The Church of Uganda and Speaking Truth to Power: Lessons from Nathan the Prophet

by The Revd. Dr. Griphus Gakuru

Date added: 18/03/2016

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1.0 Introduction:


Located in East Africa and astride the equator Uganda, a country of 30 million people, boasts of about 9 million Anglicans. The first missionaries, sent by the CMS, arrived in 1877, followed by French Catholic missionaries in 1879. The Church of Uganda[1] is seen by some as one founded on the blood of martyrs[2] and during its centenary year, 1977, it produced yet another martyr, Archbishop Janani Luwum. Since independence in 1962 the people of Uganda have gone through many years of suffering at the hands of the state and the church has been caught up in the woes, either as part of the problem or as a victim.


Speaking Truth to Power.


The Church of Uganda affirms that it is a Bible – based church, meaning that the Bible is the guide in all aspects of life. Church leaders and committed Christians go back to the Bible for inspiration, reason, and guidance as well as social and political commentary. This essay, which stands within that tradition, examines the success or otherwise of that church’s prophetic ministry to the nation since independence in 1962 to the present, looking at points of strength and of weakness and finally making suggestions as to how the church could improve its prophetic ministry.


It is important, at this stage, to clarify the key terms and expressions that are used in this essay. By the expression ‘speaking truth to power’ is meant that activity of the church’s witness to the national leaders or government which is aimed at affirming the fundamental values of the Kingdom of God that are, in its assessment, under threat from illegal or unconstitutional government activity. Such prophetic activity is carried out in the church’s full knowledge of the repercussions that might befall it and/or its leaders as a result. In this paper ‘truth’ will be confined to the content of a church’s communication to temporal powers consisting of the values of the Kingdom of God. By ‘power’ we mean the temporal authorities in government at a given time, though with the advent of a more democratic system of government in Uganda since the late 1980’s ‘power’ could also refer to the electorate or society in general.


2.0 Defining the fault lines in Ugandan society


 One would not fully understand the role of the Church of Uganda in speaking truth to power without knowledge of the country’s social and historical context as well as the fault lines that emerged from its historical experience. Three major fault lines exist in Ugandan society namely  the religious fault lines - in particular, the difficult relationship between the Church of Uganda and the Roman Catholic Church;  the question of the status of Buganda in Uganda and ethnicity and tribal allegiances.


2.1 The religious fault lines


Before the arrival of Arabs and Europeans in Uganda, the region that came to be present day Uganda consisted of three neighbouring Bantu kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro and Ankole in the south and west; to the north  of these and separated by River Nile and Lake Kioga were the acephalous political entities of Acholi, Lango and Teso. To the east were similar political entities consisting of a mixture of Bantu, Luo and Kalenjin speaking tribes. The regions of West Nile in the northwest and Kigezi in the south west were added to Uganda later from Belgian Congo and German Rwanda respectively. It is the Kingdom of Buganda, from which the country derives its name, which played the initial role in the creation Uganda. It is also in Buganda that the initial religious conflicts arose and the differences that arose from them spread to the country.[3]


The first foreign arrivals in Buganda were Arab traders from Zanzibar, who entered the kingdom from the south (present day Tanzania), exchanging cloth, copper bracelets and cowry shells for ivory and slaves. The first Arab arrived at the King Suna’s court around 1840. Sheikh Ahmad bin Ibrahim made an impression on the king due to his piety and his outspokenness against the king’s mistreatment of his subjects. He was the first member of the Abrahamic faiths to speak truth to power in Uganda. By the 1860’s trade had gathered pace and relations between the king (now Mutesa I) and the Sultan of Zanzibar had strengthened such that in 1869 the Sultan Seyyid Majid bin Said was able to send him a delegation with gifts and Mutesa reciprocated.  Arab traders continued to arrive and stay at the king’s court. With their arrival came lslam, so that by the time the first Christian missionaries arrived, Islam was sufficiently established at the king’s court among both courtiers and pages.


If this was a friendly encounter with Islam, the one with Egypt through Sudan (Equatoria) was not. In 1862 John Speke discovered the source of the Nile, located at the South Eastern end of Buganda Kingdom, the result of which was a more urgent and aggressive effort by Egypt to annex Buganda and Bunyoro in order to control the entire Nile River.  Thus Sir Samuel Baker, Governor of Equatoria (present day Sudan) made an attempt to annex Buganda’s neighbouring kingdom of Bunyoro, ending in failure. Baker was succeeded by General Gordon.  Around 1875, the time when the explorer  H.M Stanley arrived in Buganda, General Gordon sent Linant Bellefonds (a convert to Islam also called Abdul Aziz) to negotiate with King Mutesa so the latter might enter into a relationship of vassalage. Bellefonds failed. On the other hand Stanley had impressed Mutesa who now preferred a direct relationship with Egypt’s superior partner Great Britain. In particular he invited missionaries, who were not military, so that their presence might deter the Egyptians from being a threat to his kingdom. This was as well since the following year Gordon sent a military expedition under Nuer Agar to secure Lake Nalubale (Later Victoria), the source of the Nile, for Egypt; but the entire force was lured into captivity by the king, Mutesa I.  This attack on Buganda made Mutesa more determined to seek some kind of British protection. The same year Gordon sent Emin Pasha, another convert to Islam (formerly Edward Schnitzer) to negotiate the release of the troops. Emin Pasha’s gestures of friendship were rebuffed again in 1878; after all protestant missionaries had arrived the year before (1877).


When the Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries arrived at the king’s court they found a complex situation, with Islam on the ascendancy and already in conflict with the Baganda traditional religion and culture and not leaving the king’s authority unchallenged. In 1877 the King Mutesa I ordered the execution of over 70 Muslim pages for disobeying his orders on religious grounds.[4]  The arrival of the Christian missionaries added another layer of complexity. They wasted no time in preaching the Good News and undermining the Muslim adherents. Hard on their heels, in 1879, the French White Fathers arrived, adding a further layer of complexity. King Mutesa I being a master tactician managed to keep the three parties apart from each other while allowing them freedom of activity. Mutesa died in 1884 and was succeeded by his youngest son Mwanga.


 Mwanga’s age, inexperience and position in line meant he did not deserve to be king and thus he was insecure.[5] In 1885 he ordered the killing of the first Anglican bishop James Hannington whom he mistakenly associated with European colonizers. With the support of the Muslim party he then sought to purge the country of any Christians who had become insubordinate. This culminated in the massacre of several Christian pages now known as the Uganda Martyrs in 1886. Now feeling secure, Mwanga turned his attention to eliminating the older chiefs who had now become more powerful and insubordinate. He also created the first standing army, composed of young Christian and Muslim men for his own command and protection, but they soon became insubordinate too and ousted him, replacing him with his brother Kiwewa. Mwanga fled to Tanganyika (now Tanzania), taking refuge among the Germans who were Roman Catholic. The Muslims, who formed the majority grouping in the alliance of Abrahamic faiths were soon intent on seizing the throne. They tried to force the new king to convert to Islam but he hesitated due to being required to be circumcised. As a result they deposed him too and replaced him with another brother, Kalema, who converted and was circumcised.  This resulted in war between Christians (Catholic and Anglican) on one side and Muslims on the other. The Christians persuaded Mwanga to return as their leader and finally won the war, re-instating him as a puppet. But his exile among Catholics had already made him switch his allegiance to the Catholics and the alliance soon collapsed, ending in a bitter war in 1892. Meanwhile, the Imperial British East Africa Company had sent a military administrator Captain Frederick John Dealtry Lugard, to take charge of British interests in its sphere of influence (Uganda), now that the Germans had taken over Tanganyika. He arrived in 1892, amidst the conflict.  With a small armed force, Lugard possessed one Maxim gun as the ultimate weapon.  It is Lugard’s decision to side with the Protestant party and his use of the Maxim gun to good effect that enabled the Protestants, who were otherwise out-numbered, to win the war and establish their dominance in Buganda and, eventually, Uganda.[6] Although the king was not deposed, he became a puppet to both the Protestant chiefs and the IBEAC administration. That war defined the future relationship between the Church of Uganda and the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholics felt dispossessed of power that was rightfully theirs by virtue of their larger numbers and by the fact that the king was on their side. Anglicans, whose missionaries were British, were deeply suspicious of Catholics whose missionaries were mainly French and who were prepared to use violence to seize power. Later that year, when the IBEAC ran out of money and decided to withdraw from Uganda, the Anglican Bishop Alfred R. Tucker successfully raised funds in Britain to keep it afloat and protect the Anglican Church. Bishop Tucker also launched a campaign to convince the British government to take direct control of Uganda. His efforts were rewarded when in 1894 Buganda formally became a British protectorate. The British colonial administration and the Anglican Church thus entered into a symbiotic relationship to the marginalization of Catholics, a state of affairs that continued until independence and beyond.[7]  This conflict has affected the Church of Uganda’s ability to speak truth to power.  As emblems of mutual apathy, national disunity and the fragmentation of truth, the two churches face a challenge of true reconciliation and regaining credibility in the eyes of the state as honest universal truth speakers.



2.2 The status of Buganda in Uganda


Another fault line is the question of Buganda’s status within Uganda. In 1900 the British government signed an agreement granting the Kingdom of Buganda ‘Protectorate’ status. [8] The king, Daudi Chwa, successor to his father Mwanga, was a child therefore three regents – two Anglican and one Catholic chiefs – were in charge. The agreement bound the king and his council (Lukiiko) and people to be loyal to the British government in exchange for protection. But the colonial plan was to form a larger entity. Promising the Baganda political and economic favours, they incorporated them into their imperial program of conquest, annexation, subjugation and administration. The kingdoms of Ankole and Bunyoro were brought under their control. The kingdom of Bunyoro, after resisting, was subjugated and one third of it was transferred to Buganda, the so-called ‘lost counties.’The fallen kingdom of Toro was revived. In the east the Buganda war-lord Semei Kakungulu was given free reign to conquer and rule on behalf of the Protectorate government, achieving his goal. Through the British system of indirect rule Baganda administrators were appointed as administrators in the conquered kingdoms and regions, where they met with resentment which persists to this day. On the part of the Baganda the conquest and setting up of administrative structures along the Buganda model aroused a sense of superiority which persists still and which created further resentment.  This fault line has hindered the church’s ability to speak truth to power as we shall see presently, considering that Buganda has suffered the most and longest from the brutalities of post-colonial administrations.


