Uganda: Police Start Hunt for Wired Pastors

Police are investigating the conduct of churches for born-again Christians in the wake of rising cases of pastors’ impropriety. Police publicist Asan Kasingye said all allegations – from sodomy to fraud – would be investigated.

The detectives will be interested in the idea of “sowing”, the term used to describe the generous tithes that pastors manipulate churchgoers into giving in the honest expectation of miracles.

“We are out to find out really if these [pastors] are using tricks to obtain people’s property [and money],” Mr Kasingye said. It also emerged yesterday that there are “ongoing consultations” expected to lead to a policy that regulates the activities of the Pentecostals or balokole, as born-again Christians are popularly called.

“I met [pastors] at the beginning of the year and we discussed the matter,” said Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, himself a born-again Christian.

The head of the National Council of Born-Again Churches Alex Mitala said yesterday he would issue a response to the charges tomorrow.

Pastor Martin Sempa of Makerere Community Church said there were “quacks” among the balokole, including those who are “willing to go to Satan to receive power”.

Allegations against some of the church ministers now include sodomy and dubious miracle healing.

The latest incident has been the interrogation by police of Yeboah Nana Kojo, the Ghanaian-born Kampala pastor who allegedly procured an “electric touch” machine that is believed to deliver Holy Spirit-like shock.

“I believe people can pray and God heals, but we have manipulated people,” said Pastor Solomon Male of the Arising for Christ Ministries. “There is a cover-up.”

The temporary arrest of Mr Kojo on July 5, and the possibility that many more pastors use the machine on unsuspecting worshipers desperate for a better in life in the context of poverty and disease, has stoked cynicism over the genuineness of exorcisms and miracle healings that have come to be identified with the Pentecostals.

The manual of Mr Kojo’s gadget, which was confiscated by police, says the user needs to be “creative” with the machine, while an Internet ad declares: “Without a doubt, you will shock people.”

On, the website for the gadget’s makers, it is said that their products “are incredibly innovative, clever and a must for those who want to create miracles anywhere at anytime”. It adds: “Everything you touch will turn to excitement.”

The gadget, which can be worn like a corset on the body or under the sole of a shoe, can generate up to 12 volts, enough current to “pleasantly” shock dozens at a time.

According to the users’ manual, “once your body is charged, you are able to transfer this electricity to other objects that are grounded or people”.

But according to Vincent Karuhanga, a general medical practitioner with Kampala Polyclinic, “12 volts is not really much. But if you apply the 12 volts on one person for a long time, it can damage the nerves.”

Mr Kojo, who was arrested and interrogated at Entebbe Airport on July 5 after he attempted to clear the gadget into the country, has claimed it was a birthday gift for his teenage children.

“This is an old machine; it’s a toy. Children in developed countries play with it as a toy under the supervision of adults,” said Mr Augustus Sewankambo, Mr Kojo’s lawyer. “Obiri’s twins who stay in the UK had come to Uganda to celebrate their birthday with him and use the machine on the ceremony.”

Yesterday, Mr Kojo denied any wrongdoing claiming he was being “victimised” by police and some fellow pastors although he did not say why he was being picked on.

According to Mr Male, who is noted for his tenacity in exposing vices amongst the balokole, “one does not need to fall down” to be delivered.

“When a person is hit and he falls today, the following Sunday he will fall to the ground before he is hit,” he said. “People do not know that that is a machine because they have been made to believe that Holy Spirit power is shocking power.”

Kampala lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi said Mr Kojo could face charges that fall under the general offence of false pretences with the possibility of serving up to five years in jail if found guilty.

“There are three possible offences: disturbing religious assemblies, stupefying in order to commit a misdemeanour, and even assault,” Mr Rwakafuuzi said.

Additional reporting by Ephraim Kasozi

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday July 13, 2007.
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