Uganda State House hits back at bishops over Museveni retirementBy EMMANUEL GYEZAHO in Kampala | Tuesday, April 10 2012 at 18:33
Calls by two senior prelates to have Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni relinquish power in 2016 appear to have rattled State House.
An official suggested the clerics had been duped by opposition leader Kizza Besigye into believing that government was on a free fall, with the exit of the incumbent as the only solution.
Spokesman Tamale Mirundi told the Daily Monitor Tuesday that the prelates were “reacting” because Dr Besigye “has created the impression that unless he is accommodated, then the country is on fire”.
“I don’t think they [bishops] are part of his [Besigye’s] team, but he has created the impression that government is falling,” said Mr Mirundi.
“They are responding to false alarms. The government is not falling.”
Mr Mirundi added, however, that often the clergy in Uganda were forced to issue commentary “as being sensitive to what is happening” while on the contrary, the underlying motivation in making such comments was the need to stall declining numbers of followers.
“These churches also have their own problems…They have a declining number of followers,” he said, and added that clerics would want to appeal to their faithful showed up in church, for instance, expecting to hear a priest talk about corruption.
However, in a veiled comment that appeared to accuse the church of hypocrisy, Mr Mirundi wondered: “But why don’t they reject the offertory they receive from the corrupt officials?”
Delivering his Easter sermon at Rubaga Cathedral on Sunday, Kampala Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, called on President Museveni, in power since 1986, to peacefully relinquish office in 2016, and admitted that a smooth handover of power was the “biggest gift the President can give Ugandans”.
The same call was echoed by Kampala Anglican assistant bishop Zac Niringiye, who said President Museveni should relinquish power at the end of his current term if he wanted to leave a clean legacy.
“I am saying restore term limits and we are also saying Mzee (old man) finish well and retire well and I am going to work for that when I retire,” said Dr Niringiye in a sermon at St. Stephen’s Church of Uganda, where he also said he was retiring from active priesthood to pay attention to issues affecting the country.
The calls also came on the back of a recent public perception survey by Afrobarometer, which suggested that 74 per cent of Ugandans felt the country was headed in the wrong direction, only a year after President Museveni’s resounding fourth term electoral victory.
Mr Mirundi said it was “unnecessary” for the clerics to speak out publicly and yet they could have sought audience with President Museveni, as they “usually” did.
President Museveni has spent much of the first year of his five-year fourth term battling the now banned opposition pressure group, Activists for Change, the brainchild of the walk-to-work protests over increasing cost of living.
The protests have been brutally suppressed by police and other state agencies, with nine people shot at to date, while several opposition figures had been arrested and charged in court.
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