Members of civil society organisations, religious groups, academia and the media have advanced views on opportunities and challenges related to the interaction between religion and democracy in Uganda. This was at the annual International Day of Democracy event organised by the EU Delegation to Uganda and the Embassy of Sweden on 20th September 2022 in Kampala which focussed on the role of religious organisations in shaping Uganda’s democracy.
While opening the event, H.E. Maria Håkansson, the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda noted that the event was an opportunity to create a more nuanced appreciation and understanding of the intersection between religious organizations and democracy in Uganda.
In his keynote address, Head of Makerere University’s Department of Philosophy Dr. Jimmy Spire Ssentongo gave a historical perspective on the topic. He traced the intersection between religion, democracy and politics before, during and after the colonial period in Uganda. “Religion has been critical in Uganda’s journey of building democracy – both as a progressive and problematic factor. The most significant contribution in my view is the indirect one, through fostering education to address illiteracy, ignorance, and boost civic agency,” he said.
Concluding the discussion, Commissioner Benard Mujuni from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development noted that the Government of Uganda supports religious institutions and works with them on a range of issues. He said that the civic space in the country was shrinking; a matter that needs the intervention of religious leaders. “There are more churches than schools and hospitals, which is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed at community level,” he said.
The event was closed by H.E Jan Sadek, EU Ambassador to Uganda. He commended all participants for an informative and insightful discussion and stressed the need for all states and the international community to prioritise combatting all forms of religious intolerance, discrimination and violence. The conversation continues online with the hashtags #DriveforDemocracy and #DemocracyDay2022.