Otunnu responds to Ntagali on Luwum service fracas

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Kampala- Former Uganda Peoples Congress president Olara Otunnu has responded to Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Natagali over the fallout at the service during the commemoration of 40 years since the murder of Archbishop Janani Luwum.

Mr Otunnu was enraged when in the course of the church service, Archbishop Natagali stood up to received Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, who had gone to represent the President at the function. Mr Ssekandi was accompanied by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah.

As Mr Otunnu charged to stop Archbishop Ntagali from interrupting the prayer session, a preacher, who was a guest from the United Kingdom, wondered aloud whether to continue with the session. The events were reported by this newspaper, inviting heated debate on the matter.

“Otunnu was moving around dramatising that the archbishop has interrupted the service to welcome the vice president, which was not the case. I only stopped the service to welcome the vice president, who had come in the name of the President.

We did not even sing the national anthem until we finished the service,” Mr Ntagali later said while officiating at the commissioning of St Stephen’s Church in Wakyato Sub-county in Nakaseke District.

Contacted to respond to the charge by the archbishop, Mr Otunnu said he was travelling abroad, but that he would respond at the appropriate time.

In an “open letter” to the archbishop on “Showing appropriate respect during worship”, Mr Otunnu now seeks to use the incident that happened at Wig weng in Mucwini Sub-county in Kitgum District, to put the spotlight on what he says is a big problem in the Anglican Church.

He says unlike in other faiths, particularly Islam and Catholicism, the Anglican Church routinely allows interruptions of worship by chief guests.

He cites the church service for the consecration of Ntagali himself as archbishop, which he says was interrupted when the chief guest, President Museveni, arrived at Namirembe Cathedral in the midst of prayer.

When the President arrived, Mr Otunnu writes, “worship was interrupted for welcoming ceremony, the speech, the handing over of the keys for the gift car, and he (Museveni) departed. All subsequent efforts to resume worship, including efforts to serve Holy Communion, were in vain…”

Mr Otunnu said a similar thing happened in Mucwini in 2015 and 2016 during prayers in honour of Archbishop Janani Luwum, who was slain during Idi Amin’s rule in 1977. February 16, the day of his murder, has since been declared a public holiday.

Mr Otunnu told this newspaper that the background to his reaction to the Archbishop Ntagali’s interruption of worship was that he had raised the issue before the function and that he had been assured that no such interruptions would be experienced this time round.

He copied the letter to different bishops and urged the archbishop and the leadership of the Anglican Church to consider establishing rules regarding prayer.

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