My fellow Ugandans,
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Today we stand on the last day of 2020 to reflect on the past year and to look forward to all the possibilities of the new year 2021.
Our theme for 2021 is “Life in its Fullness.” This is taken from Jesus’ words in John 10.10, where he says, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.”
We thank God that we are still alive this day and are among those who have lived to see the end of 2020. For us we say, “Ebenezer” – This far the Lord has brought us. It is only by the grace and mercy of God that we are still here.
For those who have lost their loved ones this year to Covid or for any other reason, we extend to you our sincerest condolences and pray that 2021 will be a better year for you.
With Christmas now behind us, our minds are fully on the upcoming elections on 14th January.
As your spiritual Father, I have a message today for four groups. I ask you to please listen carefully. My message is for
(1) All Ugandans;
(2) The Electoral Commission;
(3) The Security Organs; and
(4) The Political Candidates
First, I have five things to say to All Ugandans:
- Please exercise your constitutional right and responsibility, and vote.
- Second, do not allow yourselves to be manipulated by the shallow promises of politicians. Do not allow yourselves to get overly excited by campaigns or to expect a human politician to be your personal Saviour. Study the issues; study the candidates deeply and seriously, and then vote your conscience. Don’t sell your soul for cheap promises.
- Third, please do not provoke security personnel, especially during campaign events. Do not mock them; do not insult them. I urge mutual respect between security personnel and Ugandan citizens.
- Fourth, Covid-19 is real and the Church of Uganda has lost clergy to it. If we want to have “Life in its Fullness,” as Jesus promised, I urge everyone to wear your masks properly whenever you are in public and to wash your hands with soap as often as possible.
- Fifth, Even though Covid-19 is real, we believe we must continue with the elections according to the roadmap devised by the Electoral Commission.
Second, to the Electoral Commission:
I call upon the Electoral Commission to meet immediately with leaders from all political parties to agree on a way forward for campaign events to be reinstated in the districts and cities with high numbers of Covid cases. Religious leaders are available to help mediate a diplomatic solution to ensure equal opportunity for all candidates to be able to campaign in a way that advances “Life in its Fullness.” This is an urgent matter and we call on the Electoral Commission to organize such a meeting by the end of this week. We expect a solution that will be mutually acceptable to all candidates and public health officials.
Third, to the Security Organs I have five things to say:
- First, We call on all security organs to treat Ugandans respectfully, regardless of their political affiliation. They are made in the image of God and do not deserve to be treated violently. One day you will stand before God and give an account of how you treated your fellow Ugandans. Do you fear God? Please do your job as if you fear God.
- Second, You promised not to use live bullets, and we expect you to fulfill that promise. We also expect you to fulfill the spirit of that promise, which includes driving responsibly to avoid accidents which claims people’s lives at your hands. It also includes aiming teargas cannisters away from where they might injure people and not using pepper spray directly in people’s eyes.
- Third, we know you have become a well-trained, professional force that has grown in discipline. Now, we ask you to prove it to us. We expect you to show all Ugandans that you are disciplined and will not be provoked to use violence toward your fellow Ugandans, including journalists.
- Fourth, As you enforce Covid SOPs at campaign events, we call on you to enforce them equally at events of all candidates, irrespective of their political party. There can be no perception of partiality or evidence of favoritism.
- Finally, we expect transparent accountability for those unprofessional members of the security forces who do not abide by our agreements of non-violence or who do not maintain the code of ethics you have been trained to uphold. Make sure they are arrested and charged with violating the law.
Finally, to the Political Candidates:
Please organize your final two weeks of campaigning in such a way that reduces crowds. Covid-19 is real. What good will it do you if you register the largest crowd, but your supporters are too sick from Covid to vote? What good will it do you if you win the election but your supporters die from Covid? We appeal to all candidates to show us your leadership skills NOW and organize your final two weeks of campaigns in a way that promotes “Life in its Fullness.”
Let me close by sharing how the Church of Uganda is going to observe the cross-over night. As you know, the government has banned overnight prayers in church buildings. But, that does not mean the church will not pray as we enter the new year. Overnight prayers are being held all over the country on radio stations and online. The churches that are announcing overnight prayers will not be conducting those prayers from their church buildings. So, do not go to your local church tonight. Those prayers are being led online from home or from the radio station. I encourage you to inquire at your local church or diocese to find out what radio and online programmes they have arranged so you can dedicate the new year to the Lord with your family from home. That’s what Mama Margaret and I will be doing with our family. I thank all our Bishops and clergy for taking up these innovative ways to ensure that we begin 2021 on the solid foundation of Christ.
I wish every Ugandan a very Happy New Year, and may 2021 be the year we experience “Life in its Fullness!”
The Most Rev. Dr. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA.