Chancellor warns against university land grabbing

ntawo
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali interacts with Maj David Matovu, the Mukono Resident District Commissioner, at Ntawo on the occasion the bishops were attacked by squatters in August (File Photo)

BY RONALD AWANY

The Archbishop of the Church the Uganda and Chancellor of Uganda Christian University, the Most Rev Stanley  Ntagali, has urged the people of Arua against grabbing land from the church. 

“You are selfish and greedy. You are only looking at yourself and ignoring others and that is why you are spiritually lame and your morals are decayed,” the chancellor told students, staff, elders and community members during community worship.

Ntagali was on a two-day pastoral visit to the campus, November 21-22.

The chancellor was accompanied by the Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, and the Deputy Vice Chancellor External Relations, Mr David Mugawe. Also present were the outgoing Bishop of Madi West Nile Diocese, Dr Joel Obetia; the bishop- elect, Rev Canon Charles Andaku, and the Bishop of Nebbi Diocese, Rev Alphonse Watho-kudi.

The visit comes in the wake of church and university wrangles over land grabbing both in Ntawo, Mukono, and Arua.

During a meeting with the elders of the community meant to resolve some of the issues of land grabbing, the chancellor and the bishops urged the perpetrators of land grabbing to desist from the act because the land rightfully belongs to the Church.

“It is a curse to fight over land that rightfully belongs to the Church. This institution is here to benefit you and your children. It is here to bring development to the area. The best you can do as neighbours of the institution is to support and work hand in hand with us to grow Arua Campus,” Bishop Watho-kudi said.

The Ntawo story

In 1912, Hamu Mukasa, the ssekiboobo (the county chief of Kyaggwe in Buganda), offered land to the Church for building Bishop Tucker Theological College, now Uganda Christian University. At first there were plans to build the college in various locations of Namutumba, Mityana, Ssingo and Buwanbo because of the availability of food for the college population in those areas and their accessibility to missionaries.

Mukasa offered to provide food to the college with food from his county and that is why the college was finally built in Mukono. Later on, providing food to the college became a challenge and Mukasa stopped.

However, in his first marriage, Mukasa lost all his sons and remained with only daughters. When his first wife passed away, he married Sarah with whom he had three children, the third a male (James).

After the birth of his son, Mukasa decided to give thanks to God, but because he was incapacitated to feed the college, he decided to offer a square mile (649 acres) of land in Ntawo for the institution to grow its own food.

In recent years, the university has been grappling with a problem of over 800 squatters and land grabbers who have occupied over 200 acres of this land.

During the third part of the 17th graduation, Dr Senyonyi appealed to government to intervene in resolving the Ntawo land wrangles.

Chancellor, VC laud Arua Campus staff

During his two-day pastoral visit to Arua Campus on November 21-22, Ntagali praised the staff members for their contribution to the growth of the campus.

While speaking to the staff members, he encouraged them to work harder, especially in doing  research.

“Research helps us solve problems. We want to read of more research results from you, especially as academics who are growing a career,” he said.

“God calls you to serve. Therefore, know that you are serving the Lord in spite of the need to put bread on the table. Do your work diligently and with great joy,” Ntagali added.

Senyonyi also praised the staff saying, “It is important that UCU as the centre of excellence in the heart of Africa produces students that maintain academic agility and spiritual growth and you are doing a good job towards achieving that cause,” he said.

He urged both staff and students to work in unison with the main campus and other campuses.

On the need to promote theology in the university given the high number of retiring clergymen,  Senyonyi said, “It is important to have young, zealous people to enter theology in order to lead the contemporary captive folk, given that most of the people who have been in ministry are retiring.”

Chancellor Ntagali also reiterated the fact that the campus should be able to achieve constituent college status by 2018, and thus advised students, staff and other stakeholders to work towards this goal.

About the Arua Campus land

As it is with the Ntawo land in Mukono, the land that Arua Campus sits on in Ringili was a donation to the Church by the ancestors of Mvara.

Dr Joel Obetia gives a detailed account of how the land was acquired.

“In 1918, a couple from Africa Inland Mission (AIM) were heading to Adi in the Congo but were stopped when one of them fell sick. That year, there was raging famine in West Nile. As the sick recovered, the District Commissioner, M. Weatherhead, asked them to help distribute relief to the locals. In the course of this, God opened their eyes to see the ripe fields of West Nile. The Chief of Ayivu, one Awudole, offered a piece of land to establish the mission station at Mvara.

“In 1923 the first pastors, Albert Vollar and Florence were sent to the region to build churches and spread the gospel. But they could not find land to buy. 

“The Lugbara believe land  is not for sale. It belongs to the

people, for posterity.

There was no land to buy

until the Lugbara began to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour and that is when they gave land to build churches in their midst. For that reason, all the churches in West Nile sit at the centre of the clans and tribes’ settlements.

“They said since Jesus proved stronger than the ancestral spirits, they would rather have his shrine at the heart of the clan than the traditional shrines.

“So land was given to the Church, including the 99.1 acres at Ringili where UCU Arua Campus is situated. But now some of the grandchildren of these faithful ancestors who are not believers are selling their own land and claiming church land for their greed and lack of faith.

“Ringili land was leased in 1962 in the names of the Registered Trustees of AIM in trust for the upcoming church in West Nile. We now want to transfer the title in the names of the registered trustees of the Church of Uganda. The paper work for this is proceeding very well.”

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