TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

UK Bishop Plans To Sack A Priest Over Political Remark

Source: Norman S. Miwambo

A calm, community-loving and hardworking Roman Catholic priest accused of denying Ugandan politicians a platform to air President Yoweri Museveni's message at a London Church, now faces threats of getting sacked by the UK's Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, the Rt. Rev Alan Hopes.

A source from Westminster Diocese informed this reporter that Fr Gerard Balinnya has been told by Bishop Hopes that he (Balinnya) should leave the United Kingdom and return to his country. Information obtained by this reporter reveals that Fr. Balinnya's problems started three months ago when he is alleged to have told a gathering of Ugandans at Elephant and Castle in South East London on March 27, at an ecumenical function that Ugandans should take up arms to fight the current regime in Kampala, an accusation he strongly denies.

He is alleged to have said this in the wake of the burning-up of Buganda's revered royal burial tombs at Kasubi near the capital, Kampala, when the Ugandan leader's bodyguards gunned down scores of Baganda loyalists when they tried to stop him [Museveni] from visiting the tombs. It now seems that Bishop Hopes is being misled by the Kampala regime's agents and does not want anybody, let alone one of his own priests, to talk about the murky side of the Kampala regime.

The Ugandan politicians who are known to have close ties with the Museveni regime want to see Fr Balinnya sacked and returned to Uganda. Acting on malicious and false accusations by some conspirators and Museveni's spying network in London, Bishop Hopes, looks like he has been politically manipulated to have Fr Balinnya stopped from preaching and have him back in Uganda, a Westminster source confirmed to this reporter.

When President Museveni's bodyguards opened fire at Kasubi Royal Tombs, killing several unarmed civilians who tried to block the president's motorcade when he travelled to the scene of the suspicious fires, the incident prompted all clergymen of all religious denominations in Uganda to condemn both the killing of unarmed civilians and the burning up of the Royal Tombs at Kasubi. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation [UNESCO] certified heritage is where the remains of Buganda's Kings including those of the father of the current Kabaka (king) of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II are still buried. Fr Balinnya, like many others, was not exceptional. A rarity happened when for the first time in the history of the Buganda kingdom, a Kabaka was seen publicly shedding tears when Kabaka Mutebi was seen wiping away tears after he had seen the effects of the fire caused to the traditional burial site of Buganda kings. The current day-Uganda acquired its name from the ancient Kingdom of Buganda, a hereditary monarchy that covers the southern part of the country including the capital Kampala. Buganda is the largest and biggest indigenous monarchy in Uganda with a population of over 10 million people.

This reporter has exclusively obtained information that a couple of Ugandans working with top Kampala officials drafted two dossiers that they sent to Westminster Diocese demanding that Fr. Balinnya be fired from preaching in London after he had joined a long list of religious leaders who condemned the torching of the Baganda royal burial grounds.

Reliable source told us that on March 28 this year, two Ugandan politicians were denied audience at Holloway Church in North London where Fr Balinnya is the Uganda Martyrs Catholic Community Chaplain. It is thought that this prompted the politicians to write the alleged letter to the Bishop of Westminster urging him to sack the cleric.

According to one of the letters, believed to have been drafted by individuals close to and doing the dirty work of Uganda's ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), Fr Balinnya is alleged to have incited Ugandans to take-up arms and fight the Kampala government, an accusation he denies. Sources from Westminster Diocese told us that the petitioners quoted Fr Balinnya as having told Congregation that: “You will not wait for God to come from heaven and take arms on your behalf. You need to wake up.” Another source familiar with the matter, informed us that because Fr Balinnya preaches to a Catholic Community Church which these days does not want politicians to be accorded a platform to promote their agendas, the refusal to accord them this platform may have resulted in the politicians using the crude tactics that Museveni's government has long been applying against people he thinks should not talk about politics or his mistakes.

In another letter obtained by this reporter from Westminster Diocese, the petitioners accuse Fr Balinnya of being discriminatory. They said: “Father Balinya and his 'Waganda' (the Swahili word for citizens of Buganda) people in London discriminated and practiced prejudices against us as Catholics and people from Northern Uganda.” According to the letter, the petitioners further wrote: “Many Ugandans in Britain know very well that Fr Balinnya disguises himself as chaplain of Uganda Martyrs Community and yet allegedly works as a spy of the Ugandan government and mobilizes Ugandans in Britain to support Ugandan dictatorship in Kampala.” “Nobody will accept him as chaplain, join or associate with his selfish community or with any other group he wants to dictate over and spy on,” they said.

