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Panic, Suspicion Grip Anglican Martyrs' Day Organizers Amid Budget Concerns :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Panic, Suspicion Grip Anglican Martyrs' Day Organizers Amid Budget Concerns

The Rwenzori Cluster prepared a budget of 2.17 billion shillings to ensure successful celebrations. With a pledge of UGX1.5bn from President Yoweri Museveni, the committee has been hunting for UGX600 million from the faithful and well-wishers.
18 May 2024 17:54
Pilgrims at the Anglican Site During Last Year's Commemoration. Photo by C.O.U

Audio 1

As the clock ticks towards this year’s Martyrs Day fete, the Anglican Church's organizing committee is gripped with anxiety over budgetary shortfalls.  

The Midwest Cluster, comprising Rwenzori, South Rwenzori, East Rwenzori, West Rwenzori, Bunyoro-Kitara, and Masindi-Kitara dioceses, is responsible for this year's celebrations at Namugongo. The cluster is particularly alarmed by rumors of reduced financial support from President Museveni.  

The Cluster prepared a budget of 2.17 billion shillings to ensure successful celebrations. With a pledge of 1.5 billion shillings from President Yoweri Museveni, the committee has been hunting for 600 million shillings from the faithful and well-wishers.

   

However, last week, rumors began to circulate that President Museveni's pledge might fall short. Margaret Muhanga, the Minister for Primary Health Care hailing from Rwenzori Diocese who the mid-west cluster bishops to meet the President, opened up on the matter during a fundraising dinner organized at Kabira Country Club for the June 3 event.      

"We have not yet confirmed, but whispers suggest that the promised contribution could be reduced to one billion shillings or even less," Muhanga said. She emphasized that if these rumors which she got from her fly on the walls of State House are true, the committee would need to find an additional funds urgently.    

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An anonymous organizing committee member expressed deep concern over the potential shortfall, noting the difficulty of raising such a large sum in the remaining weeks. "It is not easy to fundraise all that money in the remaining weeks," the source noted, expressing hope that they receive the full amount needed.    

Another member doubted that the President would make such a significant promise to five bishops and then backtrack it without official communication.

   

Beatrice Kiraso, a former woman Member of Parliament for Kabalore district and a key fundraiser for the event appointed by the Rwenzori diocesan bishop, Rt. Rev. Reuben Kisembo, expressed similar concerns. Appealing to rationality instead, she advised the committee to consider budget cuts if the necessary funds could not be secured.      

"The budget was designed to give the best we can. But if we fail to raise the money, the organizing committee will have to revisit the budget and make adjustments," said Kiraso.    

The issue of reducing funds has not been confirmed yet. The Deputy Press Secretary to the President Faruk Kirunda advised URN to look for the ethics minister."She’s the one responsible," Kirunda told the URN reporter.    

The reporter has since contacted and messaged the ethics minister, Rose Akello, but she has not responded. This has left the matter unresolved, amid panic and worry among the Anglican organizing committee members.    

URN has also reached out to the Catholic organizers, whom the president pledged 1.3 billion shillings. They confirmed that they have not received the funds but had no information on whether there have been cuts to the pledge.      



 How much has been raised so far?  
   

Although the exact amount of money collected by the organizing committee has not been disclosed, during a press address a week ago, the Rwenzori Diocesan Bishop, Rt. Rev. Reuben Kisembo, mentioned that they had not yet gathered even half of the required funds in cash.    

Prior to this announcement, the bishop had informed journalists at Namugongo that they had 100 million shillings in cash. At the dinner held at Kabira Country Club, Kiraso noted that they collected not more than 100 million shillings in both cash and pledges.    

 Why 2.1 Billion?        

Available information shows that the 2.1-billion-shilling budget was carefully planned to cover various essential items. The largest expenditure, amounting to 450 million shillings, is allocated for a memorial project to roof and install seats in one of the pavilions at the Martyrs site.    

Additionally, funds are needed to host international guests, including the guest preacher who is the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, His Grace Henry Ndukuba, and his entourage, to cover their transportation and other expenses.     

Other expenses include general  transportation, meals, welfare of the choirs, event management, communication, security, among others.  

     

Wait, what about Parliament allocations?        

Some Anglicans are expressing distrust towards certain members of the central organizing committee. For instance, at the dinner organized at Kabira, one attendee noted that the communication from committee members is suspicious.    

"There is something that is not adding up," said the attendee. "The president pledged 1.5 billion shillings to the bishop, and now rumors suggest that less might be realized yet the president hasn’t written back to the bishop on the matter. That aside, no one is talking about the money allocated by Parliament.”    

As the attendee pointed out, on April 30 this year, Parliament passed a supplementary budget of 1.1 trillion shillings within which was a classified allocation of 19 billion shillings to State House, and 3 billion shillings allocated to facilitate the Martyrs' Day festivities.    

According to available documents, the Martyrs' Day money was placed under Vote O18 - Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development. In the allocations, the Anglican Church of Uganda was given 1.08 billion shillings.      

Nebbi Catholic Diocese was also allocated 1.08 billion shillings. On the same day, religious leaders from Nebbi Catholic Diocese and organizing committee members met the President at State House Entebbe, where the President pledged to give 1.3 billion shillings. This pledge alone would cover their budget for the festivities.    

Muslims were allocated only 200 million shillings. The Ministry of Health received 103.5 million shillings to handle health emergencies and supplies during the festivities.    

Kira Municipality was allocated 66.3 million shillings for road works and related issues like garbage management. The National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) got 204.3 million shillings, and 150 million shillings were allocated for security purposes.      

In the past, the government was not contributing to the celebrations at Namugongo, and the funds used were raised by the faithful. However, around 2012, this changed when the government began to support the development of the martyrs' sites, coinciding with the Catholic Church's preparations for Pope Francis' visit.    

Since then, it has almost become customary for the president to donate some money towards the budgets of the celebrations. In recent times, funds have been included in the budgets or supplementary allocations presented in parliament.