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FAITH BASED LEADERS SUE THE GOVERNMENT OVER CLOSURE OF PLACES OF WORSHIP
By Evelyne Naikoba | 04 August 2021
On the 03rd of August 2021, Pastor Wisdom Katumba Peter of Charis Fellowship Limited and Imaam Bbaale Muhammed of the Majid Taqwa of Lubowa filed a suit in the High Court of Uganda, Civil Division against the Attorney General,Minister of Health and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health over the discriminatory and prolonged ban on religious gatherings. This notice of motion for declatory orders was filed under Article 50, Articles 8A, 7,20 ,21,29,37 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and the Judicature (Fundamental and other Human Rights Freedoms) (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2019.
It should be remembered that following the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic in Uganda, religious gatherings were indefinitely suspended by His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni and have since been relegated to interactions on online platforms. Furthermore, seeming attempts to reconsider this unjust position , have over the past moths, spelled extremely stringent measures on religious gatherings compared to other sectors. In August 2020,The Ministry of Health in consultation with the National Covid 19 Task Force released specific Standard Operating Procedural guidelines for reopening of places of worship, which guidelines among other things imposed a cap on the number of congregants per service without due consideration to the variations in seat capacity of different places of worship, banned children under the age of 12 ,elderly persons and those with underlying health conditions from accessing places of worship unlike other public places, and threatened a suspension of licenses should the stipulated guidelines be flouted.
Again, following another lockdown that was imposed in June 2021, a repeat of the past total ban on religious gatherings emerged. Interestingly, whilst other sectors and public places resumed business as usual on 01st August 2021, the status quo on closed places of worship still stands till probable review after sixty days. Worse still, online service teams have now been limited to ten people while weddings and funerals can accommodate twenty people, public service vehicles can operate at half capacity and malls, downtown trading centres are in full bloom.
It is, therefore, of little surprise that the faithfuls cannot help but skeptically question the high-handed approach towards Religious Faith Organisations in the fight against Covid 19. We believe that it is on the same premise that Pastor Wisdom Katumba Peter-also a qualified medical scientist, and Imaam Bbale Muhammed have sought recourse in the Courts of Justice against the continual, arbitrary, disproportionate, and unjustified violation of Ugandans’ right to freedom of religion, belief and conscience, and by extension, their right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association.
We hope that justice prevails!