KNOW ABOUT THE DIOCESE OF KASESE
The diocese of Kasese in the West of Uganda was created from the diocese of Fort Portal on the 17th June 1989, with Bishop Egidio Nkaiajanabwo as its first Bishop. Its now having a new Bishop Francis Aquirinus who was ordanied in 2014.
THE TERRITORY AND ITS PEOPLE
The diocese is situated in the western Region of Uganda. It is crossed by the Equator. Kasese Catholic Diocese borders the republic of Congo in the West, Kabale diocese in the South, Fort Portal diocese in the East. The diocese of Kasese is one of the 19 dioceses in the country and was created in June 1989 from the mother diocese of Fort Portal. Diocese of Kasese covers an area of 3,205sq. Km, with a total population of about 570,800 people, of which Catholics are about 250,900 people.
At the moment the diocese of Kasese comprises eight parishes: Hima, Kasese, Kyalhumba, Nsenyi, Kasanga, Katwe and Bukangara. Hima and Kasese Parishes are in growing industrial centers, with a rural section in the mountain, Katwe is connected with fishing and traditional salt production, the other five parishes are traditional rural parishes among the Bakonzo, in the mountain. However the overview of Kasese as whole shows many trading centers growing and in some few years they will attach together. Therefore, there is no parish which is purely in rural area. At very head quarters of each parish, there is a growing town.
THE RWENZORI MOUNTAIN
Most of the surface area is taken up by the Rwenzori Mountain which stretches for a good 95Km with its snow capped peaks all year round. According to geographers, the researches indicate that the amount of snow is decreasing.
People are mainly involved in substance cultivation of Cotton, coffee, maize, beans, Passion fruits, millet cassava and some Bananas. Beans, cotton, coffee and passion fruits are cultivated as cash crops. Peasants keep goats, cows, pigs on a small scale basis. It is only recent that intensive farming of maize got introduced. This has been made possible due to the government granting loans through the rural farmers scheme which is still on an experimental level. Unfortunately, most rural peasants have no registered land titles to act as security for the loans, thus few people are benefiting from the scheme. It is lamentable that these unfortunate peasants are the very people with big numbers of dependent children.
Mountaineering in the Rwenzori attracts climbers and lovers of nature from all over the world, and is a good source of income for the upper valley of the Mubuku River, around Ibanda. A new ecological awareness is developing in the area as the Rwenzori Mountain is now a National Park, and an Ecological Institute is training park wardens at Mweya Lodge. But a lot is to be done for reforestation, soil conservation and water control.
The Rwenzori range with its permanent snows and glaciers is the source of several rivers which flow down its slopes: Rwimi, Hima, Mubuku, Sebwe, Nyamwamba, Muhokya, Nyamughasani, Bukangara, Kyanzi, Mpondwe and Lhubiriha their tributaries. The Mubuku has been tapped to produce electricity for Kilembe and in case of power failure from Jinja, it supplies the local towns and even as far as Fort Portal. A more local plant produces electricity for Kagando Hospital and its surroundings, including Nsenyi parish. Several projects of water supply have been realized and others are on the way: Kilembe and Kasese town water supplies, Kisinga-Kagando, Bwera, Kitswamba-Rugendabara. The Mubuku irrigation scheme uses the water from the Sebwe River.
The great problem caused by these rivers is that they have few standard bridges and are often a handicap for communication, especially for motor vehicles. In case of heavy rains, the rise of the waters can have devastating effects lower down. People are very active to make new roads in the mountains, and in recent years the government efforts to rehabilitate the roads system are bearing fruit.
Flat areas in the East and South of the diocese are part of the western rift valley. Lake George and Lake Edward occupy deep faults in this area.
Small fishing villages are found around these lakes and attract various groups of people to come and live together. In the recent years there seems to have been over-fishing in those lakes and the fishing industry is in crisis, especially at Katwe (Lake Edward) and Kasenyi (Lake George) where a former fish conditioning factory (TUFMAC) was abandoned.
Most of the flat land is taken up by the queen Elizabeth National Park which is lawfully designated as a natural home for wild animals. Tourism is organized around Mweya Lodge, and spreads in the southern part of the park connected with the Albert Park in Congo. The northern part is connected by a game corridor to the Kibale forest Reserve in Fort Portal Diocese.
