Prioritizing personal needs over those of the people – Dr. Ian Clerk

I read with interest that the Bishop of Kagezi Diocese had been gifted another Land Cruiser by the President after it was felt that the mid-sized car he had already received was not adequate. #WhisperEyeNews

The value of the two vehicles was estimated at 700,000,000 shillings.

The Bishop is reported to be very happy with the new vehicle, which will enable him to ‘preach the gospel’. There is something contradictory about a Christian bishop needing such an expensive vehicle in order to minister to his flock, the majority of whom are poor.

The economic outlook at the moment is bleak, with inflation raging and a global recession in sight. We have also seen horrendous pictures of starving children in Karamoja, our own backyard, but it appears that we have a Bishop of the Church who sees it as his right to be provided with a Land Cruiser at the expense of the government.

It is a tradition that new COU Bishops are gifted vehicles by the President. This tradition has now become a right, and the appropriate vehicle should apparently be at least a four-wheel drive. In the politics of religion, the Catholic Church lobbies for its people to be put in positions of power, while the Church of Uganda is satisfied with gifts of vehicles. Bishops do need transport to get around their diocese, but what message does it send that it must be the latest Land Cruiser?

I also notice that my friend Norbert Mao was rewarded for joining the NRM by a post as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, which goes along with perks such as a chauffeur driven vehicle. I am not implying that the leader of the Democratic Party joined with NRM for material gain, but both Norbert and the Bishop are receiving considerable financial benefit paid for by taxpayers who are struggling because of this economic downturn.

I certainly hope that the new Minister will be able to put his position to good use by bringing about national unity. I also hope that the new Bishop will be able to put the new vehicle to good use in meeting the needs of his flock. But one could also construe that in these times of hardship the Minister and the Bishop first prioritized their personal needs before their constituency or flock.

In the face of one of the most serious economic squeezes we have ever experienced, expenditure on such lavish benefits comes at a price, usually at the expense of a health programme, a disaster relief programme, or some other routine expenditure which gets cut. For example, the KCCA Divisions have only been receiving enough fuel to keep their programmes running for two weeks out of every month.

This means that the workers sit idle for half of each month while necessary repairs to roads and infrastructure are not carried out. Hence every Kampala motorist pays the price in terms of increased wear and tear on his car due to potholes and bad roads.

Ordinary people are genuinely fed up with the continued disconnect between government priorities and their daily struggles, and when a bishop of the church and the leader of an opposition party also show they are out of tune with their people, one wonders who will represent them. Jesus was a threat to the religious and political establishment because he reflected the issues of the ordinary man, which were not prioritized in the religion of the Pharisees nor the politics of the Roman Empire.

I am sure that the Bishop is a good man, but is he the servant of his people? Norbert Mao is articulate and astute but is he representing his constituency? People are hurting, and it is not going to get any better soon, so who will be the voice of the people if both church and opposition party leaders prioritize their personal needs over the issues of those they represent? On the other hand I do not really blame the Bishop or the Minister, since they are simply reflecting what religion and politics has become in our society.

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