I am dusting up on a presentation for a meeting here at Yale University. New Haven is extremely cold and looking outside the hotel window is painful. Wet ice on roofs, a cold drizzle feels like it could be raining small razor blades, the type used to cut finger nails [ thank God for modern clippers] where with every movement the breath is held…
The meeting is on “Corruption, Accountability and Governance, in Africa” organized by the Council on African Studies.
Coming from a blazing hot Kampala where corruption is as Ugandan as apple pie, preparing to speak about the nature of this vice has been very tasking.
Modern commentators on corruption question the quality of the sieve [ policies] or the skill of the sieve-r [ the government and its capacity]. We can now add to this basically how the seive-r sorts out the grains for various foods [ public goods] and in my case – how the Ugandan sieve-r may do so for black gold or oil in a few years time.
However there is now more talk of corruption beyond the number of grains that escape the sieve or whether the homestead has graduated to modern methods of preserving their harvest.
These days we can also ask what motivates the sieve-r, why he or she chose a particular sieve, how come she gossips all day about doing better sieving but sometimes does not and why despite years of apprenticeship, heckling by her peers our Ugandan sieve-r appears incorrigible.
Uganda’s thieves and deceivers get a lot of public comment. So I will probably talk of corruption and transparency not as wasteful expenditure and laws to convert that but as a political process.
Within my Ugandan correspondence since I got to this ice cage was this hot e-mail by the blustery priest Father Gaetano Batayenda. Its meant for the newspapers to publish.
He shakes with righteous anger and wags his fingers at Uganda’s elite clergy for their silence. He bristles with worry about their complicity with Ugandan thieves and pretenders. If they are not hypocrites and pharisees why do they not act he wonders?
A good read as usual. How can we say the sieving is bad when the elders in the home shrug their shoulders and suggest all that is needed is time?
The stage belongs here to the angry priest
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF UGANDA
One day when Jesus was addressing the crowds and his disciples, he warned them against the hypocrisy and vanity of scribes and Pharisees and he said: ‘’ The scribes and Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do and observe what they tell you; but do not be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they preach (say). They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader headbands and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honor at banquets and front seats in the synagogues, being greeted respectively in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi (Lords)”. (Mt. 23: 1-7)
It seems when Jesus made the said warning, he had in mind the Bishops of Uganda, under their umbrella organization-Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), because of their deadly silence on what is happening in Uganda today-CORRUPTION! Unlike the Bishops in Kenya and Zambia, who came together and spoke with one voice persistently and acted in unison with their flock against the planned evils in their countries, our Bishops in Uganda, regretfully, have consistently become inconsistent and disunited in fighting corruption the enemy of humanity. Most religious leaders in Uganda are timid and selfish. Their timidity and selfishness have ruined the nation because there is no cohesion in whatever you do or say. As a result, most of you have resolved to identify yourselves with the thieves against the innocent and suffering majority of Uganda.
Your Graces and Lordships. I hope you still remember your famous and unprecedented statement you issued on 13th March 2009 concerning the evils of corruption in Uganda signed by three archbishops; namely Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi and Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga. Your statement was very inspirational. It brought to those who read it confidence and enthusiasm that at last religious leaders had earnestly and courageously joined the battle to fight corruption. But alas!
When I read your statement, what immediately came into my mind was the MANIFESTO OF JESUS (Lk 4:18-19.).I fanatically and uncontrollably jubilated with a lot of excitement at your heroic and prophetic stand against corruption, but little did I know that I had erroneously convinced myself that at last , in Uganda, we have true and courageous ‘’cadres’’ of Jesus who are ready to lay down their lives for the sheep so that they (sheep) may have life and have it to the full (Jn. 10:10-11). Indeed all that glitters is not gold! What is happening in Uganda, concerning some of you religious leaders in fighting the evils of corruption, is what we read in Ezekiel (Ezek. 34: 1-6) where shepherds, instead of caring for the sheep, they care about themselves.
Your Graces and Lordships. Since the issuing of your statement, what percentage of it has been implemented? Who was supposed to take the lead in publishing, disseminating and implementing it? What impact has it made to you, your fellow religious leaders and your flock? Has corruption increased or decreased?
In your statement, you made six powerful recommendations. I only comment on four with a few questions and observations for you individually and collectively.
The first recommendation states: ‘’We call upon all religious leaders to spearhead the fight against corruption in their institutions and places of worship by sensitizing Ugandans on their rights and obligations.” When you made these recommendations did you include yourselves among the recipients and implementers or you made them for others? How many of you have patriotically spearheaded the fight against corruption and abuse of office in your Diocese(s), in institutions and places of worship and how? Instead some of you, sadly, have been a stumbling block to those who try to fulfill your own recommendation!
