Bishops Warn MPs, Ssekandi

Nov 20, 2004 05:50 AM EST

The bishops of four main Christian churches have warned Members of Parliament against being compromised during the impending constitutional amendment process.

The bishops of the Church of Uganda, the Uganda Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church were presenting their views on the government's White Paper on the constitutional review process to the Members of Parliament at Parliamentary Gardens on Thursday.

The dialogue between the church leaders and the MPs was organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), which brings together different Christian denominations.

The bishops cautioned the Speaker pf Parliament, Mr Edward Ssekandi, to exercise impartiality while presiding over the constitutional amendment proceedings in the House.

They asked the government to respect the Constitution.

The Catholic Church prelate, Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, appealed to the MPs to abide by the oaths of their office.

"As leaders of the country charged with the obligation of making laws and overseeing the implementation of government policies, we appeal to you to be true to your oaths of office especially at this time when you are dealing with issues of constitutional amendment," Wamala said.

"Your political organisations are important, but Uganda is more important. I therefore urge you to discharge your duties honourably and with a clear conscience so that you can leave behind a robust and unimpeachable legacy," Wamala said.

The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, said the MPs have the opportunity to transform people's lives.

"However every opportunity comes with a cost. A leader has to make a choice based on an objective evaluation of the potential benefits and costs," Orombi said in a speech read for him by the Church of Uganda Provincial Secretary, Canon Stanley Ntagari.

"When you focus too much on succeeding, you may run a risk of taking up any offer even when an offer is from dubious or compromising sources," Orombi warned.

He reminded the MPs that the decisions they make do not only impact on their lives alone, but also on their families and the country.

"In the next few weeks you will be called upon to make critical decisions on the matters affecting the governance of this country. You owe a duty to those you represent and all other Ugandans to act fairly and to consider the interests of all Ugandans," Orombi said.

Pastor Nicholas Wafula, the Chairman of the Evangelical Fellowship of Uganda echoed his counterparts' views.

"We appeal to Ugandans especially leaders during this transition period to respect the rule of law and to be God-fearing so that they pass through the transition period peacefully and avoid bloodshed," Wafula said.

The head of the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, urged Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary to serve the country without discriminating anyone.

The Archbishop of the Seventh Day Church of Uganda, Dr John Wani, said no government can stand without the support of religious leaders.

In reply, Ssekandi said the Constitution does not belong to Parliament nor to Cabinet, but to the whole country. He promised that Parliament would handle the Constitutional amendment process with utmost care and fairness.

"Tempers are already flaring in Parliament. I appeal to religious leaders to pray for this country so that God gives us the wisdom to debate the Constitution without creating divisions in people's minds," Ssekandi said.

"Parliament is composed of members who have the necessary integrity to handle the Constitutional amendments. Trust them and they will do a good job," he said.

The UJCC, Action for Development and Uganda Journalists Safety Committee under their umbrella organisation, DEMGroup, handed over to Ssekandi a joint memorandum opposing lifting of the presidential term limits from the Constitution.