A top UK politician, who preferred not to be named to make a comment, after accessing the content of the alleged letter, reasoned that it would a huge blunder to take action without thoroughly investigations, arguing that whilst the first letter accuses Fr. Balinnya of being anti-government, the second one accuses him of being a government spy. “This clearly reveals the contradictory allegations and causes more confusion in this delicate matter!” wondered the politician, adding: “So there must be a hidden political agenda in accusing Fr Balinnya which the bishops must be careful about as they handle this sensitive matter.”

When contacted for a comment Fr Balinnya said: “I can't comment on hearsay. I have not received the letters you're talking about.” When asked if he was aware of the scheduled meeting with Westminster officials, Fr Balinnya said: “Yes, I have an appointment with a person you're mentioning. Maybe you have advanced knowledge than I do.”

Fr Balinnya's admission about the meeting suggests that he was actually going to meet an auxiliary of Westminster diocese, Bishop Hopes, as earlier learned by this reporter. He added: “If there is anything to do with my comments about Kasubi Tombs, I was just talking about what was already public knowledge. I stand for the truth and say it as it. That is the job of a priest.”

He added: “If it is true as you're informing me for the first time, maybe some people didn't understand my message. I only encouraged people to wake-up and pray to God to save our nation.” He went on to say: “Maybe some people wanted to promote their own political programmes by misinterpreting my comments.” Fr Balinnya further said that he was only repeating what had already appeared in the newspapers. “I mentioned about the Kabaka shedding tears in public in his reaction against a cowardly act committed by evil people,” he added.

“Encouraging people to use their brains, hearts and every part of their being to fight the evils being committed in Uganda is not in any way similar to what you're now saying,” says Fr Balinnya, adding that: “If you're referring to my message preached at the ecumenical prayer gathering to mourn the arson attack against our royal tombs, it was written a day before as usual. I write down all my sermons for the messages. I have a copy of what I said.”

Fr Balinnya, expressed fears for his life saying that: “I'm now worried, my life could be in danger. If individuals can plan to maliciously damage me, they can as well plan to finish my life.” However, he added: “But I will not stop preaching the truth, welcome or unwelcome.”

Fr Balinnya was not the only Ugandan cleric that spoke about the fires that gutted the UNESCO certified Royal Tombs. The Catholic Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, asked God to sow the seeds of peace and unity in the hearts of Ugandans. “We shall not lose hope. We shall restore the tombs and erect a wall fence to guard against intruders,” he said. According to Fr Balinnya, the incident was a direct attack against all the kingdom's subjects who revere so much their culture and traditions. This was our 9/11 attack which all peace-loving people must condemn.”

Many clergymen of all religious denominations boldly came out publicly to condemn the government which deployed its forces to deny the Buganda traditional leader [King Mutebi II] of his Kingdom in September 2009, which sparked off riots. Scores were killed by government agents and hundreds were imprisoned. This was a matter very badly handled by the government but it seems they are not learning lessons from the past history of the country.

When approached to comment on the letters, accusing Fr Balinnya, Uganda's High Commissioner, Mrs Joan Rwabyomere, denied having any knowledge about the letters demanding that Westminster Diocese sack Fr Balinnya. “The letter to Westminster? Who are the signatory? Uganda's authority in London is the High Commission. If it is not signed by me, then it is not Uganda authority,” said Mrs Rwabyomere, adding: “I have no idea about the letter you are talking about and I have no comment.” In addition, the NRM's Chairman-UK Chapter, Patrick Asiimwe, was also quick to give a cold shoulder to the authenticity of the letters saying: “I don't think anybody in their right mind would come up with such things from the official lines as far as I know.” “The person who wrote it, if at all [they are] there, [could be] an independent person trying to cause confusion, just like the one who burnt Kasubi Tombs,” Chairman Asiimwe added.

When contacted to comment on whether he had set up an investigation about the authenticity of the letters, Bishop Hopes' Secretary, Ellen, suggested to this reporter that send him an e-mail detailing the questions we wanted to ask him [Bishop's] office failed to answer the email. After this reporter duly complied, instead, the Bishop sent us a telephone message later through his secretary [Ellen] that said: “The Bishop has asked me to ring back and let you know that he is unable to make any comment at this time.”

According to a top UK politician, he warns that this matter, if badly handled by the Bishops, is set to put the long-standing, progressive and well organised Uganda Martyrs catholic community in the UK on collision course with Westminster.

“Any rush to judgement without thorough investigations may imply that the Bishops are supporting the increasingly unpopular Museveni government in Uganda,” said the top UK politician, adding that: “It may also alienate the Catholic Community in Uganda which may adverse affect the forthcoming general elections in 2011.”

“This matter should be handled careful; we don't want to see yet another scenario similar to the peadophiles that embarrassed the Church after when the Pope allegedly to have failed to investigate the children's abuses in Ireland,” he added in reference to the Roman Catholic Church's assaulted image around the world for failing to protect the children against the Peadophiles years ago.