Rev. Okunya was elected by the House of Bishops as the second bishop of Kumi Diocese in November 2019. However, his planned consecration and enthronement scheduled for December were cancelled on grounds that he had altered his year of birth from 1975 to 1970 to bring himself in the constitutional and canonical age bracket, which he had not attained by 2019 when he was nominated for the position.
The Police in Ngora has foiled a plan by a
section of Christians to consecrate Rev. Charles
as Bishop of Kumi Diocese.
Rev. Okunya was elected by the House of Bishops as the
second bishop of Kumi Diocese in November 2019. However, his planned consecration and
enthronement scheduled for December were cancelled on grounds that he had altered his year of birth from 1975 to
1970 to bring himself in the constitutional and canonical age bracket,
which he had not attained by 2019 when he was nominated for the position.
He was subsequently banned
from taking part in any future contests for the Bishop’s seat. His efforts to reverse this through the Courts were equally quashed when Justice Musa Sekaana dismissed, a case that he filed against the Anglican Church challenging the cancellation of his appointment.
Justice Ssekaana said that at the time of his
nomination, Rev Okunya was not qualiﬁed to be elected Bishop of Kumi since he had
not yet made the mandatory age requirement of 45 years, but noted that, Okunya swore a statutory declaration, three days to the election, to indicate that he made a
mistake when registering for his national identity card.
The controversy has sparked divisions amongst
Christians and the clergy resulting in violence that left scores with injuries while many others were arrested and detained by the Police. While this raged, a section of Christians announced a plan to have Rev. Okunya consecrated with or without the consent
and presence of the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, The Most Rev. Samuel
Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu.
They wrote a notice through Silvanus Isiagi to the Ngora
Resident District Commissioner and to the Police to provide security at the
consecration venue. In a letter dated January
18, 2022, Isiagi said that the function was meant to commemorate the second
anniversary of the election and cancellation of Rev. Okunya’s consecration in
the Kumi Diocese.
Isiagi’s letter indicated that Rev. Okunya would be the main
celebrant at the function that was expected to bring together more than 2,000 people. He
also added that Rt. Rev. Charles Obaikol and Rt. Rev. Nicodemus Okille
Engwalas, the retired bishops of Soroti and Bukedi Dioceses respectively would
be in attendance.
police deployed at St. Phillips Cathedral to ensure that the planned
consecration doesn’t take place. On Sunday morning, more than 30 police
officers were seen at the cathedral premises alone while all the major roads
leading to Ngora were barricaded by the uniformed men.
The security heads also suspended prayers at the Cathedral,
forcing Christians who fellowship at the Cathedral to resort to nearby churches
or stay at home.
East Kyoga Regional Police Spokesman
Oscar Gregg Ageca says the deployment was meant to secure the Cathedral, lives and property. He
notes that the planned consecration was against the Anglican Church principles,
which is responsible for the selection and consecration of new bishops.
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Martin Luther Eulet, a lay reader of Agule Church of Uganda
in Kapir Sub County says he was informed about the prayers by his reverend, a
one he only identified as Aporu Akol. He, however, notes that the issue of the Bishop in Kumi requires God’s intervention because it has gone beyond the
church principles. Eulet said it was strange to find the policemen instead of clergy in the Church.
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Around 9 a.m, some Christians who didn’t know about the
Police presence in Church were shocked to find it sealed off. A Christian, who
identified herself as Catherine told our reporter that whereas it is shocking
for the uniformed men to cordon off the church, it is not surprising especially
for the church leaders in Kumi to lock horns.
“We want a bishop who is humble and anointed by God. The clergymen
should stop body fights but rather allow the holy spirit to intervene”, she
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Kumi Diocese comprises Kumi, Ngora and Bukedea districts. It
was carved out of Soroti Diocese in 2001 and pioneered by the Rt. Rev. Thomas
Edison Irigei who retired in December 2019. So far, 51 people including lay readers and clergymen
have been arrested and detained in Soroti.