A point-blank piece of advice by Bishop Reuben Kisembo of Rwenzori diocese to Yoweri Museveni to retire in 2021 despite the constitution having just been amended to extend his rule, rubbed the president the wrong way, prompting an angry outburst from him.
President Museveni, who was in Fort Portal to preside over the commissioning of a newly-built chapel at Kyebambe Girls Secondary School, told off the bishop, that he doesn’t need advice “on issues which I know better.”
The president further said he was being provoked by religious leaders who, he advised, “should have a disciplined way of interacting.”
Bishop Kisembo should be commended for his courage in articulating what many Ugandans feel about the political events of December 2017 but would not dare tell the president in his face, or simply have no access to him.
The bishop must have anticipated the tongue-lashing but he went ahead and said it anyway, which shows his strong and admirable character.
Aware of the position they occupy in society and afraid that religious leaders might use the pulpit to turn the masses against them, the ruling elite have always sought to intimidate religious leaders into silence by suggesting that politics is not their turf.
That is a dishonest position because the same leadership has encouraged religious leaders to play an active role in politics by appointing them to cabinet and other influential positions.
It would appear that the discomfort comes in only after religious leaders speak out against ills such as abuse of power, corruption and injustice, which is well within their mandate.
As for Museveni’s outburst, it is preposterous for the president to suggest that he knows everything about governance and doesn’t need advice. The president ought to be humble and respectful of other people’s views, even when he doesn’t agree with them.
At the end of the day, leaders like Bishop Kisembo who tell him the truth that he would rather not entertain are his true friends. Those who remain silent because they can’t afford to annoy him and thus compromise state largesse are his real enemies.
As one wise saying goes, the world suffers a lot, not because of the violence of bad people but because of the silence of good people.