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Ugandan Government Given Ultimatum to Address Petition against Closure of Churches

Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Constitutional Court of Uganda has given President Yoweri Museveni-led government ten days to reply to a petition challenging the closure of places of worship as part of the COVID-19 restrictions

Faith leaders and some members of parliament in the East African country sued the government over the suspension of in-person worship in August. 

“You are hereby required to file an Answer within Ten (10) days after the Petition has been served on you,” the Registrar of the Constitutional Court says in the petition addressed to Uganda’s Attorney General. 

The Registrar adds that if the Attorney General fails to respond to the Constitutional petition served upon them on September 6, “the Petitioner may proceed with the Petition which may be determined in your absence.”

On August 5, the Alliance Defending Freedom, ADF International, a faith-based legal advocacy organization, expressed support for the lawsuit against the country over the suspension of in-person worship.

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“The government must find ways to protect public health, while also upholding the right to live out one’s faith in community with others,” the Legal Counsel, Global Religious Freedom for ADF International, Sean Nelson, said. 

According to Mr. Nelson, the suspension of public worship, which was reimposed by President Museveni on July 30, is discriminatory because places of commerce in the country are open to the public. 

“People of faith are no more contagious than their peers – there is no clear reason why a large, spacious church should be forced shut, but malls and arcades are open,” the ADF official said, adding that “there is no clear reason why faith groups have had to clear higher operational hurdles throughout this year than places of commerce.”

Uganda’s Head of State announced a partial lifting of the lockdown after the 42 days, following recommendations from the members of the National Covid Taskforce and the Scientific Advisory Committee, Daily Monitor, a Ugandan publication, reported.

President Museveni also gave the authorization for commercial motorcycle riders to operate while carrying one passenger.

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He further announced that learning institutions with exception of medical schools, and places of worship, would remain closed for in-person gatherings for a period of 60 days.

In a September 8 report, the spokesperson for Muslims in Nakawa division, in Uganda’s capital, Kampala says people must be allowed to gather for in-person worship in the country.

“People of faith must not be discriminated against. If going to the mall and eating at restaurants is allowed, people shouldn’t be barred from visiting places of worship,” Tomusange Ismael has been quoted as saying.

He adds, “For many, communal worship is an integral part of their faith. It is unacceptable that they should be deprived of this right.”

On her part, Agnes Namaganda welcomes the lawsuit against the government saying the prohibition of public worship is enabled by “draconian restrictions”

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“We welcome this new challenge before the Constitutional Court, which applies yet more pressure on the government to uphold our fundamental rights,” Ms. Namaganda says and adds, “My church, supported by ADF International, is seeking an end to these draconian restrictions before the High Court to restore freedom of worship in Uganda.”