Over the weekend, the Speaker of Parliament was reported to have visited a cultural shrine of her clan in Nhyenda Hill, Nakigo Sub-county in Iganga District to thank them for her recent political successes. This raised dust on both mainstream and social media with some alleging that that she had gone to consult/worship a “witchdoctor”. Some commentators condemned her for this “evil” act while others defended her. I want to join those defending her for the following reasons.
For argument’s sake, let us assume the Speaker went to pray in the shrine. The Constitution of Uganda guarantees citizens the freedom to practice any religion and manifest such practice which shall include the right to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious body or organisation in a manner consistent with this Constitution. This right does not specify a particular God/god or that one should worship or a certain place where one can worship from. In other words, one can worship a tree, mountain, clouds, a phone or anything that makes him/her comfortable. The only restriction is if that worship contravenes the law.
An illustration of Rebecca Kadaga at a shrine (Daily Monitor)
Secondly, as a Musoga, Kadaga, just like most of us, has a culture she identifies with. Article 37 of the Constitution states that every person has a right to belong to, enjoy, practice, profess, maintain and promote any culture, cultural institution, language, tradition, creed or religion in community with others. It’s her right to visit a cultural site in her clan or any other.
Just like many other rights, freedom of worship and culture has restrictions. However, there’s no evidence or information to suggest that Kadaga crossed her legal boundaries. So from a purely legal perspective, the Speaker acted within the law.
Society should not condemn leaders or ordinary citizens for professing their culture or faith. Uganda may have a large number of people believing in a monolithic God but this should not be bar against the enjoyment of one’s rights if they chose to.
Let us learn to be tolerant!