Uganda Broadcasting Corporation accomplished two things yesterday. It successfully relayed via live feed the official funeral accorded Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo in Namugongo. The feed while not perfect was quite decent. UBC also successfully carried the entire ceremony of the investiture of Nkoyoyo as archbishop in 1995.
In a not so subtle way, Archbishop Ntagali, the current primate of Church of Uganda, gave perhaps the most stinging sermon of his tenure as archbishop. The archbishop had a very difficult 2017 along with his other colleagues when the public felt that religious leaders had fallen below expectations in responding to the recently passed constitutional amendments.
His colleague, Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga had his moment on Christmas Day at Rubaga Cathedral and Ntagali belatedly had his moment yesterday.
Nkoyoyo’s rise and sunset had a sense of fulfillment that paid tribute to his background as a blue collar and artisan. There was small and big things about him. He was one of the few clergymen, who preached and years later, you remembered what he had said. Preaching came to him naturally in a way that few others could access the gospels without sounding either pedantic, mercurial or authoritarian. Preaching in Rubaga Cathedral at the wedding of Prince David Wasajja in 2013, he counseled the new couple to avoid arrivalism a weakness of landing into big things and to continue working, stating that the prince and his new wife had to continue struggling and working. It was the wife’s responsibility to save, but to remember to add something to the granary. He captured his message in a way that a Catholic clergyman – they are celibate, couldn’t.
In difficult moments like after Museveni’s first election in 1996 that was marked by a lot of strong turns in search of direction, he chided the former Katikkiro of Buganda Joseph Ssemogerere who was facing a lot of pressure from radical elements in Mengo, to continue asking like a gentleman for a federal status for Buganda, even though he had to do it in a dignified manner so to speak in a suit.
The federal status obviously did not materialise at the time but it cooled tensions for many years including the rise of armed insurgency in Buganda whose roots were sown in excesses by state actors in the 1996 election. At a private funeral for a granddaughter of retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo formerly of West Buganda Diocese, Nkoyoyo and his former colleagues, bishops from Buganda, gathered around their former mentor even though he had parted ways with Church of Uganda years ago.
Sternly facing the congregation in a sorrowful circumstance, he said he had come mourning the long farewell of a young communicant, but had been hearkened by the parents’ message, who were strong throughout and had just addressed the congregation.
Nkoyoyo reached into popular culture for Eddy Kenzo’s song, “Sitya Loss”. Climaxing his point, Nkoyoyo said the parents had not exhibited any sense of loss, they had not feared the loss because God had taken over. So many dynamics were at play here, the congregation, even his fellow clergy, most of whom were grey haired, retired bishops were startled. This accessibility was a sterling quality.He was never pretentious, never a bully, but also very practical. Listening to his investiture he mentioned Church House and UCU Mukono as his priorities at the Province. Both are standing a decade after he left office.
Church of Uganda has a unique democratic culture, which former Vice President Specioza Kazibwe alluded to on the day of Nkoyoyo’s investiture as archbishop. The archbishop had risen to power through voting; a democratic process. Unlike England where bishops are appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister, in Uganda the entire process is elective.
Bishops and clergy retire at 65, and the archbishop is elected for a single 10 year-term. These are things, the bishops should be tirelessly talking about more than anything else, the absence of a corner stone in the bigger polity, Uganda.
Rest in Peace.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate. [email protected]