2.3 The ethnic Fault lines


Much has been written about ethnic sectarianism in Africa and Uganda in particular.[9] Of the eighteen reasons given by the Uganda Army for ousting Milton Obote in 1971, four were to do with ethnic sectarianism.[10] As indicated above ( n. 8), point number 3 of the National Resistance Movement’s Ten Point Programme (1986) was to eradicate all forms of sectarianism, and this includes ‘tribalism.’ To the present day, all national newspapers online where comments are invited and where cases of corruption or mismanagement of funds or repression by the state are under consideration will have several comments explaining such phenomena in ethnic terms.[11]


Most indigenous historians of Uganda agree that before colonialism ethnic sectarianism did not exist in Uganda, since Uganda did not exist.[12] Each ethnic group constituted its own polity. There were inter-territorial wars like elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, they argue that ethnic sectarianism was constructed by the colonial government’s policy of ‘divide and rule.’


Four key factors lie behind the emergence and entrenchment of ethnic sectarianism in Ugandan society. First of all, the colonial government’s use (or abuse) of the Baganda to conquer and subjugate much of Uganda created a wound and left a scar of resentment and ill-will against Buganda. Secondly, and related to this factor was the preferential treatment that the colonial government gave to Buganda Kingdom and its rulers, which Buganda assumed it would continue to enjoy after independence. These two factors were behind the constant difficulty in the church’s speaking truth to power from independence and on into the 1980’s. The third factor was the differential development of the country whereby the North and East were left much less developed than Buganda and the South-west.[13] The forth factor was the deliberate colonial policy of recruiting into the army, police and Prisons service of what the colonial administration perceived as ‘war-like tribes,’ all from the north and north-North-west and training them to crush dissent. In the 1960’s Milton Obote sought to prop up his regime by accelerating the recruitment of the Acholi people into the forces, especially the army.[14] This would account for the post-colonial brutalities of these organs of the state and create yet another problem: the ‘Northern’ or ‘Acholi’ Problem which, at its peak, expressed itself in the ousting of Milton Obote for the second time in 1985 by his Acholi army generals, and the Alice Lakwena and Joseph Kony ‘Holy Spirit’ uprisings of 1986 and 1987 respectively.[15]


 The impact of ethnic sectarianism on the Church of Uganda’s ability to speak truth to power will be demonstrated below. On the whole these ethnic fault lines have undermined church unity and robbed it of empathy depending on which ethnic group was being terrorised by the state. Voices of protest have tended to be local, tribal and politically insignificant.



3.0 The Church of Uganda’s potential to mend the fault lines


Many features of the Church of Uganda could enable it to heal the fault lines in Ugandan society. Like the Roman Catholic Church it has a presence on every inch of Ugandan soil. The parish priest lives in the parish and shares the life experiences of his/her people. There is, therefore, the gift of first-hand knowledge of grass-root issues before they are spun or doctored by politicians. This aspect of truth is a valuable prophetic tool.


Linked to its ubiquitous nature is the Church of Uganda’s existence side by side with the Roman Catholic Church, a potentially natural ecumenical partner. Together they form over 75% of the population according to the 2002 population census. An ecumenical approach to speaking truth to power starting from the grassroots would be far more effective and comprehensive than each church on its own. At the national level, a united voice would be clearly heard by the state and result in real positive change. The two churches, together with the Orthodox Church, formed the Uganda Joint Christian Council in 1961. A national umbrella organization, the UJCC became more active in the mid-1980’s when under the broad-based NRM government freedom of speech was encouraged.


Perhaps the greatest potential is the Church of Uganda’s historical relationship with the state. From the founding of Uganda, which was made possible through the effort of Bishop Alfred R. W. Tucker, and throughout the colonial period, the Anglican Church operated as a quasi-established church whose religion was ‘the Queen’s religion.’ All the kings of Uganda and all Paramount Chiefs were and still are Anglicans. Since independence Uganda’s presidents have been Anglican except for the eight years of Idi Amin. The Archbishop, Bishops and clergy (and Lay readers) are persons of respect at their respective level and could be listened to.


The Church of Uganda’s is a family that crosses ethnic boundaries, with linkages creating fellowship through diocesan synods and departments and through the Provincial assembly and its departments. The Church of Uganda’s schools (both primary and secondary), Theological and Teacher Training Colleges, Vocational Institutes and Universities and hospitals are places where proactive programmes of speaking truth to power could be designed and implemented, and where ethnic and religious fault lines could be filled.  


4.0 Challenges affecting the Church’s ability to speak truth to power


In spite of the potential for the Church of Uganda to play a significant prophetic role to both the state and society, it has encountered several impediments. The following are noteworthy:


4.1 Unsatisfactory governance and a lack of accountability


            Since Uganda’s past woes have been a product of bad governance, lack of proper democracy     and lack of accountability on the part of leaders, including their refusal to relinquish power, it is expected that in order to challenge these forms of abuse of power the church ought to lead by example.  The church of Uganda’s internal problems of unsatisfactory governance   and accountability have both curtailed its ability to speak truth to power on the same subjects and also emboldened the state to govern badly and act with impunity. Both the      1961 and the 1972 constitutions of the Province of the Church of Uganda allowed the diocesan bishops excessive and sweeping  powers over all diocesan and parish workers, lay and ordained, something which could and in many cases did result into dictatorship and autocratic styles of administration. In many of the dioceses the bishop sees no distinction         between diocesan and personal matters or objects. The Bishop and the diocese are one and      the same. W. Mande (1996: 121) accurately describes the situation (until the formation of the 1996 Canons):


‘The provincial constitution contributes to the absolutization of Episcopal power in a diocese, thereby rendering the episcopacy the focus of power.’[16]


Two examples will demonstrate this point, namely the West Buganda crisis (1964/5) involving Bishop Lutaaya and the Busoga crisis of 1992- 95 involving Bishop Bamwoze.[17]


Bishop Lutaaya refused to retire when he reached retirement age. Half his diocese     rebelled against him and he was barred from setting foot there, but his home county clung on to him, so he could not be removed. It is the political boundary changes (by coincidence) that compelled him to leave.[18] The crisis shook the church and made any future challenge by    the church against leaders who refuse to leave power meaningless.


Bishop Bamwoze, on the other hand, was accused by the Dean and Chapter of Bugembe Cathedral of being ‘incompetent and high handed’[19] and found by the enquiry set up by the archbishop to have ‘a superiority complex’ while at the same time there were weaknesses ranging from personal to administrative.[20] The diocese had not had a constitution since its inception nearly 20 years before and the bishop was governing it on the hoof.  The bishop left not because he was persuaded but because he reached retirement age.[21]


The message that the Busoga crisis would send to the state is that it is permitted for the temporal leaders to be incompetent, autocratic and have an acute superiority complex and yet not be removed from office. In other words, after the Busoga crisis the church of Uganda would struggle to speak truth to power with respect to the incompetence and autocracy of temporal leaders.


4.2 The Question of the church in Buganda vis-a-vis the rest of Uganda


Internally the church of Uganda has been a victim of divisions which to a large extent mirror the same differences nationally. The Buganda question and its impact on the church should be seen under this category and Kevin Ward (1995) has discussed it in detail.[22] Key to the challenge was the self-understanding of the Baganda in relation to other Ugandans and the reciprocal attitudes of other ethnic groups towards Baganda. The controversy sparked off in Buganda by the appointment in 1947 of the first Anglican bishop, Bishop Balya, who was not a Muganda, expresses Baganda self-understanding and their place in the wider church in relation to other ethnic groups. A letter of protest against both his appointment and the use of the ‘Buganda’ cathedral of Namirembe for his consecration says:


 ‘The cathedral at Namirembe belongs to the Kabaka of Buganda and to the Baganda, and not to other nationalities... We ask that a Muganda be consecrated... the 1900 agreement does not allow people from other tribes to sit on our councils.’[23]


This state of affairs persisted after independence.  The year before independence (1961) the Dioceses of Uganda (covering the southern half of the country part of which was Buganda) and Upper Nile (covering northern Uganda) were merged into one Province of the Church of Uganda under the missionary archbishop Leslie Brown. Eight dioceses were also created including Buganda’s two dioceses of Namirembe and West Buganda. Leslie Brown had been bishop of Uganda, based at Namirembe, and continued as diocesan bishop of Namirembe and Archbishop of Uganda. Namirembe cathedral was declared the national cathedral for all functions of the archbishop.  As Ward notes, difficulties arose in 1966 when Archbishop Brown resigned and a Ugandan was appointed. Archbishop Erica Sabiiti was not a Muganda and this precipitated a crisis. It had been expected in Buganda that Leslie Brown’s successor would be the bishop of Namirembe who had to be a Muganda.  Added to this complication was the abolition of the kingdom of Buganda by Milton Obote and the exiling of the king in 1966, leaving the bishop of Namirembe as the rallying point of Baganda protestants and the vent for Buganda nationalism.[24]  Archbishop Sabiiti ‘was subjected to ignominious humility, disrespect and complacent callousness’ by the Namirembe authorities who also ‘had not exhibited the slightest iota of sense and Christian goodwill’, a government commission of inquiry of 1973 concluded.[25] In 1971 the archbishop was barred from entering Namirembe Cathedral for a service of thanksgiving for the release by Idi Amin of political prisoners.  He was supposed to be the preacher.[26]


But the greatest damage to the church’s ability to speak truth to power at the time when it was needed most was evidently caused by the 1969-71 Provincial Constitution crisis which nearly resulted in the secession of the two Buganda dioceses of Namirembe and West Buganda. On that occasion Idi Amin, sensing the destabilising nature of the schism, stepped in. Calling a conference of all bishops and representatives from all the dioceses, he gave them 48 hours to reconcile permanently and agree on the constitution diocese by diocese. His speech at the opening of the conference was both compelling and menacing:


 ‘Whereas the Church should be at the fore front in trying to guide everybody, including the government, in seeking unity, the Church of Uganda ... are at the forefront of destroying the unity of that church. ... neither the government of the Second Republic of Uganda, nor the Uganda armed forces will tolerate any nonsense about dioceses breaking away from the Province... if you cannot practice what you preach, then it is about time you left the service of the church.’[27]


Anne Coomes remarks that ‘President Amin in the months and years to come would laughingly remind the bishops that he had ‘saved the church.’’[28] It is clear that from that incident onwards the Church of Uganda and its bishops lost their inherited status before the state as well as its moral authority to speak truth to Idi Amin or his lieutenants.  The ease with which he killed the Archbishop Janani Luwum in 1977 should be seen partly in this light.


