Court Blocks Archbishop Ntagali From Taking Over Kitgum Diocese

The Gulu High Court has ordered Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, to stay the takeover of Kitgum Diocese from Bishop Benjamin Ojwang.

Bishop Benjamin Ojwang Speaking too Journalists at All Saints Church in Kitgum
Bishop Benjamin Ojwang Speaking too Journalists at All Saints Church in Kitgum

Archbishop Ntagali had scheduled the takeover for Saturday February 14, following a resolution by House of Bishops to throw out Bishop Benjamin Ojwang, from office with immediate effect.

It is the second time that Archbishop Ntagali is attempting to forcefully remove Bishop Benjamin Ojwang from Office.

In December 2014, the move was also halted by an intention to sue the Church of Uganda, the Archbishop and the registered trustees of the Church of Uganda.

In the letter dated January 24, 2015, the Archbishop said the House of Bishops adopted a resolution of the diocesan Synod on January 15, to retire Bishop Ojwang.

While Bishop Ojwang had applied to be retired in December 2015, Ntagali’s letter states that he should have retired in December 14, 2014.

He directed in the letter that Bishop Ojwang ceased to exercise episcopal and administrative jurisdiction over the diocese of Kitgum forthwith.

Amoo Okaka Okwee, the Chairperson of Laity at All Saints Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Kitgum informed the congregation.

Upon receiving the letter, a group of 208 Christians led by Rev. Canon Samuel Obol, came together and sued the Archbishop, registered trustees of the Church of Uganda, the Church of Uganda and the in Gulu High court

Rev. Canon Samuel Obol said that the diocesan Synod caused the Archbishop to make administrative errors by lying to the office of the Archbishop.

He says as a result, Bishop Benjamin Ojwang has not been tried or given a fair hearing according to Canon of the Church of Uganda, something they are challenging in Court.

Lady Justice Margret Mutonyi on Friday, issued the interim order staying the execution of the decision of the House of Bishops pending the disposal of an application by the Christians on February 27th.

Justice Margaret Mutonyi based her decision to stay the takeover on a decision that former Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi and the House of Bishops chaired by Stanley Ntagali made a decision to have Bishop Benjamin Ojwang retire in December 2015, as he had earlier requested.

She says the Archbishop Stanley Ntagali is disrespecting his own earlier communication that Bishop Benjamin Ojwang, be allowed to serve the diocese till December 2015.

When asked for comment, Rev. Canon Moses Magezi, the Provincial Secretary, of the Province of the Church of Uganda declined to comment on the matter. He said it is only the Archbishop that can comment on such provincial Administrative matters.

Bishop Benjamin Ojwang’s woes stems from a request he made to the former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi seeking to take an early retirement in December 2015 instead of the mandatory retirement in 2017.

Bishop Ojwang based his decision to retire on a recommendation made by a Peace Commission, comprised of Bishops, which conduct hearings in to allegations brought against the Bishop by a group of concerned christians opposed to his leadership.

Among other recommendations, the Commission advised that Bishop Ojwang be granted an early retirement for his personal security and for the sake of peace in the diocese.

Bishop Ojwang requested to retire in December 2015 after his application for two years sabbatical leave was rejected by Archbishop Stanley Ntagali.

In their application, the Christians want court to issue a permanent injunction barring church from forceful removal of bishops and declaration that forceful removal is against canons of the Church.