Uganda Today: Religion, Politics And Polarization In Uganda: The Religion Politics Of Pastor Bugingo.
6th January 2024
Religion and politics have been in a love-hate relationship since the days of the early Christians. The love-hate relationship between science and religion during the days of Galileo Galilei, the man who laid the foundation for the scientific and technological revolution following many centuries of knowledge domination by philosophy and religion was prevalent in Europe.
What has always happened is that when religion and politics have been in a love-hate relationship, society has been polarized. Or else, religion political conflicts have changed societal leadership and governance as religious people have sought to align themselves with certain brands of politics and some political leaders have sought to secure the support of certain religious leaders. Consequently, the quality and process of democratization in a given country have always been influenced, usually negatively.
In Uganda, religion and politics have always been in a love-hate relationship. During the colonial times, many newly converted Christians, and the often not mentioned newly converted Muslims, suffered the wrath of King Mwanga of Buganda. Since then, Namugongo has been the site of numerous yearly rituals of both Catholic and Protestant Churches to remember the Christians who were slaughtered because of their faith.
The rituals have often been intermingled with the political speeches of the political governors of the country, who in the last 38 years have been predominantly those of the ruling party. It is not easy to deduce whether it is religion or politics that has gained from the rituals.
It is important to ask whether the rituals bringing religious people and politicians together in one mission of perennially dominating the people have helped reduce or enhance the polarization of Uganda and its people both religiously and politically. Polarization has been defined as “the act of dividing something, especially something that contains different people or opinions, into two completely opposing groups”.
For example, the polarization of society into rich and poor; those who can freely associate politically and those who cannot; those who can easily get employed and those who cannot; those who can benefit from ethnic politicization or political ethnicization and those who cannot; those whose businesses can be easily capitalized with public funds and those who cannot; those who can fully enjoy their human rights and those who cannot; those who can be given tax holidays and those who cannot.
Some religious actors and political actors in Uganda are undoubtedly polarizing in our highly politically and militarily heated “political environment” obviously openly dominated by people of exogenous origins. Many or their parents were refugees and now belong to the constitutionally created “indigenous” group called Banyarwanda and fully enjoy Uganda citizenship benefit from Dual Citizenship constitutionally created for people of exogenous origin or Ugandans who have other citizenship in foreign countries. There is no doubt that some religious actors and political actors are highly polarizing. Or have polarizing personalities.
According to Aly Rusciano (2023) in the article “What does it mean to be polarizing?”, which he co-authored, and that was reviewed by Allison Broennimann, if someone is polarizing, the general public has mixed feelings about him or her. Some people love them, while others hate them. Polarizing people are often decisive and divisive.
They know what they want and aren’t afraid to divide people to get it. Being polarizing is neither good nor bad to them. If you have a polarizing personality, some people hate you while others love you. Polarizing people are either adored or despised. They tend to have a cult-like following around them, with communities being very vocal about their support or distaste.
The traits of polarizing people are many and diverse. A person with a polarizing personality tends to be divisive, decisive, confident and ambitious, opinionated, does not prioritize popularity, a stand out person, open book, kind, does not put himself or herself in a box, to struggle with boundaries (i.e. does not worry too much about other people’s boundaries), attract attention, (i.e., people tend to gravitate towards him or her and can hence influence others easily), not to go with the flow (i.e., does not do what other people do; follows the beat of his or her own heart) and loves a good debate (i.e., jumps at the chance to share his or her opinion no matter the topic.
Honestly, the more divisive the topic, the better! If you’re polarizing, chances are you believe everyone should be able to speak their mind, even if their opinions aren’t mainstream):
Since 1992, the most polarizng personality in religion politics has been Pastor Aloysius Bugingo, who has increasingly not hidden his support for the ruling party in his sermons and recently, for President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s son, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba to rule Uganda beyond the President.
It is not surprising that many members of NRM and supporters of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni and General Muhoozi Kainerugaba belong to his Church, House of Prayer Ministries. In politics, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni is considered to be the most polarizing personality in Uganda.
