiring pastors to acquire academic qualifications in Theology in order to be allowed to practice. And there are 55,000 of them, pastoring 3.9 million followers. If Lokodo were to have his way, those are about 4 million voters ripe to be easily convinced that the government Lokodo serves is persecuting them. That government is led by Yoweri Museveni. And the pastors’ leaning is not a big secret. Hence the question, “Has Mzee abandoned us?”
Indeed Museveni has been with the Balokole and their pastors – they are not just ‘tying’ themselves on him. He attended the “two-year” overnight prayers of December 31st 2015 – January 1st 2016. Museveni never slept as he kept shuttling from one prayer crusade to the next. The election was a few weeks away. The other candidates were sound asleep in their beds.
At the September 23rd meeting, Museveni did not come outright to back the pastors who are against his own minister, Simon Lokodo. But even a deaf man could hear his tone: “I have not had time to discuss with Lokodo… we can look at the advantages that are there (in getting theological training) … but Simon Peter did not go to a seminary … what do you do with Simon Peter who was just a fisherman but was called by Jesus to become a fisher of men? Then you have all these other people such as Saul who was an enemy persecuting the Church, but was taken to the Kyankwanzi of those days, and was changed on his way to Damascus and became the foundation of the Church?”
Museveni then gave the assurance that an amicable solution was going to be found. “I will call all of you, Lokodo, archbishop, cardinal for a cup of coffee and we talk and see what is good for the work of the Lord: Should we emphasize training or procedure?”
At least when the pastors share that cup of coffee with Father Lokodo, the outcome will not be as devastating for him as the Nyege Nyege festival was when interior minister Jeje Odongo rode roughshod over him and allowed it to proceed. Poor Lokodo who had tried to block Nyege Nyege saying there were terrible things including bestiality on the menu recoiled grumbling that “Satan has won.”
At least Museveni will allow Lokodo to save face when the training requirement for pastors is dropped.