Cotton and maize are being cultivated extensively along the main road Fort Portal-Mbarara and long the Equator road going to Congo.
There are a few group farms working on a cooperative basis. Three large state institutions (Mubuku prison farm, Ibuga prison farm, UPDF Hima farm) occupy several thousand acres of land in the East of the Diocese, between the Kasese- Fort Portal road and the Rwimi River.
A few groups of cattle people, the Bahima, called here the Basongora, graze their herds in the plains East of Rwenzori and near Lake Katwe.
Hima and Kasese parishes are in growing industrial centres. Kasese parish is at the western terminal of Uganda Railway, at the foot of Kilembe Mines (Copper); it is indeed the expanding town of the district with a lot of business transactions and employment opportunities. But the problems of urbanization are already present with shortage of accommodation and delinquency.
Since it stopped production, Kilembe mines is a kind of dormitory town for Kasese, where accommodation is insufficient for the civil servants and business people who have become numerous since the development of the District Administration.
Hima is a developing town. It is a new sector of urbanization. Its development and prosperity depend essentially on the industrial production: Hima cement factory (started in 1970.migration towards Hima is so high; slums therefore are increasing without any control. For almost everybody, the family roots are far away, there is difficulty to create a community spirit or to develop any concern for common interests. Salaries are not sufficient, mainly when parents want their children to receive education. Many use their spare time working for some additional source of income.
Katwe has a long traditional of salt exploitation in an adjacent crater lake. A factory was built to use industrial technology, but problems of corrosion made it inoperative.
The area figures among other regions in Uganda having a high population growth rate and hence a bulging group of youth.
The mountains are inhabited almost exclusively by Bakonzo, who prefer to be called Bayira, and who are of the same origin with the Banande of congo: an almost identical language is used on both sides of the border. They are of a short stature but very strongly built. Their women do a lot of carrying heavy loads on their back with a strap around the fore head. The population explosion has led a number of Bakonzo to emigrate to Fort Portal area, to Bunyoro and Mityanaand Bunyariguru. Bakonzo number about two thirds of the total population of the diocese.
The flat areas are populated by a great diversity of tribes: Batoro, Banyakole, Bakiga, Baganda, Banyabindi, Basongora and Bakonzo). Due to the employment opportunities in the administration and in industry, one finds in Kasese, Hima, Kilembe, Mubuku many people from other areas of Uganda. The most common languages in these areas are Rutoro, Runyankole/Rukiga, Kiswahili. In the border towns of Katwe and Bwera, many people from Congo use Kiswahili which is widely spoken besides Lhukonzo and Rutoro.
Due to the Rwenzururu movement(of which later), there were a quite a number of transfers of population: Batoro being chased back to Bunyangabu and Burahya(fortPortal), Bakonzo being chased from those areas and settling down in the valleys and the plains at the foot of the Rwenzori, Bakonzo moving higher up in the mountains, or away to the south of the range, or from there to the north of the Diocese. At the same time the settlement of Bakiga in the Karusandara area intensified since the fifties. There was also the influx of Banyrwanda and Sudanese refugees in Ibuga camp.
Most of the trading centres had a group of Asians, coming from India and Pakistan. Since their expulsion by Amin in 1972, they were replaced by Arabs, from Saudi Arabia and Yemen especially in Kasese. Now Indians are coming back to Kasese town.
Before Uganda’s Independence 1962
Kasese district, known as Busongora, was part of the Kingdom of Toro until the abolition of the Kingdoms by Milton Obote in 1967. The authority of the Mukama (king) of Toro over Busongora was not very effective until the British signed the Toro agreement in 1900, Busongora being included within the boundaries of the Toro kingdom. Bakonzo complained that the Kings of Toro did not seem to remember that in the course of their secession from the Kingdom of Bunyoro/Kitara, in the nineteenth century, they had been helped by the Bakonzo, who also had an old tradition of independence fighting. Tradition has it that a certain Kokonyonge struggled against the king of Bunyoro/Kitara for the ownership of the salt lake of Katwe in 1826.
In 1894 and 1910 the Anglo-Belgian agreements defined the international boundary between Uganda and the Congo, but without reference to the tribes, and consequently clans and families were divided between the two territories.
