In a letter, Amama Mbabazi, denies personal interests in the development of Uganda martyrs shrine in Namugongo.
Here are the details:
Reference is made to an article that appeared in Sunday Monitor of August 23 titled “Mbabazi, Lwanga enter deal to develop shrines”.
The headline was misleading in as far as it implied a private transaction between His Grace Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and myself.
The redevelopment of the Namugongo Martyrs Grounds and the shrine is a church initiative.
It has been the desire of the Catholic Church to modernise the grounds, as it is an International Heritage ground as well as a site for all Catholic devotees.
The grounds receive more than one million pilgrims every year and as such, they have become the cornerstone of faith among all African and non-African members of the Catholic Church and the wider Church of Christ.
The plans to develop Namugongo originated from a church committee led by His Grace Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. The church had its own steering committee for the development.
This was an initiative where all Christians could participate. It is in this spirit that my daughter Nina Rukikaire participated in the drive, prior to my involvement.
The Archbishop rightly stated that his initial contact about my involvement was with Bank of Uganda Governor; Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile, who suggested the inclusion of an eminent government official on the steering committee as a way of attracting more funding.
I consulted President Museveni on the matter and received his go ahead. My role, therefore, was not in my private capacity but as the prime minister of Uganda.
The executive office of the prime minister then set up an inter-ministerial steering committee that was going to assist the church to as much as possible realise the dream of a developed Namugongo Martyrs grounds.
This initiative then became a church and government-led initiative with a joint steering committee put in place in which I was chairman.
The role of the chairman of the committee was to convene meetings of the national steering committee, chair the meetings and coordinate between the government and the Roman Catholic Church.
That is as far as my role was concerned. The role of chair has since fallen to my successor Rt Hon Ruhakana Rugunda. I am happy that the work has continued and is yielding great results.
Additionally, the committee was tasked to prepare for the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis. I am proud of the role that I played in initiating the invitation extended to the Pope to visit Uganda.
The idea of setting up a company was not to circumvent the Uganda Episcopal Conference but to give body to the organising team of volunteers. The terms are clearly spelled out in the preamble of the company. The objectives for the establishment of the company back in February 2014 were:
- To prepare for the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs in October 2014.
b. To prepare for the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis that was slated for October 2014, but now anticipated for November 2015.
- To redevelop the Namugongo and Munyonyo Catholic Martyrs shrines on behalf of the people of Uganda
The company, however, is not an issue since the church has the prerogative on how it wishes to work. I trust the leadership of the Catholic Church in making decisions that matter in moving project development initiatives ahead.
I, therefore, wish to acknowledge the leadership of His Grace Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga in this respect.
Members chosen by His Grace Cyprian Kizito Lwanga handled the finances. These members joined the project under the Church steering committee for Namugongo. I had no input in the selection of the members.
It is imperative to note further that I have been involved in various fundraising efforts for development. These efforts cut across various churches and mosques, tertiary institutions, and hospitals, among others.
I also know that the same approach of initiating a company limited by guarantee (non-profit organisations) to spearhead development activities has been applied in previous projects such as the Church House and Uganda Heart Institute. These developments have also yielded visible results.
There should, therefore, be no controversy over the position I held as chairman of the Uganda Martyrs Shrines Redevelopment, because, it was not a political position, neither one for private gain. I am happy to serve in any position that will help deliver a successful visit of His Holiness the Pope.
Mr Mbabazi is the Member of Parliament for Kinkizi West.