This self-understanding by church in Buganda has taken a long time to diminish and lingers still, albeit in a more tempered measure, curbed by the appointment in 1996 of the first archbishop from Buganda, Livingstone M. Nkoyooyo.


4.3 The challenge of Ethnic differences:


The challenge of ethnic differences goes beyond the Buganda question and, like it, tends to undermine the virtue of empathy. This is aggravated by what one ethnic group considers as harm that was caused against it by another group. When the allegedly culpable ethnic group is targeted by the state the other considers that the repression is justified and that it does not deserve being defended. The church has not been immune to this way of thinking, and the ‘us’ and ‘them’ phenomenon has been strong. Three examples will demonstrate this point:  the repression of the Baganda by Milton Obote in 1960’s and early 1980’s; the massacres of the Acholi in northern Uganda by idi Amin in 1970’s and the Acholi Holy spirit uprisings of Alice Lakwena and Joseph Kony (1986 – 2010), and the expulsion of Asians by Idi Amin in 1972. 


The first post-independence government was an alliance between Milton Obote’s Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) from the rest of Uganda and Kabaka Yekka (‘the king alone’) for Buganda. Under the arrangement the king of Buganda would be non-executive president and Milton Obote would be executive Prime Minister. But the alliance soon fell apart for various reasons and in 1966 Obote, with the assistance of Idi Amin, removed the king, who fled to exile in the United Kingdom. Obote declared a state of emergency in Buganda which was not lifted until he was overthrown by Idi Amin in 1971. He annulled the 1962 federal constitution, declared himself President, abolished all the kingdoms and declared a unitary state. He drafted the 1966 interim constitution, posted it in the pigeonholes of the MP’s at the parliament, and summoned them debate and pass it without delay. Hence it was called the ‘Pigeon-hole Constitution.’[29] Under the pretext of the state of emergency, several atrocities were committed against the Baganda by his special forces, the dreaded General Services Unit, the army and the police. Ali Mazrui accurately describes Obote’s strategy:


‘Milton Obote... began the militarization of Uganda’s political system. Obote did this partly by treating the Baganda as a conquered people in a clearly military sense. He also did this by expanding the domain of fear as a strategy of political persuasion... with a readiness to display military might as a method of silencing dissent...’[30]


The church of Uganda did not raise any objection at all. It found itself torn between two sides. In Buganda, it was the key ally of the deposed king, but in the rest of Uganda it strongly identified itself with the UPC.[31]  To the latter the nightmare experienced by Buganda was self-inflicted and thus no sympathy was to be offered. This reticence on the part of the church left the national leaders, most of whom were Anglicans, bereft of a voice of conscience. The same attitude towards Buganda was held during the second Obote administration in 1981–85. Massacres were committed in the so-called Luwero Triangle (North and Central Buganda), where rebels of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement operated, by the army under commanders mainly from Acholi and Lango.  Between 50,000 and 200,000 people are said to have been killed and more than one million were internally displaced.  The rest of the Church of Uganda was silent, insisting that the suffering was deserved because the Baganda had decided to support the rebels. Only the Bishop of Namirembe and the Catholic Archbishop of Rubaga, together with the Archbishop Silvanus Wani, all of whose Dioceses were  in Buganda and thus were affected, signed a joint memorandum of protest to Obote in August 1981. No other bishop got involved. Archbishop Wani also spoke for his home diocese of Madi-West Nile which had been devastated in revenge attacks by the army.[32] This attitude by the rest of the church was maintained even when in 1984 the Uganda Martyrs Seminary, located on the site where the martyrs were burnt in 1886, was attacked by the army who beat up and shot at the ordinands, raped some including catholic nuns, and tortured and shot the Principal dead.[33]


Another example is the suffering of the northern tribes including Acholi,  West Nile, Lango, and Teso, inflicted by the state. If we consider Acholi for instance, who have suffered the most, we see a staggering inability of the church of Uganda to speak truth to power at the   time due to ethnic sectarianism. The Acholi, who speak the same language as the Langi (Milton Obote’s tribe) had formed a significant part of the army and police under Milton Obote in 1960’s.  When Idi Amin toppled Obote’s government in 1971, he sought to entrench his power by purging the army of Obote’s supporters. In 1971 alone around 800 Acholi and Langi officers and men were killed, and Acholi (and Lango) district itself was ravaged, with thousands losing their lives.[34] Sathyamurthy (1986: 615) remarks that:


‘Not since the wholesome elimination of the Tutsi by the Hutu in Rwanda [1958-1961] has such a large-scale tribal massacre been attempted in east Africa.’[35]


On the other hand Baganda Anglicans and the whole Roman Catholic Church hailed Amin as a liberator.[36] Anglicans in the rest of Uganda, who were almost invariably Obote supporters and sympathizers, were dismayed, confused, and froze with fear. It was left to Bishop Janani Luwum of Northern Uganda Diocese, himself an Acholi, to plead for the lives and freedom of his people during the early years of Amin’s regime. His repeated challenge to Idi Amin and his army officers put him in danger long before he became Archbishop.[37]  A similar attitude, this time by the church in the southern half of Uganda, prevailed during the Northern Uganda upheavals of the Holy Spirit movements of Alice Lakwena and Joseph Kony. The church in Acholi was caught in the middle of two evils: the evil of Lakwena and Kony, whose beliefs and methods of executing the rebellion they strongly opposed,[38] and the evil of the apathy and abandonment by the church in the south and west. 


The phenomenon of ‘us’ and ‘them’ should also explain the silence of the Church of Uganda to the expulsion of Asians by Idi Amin in 1972.[39] Although the repatriation of British Asians from Uganda had started under the Obote regime and 18,000 had already left, it had been meant to be gradual, legal and humane. The injustice of Idi Amin’s procedure lay in the speed, briefness and conditions attached to the process. All British Asians had to leave within three months, no matter their family connections with their counterparts who held Ugandan citizenship. They were allowed to take no more than £50 with them. They were not to be compensated for the loss of their property.  Ugandans, including some Christians, were acquiring property that did not belong to them. In spite of all this, the only protests were by Makerere University students.[40] The church shared the same degree of apathy with the rest of the population.[41] The Asians were seen as  a privileged middle class who had refused to integrate, avoided taking part in the struggle for independence, frustrated African self-betterment, and had failed to abandon the blatant racism that the colonial administrators had inculcated in them in order to forge them into a permanent middle class. The Church seemed to find it impossible to impose Christian values on the situation. But perhaps it had more to do with lack of enlightenment, which explains why University students risked their lives to demonstrate against the state.  Whatever the explanation for the church’s silence may be, the impunity with which the state carried out the exercise will have emboldened it to commit ever worse atrocities.


4.4 Attitudes towards the Roman Catholic church


One of the most effective ways to speak truth to power is forming as broad an alliance as possible which will speak out with a united voice. A united voice speaks louder and must be heard. There is also the advantage of ‘safety in numbers’ when it comes to withstanding the consequences of speaking truth. It would be expected that the Church of Uganda had a natural ally in the Roman Catholic Church; but for the greater part of Uganda’s history, the alliance has been elusive. As noted already, the problem stems from two factors: first was the 1892 religious war between the Catholics who were French and the Anglicans who were British for the control of Buganda; second was the confusion of religion with political power in distributing the Buganda counties unfairly among the three new faiths in the 1900 agreement. The victorious Anglicans were given more counties than the Roman Catholics and Muslims were given one small county of Butambala. Archbishop Leslie Brown (1961) accurately identified the cause of the intractability of this problem as being the fact that to both churches there was no distinction between ecclesiastical and political power.[42] Since the days of Bishop Tucker, the Anglican Church had acted as a quasi-established church to both the colonial government and the native kingdoms and chieftaincies. As independence approached the Catholics saw a possibility to overcome their ‘institutionalised exclusion’[43] from leadership and regain power, since they were the majority. They formed the Democratic Party (DP). This left the Protestants outside Buganda to support the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and those inside Buganda to support Kabaka Yekka (KY, 'The King Alone') party. The two faiths were now fully party political and in a renewed state of animosity, with all the consequences that that situation might bring. The Protestant favoured UPC and KY formed an alliance and won the elections, forming the first post-independence government. Once again, the Catholics lost.


The Roman Catholic Church was the first to make gestures of reconciliation, resulting in the creation of the Uganda Joint Christian Council in 1963. But this remained a window dressing exercise at the very top of both churches’ hierarchy. According to Archbishop Brown, Anglicans were less willing to reconcile.[44]More meaningful gestures of co-operation were evident in Buganda following the abolition of the kingdom in 1966 and the repression against all Baganda irrespective of religion. The two Bishops, Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga and Bishop Dunstan Nsubuga of Namirembe, belonged to the same Baganda clan and were personal friends as such.  We have noted above how they both (with Archbishop Wani of Kampala Diocese) wrote a memorandum to Obote in 1981 protesting against the atrocities the state was committing in Buganda and West Nile.


