Prayers in the main churches around Kumi Diocese have been disrupted this morning as police battled angry Christians protesting against the cancellation of Rev. Charles Okunya Oode election as their next Bishop.
Rev. Okunya had been elected Bishop of Kumi Diocese in November 2019 to replace Rt. Rev. Thomas Edison Irigei who retired last year. But his consecration which was due to take place on December 29, 2019, was cancelled on the basis of a petition by a group calling itself the Concerned Christians of Kumi Diocese, who alleged that the Bishop-elect had an extra-marital affair and had sired children outside wedlock.
On February 5, the Church leadership announced that his election had been revoked on grounds that the Bishop-elect had not attained the 65-year age bar.
In his letter to Kumi Diocesan Chancellor, Emmanuel Ilukor, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda His Grace Stanley Ntagali stated that the House of Bishops had reviewed Rev. Okunya’s National Identity Card, NIRA records, Passport, academic records from Uganda Christian University and those submitted by the Diocese during the vetting processes and established that he did not qualify for the job.
The records indicate that Rev. Okunya was born on November 23, 1975, indicating that he was a year younger to attain the age of becoming a bishop in line with Article 13 of the Provincial Constitution and Church of Uganda Provincial Canons. The communication from the Archbishop also barred Rev. Okunya from taking part in any future elections in Kumi Diocese.
But the cancellation sent Christians into disarray and sparked protests across Kumi Diocese. In the anticipation of another round of protests, a number of officers spent the night at St. Phillips Cathedral, Ngora and St. Stephen Church of Uganda in Kumi municipality which hosts the Diocesan offices and different Church projects.
Some Christians tried to catch up with the early morning service at St. Phillips Cathedral, which however was disrupted by protestors, who stormed the premises with placards. Our reporter saw some Christians leaving the Cathedral as the drama ensued and stood at a distance to watch events as they unfolded.
More than 30 Christians were arrested in the process and taken to the Central Police Station in Ngora. Many other Christians continued to flock the station, surrendering themselves for arrest in solidarity with friends who had been arrested from the Church. The arrested Christians continued to sing and pray inside the cells, drawing attention from many other people especially those travelling along Serere Road.
David Livingstone Omoding, One of the faithfuls in the protest said that the church has been corrupted by individuals who possess money and power. Omoding said he is willing to sacrifice himself to see sanity in Kumi Diocese. He shares his views with Chafes Okiria.
Paphrus Olupot, an elder at St. Phillips Cathedral says he is disappointed by the conduct of the Church in this modern era. He faults the top leadership of the Church for allowing outsiders to intrude in Church matters.
At the station, no police officer accepted to speak to our reporter, claiming that they were waiting for the District Police Commander. However, by the time of filing this story, the DPC was not yet available.