In 1919 there was an uprising of Bakonzo against the Toro kingdom authority, led by Tibamwenda, Nyamustwa and Kapoli, who on the failure of their movement escaped into the Congo. They were eventually arrested towards the end of 1920 and were executed by public hanging near Kagando (Nsenyi parish), in 1921, after their appeal had been dismissed by the East African Court of Appeal. The fate of these leaders has remained vivid in the collective memory of the Bakonzo, as witnessed by traditional songs. It is little known though, that before their execution, the three were baptized Catholics, on the 15th of September 1919, by the first Mutoro priest (Fr. Leo Bwogo, ordained in 1918): Petero Nyamucwa, Gorgoni Tibamwenda, Yohana Maria Kapoli.
For many years the area was colonized by the Batoro who controlled the only productive industry, the salt of Katwe and Kasenyi crater lakes, and the cattle of the Basongora herdsmen. They imposed their language which was taught in schools at the expense of the local language, Lhukonzo, which is also a Bantu language but very difficult: most of the people coming from elsewhere fail to learn it.
Bakonzo also complained of unfair treatment by their Toro masters, about building of schools, grating of bursaries and scholarships, taxation assessment, distribution of senior posts in the administration of the Kingdom.
This Situation led to some tension between the Bakonzo and other people, to which is to be added a tradition of isolation in their mountains. Thus a deep tribal feel is often manifested by Bakonzo.
When elections took place in 1962 for the local parliament of the kingdom (the Rukurato), a substantial minority group of Bakonzo and Baamba (a tribe living in the valley of the Semliki, in the west of the mountain), sat for the time in a bargaining position. They submitted memoranda to the Mukama and the central Government, opposed early decisions of the assembly, demanded the inclusion of the names of their tribes in the constitution of the Kingdom. As their demands were not accepted, several leaders of the Baamba/Bakonzo tribes walked out of the Rukurato on the march 13th 1962. These leaders, Isaaya Mukirane,Yeremia Kawamara, and peter Mupalya were then arrested and charged with crime under customary law of insulting the Mukama. They were subsequently released on bail on July 19th 1962.
This triggered the disturbances of August 1962 which mark the beginning of the Rwenzururu movement, and the establishment of the Rwenzururu kingdom (Kingdom of the snows) which disturbed the life of the area for Twenty years. In particular, a double taxation system was imposed by force on the people. Isaya Mukirane became the King (Ilemangoma) replaced after his death by his son, Charles Wesley Kisembo Mumbere
In 1976 the Amin Government created the district of Kasese separated from the Toro District. But this was deemed insufficient by the Rwenzururu.
In 1980, after the fall of Idi Amin Dada, Mr. Binaisa, the acting president of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) granted the Kasese District the right to appoint their own DC (District Commissioner) and chiefs. These posts were taken by Rwenzururu members.
In October 1980, Mr. Amon Bazira, a Uganda people’s congress candidate for parliament of Kasese area struck a deal with the Rwenzururu to support the UPC. Before the registration of candidate, the Batoro, Bakiga and Banyankole were told to leave the district. As a result many were not registered and others were afraid to go back to vote. The Rwenzururu resorted to terrorist tactics to force people to vote for UPC. For instance a good Catholic, Mr. Vito Muhindo, a possible candidate, was assassinated. Nevertheless Kasese was the only district who returned a UPM (Uganda People’s Movement) member of parliament. But he was never allowed to sit and bye-elections brought a UPC member.
Finally, as Milton Obote was returned to power through rigged elections, Amon Bazira negotiated the rallying of the Rwenzururu to the Obote Regime, the celebration of which took place at Kasese on the 15th of August 1982. Charles Kisembo and his top officers were given financial gratification and honours as elders of the tribe and Rwenzururu soldiers were integrated into the Uganda National Liberation army. But a hard core Rwenzururu people refused to rally, and remained in the mountains. Anew chief took over as Kiyamusithu (The forest man).
THE MUSEVENI REGIME
It is from Kasese that, after the opening of the second front and the defeat of the UNLA at the battle of Rubona (15kms south of Fort Portal) on the 10th of June 1985, Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRM), launched its campaign to conquer the whole of Uganda. There were difficult times as the area was cut off from the rest of the country. Only the Red cross plane could come from time to time to bring relief from Entebbe.