The first meaningful joint attempt by both churches to speak truth to power was possible only when all factors that had divided both parties had become irrelevant in the light of Idi Amin’s repression. By 1972 Idi Amin had banned all forms of political activity. Amin was a Muslim, and supported neither Christian party. His repression was indiscriminate. To most Ugandans his Ugandan nationality was in doubt too,[45] thus transforming the ‘we’ and ‘them’ phenomenon to ‘we’ and ‘him’. By September 1976 there was sufficient co-operation for both archbishops to call a joint inter-religious conference to which the Muslims were also invited and at which Archbishop Luwum was elected Chairman. The conference was in response to heightened violence and terror throughout the country, and in particular, incidents of Christian/Muslim violence in Ankole District (Western Uganda).[46] The conference denounced the regime on a wide range of crimes. This was followed six months later by a united Christian response to the raid on Archbishop Janani Luwum’s residence by Amin’s security men claiming to be searching for military weapons.  Cardinal Nsubuga took the initiative to protest against Idi Amin on this occasion, and although the Church of Uganda bishops acted rather hastily in sending their own memorandum to Idi Amin in stead of a joint one (an act that probably sealed Luwum’s fate), the Cardinal wrote a covering letter endorsing the Church of Uganda’s position.[47] 


Unfortunately, this thawing of relations and its associated activity of jointly speaking truth to power was dampened by the return of multi-party politics and the revival of DP and UPC parties in early 1980’s. We have noted above that Anglican Bishops spoke truth to power only on behalf of their own ethnic group, rendering the exercise futile. But a fundamental change in Roman Catholic attitude towards politics in Uganda occurred. There had to be an accommodation of Buganda which, both catholic and Anglican, entirely joined the Democratic Party at the time, in opposition to Obote and his UPC party. The Catholic Bishops stopped viewing the cause of conflict in Uganda as being the ‘political injustice’ against Roman Catholics and now saw the cause as the injustice against all those whom the state viewed as opponents and thus classed as ‘enemies.’[48]


Since 1986, when the NRM government came to power, there has been a renewed effort at co-operation. The Uganda Joint Christian Council has been revitalised and provides a common platform for speaking truth to power, although its target of truth speaking has shifted significantly from the state to society and politicians of all parties or persuasions in general. Nevertheless the UJCC as a Non-Governmental Organisation, in sticking to its objectives, has stayed clear of controversial issues and a direct confrontation with the state, but it has earned the official function to monitor general elections.  The individual churches still remain as the main channel of speaking truth to power, and in this respect the Roman Catholic Church seems to have done better than the Church of Uganda.[49]      


4.5 Lack of education and poor remuneration of clergy and lay readers


That a high level of formal and theological education is essential for the church's mission of speaking truth to power goes without saying. John V. Taylor, Warden of Bishop Tucker Theological College in the 1950's expresses this idea:


'The need for at least some clergy capable of reading the signs of the times and becoming interpreters and prophets to a bewildered people is simply beyond calculation.'[50]


 Since the time of Bishop Tucker and his creation of the Native Anglican Church in the 1890's the emphasis had been on the personal testimony of an individual as long as they had grasped the fundamentals of the faith:


‘“What were the essentials”, Tucker asked himself, “of the ministers of Christ in the circumstances in which they found themselves in Uganda at that moment?” In answering the question he used a common-sense test. "I adopted the line," he writes, "of regarding that as essential which was possible." It was not possible in those earliest days of the Church's life to find men of learning and scholarship; it was possible for men to desire to devote their lives to the service of Christ, to be conscious of spiritual life within them, to be examples to their flock in their life and conduct. There were such men in Uganda, men who had proved their loyalty to their faith through fierce persecution, and in particular there were some whom two years before Tucker himself had appointed lay evangelists and who already knew their Bibles and something of Church order, and had proved themselves equal to their task.’[51]


On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church was from its inception intent on giving the same academic and Seminary training to its priest as that provided in Europe.[52] The result was that at independence there was a critical lack of native theologians in the Church of Uganda compared to the Roman Catholic Church, a situation that has continued to date. There are several instances where dioceses have awarded a Diocesan Certificate of Ordination to readers whose only qualification was a Primary School Leaving Certificate after a brief training. Alongside low levels of education is poor remuneration. The parishes and dioceses are poorly resourced too. These two factors interplay to leave priests (and lay Readers) exposed to corrupt and unscrupulous politicians, civil servants and businessmen searching for either political support or moral endorsement by association. Many clergy have tended to rely on the patronage offered by these in order to supplement their meagre incomes or to finance church projects. Bishops-elect have grown to expect the President to give them a free four-wheel drive vehicle on their consecration, making him one of their key benefactors. Gifford’s (op cit., 117) comment citing one of his respondents is pertinent:


‘When an Anglican bishop is ordained, Museveni gives him a [Mitsubishi] Pajero. When a Catholic bishop is ordained, he gets a cow’ [53]


The effect has been to curtail the bishops’ and priests’ ability to exercise their prophetic ministry, and the area where this ability has been curtailed the most is the condemnation of corruption.[54] Roger Tangri and Andrew Mwenda (2013: 5) argue that the major causes of elite corruption in Uganda and Africa in general are the search for personal enrichment and for the ability to maintain a grip on political power by bribing voters.[55] There is little doubt that the church of Uganda has gained significantly from donations by the Ugandan political class, in the full knowledge of where the funds come from.  To the same patron politicians the pulpit-based truth speaking regarding corruption is merely a farce. 



5.0 Excursus: The Impact of the East African Revival Movement on speaking truth to power in Uganda


The impact of the East African Revival on Ugandan society cannot be underestimated, and much has been written on it. But for all the positive impact, it all distils to two things: personal salvation and the preoccupation with the otherworldly matters. In terms of its impact on the church, it has to be acknowledged that some of the bishops and several clergy are products of the revival. The murdered archbishop Janani Luwum and Festo Kivengere, both leading lights of the Revival movement, were the most passionate speakers of truth to power during Idi Amin’s regime.  Many lay Anglicans who are products of the Revival as revivalists themselves or sons and daughters of revivalists have emerged to play a leading role in the public and political affairs of Uganda. As individuals 'working out their own salvation' they have led exemplary lives, often to the frustration of their corrupt colleagues. But their commitment to justice and reconciliation has not been translated into organised social action. The Revival took long to entrench itself within the structures of the church and the majority of clergy do not belong to it. An early impact of the revival on clergy in Buganda is not evident, something that will have hindered communication and reconciliation between the Archbishop Erica Sabiiti (Revivalist) and Bishop Dunstan Nsubuga of Namirembe (non-Revivalist). This lack of rapport probably made the 1969-72 crisis in the church seemingly intractable.  


Therefore, on the whole, the Revival tended to be associated with a withdrawal from involvement in the mundane preoccupations of socio-political life. Salvation was seen not in ‘this worldly’ terms but in ‘otherworldly’. Social action and protest were discouraged. President Yoweri Museveni, who was a member of the Revival Movement as a student in 1960’s, claims he quit because the ‘brethren’ would not even, at a conference, issue a declaration condemning Rhodesia’s unilateral declaration of independence.[56]  Therefore, when considering speaking truth to power we should see the Revival movement not as a facilitator of speaking truth to power but as a place of refuge for some from the pressures of social responsibility. Revivalists like Bishop Kivengere and Janani Luwum, whose entry into the ministry did not go unopposed,[57] were catapulted into their prophetic roles more by virtue of their office than by their revivalist stance. But once in office, their personal commitment to Christ and the virtues of the Kingdom of God compelled them to become the leading prophetic voices. Bishop Festo’s hour of awakening, for example, was when Idi Amin staged an execution by firing squad in the bishop’s town of Kabale.[58] Janani Luwum’s grew out of his pastoral concerns and assignments by his flock to plead for them before Idi Amin and his henchmen.[59]


If the impact of the East African Revival on speaking truth to power verges on the positive, that of the Pentecostal  movement has been largely negative. Yet Pentecostalism is on the ascendancy and in inverse proportion to revivalism especially among the younger generation. The positive features and problems of Pentecostalism in Uganda have been well highlighted by Gifford (op. cit., 152 -179). But with respect to speaking truth to power many leading Pentecostal churches have tended wholeheartedly and without question to support the government. Gifford argues that they see themselves as part of the new Yoweri Museveni dispensation while at the same time referring to the Church of Uganda and the Roman Catholic Church as being part of the old dispensation that Museveni swept away. Consequently, the government has tended to surround itself with Pentecostals and the traditional special relationship between the Church of Uganda and the state is steadily receding.[60]


6.0 Preliminary conclusions:[61]


The observations above demonstrate that in spite of the association of the Church of Uganda with speaking truth to power as evident from the martyrdom of the first Christians and of Archbishop Janani Luwum (and the exiling of four bishops) in 1977 the church has faced many challenges in exercising its prophetic ministry. The church’s inability to surmount these challenges has exposed its weaknesses in this respect. Accidents of history, which include the way the country was formed, the socio-political construction of the country including the creation of the Asian middle class, and the existence of a multiplicity of ethnic and tribal groupings have been too strong to surmount. The future of speaking truth to power seems to lie in formulating a strategy to deeply engrain unconditional empathy, training and materially resourcing the clergy and readers, improving accountability and governance, and collaborating with other churches, the Roman Catholic Church in particular. Above all, there is a need for the development and implementation of a consistent and universally agreed prophetic ethic which can encompass all these measures and thus make the church a credible speaker of truth to power.


In spite of the more recent positive changes in the country ushered in by the NRM government (1986- present) problems still remain that require the church to re-evaluate its principles and strategy of truth-telling and improve its prophetic ministry. The insistence by the political class that the church should stay out of politics must be responded to creatively. At present the main evils in Ugandan society include corruption and lack of accountability at all levels, poverty, interference with the electoral process, violence and the emergence of partisan quasi-military groupings, witchcraft and human sacrifice, domestic violence, perversion of justice and denial of due process, mysterious deaths of prominent military, judiciary  and political figures,  population explosion, degradation of the educational and health sectors, pollution and environmental degradation, food security and lack of disaster preparedness.


