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Tension Between Bakonzo & Bamba Anglican Communities in Bundibugyo Over Proposed  First Bishop

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By Gad Masereka

Bundibugyo: In Bundibugyo District, tension is rising between the Bakonzo and Bamba Anglican groups over the choice of the first bishop of the new West Ruwenzori Diocese.
The mother Ruwenzori Diocese will be divided up to create the proposed diocese.
The Bamba and their king, retired Maj Martin Kamya, are accused by Christians from the Bakonzo tribe of interfering in the selection of a new bishop, which is at the heart of the conflict.

They claim that the Bamba cultural institution known as Obudingiya Bwa Bwamba and its followers influenced the House of Bishops to choose a bishop from their tribe.

The conflict for self-rule between the Bakonzo and Bamba tribes is related to the establishment of the diocese.

The projected West Ruwenzori Diocese’s first bishop will be named on April 3, according to Ruwenzori Bishop Reuben Kisembo, and the new diocese’s founding and the bishop’s consecration will take place on August 27.

Two clergy members were nominated by the mother diocese on March 1 and their names were sent to the House of Bishops.

On March 15, more than 100 members of the Bundibugyo-based Bakonzo Anglican community petitioned Rev. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, charging the Obudingiya Bwa Bwamba cultural organization of meddling in the affairs of the proposed diocese.

The petitioners claimed that the cultural organization influenced the selection process to stoke tribal animosity.

The petitioners, led by Mr. Ezron Bazerabusa, the general secretary of All Saints Church Bundibugyo, said that the purported participation of cultural institutions in the process of choosing a bishop is a clear attempt to exclude non-Bamba populations from the new diocese.

The Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba’s involvement in the proposed West Ruwenzori diocese is, in our opinion, a clear attempt to exclude the non-Bamba communities from the new diocese. “We believe the proposed West Ruwenzori diocese is a religious institution that deserves a Godly and unique independence,” the petition claims.

They argued that they should be returned to the Ruwenzori mother diocese if their concerns weren’t addressed.

In addition, the petition states that “we are not and we will never be members of the diocese, regardless of whether the first bishop may be a Mwamba, Mukonzo, or of any other tribe.”

According to Mr. Bazerabusa, racial tensions between the two ethnic groups first surfaced last month when some Bakonzo began translating a prayer book from Runyoro-Rutooro into Rukonzo, which rankled the Bamba Christian community.

He explained, “We needed some money and decided to solicit to help with the translation work, but the Bamba started accusing us of collecting money to bribe the House of Bishops so they can vote against the person of their choice as the first bishop, and some of our members were attacked by the Bamba and we are now receiving threats.

He said that since the Bakonzo’s diocese of South Rwenzori is in Kasese District, the Bamba have been publicly informing them that the new diocese, which would be situated in Bundibugyo District, belongs to the Bamba.

Bishop Kisembo has requested a mediation conference between the two tribes, and it is due to take place today in the palace of the Obudingiya Bwa Bwamba Kingdom in Bundibugyo.

“I have a copy of a letter that the Bakonzo Anglican community sent to the archbishop of the Church of the Provincial Assembly of Uganda accusing Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba of meddling in the business of the West Ruwenzori Diocese. Hence, I have decided to set up a mediation meeting on March 30. I am asking you (king) to host us and give us permission to hold the meeting at your palace, according to Bishop Kisembo’s letter to the king of the Bwamba people.

In his letter, he said that the meeting’s goal was to promote unity between the two tribes, who had previously coexisted and collaborated to bring about the long-awaited creation of the West Ruwenzori Diocese.

The Bakonzo Anglican community, however, has sworn not to attend the conference within the palace because they believe it is not a neutral location.

We won’t go until the bishop selects a another location. We have churches, so how can you debate religious topics in a palace? “, stated Mr. Bazerabusa.

The archdeacons of Bumadu, Bubandi, and Kisonko as well as members of the Bakonzo Anglican community were also invited to the conference.

The bishop asked the monarch to send the prime minister and four additional members of his choosing on behalf of the cultural organization.

Wilson Agustin Mubulya, the prime minister of Obudingiya Bwa Bwamba, rejected the accusations made against the cultural organization on Monday.

He added as a cultural institution, they are waiting for the House of Bishops to name the next bishop.

It is unfair to condemn our monarch since these people’s interests are purely tribal. They could be concerned that their preferred candidate won’t materialize. While the candidates for the Job had impressive resumes, let’s allow for an open selection process, he remarked.

As Christians, Mr. Wilson Tusiime, an Omwamba from the county of Bwamba, said that they are awaiting a formal statement.

He replied, “We will collaborate with him [the incoming bishop] to build our new diocese.

Background
Christians in the Bundibugyo District began calling for a separate diocese as early as 1986 due to linguistic barriers separating the Tooro, Bamba/Babwisi, and Bakonzo groups.
Rebellious Christians once again sought the establishment of the West Ruwenzori Diocese in 2017. As a result, Bundibugyo Christians split from their home diocese, believing they were being persecuted.

They also accused financial problems and other mismanagement by their home diocese, Ruwenzori.

At that time, Bishop Kisembo’s recently appointed Bumadu Archdeacon, Rev. Jonathan Kyangasha, had been ordered to return to the Ruwenzori diocese to transfer authority.

According to Bishop Kisembo, the foundation of the West Ruwenzori Diocese, with its headquarters in Bumadu Church of Uganda in Bundibugyo District, was approved in 2018 by the provincial assembly and Ruwenzori diocesan synod.

The Christians were requested to set up the fundamental needs for the beginning of the diocese, which included a start-up budget of Shs100 million, a car for the bishop, senior staff members who were important to the diocese, a bishop’s home, and an administrative building, among other things.

Three archdeaconries will make up the new diocese (Bumadu with nine parishes, Bubandi with six, and Kisonko with nine).

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