In 1986, after the collapse of the Obote Regime under Yoweri Museveni, the hard core Rwenzururu joined the National Resistance Army( Of Museveni). But after a while, former Rwenzururu soldiers in the UNLA and those in the NRA, started deserting with their weapons and tried to re-start the movement. Some were arrested, others killed( Eg. Tom Baluku, a captain in the Rwenzurur and the in the NRA)
The area, as the rest of Uganda, has been organized in a pyramid of Resistance Councils which are elected at various levels and keep the country at peace.
Amon Bazira who had been arrested by Museveni and released on bail run away to Congo(Zaire) and is now trying to organize a resistance movement to the Museveni Government, under the name National Army of Liberation of Uganda (NALU), using the old Rwenzururu feeling but in favour of the UPC political party. They have recourse to terrorist tactics to destabilize the Government (For instance killing to LC officers), but apparently with little support from the people. Kinyamusitu was assisnated in Congo (Zaire). One of the top officers of NALU was arrested recently.
THE BEGINNIGNS (1895-1934)
The catholic faith was brought to what is now Diocese of Kasese from two sources: from Virika (Fort portal) founded in 1895 by Fr. Achte, and from Bunyaruguru (rugazi Parish) The home of Bisho Egidio Nkaijanabwo)in Mbarara Diocese, founded in 1909 by Fr. Borrel, after six years of evangelization by a lay catechists, John Kitegana. Both missions were started by the missionaries of Africa (White fathers).
Already in 1897, Fr. Varangot came from Virika and assisted a dying Belgian at Katwe, on Lake Edward’s shore, near the salt works. In January 1899 he had a group of Christians at Katwe. In May 1906 FR. Roche also from Virika found this Christian community in a poor spiritual condition. The mission to the Bakonzo was done more in Bwamba (west of the Mountains) and in the areas of Rwenzori near to Fort Portal. In May 1908 some catechumens were brought to Virika for instruction.
From Bunyaruguru, in 1913, the first catechist post was set up in Rwenguhyo, in the chiefdom of Nsenyi, in Kisinga Sub-county. In 1911-1912, sleeping sickness developed around Katwe, and in 1917-1918 it was small pox. Because of this quarantine was imposed and the road through Kazinga channel at Katunguru was sometimes cut. The missionaries from Bunyaruguru gave up safaris far away in Busongora where there were few Christians. In 1919 at the time of the uprising of Nyamucwa, although there were few casualities, a catechist (Alex) was killed, but when peace came back, catechist continued their work. In 1922 catechumens were in the hundred among the Bakonzo. Fourteen catechists posts were established, along with Rweh=guhyo, in particular, Kyalhumba, Kasese, Muhokya, Kanyatsi, Kalingwe, Imbimbo, Karujumba, Katsungiro. At the same time from Virika we read of 10 villages of Bakonzo.
In 1923, Bunyaruguru was temporarily closed and the station was served from the more recent one of Kitabi. Missionaries did not go to Busongora for more than a year and half. At that time Busongora counted 514 baptized Catholics of the kingdom of Toro. The area had 18,410inhabintants, with 257 protestants, 81 Muslims and 17558 pagans.
But when the mission was re-opened on the 14th of July 1924, the Bakonzo catechumens were the majority at Bunyaruguru. The main centre was transferred to Nsenyi in 1925. The need for a foundation in the area was strongly felt: the journey to the Bakonzo took two full days of walking through “a desert without water, without food, without inhabitants except wild beasts”. The site was already chosen in 1929. Among the Christian communities of the beginnings we can note Muhokya started in 1922, Kijura (1927), Nkaiga (1934), Katunguru(1939).
The protestants of the Anglican Church missionary society also worked hard and established themselves among the Bakonzo before the catholic Church.
THE APOSTOLIC VICARIATE OF RWENZORI (1934-1953)
In 1934, the Apostolic Vicariate of Nyanza, which had been headed since 1897 by Bishop Streicher (Missionary of Africa), was divided and came to be called the Apostolic vicariate of Uganda. The New Apostolic Vicariate of Rwenzori was established, with its see at Mbarara (founded in 1903) and Bishop Xavier Lacoursiere (Missionary of Africa) as its first Bishop. It included the whole of the western region, which has now the five dioceses of Mbarara, Kabale, Fort Portal, Hoima and Kasese. This led to a new impetus to the mission in the area, with the foundation of several mission stations. In 1936, Nsenyi was separated from Bunyaruguru, although without a resident priest yet.
