Rt Rev Dr STEPHEN SAMUEL KAZIIMBA MUGALU is the incoming archbishop of the Church of Uganda after the House of Bishops elected him on August 28.
Kaziimba is thoughtful and has a charismatic character. At 57 years, the theology doctor is the outgoing bishop of Mityana and will head the Anglican Church for the next eight years. He opened up to Nicholas Bamulanzeki and Dunstan Mukalazi about his tough upbringing, challenges as a priest, inspirational lessons as well as his future plans.
On the way to the residence of Dr Kaziimba, the three-kilometre stretch from Mityana town to Namukozi hill is littered with several monuments attributed to him. Our guide, a land broker in the town, assured us that Kaziimba has had a profound imprint in Mityana.
“Do you see that magnificent church [St Andrews]? Bishop [Kaziimba] refurbished it…he also built that diocesan headquarters and even constructed the bishop’s house,” he said along the way. “We will miss him because he practiced what he preaches, especially honesty.”
Upon reaching the residence, we found about a dozen other guests waiting for their moment with the archbishop-elect. Many had brought different gifts such as chicken, matoke, rice, sugar, pumpkins and sugarcane.
“I’ve been here for the last one hour but I cannot go without seeing him. This could be my last day to have a chat with him because he is soon going to Kampala and will be very busy,” an elderly lady who had trekked five kilometres said.
It turned out Kaziimba was not home but he soon appeared in his official car, a Toyota Kluger, amid fanfare from the guests. Kaziimba is a towering figure at slightly above six feet and speaks with gusto. The jostling for his attention meant we had to be patient and take our time.
One after another, Kaziimba greeted all of us before letting all of us inside the sitting room. “I see some surprised faces but this is my official home. Whatever you see is the definition of my calling,” the bishop in the midst of bemusement said.
“I’ve always been an underestimated in life but I’ve always overcome every challenge. In the build-up to the election of the next archbishop, media often reported of a tight race and also profiled potential candidates but on the day of elections, I sailed through at the first hurdle without any fuss,” he said as the guests cheered wildly. “I’ve spent all my life fighting against odds to show the world that you don’t have to be privileged or live a privileged life to be a success.”
Kaziimba is indeed a modest person at home. At the extreme corner of the sitting room is a 21-inch old-model television set popularly known as Kibina. The sofa set is quite old-fashioned but comfortable. The hand-made tablemats remind one of the olden days. Most importantly, there is a small chapel for prayers. We had to wait for about 30 minutes punctuated by words of congratulation from the guests in-between songs of praise for Kaziimba to break off to meet us.
“Apologies for holding you up but this is my new routine since I got elected [archbishop],” he quipped as he took us around his roughly-one-acre home. “I’m actually expected to officiate at another ceremony within the next 30 minutes.”
Bishop Kaziimba demarcated space for farming, where he rears cattle, goats, chicken and a few ducks. He also grows bananas and avocado. In spite of the busy nature of the place as well as his high stature, there is surprisingly no perimeter fence around the bishop’s home.
“This house is on top of a hill and there was no need to isolate it from the community,” he said.
It was in 2008 that Kaziimba, then the provost of Mukono diocese, got elected bishop of Mityana to replace Dr Dunstan Kopriano Bukenya.
“I didn’t know much about this diocese and some people saw me as an outsider,” he recalled. “Even in Mukono, some Christians were worried. But I believe that every leadership comes from God; so, I set out to fulfil that dream to serve the Christians of this diocese.”
At the main entrance is a foundation stone laid by the Kabaka of Buganda, who opened it in 2009.
“That was my first-year anniversary gift from Mityana Christians,” said a beaming Kaziimba. “I feel lucky that God has enabled me to do things for the diocese. I leave Mityana a happy man but I have no single plot here.”
ROADMAP FOR MITYANA
Kaziimba’s election as archbishop has surely opened up a new race to replace him as Mityana bishop and from the look of faces around, it is clear there were several candidates present.
“I’ve already begun the roadmap to have my successor but I will not endorse or campaign for anyone because that is sacred. I don’t want to meddle in the process,” he said.
“I want the process to be free and fair and if there are any candidates, I don’t want anyone to use my name. The good thing is that by the time of the election in January 2020, I will be away in Colorado, USA.”
Looking back on his tenure, Kaziimba downplays his achievements but instead is eager to show how the diocese is blessed.
“Mityana is a gifted diocese because bishops who serve here don’t leave. My predecessors Yokana Mukasa and Wilson Mutebi stayed around here even after retirement while my immediate predecessor Bukenya is a son of the soil,” he said.
“Meanwhile, do you know that former Archbishop Mpalanyi Nkoyooyo studied theology here in Mityana? Or that [retired] Bishop Evans Kisekka also started out here? Even Bishops [retired] Ssenabulya, Lubowa, Eldad Nsubuga, Kasangaki all started ministry work here. So, this diocese is anointed to elevate future leaders in the Anglican Church.”
