Church of Uganda Archbishop Stephen Kazimba launched a fundraising drive on June 6 to save the prime Shs58 billion Church House, built with a loan from Equity Bank.
The drive came on the back of Equity Bank’s threats to take over the 16-storey structure built in fulfilment of late Archbishop Janani Luwum vision in 1977.
The fundraising drive spearheaded by former prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi targets all Anglicans in 37 dioceses of the Church of Uganda across the country.
The Church of Uganda under then Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi borrowed $17 million from Equity Bank for construction of the prime commercial structure on Kampala Road, just opposite the Bank of Uganda.
In the House project budget, the Church contributed 30 percent, while Equity Bank Kenya and Uganda catered for 70 percent of the building costs.
The Anglican church, going by the 2014 population census, boasts of more than 10 million Christians, comprising about 32 percent of Ugandans.
While launching the drive in June, Archbishop Kazimba said this is not the first time people have contributed towards the construction of the Janani Luwum Church House, but the previous contributions were not enough to put it (the house) where it is now. But the Church doesn’t disclose how much was raised then.
Archbishop Kazimba said late Archbishop Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo started the second phase of the drive and raised Shs771m. But when Archbishop Luke Orombi took over, he realised that offertory alone would not complete the construction and the Provincial Assembly allowed the church to borrow $11.3m (about Shs40b) from Equity Bank and also sold some shares to different dioceses.
The provincial head of laity, Mr John Wilson Tereraho, during the fundraising launch told journalists that in the previous fundraising, the church had collected a total of Shs12 billion.
Two months after launching the drive, Archbishop Kazimba on August 29 extended the fundraising drive for more three months, after announcing that Shs1 billion had been raised from well-wishers.
In a more recent letter to the diocese, dated September 26, Archbishop Kazimba said they had so far realised about Shs1.3b.
Different bishops interviewed by Sunday Monitor across the 37 Anglican dioceses say they have not been able to remit contributions to save Church House because they have been in lockdown and could not easily connect to their flock.
“We have not contributed at this particular time, but we have launched a drive which closes at the end of November, and that is when we shall make our contribution. So we have our own arrangement on how to go about. That is exactly what we agreed on as the Church of Uganda,” West Ankole Diocese Bishop Johnson Twinomujuni, who doubles as Secretary to the House of Bishops, says.
Bishop Twinomujuni says they have not set a target as a diocese since giving is charity and is done at one’s will.
“Some dioceses have already submitted and they are quite a few but we still have a span within which we can do that and as West Ankole, we shall not make any submission until the end of November,” Bishop Twinomujuni adds.
Kinkizi Diocese Bishop Dan Zoreka says the diocese had in May agreed to mobilise Shs1 billion to support the Church House project, but they were hampered by the Covid-19-induced lockdown.
“… we have not contributed anything because we found out that our mode of reaching people to take the message was through social interaction and gatherings, but because of the lockdown, that was not possible” Bishop Zoreka says.
“We had sat in our synod in May before the lockdown was imposed and we were determined to mobilise Shs1 billion as the Diocese of Kinkizi. That was our target to begin with and it is possible,” Bishop Zoreka says.
North Ankole Diocese Bishop Stephen Namanya says Christians there had set a target of Shs500 million to be paid in two installments, but they have so far raised only Shs100m, which has been remitted.
“I have contributed Shs100m. Our Christians had a target and resolved that we must rescue our image because for them, they took at it [Church House] as an image and they gave themselves a target of Shs500 million. If it was not for the lockdown, we had targeted to raise Shs300m this year, and step it up with Shs200 million next year,” Bishop Namanya says.
Bishop Patrick Tugume of North Kigezi Diocese says his diocese has contributed Shs150 million.
“We look forward towards the completion of the project because once completed, it will improve the public image of the Church and it will be of a great importance towards the development of the Church of Uganda,” he says.
Bishop George Bagamuhunda of Kigezi Diocese, which covers the districts of Kabale, Rukiga and Rubanda, says his diocese has set a target of Shs300m as contribution towards the Church House project, and is optimistic they will have achieved it by November.
The Muhabura diocesan secretary in Kisoro District, the Rev Stephen Ruzaza, says they have tasked every Christian in the diocese to contribute Shs60,000 and the money is being collected through archdeaconries, parishes and lower churches.
“The campaign to raise funds for the Church House project is ongoing. We have a total of more than 120,000 Anglicans in Muhubura Diocese, although this number includes children, but we tasked our Christians to contribute Shs60,000 each,” the Rev Ruzaza says.
South Ankole Diocese Bishop Nathan Ahimbisibwe says they will be able to remit their contributions as a diocese at the end of September when the archdiceanoaries have submitted their collections.
“Recently, I invited all the archdeacons and we laid a strategy. So they have gone to enforce that strategy, which we are going to work out together by the end of September. They will bring reports and what will come out will be submitted.” Bishop Ahimbisibwe says.
He says many Christians have been contributing as individuals through the diocese and the diocese participated through buying of more than Shs60m worth of shares in the Church House project.