It is on August the 14th, 1938, that Fr. Yohana Balyebuga ( a Munyoro fro Bugangaizi, now Hoima Diocese) was appointed as first superior of the newly opened mission of Nsenyi. He is known as Kiketha. In 1939 he was joined by Fr. Bartolomoa Wamara (A Muganda). The mission extended as far as Muhokya, south of Kasese. The first annual report of the new mission mentions 46 catechists, 2157 baptised catholics, and 1873 catechumens. The Northern part of the area was served from Virika, Fort Portal.
To be noted is the first residential catechumenate of Nsenyi was Augustino Muhindo who was baptized in 1939 and became the first Mukonzo priest, ordained in 1958.
The Banyatereza sisters whose Mother House is in Fort Portal came to Nsenyi in the first years if existence of the congregation, in 1942: Srs. Regina, Ferezia, Victoria, and Cecelia. They started recruiting among the Bakonzo girls, and now the Bakonzo sisters number more than 16.
THE DIOCESE OF MBARARA (1953-1961)
In 1953, the hierarchy was officially established in Uganda and the Apostolic Vicariates became Dioceses, the missions became parishes. Bishop Lacoursisre, the then resident Bishop, was succeede in 1957 by Bishop Louis Ogez (Missionary of Africa).
The bakonzo had received the faith with enthusiasm and Nsenyi parish became very numerous. In 1956, Fr. Balyebuga opened a new parish at Kasanga near the Congo boarder(Zaire). Both parishes had a staff of two or three priests, all diocesan clergy from all parts of the Mbarara Diocese.
In the early fifties, Kilembe Mines Ltd started copper mining in the valley of the Nyamwamba above Kasese which was a very small village. Records speak of a small thatched roof church which burned there in 1948. Services were given to Kilembe first from Kitabi Seminary in Ankole, but because of the absence of a bridge over the Kazinga Channel, the task was entrusted to the staff of Virika Parish, Fort Portal, 75kms north of Kasese. A church was built at Kilembe in 1952. The baptismal registers started in 1956.
At the foundation of Yerya parish, in 1958, the new parish, which is in Bunyangabu, now Fort Portal Diocese, 45kms north of Kasese, took care of the area as far as Kasese. They ensured Church services every other week at Kilembe. A priest was detached from Yerya to prepare for a new foundation in 1964 (Fr. Evers, Missionary of Africa). As the bulk of the work was in Kilembe (Which had over 5,000 workers, and many families), it was called Kilembe parish. But Kilembe was private land of the mines, and the Church could not develop from Kilembe.
In the meantime, Kasese had grown on account of the railway built to carry copper ore to the Jinja smelting plant, and of its connection with Congo (Zaire). Bakiga and Bafumbira (from the south of Uganda, now Kabale Diocese), being hard workers, Kilembe mines used to recruit the from Kigezi and organize their transportation to and fro their home area. Kigezi being overpopulated, some mine workers started settling in the low lands north of the railway. Many Batoro had also come south from the overpopulated area of fort Portal. All of them constitute the majority of the population in the plain East of the Rwenzori. The number of catechists posts increased along the Fort Portal- Kasese road.
THE DIOCESE OF FORT PORTAL 1961-1989
IN 1961, Fort Portal Diocese was detached from Mbarara and included Bunyoro which became a separate diocese in 1965 (Hoima Diocese). Bishop Vincent McCauley (CSC) was its first Bishop, succeeded in 1972 by Bishop Sarapio Magambo, who had been ordained a bishop by Pope Paul VI in 1969 and had been the auxiliary Bishop of Fort Portal.
In the reshuffling of the personnel between the two Dioceses, all the Holy Cross fathers who had started joining the missionaries of Africa in the area since 1958 were redeployed in Fort Portal. A team of Holy Cross fathers opened the new parish of Kasese in 1966 (Frank Zagorck, James Rahilly, and then John Rourke who stayed many years). The parish included Muhokya separated from Nsenyi. Other Holy Cross priests were appointed to NSenyi and Kasanga Parishes.
