Uganda: Spare the Rod and Have a Lazy Bishop or Faithful? Not for the SDA


Uganda is a secular state whose motto is “For God and My Country.” But that is not a contradiction. It means that all religions are free.

However, the freedom of members within a given denomination is also not the business of the State. At least that is what we recently learnt from the goings on in one of our oldest Christian denominations–The Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Sometime in mid-February, the public was startled by a TV news item of a video of adults crying like babies as they were being caned in an orderly fashion at training institution.

This happened in Ishaka Adventist School of Nursing in western Uganda. The men and women being caned were students, some of them clearly above the age of 30, for different offences including wanting academic performance.

Asked by journalists why they agreed to be caned by their lecturers, the adult students confessed that they did not want to be seen as troublesome members of the community.

The public was not even agreed on whether it was worse to cane the men or the women, since the canning was being inflicted on their buttocks and for women, this is not just assault but also regarded as sexual abuse.

And for grown men to be made to lie face down and expected to unflinchingly take corporal punishment is just barbaric.

Corporal punishment of trainee health workers, some of them in college just to upgrading their qualifications after years of working in hospitals, was apparently normal in this institution.

The said clip caused official outrage and the Government Media Centre issued a strongly-worded statement about the “unprofessional incident at Ishaka Adventist School of Nursing,” condemning the beating of students by staff at the training institution.

The Ministry of Education and Sports also condemned what it termed as “unethical/unprofessional action,” adding that it “has a policy that prohibits corporal punishment at all levels of education and sports.”

The college issued a statement saying two lecturers had been suspended for caning the students. It was not explicit for how long the suspension was to last, hopefully more than a few hours.

As the memory of the students’ flogging was fading from the collective public mind, thinking that probably corporal punishment was only restricted to the nursing school, something even more bizarre happened to the SDA bishop of the Rwenzori region–a large diocese in Western Uganda covering the two kingdoms of Tooro and of Rwenzururu and place beyond the monarchies.

Last week, SDA faithful went to the bishop’s office, pulled him out and without fear of his royal vestments, whipped the “man of God.”

The flock were punishing their shepherd for his apparent failure to implement the diocesan development projects on schedule.

Having played their part of giving offertory and paying tithe, the faithful did not see why the bishop was taking his time commencing the construction.

The caning caused the bishop some disfigurement, and he was lucky to have been rescued by the police.

As happened with the case of the student nurses, the government issued an angrily-worded statement. In addition, the local police arrested seven people who had administered the punishment on the bishop.

Having been told by the government that corporal punishment was not permissible in schools and sports training, the Christians of Rwenzori seem to have reasoned that caning of religious leaders was right since they were neither student nor sportsmen.

Joachim Buwembo is a social and political commentator based in Kampala.


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Publish date : 2019-04-10 14:12:20

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