Decision To Block Ugandan Lawmakers From Prayer Gathering Sparks Freedom Of Worship Concerns


The disagreement forced opposition legislators to walk out of Parliament on Oct. 10 in protest. Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa said he had no right to stop lawmakers from walking out.

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The legislators accused Tayebwa, who subscribes to the ruling National Resistance Movement, of denying them a chance to debate the actions of the security agencies. Those agencies had prevented NUP supporters from conducting special prayers at their party headquarters on Oct. 9, the day people across Uganda celebrate the country’s 61st anniversary marking independence from Britain. 

Opposition legislators insisted that the police’s actions had infringed on their rights to freedom of worship guaranteed by the nation’s constitution.

The recent turn of events, where security agencies arrested a religious leader and stopped NUP’s prayer gathering, has caused concern in Uganda over the rights to freedom of worship in the country.

Bishop William Tomusange, an evangelical clergyman from Mityana District who was supposed to lead the NUP special prayers before he was arrested, condemned the police’s action. He prayed to give Uganda a new president who would allow people to exercise the freedom to worship.

“If (Uganda’s President Yoweri) Museveni cannot allow us to worship you, then give us another president who will not use guns to block us from reaching you,” Tomusange said.  

Until recently, security agencies had avoided disrupting prayer gatherings, including those by opposition political figures.

Meanwhile, in his response to the police siege at NUP headquarters, Wine said the current leaders of Uganda were worse than the colonialists.   

The disagreement started when Muwanga Kivumbi, a vocal NUP legislator, took to the Parliament’s floor to condemn the actions of security agencies. The deputy speaker had asked him to wait for a government statement regarding the actions of security forces in the next plenary hearing — but Kivumbi insisted that the matter was urgent and that it should be debated immediately.

Tayebwa argued that legislators belonging to the opposition had ambushed him, suggesting that such a matter should have been discussed between his office and that of the leader of opposition in Parliament before the session even started.    

On Oct. 9, security agencies led by the police cordoned off NUP headquarters in Kamwokya, a suburb of Kampala, and blocked party supporters from gathering to pray for Ugandans killed by security agencies since the 2021 general elections, including 58 NUP supporters who were gunned down during the riots of Nov. 18-19, 2020.

The riots erupted after police officers brutally arrested Wine, NUP’s presidential candidate at the time. Wine was campaigning in Luuka District, in eastern Uganda, when police arrested him on allegations he was violating COVID-19 guidelines. In the chaos that ensured afterwards, security agents shot at, and killed, 58 Ugandans.

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