The Banabikira sisters, of Bwanda Masaka, started a foundation in Kasanga in 1965. But they were later recalled (in 1979) and they left the convent to the community of medical Mission Sisters who had handed over the hospital of virika to the Banyatereza. They started a despinsary but soon engaged in preventive medicine, community based Health Care and training of traditional birth attendants. Their work was of no small significance for the development of the Government policy of privileging CBHC in the district.
At the creation of the Kasese District in 1976, the boundaries of Kasese parish were pushed northwards as far as the Rwimi river which became the northern boundary of the Diocese .
Because of the insecurity connected with the Amin regime and the Rwenzurur movement, during the seventies, not much development was possible in the church. The Holy Cross fathers left the area. The three parishes were noticeably understaffed, having for several years only one resident priest or even none at all. During that period one must commend the admirable work done by the catechists, the local councils and the Legion of Mary. The Centenary of the catholic Church in Uganda (1879-1979) was celebrated with splendor.
In 1980, after the Tanzanian war, a team if missionaries of Africa (White fathers) was appointed to Kasese and Kilembe. But Kilembe mines stopped production at the same time, and kept only a skeleton staff. The bulk of the work was now at Kasese, and up country.
In 1981 a community of Missionary sisters of Our Lady of Africa (white sisters) was sent to kilembe to rehabilitate the hospital and do pastoral and catechetical work. They withdrew in 1987 after having done their task.
After the peace agreement between the Rwenzururu and the Obote Government, Kasese town started booming with dozens of buildings being set up, and its population increased tremendously. A new priests house was bough near the compound of the church. A new octagonal church was built from 15th of August 1983 (blessing of the ground) to 15th of August 1988 (Dedication of the church) and has now become the cathedral.
In 1986, the parish of Kyalhumba was started as a division of Nsenyi parish and staffed by local clergy.
In 1989, a new group of missionaries of Africa having handed over their last parish, Yerya, in Fort Portal, opened the new parish of Hima, as a division of Kasese parish.
After the fall of Amin who had banned all sects, there was a surging of various religious groups (seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Church of Christ, Mungu Mwema,…) along catholics and church of Uganda (Anglican). The Adventists especially worked among the bakonzo in the northern part of the diocese. Ecumenism is not the normal attitude of those religious denominations. Better relations exist with the church of Uganda who got their own South Rwenzori Diocese in 1982.
Muslims are present mostly in the towns and important trading centres. They are Sunni Muslims as are most of the members of the Arab community in Kasese. The mosque left at Kasese by the Ismaili (Aga Khan) Asian community after their expulsion is used as a school. A friendly relationship exists between Christians and Muslims.
THE DIOCESE OF KASESE 1989
It is on the 1st April 1989, that the catholic Diocese of Kasese was established, with Bishop Egidio Nkaijanabwo as its first Bishop. The formal ceremony of establishing the Diocese and the ordination of the Bishop took place at Kasese on the 17th June 1989.
There was a redeployment of the local clergy and the parish of Katwe was opened in the same year.
In 1990, the missionary sisters of Our Lady of Africa opened a foundation in an outstation of Hima parish, Ibanda, where they engage in medical work and teaching.
In 1992, the Banyatereza opened a convent in Kasese.
In the same year, the Diocese of Butembo, Congo(Zaire), gave three of their priests to Kasese.
The first years of the life of the Diocese are occupied by building up the infrastructures needed. A big programme of material building erected the priests houses of Kasese, Hima, Katwe, Kyalhumba, the completion of Kasanga, the building of the Bishop’s house, of a catechetical centre at Nsenyi , a technical school at Kasanga, the new church at Katwe, a senior secondary school for girls at Nsenyi, a youth hostel at Kyalhumba, the minor seminary of Kiburara, the convent of the MSOLA at Ibanda, without counting the building of village churches in all parishes.
At the same time the Diocesan services are being established: Social and Economic Development department, Lay Apostolate department, Religious Education department, Medical services. On the 1st January 1993, on contract with the government and Kilembe Mines the Diocese takes over the management of Kilembe hospital, with a new convent of Banyatereza sisters. There are very active pontifical Missionary Aid Societies, especially the Holy Childhood.