7.0 The quest for a Bible-based prophetic ethic


A significant omission in the Church of Uganda’s history of speaking truth to power is a theoretical framework to provide a rationale, consistency, clarity and unity of purpose that rise above all the challenges listed above and act a rallying point for the whole church in its prophetic ministry. Because the church claims to be ‘Bible-based’ and sees itself as ‘the conscience of the nation’ and, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, it does not possess a philosophical-theological based system of ethics, there is a need to form a Bible-based ethics acceptable to all Bishops, Clergy and Laity as a basis and medium of all truth-telling. In this way the church, like the Roman Catholic Church, could speak with one voice and thus be more effective. The Catholic Church possesses a universally accepted and actionable social teaching based on Natural Law ethics.[62]  In Uganda Catholic social teaching has been translated into a series of periodic or occasional pastoral letters jointly signed by all bishops, including retired bishops. These letters are aimed at guiding the faithful and ‘all people of goodwill’ and challenging the state with respect to various ethical and moral issues.[63] 


8.0 A Proposal for the use of the principles and approach of Nathan the Prophet as a Paradigm for Speaking Truth to Power:


Looking at the Bible, one will identify the figure of Nathan the Prophet as an appropriate model of speaking truth to power. Prophet Nathan speaks truth to power in three instances in the Bible: II Samuel 7: 1-17 (the Dynastic Promise), II Samuel 11: 27b- 12: 25 (the Bathsheba Scandal), and I Kings 1: 5 - 2: 10 (the Succession Crisis). Gwilym Jones (1990) affirms the view that if we consider Nathan to have been a Jebusite we can demonstrate that Nathan played the three otherwise irreconcilable roles of court prophet, justice prophet and privy councillor.[64]


In order to evaluate Nathan’s role as a prophet and to develop a model of speaking truth to power based on his immensely successful prophetic ministry one has to appreciate the state of affairs in Jerusalem during the reign of David and of Solomon and recognise the parallels with the state of affairs in Uganda.


Situated at the boundary between the tribal lands of Benjamin to the north and Judah to the south (Joshua 15: 17b-18; 18:16), Jerusalem was the City of David and his patrimony. According to II Samuel 5: 5, 6-10 David captured it from the Jebusites using his personal army in the seventh year of his kingship. There is sufficient evidence to show that the Jebusites, though weakened by the Hebrew invaders initially, had managed to strike a ‘live and let live’ agreement with them.’ Joshua 10: 1-27 and Judges 1: 1-8 which claim that Jerusalem was conquered violently are contradicted by Joshua 15: 63 and Judges 1: 21 which say that neither the people of Judah nor the people of Benjamin could drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem, so the Jebusites ‘live with them to this day.’[65] King Saul, a Benjaminite, had respected this agreement since there is no mention of him attacking or attempting to annex it. During the period of the Judges when Israel was at its weakest the Jebusites had not taken advantage of them. Israelite travellers could freely enter the city and spend a night there if night fell before they reached their destination (Judges 19; 11-12).[66] This shows that there was no animosity between the two, neither was there integration. It seems that the city had no king but there is evidence it was under the control of a priesthood centred at its temple.[67] The last king recorded was Adonizedek who had been killed during the conquest under Joshua (Joshua 10), and in the story of the city’s capture by David no mention is made of its king.


It seems, therefore, that when David moved into Jerusalem he proclaimed himself king of the Jebusites. The result was a multi-ethnic city consisting of Hebrews of Judahite/Simeonite and Benjaminite extraction, Jebusites, and David’s foreign mercenaries – the Cherethites and Pelethites since David turned it into a garrison city (II Samuel 5: 9). The Jebusites seemed to enjoy full citizenship rights like the Hebrews and others, including an inviolable right to own personal property (II Samuel 24: 20-25)[68]  


Coupled with ethnic complexity Nathan’s Jerusalem was religiously complex as a result of the meeting of Israelite and Jebusite faith traditions. According to Genesis 14: 17-20 (cf. Psalm 76: 1-3), Salem/Jerusalem was under the rule of priest-kings at the time of Abraham.  It seems that the Jebusites worshipped El Elyon (God Most High), although the presence of other gods cannot be altogether dismissed.[69]  Abraham acknowledged the priesthood of the priest-king Melchizedek, thus endorsing and equating Jebusite religion with the future Mosaic religion of Yahwism. Psalm 110:4 reveals that the Melkizedek tradition was not only alive during the time of David/Solomon (hence Nathan’s), but also that the Davidic king had appropriated it for himself as its legitimate heir. Key to Jebusite religion was the pre-Israelite form of the Zion tradition which fused kingship, city and God, and guaranteed everlasting defence, protection and prosperity to its inhabitants (cf. Psalm 132).[70] It would be almost impossible to argue that David took over the Jerusalemite throne and fused its religion with Yahwism and then expelled the priests and prophets of El Elyon. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest that Nathan, who appears suddenly at the kings court in the Biblical narrative, was a Jebusite prophet.[71] Gwilym Jones rightly emphasizes the idea that Nathan was a Jebusite prophet and argues that it ‘gives consistency to Nathan’s actions and attitude. In the original tradition about him Nathan seems to have acted from one basic motive, which arose directly from the situation in Jerusalem when David entered the city.’[72]


The integration of Yahwist and Jebusite religions must have been achieved by emphasizing and amplifying what both had in common while, at the same time, playing down or silencing differences. This would be a good lesson for the Church of Uganda to work out a relationship with the Roman Catholic Church that could work. Without necessarily unifying the two, the past sour relationships could be repaired in order to have a united voice in speaking truth to power.


8.1 II Samuel 7: 1-7 (1 -17)


In this oracle Nathan provides an example of how a most uncomfortable truth could be spoken and listened to without arousing animosity from the powers that be. David had brought the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s most sacred and uniting symbol, to Jerusalem and housed it in a ‘tent’ for some time. The moving of the Ark (II Samuel 6: 12 – 19) was aimed at uniting Jerusalem with the rest of Israel and also lend legitimacy to his city as the heart of his kingdom. But he could not bring himself to live in his expensive palace while the Ark was housed in a tent (II Samuel 7: 2b). So, he told Nathan he wanted to build a temple to Yahweh. To the Jebusites, who will have had a temple of stone, housing the Ark in a tent might have been acceptable, since it would not have been a threat to their own temple. But an alternative new temple would have been a threat to theirs. Moreover, the rest of the Israelites will have been opposed to the project too. Two places of worship were prominent: Shiloh, which was a centre of opposition to Solomon (I Kings 11: 29 – 31), and Gibeah which I Kings 3: 4 - 5 suggests was ‘the principal high place’ of the kingdom.[73] David’s idea, therefore, though well intentioned, was highly controversial and destabilising and Nathan had to help him give it up. What is of interest to us is how he proceeded. First, Nathan seems to be on David’s side: ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’(v.3). This would make it possible for the king to listen to the objection and even change his mind the next day (v. 4). The reasons that Nathan gave were not selfish. He spoke for disgruntled Israel not for the Jebusites. God did not initiate the project, he argues, so David had no right to carry it out. In all Ancient near Eastern temple building inscriptions either a god verbally ordered the king to build or renovate his/her temple or the king saw a vision from the god to that effect.[74] Divine initiative was an essential element of temple building, yet here, the initiative is David’s. The divine objection is, therefore, understandable.  God is satisfied with living in a movable tent wherever his people are and not in a fixed, immovable structure (vv. 5 – 7). This double pronged approach of showing understanding towards the king and expressing opposition without self-interest whatsoever enables Nathan to change the king’s mind. 


Speaking truth to power requires wisdom, tact and evident altruism. The Church of Uganda has often been too direct and confrontational in their condemnation of the functionaries of state to be listened to. The memorandum to Idi Amin mentioned before is a case in point, and it is partly due to the church’s approach and evident self-interest that Archbishop Janani Luwum was martyred.[75]

8.2 Prophet Nathan and the David/Bathsheba Scandal (II Samuel 11: 27b- 12: 25)

Whereas II Samuel 7: 1-17 contains lessons relating to ethnic and religious diversity, this text is about justice and the abuse of power. One of the reasons why Israel had demanded a king was so that he might ‘go out before us and fight our battles’ (I Samuel 20). In this story the king had decided to stay in his palace while Israel went to war against the Ammonites (II Samuel 11: 1). It was during his idleness, while he was on his roof top, that David caught sight of Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite having a bath at her house. He was then determined to have her, which he did. But Bathsheba became pregnant and told David so, upon which he set out to cover up the whole incident and make it appear as though the pregnancy was by Uriah. But the righteous Uriah, though recalled from the battle front to go back home (and sleep with his wife), would not go to his house. David’s scheme then escalated into an assassination plot, so that Bathsheba, widowed, might lawfully be his wife in time for the pregnancy to be attributed to David. With Uriah’s orchestrated death on the battlefield accomplished, David married Bathsheba (II Samuel 11: 1 - 27a).

It is clear, from this incident, that what was initially a dereliction of duty by the king quickly turned into rape/adultery, practical lies, murder and forceful acquisition of someone else’s widow for one’s wife. This is abuse of power and dereliction of duty at its extreme, evils that are not unfamiliar to the people of Uganda. II Samuel 11: 27b- 12: 1 says: ‘But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan.’ It was necessary to speak truth to David in order to restore justice and the rule of law for the sake of God’s people. Similarly the Church of Uganda believes that God has called her to speak truth to power with respect to justice and the rule of law and could learn from Prophet Nathan’s success in this regard.

A unique feature of Nathan’s approach on this occasion is that he takes David the king through a process that culminates in self-loathing and self-condemnation. To achieve this he creates a parallel incident and target for the king to condemn and sentence to death: the parable of the poor tenant, his little ewe and his wealthy landlord (II Samuel 12: 1b-4). The wealthy landlord receives a wayfaring guest and wants to prepare him a meal. But although he has a large flock of sheep and a herd of cattle, he takes the only ewe that the poor man has and slaughters it for the guest. On hearing this David’s anger is kindled against the rich man ‘because he had no pity’ (v. 6) and passes sentence – the culprit must make a fourfold restitution and be put to death. It is at that point that Nathan reveals that the wealthy man was David himself and explains why (vv. 7-9), and then declares God’s sentence (vv. 10-12). ‘The sword shall never depart from (his) house’; there shall be trouble against him by one of his household; his own wives will be raped in public. . ‘I have sinned against the Lord’, David concludes. David had thus been brought to loathe and condemn himself to death. But the fourth aspect of the sentence is tempered with God’s grace, showing that Nathan was not being vindictive but merely delivering God’s message: it is not David that would die, but his and Bathsheba’s baby. The baby is spared of leading a most undignified life while David is given a second chance.

Here we see Nathan again, as in II Samuel 7: 1-17, speaking truth to David without being confrontational. He believes in the power of David’s conscience and his capacity to know the difference between right and wrong. He is a channel of both God’s judgement and grace.

