Bishop Fredrick Drandua was buried on Wednesday but his death has exposed the longstanding rifts that emerged after his retirement as Arua Diocesan Ordinary in 2009. While many have described him as a man of peace, the events of the past one week put to the fore that all is not well in the diocese he led for 23 years.
Drandua, who died on September 1st aged 73, headed the diocese for 23 years before going into early retirement due to what was explained at the time as ill-health.
During the weeklong organisation for the burial at Ediofe Cathedral, sharp differences emerged between the laity and the diocesan leadership led by Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki. Throughout the week, emotions ran high in different camps, with accusing fingers being pointed at each other and on a few occasions degenerating into physical confrontations.
The death of Bishop Drandua only helped to expose the deep-rooted hatred, displeasure and suspicions between the laity and the diocesan administration. In the preparations for the burial, the absence of the diocesan leadership during the meetings and other engagements was visibly loud. The diocese would only issue orders either rejecting certain members on the organising committee, or communicating the position of the bishop, which were often rejected by the committee members and some Christians, who would in turn communicate counter positions.
Two days to the burial, the bottled-up anger finally degenerated into open confrontation where angry youths pelted Gulu Archbishop John Baptist Odama and Bishop Odoki with bricks and stones. The unfortunate incidence nearly forced the archbishop to stop bishops and clergy from other dioceses from attending the burial.
Sister Molly Ndezo, the former head teacher of Ediofe Girls Secondary School witnessed the fracas at Ediofe Cathedral.
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Sr Ndezo says such incidences only erode the peace and unity the late bishop fought for and has called on all parties to respect his wishes and aspirations.
The situation was not helped on the day of the burial when the family members openly said the late bishop nursed a lot of frustrations which led to his health deteriorating very fast and his subsequent death.
Alex Ledra, a nephew of the late bishop, said that by the time he died his pension had been suspended by the diocese without a clear explanation. Ledra says the diocese didn't help its emeritus bishop with medical care when he needed it most. Ledra says this caused a lot of stress to the late bishop, leading to his early death.
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The revelations by the family drew anger from some Christians who say the diocesan administration deliberately refused to take care of the late bishop when he needed their support.
A day after Bishop Drandua was buried, tempers are still high, with different camps unable to meet face to face. The cathedral is being guarded by the police, because of the uncertainty over the safety of the leadership and the facilities at the diocesan headquarters at Ediofe.
Bernard Atiku, the Ayivu County Member of Parliament says as leaders and Christians from the diocese, everyone must work for peace in the region and the country. Atiku says people must appreciate the leadership at the diocese and work to promote peace and harmony.
He also says infighting in the diocese will only help to fuel the chaos that had been settled already.
He urges the people of West Nile to desist from engaging in confrontation with Bishop Sabino Odoki but work to deepen faith in the region.
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Right Reverend Joel Obetia, the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Madi, says what the Christians are showing is not what Bishop Drandua fought for. He says the late bishop touched the lives of so many people in the region with peace and tranquility that the rest must emulate.
Bishop Obetia says it will be a huge mistake for the Christians to engage in acts of violence when the man they claim to fight for worked tirelessly to restore peace in the region after years of turbulence.
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Whether such passionate pleas from different sections will be heeded to by the angry Christians is yet to be felt.
Since the appointment and consecration of Bishop Sabino Odoki in 2010, there have been disagreements in Arua Diocese. A number of priests have been suspended or dismissed from their priestly duties.
In November 2012 he went to police and his predecessor, Bishop Drandua together with three priests for allegedly attempting to kill him. The allegations forced the then secretary of the Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Edward Karaan, to hold a meeting to ease the tensions.
In the emergency meeting held at Arua Christus Centre, Karaan who was acting Apostolic Nuncio at the time, stopped Bishop Odoki from making any comments. He asked the Christians and priests to continue praying for peace and unity in the diocese.
Bishop Emeritus Drandua, who was in the meeting and was given a chance to speak, preached forgiveness, saying when he was dragged to police for allegedly plotting to kill his successor, he was only praying to God that one day he would be set free.
In July 2013, hardly three years after Bishop Odoki was installed in Arua, there was drama at one of the parishes during mass when a section of Christians walked out on the bishop. The bishop had arrived to officiate at the ordination of Fr Fortunate Eria into priesthood and did not approve of the person who had been chosen to be the day's master of ceremonies.
Two months earlier in May a group of Christians had written a letter demanding the resignation of Bishop Odoki for alleged financial impropriety. The petition was copied to Archbishop John Baptist Odama, the chairperson Uganda Episcopal Conference. In a telephone interview at the time, Bishop Odoki denied the allegations against him and said those behind the letter were disgruntled.
In July 2015, Fr Nakarai Adiga, a priest in the diocese sued Bishop Odoki for what he termed as unlawful suspension from priestly duties and defamation.
Fr Adiga is one of the three priests who together with Bishop Drandua were on July 4, 2012 dragged to police for allegedly threatening to kill the bishop. He was suspended in August 2014.
While many have described Bishop Drandua as a man of peace, his death put to the fore the fact that all is not well in the diocese he led for 23 years.