Regulation of faith organisations: Stone throwers living in glass houses?

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Regulation of faith organisations: Stone throwers living in glass houses?
Ivan Phillip Baguma

By Ivan Philip Baguma

The shameless and redundant Directorate of Ethics and Integrity is once again baying for the soul of this nation - our freedom of worship.

This office, a product of of Article 99(4) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, was re-designated in 1998 as a policy arm in the fight against corruption with an additional mandate of rebuilding ethics and integrity in Uganda.

But now it demonstrates itself to be the most irrelevant entity alive in Uganda.

At policy level, under its National Anti-Corruption Strategy, the ministry’s commitment to fight corruption should be scrutinized. It sought to develop and enforce a code of conduct for political leaders.

Given its overarching mandate, the office is not short of scandals to indulge itself. But its silence has been very loud on that front.

The ministry curled its tail between its legs during the Karamoja iron sheets bonanza, that today is a subject of the recent UK sanctions against Speaker of Parliament Anita Among and former ministers Agnes Nandutu and Mary Goretti Kitutu.

Where was the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity when parliament was recently rocked by financial scandals?

The Uganda Parliamentary Exhibition uncovered the rot involving the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association dipping grubby fingers willy-nilly into public funds, the unfair distribution of the service award to Mathias Mpuuga and other commissioners and the lump sums of money illegally channeled through private accounts for official purposes.

These should have been key areas of interest to the ethics ministry.

Where was the ministry in the recent scandalous reports that emerged over MPs alleged solicitation and reception of bribes to advocate for the retention of certain agencies that the government has proposed to return to their mother ministries?

Some of these agencies, on the verge of being phased out, actively lobbied MPs with financial incentives.

Why not invite their colleague, the minister of Public Service, Muruli Mukasa to elaborate on his most recent complaints that the decision to retain most government agencies was influenced by intense lobbying rather than actual relevance?

Imagine how much taxpayer's money is being lost to save irrelevant agencies, but the ministry is dead quiet and peaceful about all this.

If statistics are anything to go by in this country, the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity should revisit the 2023 Annual Crimes Report to have some pointers of where to focus their energy.

According to this report;65,901 cases were reported for theft; 29,984 cases were of assault; 14,681 cases were of domestic violence; 14,846 were sex related offences; 14,543 were break-ins; 10,741 were child related offences and 12,3924 cases economic and corruption related.

Yet the ministry has found time and resources to pre-occupy itself with regulating faith organisations through the proposed National Religious and Faith Organisations Policy,2023.

The policy seeks to control faith organisations by setting thinly disguised “acceptable and reasonable standards of worship.” This, the ministry seeks to effect by establishing a board appointed by the Minister of Ethics and Integrity. Effectively faith organisations will become an arm of the state.

The statistics are quite clear on the crime pressure points in this country, but a skewed narrative is being presented to paint faith organisations as an immediate and present danger to society if left uncontrolled.

I challenge the ministry to provide data of religious related cases that have been reported and successfully prosecuted. That would create a comparative enlightenment of such cases vis-a-vis the above presented statistics.

The trumpeters of the religious policy don't realize that they are throwing stones, yet they live in glass houses. For now, we shall stick to the ministry’s institutional inefficiencies.

But if provoked, we can delve further to uncover corruption scandals of specific operatives propagating this policy.

The ministry remains impassive in the face of glaring corruption, sitting high above on their privileged perches looking down with robust condescension at the quisling citizens.

In their eyes, faith organisations are the biggest scandal that ever happened and needs urgent regulation. How appalling and disgusting.

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