Yet for Nathan the matter was not over yet. He turned his attention to the injustice and abuse that the woman Bathsheba had suffered at the hands of David [76]. The aspect of restitution that David had passed in his judgement must be expressed in David’s sentence. According to the Septuagint version David said the wealthy man must repay sevenfold (in stead of the Hebrew version’s fourfold), this most probably being a pun on Bathsheba’s name (= ‘daughter/female owner of seven) [77]. As Garsiel (loc. cit.) argues, the case for the compensation of Bathsheba for her rape, being caused to have an extramarital pregnancy, the death of her husband and the death of her baby, all caused by David’s uncontrollable lust and total disregard of the rights of women had to be dealt with. It is noteworthy that Nathan does not condemn Bathsheba, thus showing that to him she was a victim. In stead, he delivers God’s message of comfort to her (I Samuel 12: 24 - 25) - her second son Solomon would God’s beloved (Jedidiah) and thus marked for the kingship. Nathan becomes Solomon’s patron at the palace and actively sides with him in the struggle for the royal succession (I Kings 1).

Behind the oracle of Nathan in this text lies the principle of the indivisibility of justice. It is evident that the mistreatment of foreigners (like Uriah the Hittite) and women (like Bathsheba) is reprehensible to God, and that the state of affairs where there is one law for some and another for others is unacceptable. Nathan’s principle of the indivisibility of justice is one that the Church of Uganda would need to take seriously if it was to speak truth to power consistently and be taken seriously by both state and society. This principle would address the problem whereby when one ethnic group suffers repression the church in other parts of the country does not join with the church in that region to speak out on their behalf [78]. Other areas where the principle of indivisibility of justice could be applied include gender inequality and women’s rights including domestic violence and female genital mutilation [79]. The Church of Uganda will remember that although its 1996 Canons of the Province refers the Bishop as ‘he/she’, and the church has had women priests since 1983, no woman has been appointed archdeacon or dean of a cathedral, let alone being consecrated bishop [80]. It will be recalled that Uganda had a woman vice-president who served in the 1990’s for 10 years. The issues of polygamy and human sexuality should also be seen to belong to this category.

8.3 Prophet Nathan and the Royal Succession Crisis (I Kings 1: 5-2: 10)

Closely related to speaking truth to power with regard to justice in the Nathan narratives is the burning issue of transfer of power, an issue that came to the fore when David became housebound due to old age. David had neither named his successor publicly nor appointed a regent. All that David had done long before, while in a state of remorsefulness, was vow to Bathsheba that her son Solomon would succeed him as king. It also seems that at the court the officials were divided between two camps. On one hand was the ‘Jebusite’ camp to which Nathan the prophet, Zadok the priest and Beniah the commander of David’s own mercenary troops belonged and who, it turned out, supported Solomon [81]. On the other was the Israelite camp to which Joab the commander of the army and Abiathar the Israelite priest belonged. This group supported David’s eldest surviving son Adonijah (I Kings 1: 5 - 8) [82]. Adonijah, made the first move and persuading the Israelite camp to declare him king. It was during that process, which was taking place away from Jerusalem, that Nathan sensed the terrible injustice that Bathsheba was about to face again, and the danger that Jerusalem and Israel were about to be plunged into. The time was right to speak truth to power. Aware of David’s sacred oath to Bathsheba, Nathan did not wait for God’s prophetic message – God’s will was obvious already. An oath was considered sacred and to be watched over by God who would severely punish the transgressing party [83]. Nathan set out to speak truth to the king, challenging him to instate Solomon immediately as king as he had promised Bathsheba and thus pre-empt Adonijah’s coup. Thus far this was a matter to do with justice, Nathan, with characteristic passion, performs his prophetic duty. Solomon is declared king and enthroned, and Adonijah’s coup aborts.

But Nathan’s passion in defence of justice is almost surpassed by the skilful manner in which he executes it. Once again he uses wisdom and tact to open the king’s eyes to yet another act of injustice against Bathsheba, and her son Solomon. Using the ‘court intrigue’ approach he hems David in by using Bathsheba, the wronged one, and giving her instructions to ask the king a question on her own behalf: ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying ‘your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne? Why then is Adonijah king?’ (I Kings 1: 13). The plan was that Nathan would then enter the king’s presence while Bathsheba was still presenting her case, and reinforce what she was saying. Nathan does not plead on Bathsheba’s behalf; he merely asks the king a veiled question: ‘My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall succeed me as king and sit on my throne? ... Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not let your servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?’(I Kings 1: 24, 27). He then describes what he means by narrating what is happening. The rest is left to the king to decide. Once again it is evident from Nathan’s approach that speaking truth to power entails working out the best approach that might yield the desired goal. The purpose of speaking truth to power is not to humiliate or embarrass but to cause change for the better. It entails the realisation that the source of the problem, if they hold the power, is most likely to be part of the solution if peaceful change, which is often God’s will for his people, is to be realised.

We have seen that stance and approach are essential to speaking truth to power. Uganda has been a victim of unrealised peaceful transfer of power since its independence in 1962 until this day, 54 years on. The present leader has been in power for 30 years and there is no end to his personal rule in sight. In 2006 the constitution which was made by all Ugandans and which limited the presidential terms to two of 5 years each was amended by simple parliamentary majority to allow for possible life presidents. Given this state of affairs the Church of Uganda’s mission would include speaking truth to Uganda’s leaders based on the principle of justice, the stipulations of the constitution which is the greatest vow that all citizens could make to each other, and the vows that the president himself made to all the people of Uganda including ‘not staying long in power like some African leaders.’ Part of the church’s objectives in this respect would be to challenge all political leaders to cultivate future leaders within their ranks to enable succession to take place without generating crises or causing intolerable suffering.

8.4 Prophet Nathan and the empowerment as a key aspect of speaking truth to power

A closer look at Nathan’s approach to speaking truth to power will reveal his insistence on the dignity of the human being, be they the oppressor (or the king for that matter) or the oppressed. Underlying his approach in the matter of temple building in II Samuel 7: 1 – 7, for example, is his insistence that the king should consider himself to have changed his mind on his own volition. By initially supporting King David’s idea to build the temple, he turns the subsequent divine prohibition into a matter exclusively between the king and his God. In this way he empowers the king to desist and ultimately saves Jerusalem and the entire kingdom from descending into chaos. The same should be said of his approach with regard to the Bathsheba scandal. The purpose of the parable of the rich man, his neighbour and the little ewe, which evokes a sense of outrage in David’s soul, is to empower David to hate the evil he had done and come to active repentance. Similarly, the purpose of using the court intrigue approach in the succession crisis was to empower both Bathsheba the oppressed and David the potential oath-breaker to rise to the occasion and play each their expected part. Bathsheba must stop allowing evil things to be done to her in silence. David must stop doing evil to Bathsheba and Solomon by commission or omission, thus the need for empowerment.

One of the challenges of speaking truth to power in Uganda is that those on behalf of whom truth is spoken often do not know or, in some cases, appreciate their rights. The problems of ignorance, deference and powerlessness have to be surmounted first. This is why, for example, the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda and the Uganda Joint Christian Council have focussed on the empowerment of the whole population since the 1990’s when the present national constitution was being drafted. John Mary Waliggo touches this point:

‘Besides the constitution there is need for genuine political education ... and enlightened citizens to translate constitutional ideals into daily practice.’ [84]

The Catholic archbishop of Kampala expressed a similar sentiment in his pastoral letter in the run-up to the 2001 general elections:

'We still have a long way to go in the process of equipping ourselves with the necessary qualities for fulfilling our duties to the nation. Our lack of sufficient and objective civic education leads us to be unaware of our role and power through our vote. ... The electorate should be educated to be responsible and to ask constantly accountability from their representatives.' [85]

Neither is the principle of empowerment entirely alien to the Church of Uganda. It is a member of the Uganda Joint Christian Council which, in speaking truth to power, uses this principle. One of the key programmes of the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) is in the areas of ‘Human rights, justice, peace and reconciliation’ and aims, among other things, at ‘enhancing active informed citizen participation.’ [86] By creating partnerships with society at local church level, they then set out to educate them about their rights and why they matter, their responsibilities as citizens, what they must expect from their elected representatives and from local civil servants, how parliament works, information about bills being debated and passed and how they could impact their lives, and how to lobby their representatives for a better deal, etc. On the front of those who hold power, the UJCC has a parliamentary liaison team which seeks to present the views and concerns of citizens. Here then is an example of the wider church playing a prophetic role that is enablement oriented. This, certainly, is akin to what Nathan the prophet saw as the best approach to speaking truth to power. Yet the main problem that UJCC faces is lack of funding which makes an intensive project of this kind almost impossible to extend to the whole country. At present it is confined to pilot projects in a handful of districts. Another problem is that the UJCC leaves the partner churches to decide whether or not to take up the programmes designed. Given the amount of funding involved and the fact that the Church of Uganda is short of funds, it is almost obvious that the uptake will be low. This is an example whereby even where the will exists financial constraints become the limiting factor. Such a lack of participation tends to perpetuate the old extant misconceptions and attitudes towards Catholics and vice-versa.

9.0 Conclusions/ suggestions

The following conclusions and suggestions can be drawn from this discussion:

  1. The Church of Uganda, though it has historically enjoyed a relatively privileged position with respect to church state relations, has nevertheless not utilized that position to the maximum to speak truth to power. Several factors account for this, many of them historical, but some have to do with governance, accountability, poverty and comparatively lower levels of education among clergy and Lay Readers.
  2. One of the main obstacles against the Church of Uganda’s ability to speak truth to power consistently and convincingly is its lack of a universally agreed and implementable ethic which could surmount all other obstacles, including ethnic and religious differences. The Roman Catholic Church, which possesses one in the form of Official Catholic Social Teaching, has done far better than the Church of Uganda.
  3. Since the Church of Uganda claims to be a Bible-based church, the Bible could provide such an ethic in the form of universally accepted principles which could guide and unite all bishops, clergy and laity irrespective of ethnic or regional grouping, lending consistency and legitimacy to the church’s prophetic ministry.
  4. One of the models that could be effective in providing an ethic or paradigm of speaking truth to power is Nathan the prophet. The Nathan paradigm is most suitable because its ‘setting in life’ is similar in many ways to the Church of Uganda's.
  5. The church should find ways of resourcing the clergy and academically, morally and materially in order to reduce their vulnerability to corruption and manipulation.
  6. The church should deal with the problems of its governance and the lack of accountability within its ranks.
  7. The following aspects of Nathan’s approach to speaking truth to power will be useful to the Church of Uganda if it is to construct an effective prophetic ethic:
    1. An emphasis on the unity of the church and the country and on genuine, principled collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church.
    2. An insistence on unconditional empathy and solidarity as an obligation.
    3. The principle of the indivisibility of justice.
    4. A demonstration beyond doubt of lack of self-interest.
    5. The avoidance of being confrontational and the insistence on preserving the dignity and respect of leaders.
    6. A fundamental belief in the existence of a hidden goodness in the oppressor and their ability, when assisted, to express it and thus change for the better.
    7. Approaching speaking truth to power from the point of view of empowering both the oppressed and the State actors to express the values of the Kingdom of God. This is the mission of the Church to God’s people, not only in Uganda but the world over also.
  1. The official name of the Anglican Church in Uganda.
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  2. Bishop James Hannington (martyred 1885) and the 55 Christian converts (23 Anglican and 22 Roman Catholic) who were burnt together as a means of execution on the orders of King Mwanga between 1885 and 1887. See John F. Faupel, African Holocaust: The Story of Uganda Martyrs (Paulist Press, 1965).
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  3. For a detailed and analytical discussion of the socio-political landscape of Buganda before it formally became a British Protectorate in 1894, see T. V. Sathyamurthy, A Political Development of Uganda, 1900-1986 (Aldershot, UK and Brookfield, Vermont, USA: Gower Publishing, 1986), 71-137.
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  4. See article by Sheila C. Kulubya, ‘The untold Story of the Uganda Muslim Martyrs’,, visited 20.02.2016.
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  5. Though he had been chosen by his father to be successor. See Sathyamurthy, op. cit., 96.
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  6. P. Gifford, African Christianity: its Public Role (London: Hurst & Co, 1998), 113; Sathyamurthy, op. cit., 195.
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  7. Bishop Leslie Brown, first Archbishop of Uganda, writing to the Bishop Stephen S. Bayne Head of the Advising Council of Missionary Strategy in the Anglican Communion, London (23rd July 1961) the year before independence said: ‘Relations with the Roman Catholic Church have been bitter in the past and are still largely clouded by fear and mistrust ... religious difference has been tied up with political advantage.’ See Archives of the Church of Uganda,, visited 2nd January 2016. One of the aims of Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement Government in 1986, outlined in point number 3 of their Ten Point Programme was to banish all forms of sectarianism (including religious).
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  8. For a description and analysis of the Buganda Agreement, see T. V. Sathyamurthy, op. cit., 138 – 201.
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  9. See, for example, M. Edel, ‘Africa Tribalism: Some Reflections on Uganda,’ Journal of the Royal African Society (London, 1965) and more recently Juma Okullu Anthony, ‘Ethnicity, State Power and the Democratisation Process in Uganda,’ IGD Occasional Paper No. 33 (Bloemfontein, South Africa: Institute of Global Dialogue, 2002).
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  10. For the 18 reasons, see Semakula – Kiwanuka, Amin and the Tragedy of Uganda (London and Munich: Weltforum Verlag, 1979), 41 – 42; S. R. Karugire, A Political History of Uganda (Edinburgh: Heinemann, 1980), 238 – 240.
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  11. These papers include New Vision and The Daily Monitor newspapers.
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  12. ‘How Tribalism Slowed Down Uganda’s Journey to Self-Rule’, in The Daily Monitor,, visited 19.02.16.
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  13. On the impact of this factor on national stability, see F. R. Banugire, ‘Uneven and Unbalanced Development: Development Strategies and Conflict’, in K. Rupesighe (ed.), Conflict Resolution in Uganda, International Peace Institute Oslow (London: James Currey, Athens: Ohio University Press, 1989), 210 - 211. See also M. Mamdani, Imperialism and Fascism in Uganda (London: Heinemann, 1983), 10. Juma Okullu-Athony, op.cit., 8.
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  14. See Rupesinghe, op. cit., 29, 121. Dent Ochaya Lakidi’s contribution in parliament during a debate on the army is pertinent: “The North has been heavily accused that the recruitment is all the time going to the North. I think many people should be grateful to the North, and particularly to my tribe, the Acholi. The Acholi have pledged themselves to protect this country. ... If people are beginning to speak in this house to discredit them, their morale in the army, the police and prisons would be lowered. ..”, Hansard, vol. 23, (1963- 64), 959- 960.
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  15. On the Alice Lakwena movement and the origins of Joseph Kony’s, see H. Behrend, Alice Lakwena and the Holy Spirits: War in Northern Uganda 1985 – 97 (ET; Oxford: James Currey; Kampala: Fountain Publishers; Athens: Ohio University Press, 1999). A. G. Ginywera Pinychwa, ‘Is there a Northern Question?’, in Rupesinghe, op. cit., 44 – 64 contests the existence of such a question but nevertheless acknowledges the factors that contributed to the recent instability in Northern Uganda.
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  16. Wilson Mande, An Ethics for Leadership Power and the Anglican Church in Buganda, Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Aberdeen (1996). Mande cites Article 14a of the 1972 constitution which gave the bishop the following powers: General leadership and supervision; appointing assistant bishops and diocesan staff; control all decision-making bodies in the diocese; hold property on behalf of the diocese or church; determine the doctrine and worship in the diocese.
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  17. Gifford, op. cit., 124 – 133. W. Mande, op. cit. 129-135. On the West Buganda (Bishop Lutaaya) crisis, see Archbishop Leslie Brown’s letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury, July – December 1964, Brillonline, loc. iit.
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  18. Leslie Brown’s Letter to Canterbury, 12th December, 1964, loc. cit.
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  19. Gifford, op. cit., 126.
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  20. Mande, op. cit.
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  21. He was persuaded to go on Sabbatical and on to early retirement.
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  22. K. Ward, ‘The Church of Uganda amidst Conflict: The Interplay between Church and Politics in Uganda since 1962.’, in H. B. Hansen and M. Twaddle, Religion and Politics in East Africa (London: James Currey, Nairobi: E.A.E.P, Kampala: Fountain , Athens, USA: Ohio University Press, 1995),73 – 81.
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  23. Ibid., p. 75
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  24. K. Ward, op cit., 76.
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  25. Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Land Possessed, Owned, Acquired or Otherwise Held by the Church of Uganda or Any Diocese thereof for Ecclesiastical Purposes (Republic of Uganda, Entebbe: Government Printers, 1973).
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  26. Mande. Op cit.
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  27. Address of His Excellency the President of Uganda, General Idi Amin Dada to Bishops of the Church of Uganda and their Diocesan Councils on Friday 26th November 1971, Brillonline, loc cit. visited 02.01.2016.
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  28. Anne Coomes, The Authorised Biography of Festo Kivengere (Eastbourne, UK: Monarch Publications, 1990) p. 288.
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  29. A. Kiapi, ‘The Constitution as a Mediator in Internal Conflicts’, in Rupesinghe, op. cit., 104.
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  30. A. Mazrui, ‘The Lumpen Proletariat and the Lumpen Militant: African Soldiers as a Military Class,’ in Political Studies 21.1 (1973), 9
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  31. See Paul Gifford, African Christianity: its Public Role (London: Hurst & Co., 1998), 17-18.
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  32. Gifford, op. cit., 121. For the content of the memorandum, see Kasozi, op. cit., 247. The fact that the army attacked and devastated Archbishop Wani’s home area in West Nile two months after the memorandum was sent to Obote shows his utter disregard of the memorandum and his confidence that the vast majority of Anglican bishops and Christians generally were not bothered, but supported his policies towards both Buganda and west Nile, the home of Idi Amin.
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  33. K. Ward, op. cit., 97.
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  34. See A. B. Kasozi, The Social Origins of Violence in Uganda, 1964-1985 (Montreal and Kingston, London, Buffalo: Mcgill Queens University Press, 1994), 110-112.
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  35. Sathyamurthy, op. cit., 615.
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  36. Gifford, op cit., 118. For a critique of the church’s response to Idi Amin’s repression, see M. L. Pirouet, ‘Religion in Uganda under Idi Amin’, Journal of Religion in Africa 11 (1980), 15-17. Pirouet does not give sufficient prominence to the impact of ethnic sectarianism on the church’s response to the massacres.
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  37. Kevin Ward, ‘The church of Uganda amidst Conflict’, p. 85: ‘Notwithstanding other factors, ‘Luwum died as a representative leader of the Acholi, a people were blamed for opposing Amin.’
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  38. K. Ward, op.cit, 102.
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  39. For a detailed analysis of the expulsion of Asians, see R. R. Ramchandran, Uganda Asians: The End of an Enterprise (Bombay: United Asia Publications, 1976), 255-273.
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  40. Sathyamurthy, op. cit., 622; Gifford, op. cit., 118. Justice aside, the welfare of Ugandans was at stake too. Although the total number of Asians, all of colonial India extraction, was about 70,000 according to the 1967 Uganda Manpower Survey (Entebbe: Government Printer, 1968), they formed 40% of all medical doctors, 44% of all accountants, 46% of all lawyers, and 35% of all graduate teachers.
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  41. A. Coomes, The Authorised Biography of Festo Kivengere (Eastbourne: Monarch, 1988), 302-303, says ‘the Church of Uganda, however, was upset by the callousness of Amin’s actions...’ This may have been a feeling expressed in private conversations but certainly not officially or publicly articulated. It amounted to silence and inaction. M. Louise Pirouet’s observation is pertinent: ‘Over the expulsion of the Asians, the churches reached their nadir.’ Pirouet, ‘Religion in Uganda under Amin’, Journal of Religion in Africa, vol. 11 (1980), 18.
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  42. Archbishop Leslie Brown, (23rd July 1961), ‘Metropolitan Examination July 1961’ - a letter to Bishop Stephen S. Bayne Jr., Advisory Council of Missionary Strategy of the Anglican Communion, London: ‘When the [1900] treaty with Buganda was concluded the important chiefdoms were parcelled out between the two parties and from then religious difference has been tied up with political advantage.’ (Letter to Bishop Stephen Bayne (23rd July, 1961), cited above.
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  43. See John-Mary Waliggo, ‘The Catholic Church and the Root Cause of Instability in Uganda,’ in Hansen and Twaddle, eds., op. cit., 109 (106 – 119).
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  44. Archbishop L. Brown, loc. cit., in which he says: ‘From the Roman Catholic side there seems to be a widespread and sincere effort to be friends. My own personal relations could hardly be more cordial, and we are doing our best to persuade our people all the time that friendship and cooperation in all things possible are the only appropriate Christian attitudes.’
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  45. Mainly because no-one seemed to know who his parents were or where they came from. Amin himself claimed to have been born in Jinja army barracks in the south on one occasion, and on another he claimed he was born in West Nile. Thirdly, his inner circle and preferred groups, who were also the key instruments of his terror, came from Sudan or N.E Congo.
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  46. Gifford, op. cit., 119.
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  47. Gifford, op. cit., p. 120. For a summary of the contents of the memorandum, see Coomes, op. cit, pp. 358 – 59.
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  48. J. M. Waliggo, op cit., 118.
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  49. Mainly through pastoral letters published by the consensus of all bishops including those who are retired. Over 20 have been written since 1979.
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  50. John V Taylor, Annual Letters to CMS, 1951
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  51. Arthur P. Shepherd, Tucker of Uganda: Artist and Apostle, 1849 – 1914 (London: SCM Press, 1929), Chapter VIII, ‘The Uganda Protectorate’, Project Canterbury., visited on 25 November 2015.
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  52. See A. Hastings, Archbishop Kiwanuka, First African Catholic Bishop,, visited 11th January 2016.
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  53. Gifford, op. cit , 144-146 highlights this issue and demonstrates that it poses an existential threat to the church’s mission and its very existence.
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  54. So serious is the evil of corruption that it came third in the list of ‘challenges’ that the new archbishop Stephen Ntagali, in his inaugural charge, said must be confronted. See Uganda Church Association Newsletter, 2013 , p. 9. (edited by M. Hunter, C. Woodd and J. Woodd.) For the nature of the NRM regime, see Aili Mairi Tripp, Museveni’s Uganda: Paradoxes of Power in a Hybrid Regime (London: Lynne Rienner, 2010), 84-108, in the light of which there is indeed a role for the church to play in speaking truth to power still.
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  55. Roger Tangri and Andrew M. Mwenda, The Politics of Elite Corruption in Africa: Uganda in Comparative African Perspective (Abingdon, Oxon. and New York: Routledge, 2013).
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  56. As he has claimed on many occasions in his public speeches.
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  57. Coomes, op. cit., 227 – 229.
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  58. Coomes, op. cit., 318.
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  59. K. Ward, op. cit., 72-105.
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  60. See Gifford, op. cit., 170 on the exclusive retention of born-again Pentecostals in the top civil service posts. On the unqualified support of the state by leading Pentecostal churches, see Gerald Tenywa's article' '5,000 Pastors back Museveni' (in February 2016 presidential elections), in New Vision, February 16th 2016.
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  61. Three important works that are relevant to this subject came to my notice after I had prepared this paper, namely David Z. Niringiye’s doctoral thesis entitled The Church in the World: A Historical Ecclesiastical Study of the Church of Uganda with Particular Reference to Post-independence Uganda, 1962-1992 (Edinburgh University, 1998); Paul Alexander Isiko’s book entitled The Succession Crisis in Muhabura, Church of Uganda: Origin, Course and Causes of the Leadership Crisis in Muhabura Diocese Church of Uganda ( L. A. P Lambert Academic Publishing, 2001) and T. M. Kisitu’s doctoral thesis entitled A Historical Study of Conflicts in Busoga Diocese, Church of Uganda, 1972 – 1999 (University of Edinburgh, 2002). But these would have served merely to demonstrate my case further. The Muhabura Diocese case demonstrates failures of the democratic process within the church which puts it in a weak position with respect to speaking up against parliamentary and presidential election malpractices.
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  62. On Natural Law in catholic ethics, see Richard M. Gula, Reason Informed by Faith (New York and Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1989), especially pp. 220-313. For a summary of the Official Roman Catholic Social Teaching, its accumulation and its content, see Charles E. Curran, ‘Official Roman Catholic Social Teaching’, in John Macquarrie and James Childress, eds., A New Dictionary of Christian Ethics (London: SCM Press, 2001), 429-433, and
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  63. See the Publications of the Uganda Episcopal Conference on Since 1961, 23 pastoral letters have been issued, the vast majority during the period 1986 to present.
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  64. G. H. Jones, The Nathan Narratives (Sheffield: Sheffield Press, 1990), 29, 104. Wolfgang Oswald, ‘Nathan’, in Walter Dietrich (Hg), Steinblicke: Literarische und historische Studien zu Nebenfiguren in zweiten Samuelbuch, Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 249 (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Goettingen: Academic Press Fribourg ,2011), 209 – 217 explains the possibility in terms of narrative growth.
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  65. That is, to the date when the author wrote the text. If the author is the Deuteronomist as most scholars agree, ‘to this day’ refers to a date no earlier than King Josiah’s reign (640 – 609BC).
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  66. The Levite’s preference to spend the night among the Benjaminites was not based on fear but familiarity. In the event his judgement turned out to be disastrous as his wife was raped by the Banjaminites.
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  67. We should not accept at face value that the suggestion that there was no stone temple in Jerusalem before the Solomonic temple. II Samuel 12: 20b says ‘David went into the house (Hebrew: bayit) of the Lord to worship. Nowhere in the Ancient near East or in the Bible is a tent referred to as a ‘house’, only a stone temple could bear that title. See R. Albertz, A History of Israelite Religion in Old Testament Period , vol. I: From the Beginnings to the End of the Exile, English translation (London: SCM, 1994), 130.
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  68. When David needed a plot of ground to build a permanent altar he had to pay for it as it belonged to Arauna the Jebusite.
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  69. Albertz, op. cit., 135.
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  70. See Fritz Stolz, Strukturen und Figuren im Kult von Jerusalem, Studien zur altorientalischen vor- und fruehisraelitischen Religion (BZAW 118; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1970), 7 – 8. J. J. M. Roberts, ‘The Davidic Origin of the Zion Tradition’, Journal of Biblical Literature 92, issue 3 (1973), 299 – 344 labours unconvincing to dismiss the existence of such a tradition before David, arguing that it was fabricated by David to cater for the religio-political needs of his multi-ethnic empire.
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  71. Together with Zadok/Zedek the priest. R. Albertz, op. cit., 128 - 138 and 295 n. 7 and 8. The side that Nathan takes in the three narratives he is involved in point to this identity. by most scholars who take a diachronic On the Jebusite origin of Zadok, see H. H. Rowley, ‘Zadok and Nehustan’, Journal of Biblical Literature, 58 (1939), 113 – 132, and Stolz, ibid., 8.
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  72. Jones, op. cit., 145.
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  73. P. M. Arnold, Gibeah: The Search for a Biblical City, Journal of the Society of Old Testament Studies, Supplement 79 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990).
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  74. See G. Gakuru, An Inner-Biblical Exegetical Study of the Davidic Covenant and the Dynastic Oracle (Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter: The Mellen Press, 2000), 85 – 89.
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  75. See above, n. 51.
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  76. Moshe Garsiel, ‘Ideological Discordance between the Prophet Nathan and Samuel as reflecting the Divergence between the Books of Samuel’s Authors’, in G. Galil et al, eds., The Ancient Near East in the 12th – 10th Centuries BCE – Culture and History, Alter Orient und Altes Testament, Band 392 (Munster: Ugarit Verlag, 2012), 186-187.
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  77. Ibid., loc it.
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  78. See K. Ward’s observation regarding the church’s response to the attack on Namugongo Uganda Martyr’s Seminary in by government forces May 1984, in Hanson and Twaddle, op. cit., 97-98.
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  79. FGM is prevalent in Eastern Uganda. The Diocese of Sebei is singlehandedly trying to deal with what is essentially a national issue. See Umar Weswala's article 'Church's triumph over female genital mutilation in Sebei' in New Vision, 16 February 2016.
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  80. See Amos Kasibante, ‘Did Women Priests in the Church of Uganda hit a Glass Ceiling?’, Uganda Church Association Newsletter, 2015, 31-32 where he expresses similar concerns.
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  81. G. H. Jones, op. cit.;
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  82. II Samuel 3: 4, assuming that David’s second born son Daniel was dead.
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  83. On the sacredness and inviolability of covenants religious and secular, see G. Gakuru, op. cit., 21; L. Perlitt, Bundestheologie im Alten Testament, WMANT 36 (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1969).
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  84. Waliggo, op. cit., 118.
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  85. You are the Salt of the Earth, the Light of the World: A Pastoral Letter of His Eminence Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, Archbishop of Kampala, 1 January 2001
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  86. On the aims, objectives and programmes of the UJCC, see their website,
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The Revd. Dr. Griphus Gakuru