Recommendation two states that: “We urge all citizens of Uganda to join hands in the fight against corruption by exposing the corrupt- “name and shame.”If you, who are supposed to be “the light for the world and salt for the earth”(Mt 5:13) have miserably failed to join hands to fight corruption ,how do you expect your followers to do it? You should lead by example like, Bishop Zac, and not words .That is what patriotism means. You are in a better position to expose thieves, how many have you “named and shamed?” Majority of you fear to implement your recommendations because either you are in the same boat or you are beneficiaries of the system in one way or the other!
In fifth recommendation you state that: “We call upon all Christians not to offer stolen/embezzled funds in places of worship.” I am afraid here you are being selfish and egomaniacal. Why didn’t you restrain yourselves and fellow religious leaders from receiving stolen /embezzled funds in your places of worship? Any way you know what you would have missed. In any case these thieves don’t offer the looted money in small places of worship, but in big places where there is usually a Bishop to receive, greet and introduce the thieves obsequiously .
Then in your conclusion which I take as recommendation six, you state that: “We would like to appeal to all our fellow church leaders and other religious leaders in this country to be role models in the fight against corruption. We urge you brethren, to rally your flock to stand up and be counted in the fight against corruption and abuse of office. The battle will not be easy, but it must be fought if we are to secure the future of our children and grand children. We advocate for transparency and accountability in public and private institutions and remain committed to the cause of justice and equity”.
What are the characteristics or qualities of a role model Bishop or any church leader in fighting corruption ? I totally agree with you when you state that: “the battle will be not easy, but it must be fought if we have to secure the future or our children and grand children”. The battle will not be easy because of patronage,bribery,intimidation,fear,greed,connivance,manipulation,sychophancy,flaudulent,consipiracy ,sectarianism ,harassment etc. How many of you have tried to resist the above obstacles or challenges? According to you, is Bishop Zac Niringiye and other Activists of Black Monday role models in fighting corruption or villains and scandals? It is disturbing and demoralizing to see that up to now the House of Bishops, for the Church of Uganda, Uganda Episcopal Conference, for the Catholics and Orthodox Church ,either singularly or jointly, under their umbrella organization of Uganda Joint Christian Council ,and Inter Religious Council of Uganda, have not uttered a word on the arrest of their fellow Bishop and some of their flock. Bishop Zac Niringiye and some Activists were innocently arrested, humiliated and detained at Wandegeya Police Station for more than eight hours. Crime! They were trying to make the public aware of the evils of corruption. In doing that, they were fulfilling the Manifesto of Jesus and your recommendations. Why have you, Bishops, kept silent? Your silence gives credence to the humiliating action of the government. How should your flock interpret your silence? Are you on the side of those fighting corruption or those who support and encourage it?
Your flock, other religious leaders and many people of good will, want to know your stand. Either you are with Bishop Zac and other Activitists or with thieves and government. As Bishops you cannot afford to be neither hot nor cold(Rev.3:16). The government, by arresting Bishop Zac ,was testing your solidarity as Bishops in the fight against corruption .It wanted to see your reaction .Now that you have reacted by keeping silent, you have endorsed its action of perpuating corruption .It is sad! Your silence has greatly facilitated the survival and spread of corruption. Your silence and inactivity is evoking righteous anger and indignation everywhere among your flock and the people of good will. May be if you had spoken jointly and cohesively, not only at Christmas and Easter but always, because it is a battle that must be fought rigorously and relentlessly from heart to heart, from house to house, from street to street, from community to community ,from institution to institution like(Makerere University and the streets of Kampala).It must be fought in every sphere of life (like weddings ,burials)whether public or private with a lot of net working, something positive would have been achieved.
Your Graces and Lordships. Do you recall the story of prophet Amos, Amaziah the priest of Bethel and Jeroboam, the king of Israel. Amaziah the chief priest of Bathel, was shaken by prophet Amos and was frightened by his fearless denounciations. (See Amos 7: 12-15) Amos set an example of all of us who are called to proclaim the word of God, especially the year of favor from the Lord. It is extremely dangerous and self defeating to do this and collect handouts and kickbacks for it. Whoever receives these inducements (like the priest Amaziah) is never really free to speak the truth and fight injustices, caused by corruption, as is always tempted to modify and dilute the message not to displease the one who pays him. Many Bishops behave like Amaziah; they keep their mouths shut although they see many evils, injustices and falsehoods because they are afraid of causing displeasure to their friends and get into trouble with the authorities. The powerful of this world will more than often bribe to the prophets (Bishops) in order to silence them so that they don’t perform their prophetic role of exposing injustices and corruption.
Lastly, your Graces and Lordships. Listen to the words of wisdom of one of the greatest human rights Activitist Martin Luther King Jr. “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people (thieves)but the silence over that by the good people”(Bishops).
AD MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM
FR GAETANO BATANYENDA