“We are now implementing our target as a diocese and I know it is going to work. We shall write one cheque officially and hand it in,” Bishop Ahimbisibwe adds.
Bishop Sheldon Mwesigwa of Ankole Diocese says: “We have not started cash contributions for the Church House project but our contributions have been in buying shares, we have paid up to Shs166.4m, an equivalent of 1,664 shares in the Church House project.”
Northwest Ankole Bishop Amos Magezi says they have already remitted Shs100 million towards Church House construction.
Bishop George Turyasingura of Ruwenzori East Diocese in Kamwenge District says they have contributed more than Shs50 million to the Church House fund.
In Bukedi Diocese, Bishop Samuel George Bogere Egesa says they have mobilised more than Shs40 million and the drive is ongoing, although they have been slowed down by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mbale Bishop Patrick Gidudu says they have contributed some unspecified amount of money, and that they are still soliciting for financial support towards the mission to rescue the Church House.
The acting Bishop of Kumi Diocese, the Rev Charles Odurkami, says they have tried to pass communication to the Christians, but the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown has been frustrating the efforts.
Bishop Odurkami confirms that in Lango Diocese, where he served as bishop, they bought shares in the Church House, and so is the case for Kitgum Diocese where he was caretaker bishop following similar controversies over leadership as has been the case in Kumi.
“Christians ought to contribute because the Church House is a church asset,” Bishop Odurkami says.
The Soroti Diocesan secretary, the Rev Samuel Ediau, says during the tenure of Bishop Emeritus George William Erwau, the diocese bought shares in the project, just like other dioceses.
In Madi and West Nile Diocese, the diocesan communications officer, Mr Martin Bileni, says they have been using radios, pulpits and WhatsApp groups to mobilise funds for the project and that they have so far collected Shs23m.
“We have asked our institutions and archdeaconries to raise some money. We also devised a strategy of archdeaconries buying shares in the Church House project so that it can become easy for them to offset the loan,” he said.
Central Busoga Bishop Patrick Wakula says they have remitted Shs20m for the project.
“We have not reached out to companies for contribution, but our target was to contribute Shs60,000 per head,” Bishop Wakula says.
Bishop Reuben Kisembo of Rwenzori Diocese says they have bought 4,238 shares, which amount to Shs423.8m.
“We encourage all our Christians to continue giving generously towards the project, any amount to clear the Equity Bank loan so we can begin getting dividends from the Church House project.”
The Rev Can David Kaleebu, the Central Buganda Diocesan secretary, says although Christians have been contributing towards the Church House project, he doesn’t know the amount so far collected.
“I don’t have clear statistics, but I know we have made some contributions,” he said.
Mr Paul Mubiru, the choir leader of St Paul Church in Mpigi Town in Central Buganda Diocese, says they used to collect some money in churches for the Church House project, but this stopped three years ago.
“There was a certain amount of money we were able to collect, but I don’t remember how much we had collected,” he says.
Kitgum Bishop Wilson Kitara says they had fundraised Shs100m for the project, but used Shs30m to clear a provincial quota that had accrued and they remitted Shs70m towards the Church House project.
“Everybody within Kitgum Diocese, which covers the districts of Pader, Agago and Lamwo contributed,” Bishop Kitara says.
West Lango diocesan secretary, Rev James Okee, says they were unable to make a contribution due to the Covid-19-induced lockdown that led to the closure of churches for 60 days.
The diocese spokesperson, Mr David Livingstone Okello, says they have categorised Christians into three groups – the committed, able and unable to ease the fundraising process.
The committed and able category will contribute Shs60,000 each, and the unable can contribute any amount they wish.
“Now that the places of worship have been reopened, we shall have a fundraising drive and then make our contribution” he says.
Diocese/individual Contribution (Shs)
North West Ankole 100m
East Ruwenzori 50m
Madi West Nile 25m
North Ankole 100m
North Kigezi 150m
Central Busoga 20m
Kinkizi 1b pledge
Uganda Christian University (UCU) 113m
Hajji Amis 20m
Deputy Speaker Anita Amongi 30m
Speaker Jacob Oulanyah 100m pledge
Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja 50m pledge
Timeline of the Church House project
1965: Concept of Church House as a commercial real estate enterprise
1971: Church House Company registered as a Private Limited Company.
1972: Plot on Shimoni Road exchanged for Plot 34, Kampala Road
2010: Construction starts
2012: Expected date of completion.
Construction delays over 18-month conflict among service providers.
2014: Conflict resolved
Provincial Secretariat conducts walk-through prays for building
2010: Trustees of CoU enter $17 million (Shs60b) loan deal with Equity Bank to build House
2016: The 23rd Provincial Assembly lauds Museveni for gazetting February 16 as Janani Luwum Day.
Compiled by Felix Ainebyoona, Robert Muhereza, Rajab Mukombozi, Elly Karenzi, Joseph Omollo, Phoebe Masongole, Simon Peter Emwamu, Felix Warom Okello, Alex Ashaba, Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Brian Adams Kesiime Jolly Tobbias Owiny, Bill Oketch & Patrick Ebong.