The Revd. Dr. Griphus Gakuru



Rev Steve Muneza (18/04/2016 at 11:10)
Bujumbura Christian University
This is a truly insightful and thought provoking paper. As a child of the Anglican Church in Burundi, itself a child of the East African Revival and the continuous theological training offered by the Church of Uganda to current and future leaders of the Church in Burundi, this paper represents for me a historical moment that unlocks several clues to where the Church and the States are in Central and Eastern Africa. Burundi was shortly a German colony and then, a Belgian protectorate and is currently mainly Francophone although English is gaining influence. The Anglican vs Catholic dynamics were from a different perspective where the Catholic Church is by far the main denomination in the country. However, issues you deal with here are very relevant to the whole region, and even the wider world as they touch on fundamental denominational, ethnical and interest-based divides within the Church, their causes, consequences and potential remedies. The current situation in the Central and East-African region lends this lecture's analysis, challenges and conclusions, an exceptional relevance and urgency. I am particularly interested in the construction of a widely inclusive ethical framework. As you have suggested, building on the Bible's already acknowledged authority would be a good starting ground. Could we also perhaps add the continuous experience of Jesus as another source for this ethical framework. My question is really about the integration of the underlying interdenominational and cultural worldview(s). In other words, how do we imitate prophet Nathan who empowers King David by enabling him to explore God's justice from a sheep farmer's perspective? Thank you. Steve
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