Pastor Geoffrey Ssemwogerere of New Jerusalem Church in Seguku, Wakiso district has been detained at Kajjansi police station for allegedly chaining 12 people in an attempt to purportedly heal them from mental illness and bad omen.
According to the locals, Ssemwogerere had chained the victims inside his church for at least six weeks. The victims include men, women, and children. It took the courage of two locals who peeped inside the church after hearing the wailing voices of the victims and alerted police.
Bosco Lukanda, one of the residents, says that despite the fact that he is not one of those that alerted the police, he has been suspicious of the activities of the church, especially during night hours.
“I don’t know how these people were brought into this church accepted to be chained. Unfortunately, I don’t know any of them. I suspect they were picked from different places,” Lukanda said.
Hassan Mukasa, one of the victims who was rescued when eight police officers from Kajjansi police station raided the church, says that he neither has a mental problem nor did her complain of any bad omen. According to Mukasa, he received a call from a person who identified himself as an aide to pastor Ssemwogerere informing him that the pastor was interested in buying a piece of land in Wankulukuku under his care. Mukasa explains that he travelled from Bisanje village in Masaka city with all the documents relating to the land to prove that it was not up for sale.
“When I reached where the land is, the pastor came with the very person who called me. They pretended like they wanted to ascertain whether my documents were genuine. I told them that I am not selling the land. They grabbed me and bundled me into a car and drove up to the church. I was blindfolded and chained,” Mukasa explained.
According to Mukasa, he couldn't notify anyone about his fate because the pastor and his aide confiscated his phones and documents. He explained that returning to Masaka without the land title would be as good as surrendering his life.
“I can’t go back to Masaka without the land title. I need this land if I am to stay alive. I can buy new phones. I can replace the one million shillings they stole from me. But I can’t replace the land in this prime area,” Mukasa said.
Detectives at Kajjansi asked Ssemwogerere why he was chaining people and why he kept Mukasa’s land title, phones, and cash but he chose to remain completely mute.
“If you think you are a hard person, wait we will make you speak. We are still politely asking you but wait until we apply the interrogation tactics. I am sure you will speak up. You can’t commit such crimes and you become stubborn,” a detective warned Ssemwogerere.
Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, said Ssemwogerere will be charged with unlawful confinement. Police have urged the public to always inform any nearby authorities including local leaders once they notice things that are criminal in nature happening.
Onyango says that if residents of Seguku where the church is located had acted faster from the time they because suspicious, the victim wouldn’t have suffered to that extent. The Kajjansi incident comes three weeks after police arrested Prophet Denis Kintu from Hoima City for whipping his followers. He was charged with over 10 counts relating to torture.