It may not be surprising that there is a strong bond between Pastor Bugingo and President Tibuhaburwa Museveni: similar characteristics.What is glaringly evident is that the majority of religious people have chosen the stance of conspiracy of silence over issues such as extrajudicial killings, human rights abuses, proliferating injustices, corruption, wars, deteriorating quality of education and health care, terrorism, export of our youth into modern slavery to the Middle East and their exploitation by the State, rising abuse of the national budget for consumptive purposes, refugee economy, land grabbing by people with exogenous biological, cultural and historical roots and unfair domination of the sociopolitical space by foreigners or people connected to the, Meanwhile the governors have found it politically rewarding to ritually use public money to reward every top religious leader with a new vehicle.
It is not surprising that some religious leaders, whether in the secular religions or the Pentecostal churches have chosen to openly show their undiluted support for the political party in power. Indeed, the powers that be has frequently reciprocated by contributing large sums of public money to building some of the churches.
It is inconceivable that with this political stance of the powers that be, humanity in Uganda can hope to rely on their religious leaders to lead them in the crusade for change and meaningful democracy. The stance of the religious people has played a critical role in the transition from civic politics to military politics, which has served to enhance a state of non-accountability and non-transparency in the politico-military government does its business of governing the country.
In a previous article “From State to Deep State”, which I wrote in February 2022, I intimated that Deep State had replaced the State of elected officials. To clarify the difference between the two I wrote thus:
“Usual sources of Deep State are the Armed Forces, public authorities such as intelligence agencies, police, secret police, administrative agencies, and even the Presidency”.
This could explain the huge budget outlays acquired by these elemental arms from the National Budget.
It could also explain why everything has been militarized, even the police and secret police”. However, I should have added the religion political actors in the various churches and mosques. Apparently, some of them do not hide the truism that they are at the centre of the dynamics of the Deep State.
They are well-protected by the Deep State using public funds. To reciprocate, they organize their followers in their summons to mobilize them towards giving political support of the political party in power and the powers that be.
They do no fear to be publicly perceived as functionaries of the status quo parallel with manifesting as men and women of God “Living in the Service of God”. This may explain why the powers that be may allocate enormous sums public money to building their places of worship, in addition to equipping them with big, expensive vehicles at public expense, although many may not see the public in this but only the President.
During the burial in Sembabule on 5th January 2024 of slain SFC operative and bodyguard of Pastor Aloysius Bugingo, Richard Muhumuza, the flamboyant Pastor is widely reported to have not only articulated and clarified his distaste for Opposition in Uganda but also his unequivocal support for the National Resistance Movement (NRM), President Tibuhaburwa Museveni and General Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
Some media are said to have reported that the Pastor reiterated that whether Ugandans want it or not NRM will rule for ever and ever. Clearly, Pastor Bugingo’s religion politics is well advanced and cannot be delinked to the current politics in the country.
Time, the ultimate judge will reveal what the Pastor’s religion political stance will have on the status of democratization in the country and the general public political and religious perceptions in the country. While in Europe the influence of religion has declined because of other reasons, in Uganda it might begin to decline because of religious deception and outright linkage of religious manifestation to political manifestation. This could work in favour of the perennial rule of NRM.
Initially, the triumphant National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) had no love had no love for the secular religions (Catholicism and Protestantism) and openly advocated against them. As time went on the regime in power encouraged the mushrooming of Pentecostal Churches, which almost universally became pro-establishment, to challenge the predominance of Catholicism and Protestantism.
If religion politics of Pentecostal Churches proliferate beyond Pastor Bugingo’s House of Prayer Ministries, many Ugandans, who are mostly young people, may turn away from religion. They may conclude that religion is an appendage of the political status quo.
Polarization of the country between the religious faithful and non-faithful may proliferate well in future. This could be a disadvantage to the country, which is currently burdened by rebellions. Genuinely religiously faithful people are unlikely to be attracted to rebellious behaviour and action.
It should be in the interest of the governors to ensure that most of the young people are attracted to religion. Therefore, polluting religion with politics may not be in the interest of the country. It will polarize the country further.
For God and My Country