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Bishop fights on against Museveni corruption

28 February 2014

Kicking and screaming: Jonathan Odur, an anti-corruption activist with the Black Monday movement in Uganda, is arrested by police on 11 February

Kicking and screaming: Jonathan Odur, an anti-corruption activist with the Black Monday movement in Uganda, is arrested by police on 11 February

A FORMER Assistant Bishop of Kampala, the Rt Revd Zac Niringiye, has said he is prepared to die in his fight against corruption in Uganda.

In 2012, Bishop Niringiye helped launch the Black Monday movement, which encourages Ugandans to wear black each Monday as a protest against the misappropriation of public funds by members of President Yoweri Museveni's government.

But in February last year, while handing out anti-corruption newsletters in Kampala, he was suddenly arrested by police wearing riot gear. He was told that he was being arrested for "inciting violence", and was imprisoned for nine hours, before being released on bail.

Bishop Niringiye said: "It was a direct attempt to intimidate me. But I'm prepared to do whatever. I do not know what the consequences of this [will be], but the call on my life is to seek justice.

"We must choose to do what is right, not what is safe," he said on Monday.

The Bishop sees the battle against corruption as one of life and death. "The Black Monday campaign is mourning the death of actual people, in hospitals," he said. "There are people dying without medicines or proper medical attention because money is being stolen. Children cannot finish primary school."

Transparency International, an anti-corruption NGO, ranked Uganda as 140th out of 177 nations in its index last year. In all, 86 per cent of Ugandans reported paying a bribe in a 2010 survey.

When it was discovered in 2012 that the office of the Ugandan prime minister had appropriated more than £7 million in international aid, many foreign governments, including the UK, suspended aid.

A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch stated: "Since President Museveni took office in 1986, despite recurrent corruption scandals, only one minister has ever been convicted of a corruption-related offence, a verdict that was overturned on appeal just after the President publicly offered to pay the defendant's legal costs."

 The Black Monday campaign also encourages citizens in Uganda to boycott corrupt individuals and businesses."They are our brothers and our fathers, but let's shun them," Bishop Niringiye said. "Don't show up at their social functions, because they are bringing shame to our community." He said that his stance was a direct consequence of his faith. "This directly connected with the call of God on my life: the strong message from the prophet Micah to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God."

Bishop Niringiye had been disappointed by the Church's response. "When I was arrested, the Church and the House of Bishops said nothing."

The next presidential elections are due in 2016, but Bishop Niringiye was not optimistic. "Elections have been consistently stolen. The current electoral commission has been put in place by him [Mr Museveni]. If we don't have free and fair elections, let's not talk about 2016 - that would be a waste."

The Black Monday campaign continues to be targeted by the authorities. On 11 February, Jonathan Odur, a human-rights researcher and Black Monday activist, was arrested in a court precinct. Police pepper-sprayed him in the eyes before roughly dragging him to the cells in what Bishop Niringiye described as another attempt at intimidation.

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