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Open letter to Dodoviko Mwanje.

Dear Mwanje,

We hope you are well wherever you are in these challenging and unjust times. We have been following with shock and horror as a mob of religious zealots, clergymen, populist politicians, enemies of justice and the rule of law descended upon your constitutional rights to property and violated them!

The constitution of Uganda protects every individual’s rights to property. It also entrusts dispute resolution with our courts of law.

An order of vacant possession was granted in your favor by a competent court through a rigorous court process.  A permanent injunction was granted restraining the church or its agents from carrying out any activity on your land!

You were, according to the laws of this country, the rightful owner of the land on which church stood. You were free to do with the land as you wished. This is the law of our land, and the demolition was well within your rights. Every law abiding citizen of this country should stand with you in protecting the laws that we all abide with. No one should be above the law.

We understand that the church holds social value to the community and parishioners. But so does any other community facility, a hospital, a shrine, a community well etc. None of them should be allowed the privilege of suspending the laws that govern us. The community can have no right to abuse the rights of an individual to do as they wish with their property. The state should protect that right and not facilitate its violation.

If churches are given land by whomever for whatever reason. They should take the responsibility and necessary steps to acquire that land according to our legal code. The church is not above the law. Nobody should be above the law or expect special treatment.

The church in Uganda has enjoyed exclusive undeserved privilege on so many levels to the point where people take it for granted that they should get away with abuse of individual rights! The church should have no rights to take over anyone’s land without their explicit consent and settlement.

We as a society would be setting a very bad precedence, if we allow some institution to disobey legitimate court orders, while expecting everyone else to obey them. The church is not above the law.

The church, an institution that claims to uphold moral values, should be the first to encourage the rule of law and everyone’s subordination to the laws of the land. We all want to live in a world where the laws don’t discriminate.

Clergymen in charge of the church have taken to using the large pious, hysterical mass to bully populist politicians into breaking the laws that bind us all. This is dangerous. It limits development, entrenches religious privilege, and erodes the independence of our leaders. It is simply—impunity.

Those viewing the church as the victim in this case are spectacularly disillusioned. The church has so much land, which it acquired clandestinely, it pays no taxes and rakes in obscene sums of money all year round. They should be able to afford land for their activities. They should be buyers like everyone else in the free market. And if they can’t afford to secure their property—the tax payer should never pick up the bill for them.

Image if we had a Ugandan, that never pays any tax, enjoys all the benefits from other tax payers, gets free land, runs a business, tax free—yes church is a business—and gets to disobey court rulings to vacate land that doesn’t belong to them. We would never want to associate with such an individual or sustain their conduct! Church somehow does all these things and gets away with it.

We witnessed a multitudes of spineless populist politicians across the political divide, fight to defend the church’s abuse of your rights—our rights! Condemning a legal demolition and baying for your blood! Blaming the victim and hailing the abuser. It is obscene, it’s unjust and we should all join hands to stop that impunity.

The political environment is so toxic and dirty that asking that any one of them stand on the side of the law seems laughable. Even the opposition politicians, I hope someone stood by your side, I wish someone came out publicly to emphasize the obvious fact that your actions were lawful.

The police officers that defended a lawful order were doing a difficult, noble and commendable job! We hope you nurse your wounds together. We hope they are set free by the equally courageous judges that granted rights to your property.

The courts of law need our trust, and protection. In a world where religious and political tyranny reigns, the courts remain our last bastion of hope for justice. They have done a considerably good job amidst forces  that seek to jeopardize their independence.

The Free Inquiry Uganda community commiserates with you in these trying times. We hope you get what’s rightfully yours. We hope you find justice. We stand with you in the struggle against this religious tyranny.

Free Inquiry Uganda is a community of skeptics, that stand for truth, justice, a rational and scientific world view, and putting humans first.

Yours in fairness!

FIU

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Written by Mugarura Don

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