Gov't Restricts Gulu Foot Pilgrims From Accessing City Center

1381 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The committee wants the pilgrims to march through the city center on their final day of the 13 days walk of faith later today. However, government is opposed to the proposal; saying allowing the more than 330 pilgrims to march through the town center for several hours will paralyze traffic and discomfort city dwellers and workers.

There is a disagreement between government and the central Organizing Committee of the Namugongo Martyrs Day celebration over the proposal by pilgrims from Gulu Foot Pilgrims to pass through Kampala city center enroute to Namugongo shrines.  
The committee wants the pilgrims to march through the city center on their final day of the 13 days walk of faith later today. However, government is opposed to the proposal; saying allowing the more than 330 pilgrims to march through the town center for several hours will paralyze traffic and discomfort city dwellers and workers.      
Government also fears that opposition politicians may hijack the pilgrimage and stir chaos in the city center. However, the Central Organizing Committee says it is wrong for government to prevent deny the peaceful pilgrims access to the city center.   Members of the central organizing committee led by Monsignor Mathew Odong, the Vicar General of Gulu Archdiocese spent Tuesday evening negotiating with security to endorse their proposal for the pilgrims to walk through the city center.  
They told government that they are leading a group of youths who have never been to the city and denying them access to the city will be undemocratic and uncivilized.  

Father Cipriano Opio, one of the two priests accompanying the foot pilgrims, says they foresee no problem going through the city center based on their experience trekking from Gulu Archdiocese since May 15th, 2019.    

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Father Opiyo says it is wrong for government to attempt to prevent pilgrims from accessing the city center as tax payers whose contributions are being used to develop the city.   He says they rejected the detour to Namugongo Catholic Shrine proposed by government on account of it being narrow, adding that it will also prevent them from evangelizing the city as the host of this year's Martyrs day celebrations.    

Father Opiyo declined to reveal their final route through the city center citing security reasons.     Government has already stepped up security around the pilgrims right from their last stop over in Matugga in Wakiso district with a contingent of more than 15 armed local defense unit personnel and Uganda People's Defense Forces soldiers keeping a close watch over the pilgrims.    


For the two days in Matugga, the soldiers manned security inside and outside the Church compound to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.  
URN understands that frequent visits by opposition politicians and members of Parliament from Northern Uganda to the pilgrims is what has rubbed government the wrong way. The last opposition group to visit the pilgrims included Democratic Party strongman, Lyandro Komakech, the Gulu Municipality MP and a host of Gulu Municipal Council Division councilors elected on opposition tickets. 

The other is the participation of Dr. Olara Otunnu, the former Uganda People's Congress-UPC who joined the pilgrims on the fifth day of their trek of faith to Namugongo Martyrs Shrine.  

Florence Lamunu Komakech, the matron of the Pilgrims, says they are taking the pilgrimage strictly for spiritual devotion rather than politics. She says they are optimistic that government will provide enough traffic police to guide their final journey to the Holy land ahead of the Martyrs day celebration on June 3rd.    

The pilgrims are expected to leave St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Parish in Matugga in Wakiso district for their final leg of pilgrimage through the city center this morning.    

Although the month of May has seen a decline in opposition protests in Kampala city, government is leaving nothing to chance after successfully convincing teachers to return to class in the new school term despite persisting demands for salary enhancement.     

It should be noted that another group of pilgrims from greater Masaka are also approaching the city Center. It is still unclear whether they will also be diverted from the city center. 

 

About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.