“The people here are great. Some doubted when I came here because I don’t hail here but what matters is what one has to offer. My appeal to everyone there is that never despise your background to limit yourself…I never went to the best schools, I was never the best in class...all odds were stuck against me. To be sincere, there was nothing special about me but God made a way for me to be what I am today.”
Born in 1962, Kaziimba owes a great part of his life to a family friend, whose advice changed the course of his existence.
“Let me tell you a secret; my mum told me on her deathbed that my father initially ordered her to abort me because she was going through a lot of suffering. However, another woman advised her against it saying; ‘you can never know who what child may turn out to be,’” he recalled. “So, I oppose abortion, I support birth-control minus abortion. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be alive to tell my story.”
He added that her mum, Jessica Nanyonjo, separated with his dad when he was just one year old. “She brought me to Katwe slum where I grew up from. I couldn’t raise fees for secondary education; so, my uncle, Emmanuel Mukasa, took me to the village in Mukono and footed my fees in secondary school,” he said.
Even then, Kaziimba was unsure of what he would become until 1973 when he was baptised by Can Yakobo Baddokwaya. “I just happened to be roaming around when the priest called out those who were not baptised but from that time, I took Christianity seriously,” he said.
Kaziimba would later be taken into the arms of Bishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyooyo, who ordained him in 1990 and gave him his first assignment in Nakibizzi. Since then, Kaziimba never looked back and by the time he became bishop, he had completed a PhD in theology.
Bishop Kaziima and wife Margaret Naggayi Kaziimba are blessed with four boys; Moses Kisakye Mugalu, Peter Muwanguzi Kyeswa, Enoch Musasizi Kaziimba, and Joseph Kwagala Kaziimba. He describes his family as ambitious. “My wife is my prayer warrior and without her I wouldn’t be here. We pray for everything in life,” he says.
Kaziimba also intimated that his children include 14 less-privileged children that he has taken up.
“You don’t lose anything when you offer to support one who is underprivileged and I learnt this through the tough experiences while groing up on the streets of Katwe and Makindye,” he recalled.
In 1990, Kaziimba had just been posted to Nakibizzi parish in Mukono to serve as assistant vicar when malaria put him down and closer to death.
“At first I thought I could overcome it but I went into coma. I couldn’t move my body but I could hear people say; ‘he’s dead.’ I could not speak. I cried out to God…why should I die shortly when I’ve just started serving you?” he wondered.
“At that time, my third-born [Musasizi] was also down of measles. So, I was alone in hospital as my wife cared for him but luckily, we both got healed. Right now he is a pilot and instructor of pilots based in Johannesburg, South Africa.”
Kaziimba offered a glimpse of what to expect when he takes over as archbishop on March 1, 2010.
“My type of leadership is not confrontational; it is relational and dialogue. From my experience, I have observed that when you pull someone aside and talk about any misgivings, there is a high chance of both you understanding each other than mentioning it in front of other peers,” he said. “That’s the same approach I will apply to politics.”
Kaziimba does not mince words about the sensitive issue of homosexuality.
“I’m grateful to my predecessors for standing firm on this issue [homosexuality]. That’s not God’s way. God loves sinners but doesn’t love sins. So, the homosexuals and drunkards need to repent and return to God,” he said.
After about 30 minutes, it was time to leave but the bishop couldn’t let us go just like that. “Batabani [my sons]…please carry some chicken with you. You cannot move all the way from Kampala to see me and go back empty-handed,” he said in his farewell.
Bishop Kaziimba at a glance
- He was trained as a Lay-Leader at Baskerville Theological College Ngogwe in 1985 and posted to Lugazi St. Peter’s Church.
- 1988 – 1990 trained at Uganda Martyrs’ Seminary (Provincial Certificate), and ordained in December 1990 by Bishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyooyo. He served as Assistant Vicar at Nakibizzi Parish in 1990 – 1994.
- In 1994 – 1996, he completed his Diploma in Theology at Bishop Tucker College, and posted to Katente Parish as Parish Priest (1997 – 2000).
- In 1999, he was then transferred to Mukono Cathedral as Vicar in 2000 – 2001. And here he was made Acting Provost of Mukono Cathedral by Bishop Michael Ssenyimba after his Provost Canon Matovu had been made Bishop of Central Buganda Diocese.
- In July 2002 to 2003, he completed his Master’s Degree in theology (ThM) at Western Theology Seminary, USA. In 2004, he was confirmed as the provost of St. Philip and Andrew‘s Cathedral.
- 2004-2007, Stephen pursued his Doctorate of Ministry at Western Seminary USA, and also made a Canon in 2007 by Bishop Elia Paul Luzinda Kizito.
- He became the 4th Bishop of Mityana Diocese on 26th October 2008, replacing Bishop Dr Dunstan Kopriano Bukenya.