Uganda is a landlocked African nation slightly smaller than the state of Oregon. It is home to many tribes and at least three major religions: Roman Catholic (33%), Protestant (33%) and Muslim (16%). Another 18% represent indigenous beliefs. In 1894 Uganda became a British Protectorate. The country gained its independence from Britain in 1962.
Today, this republic of 33 million has been governed by a number of heads the most notorious of which was the dreaded Idi Amin Dada, the very personification of evil.
On January 25, 1971, Amin, commander of the nation’s armed forces overthrew the government headed by Milton Obote and declared himself President. He arrogated to himself absolute power. In 1976, he extended that rule to life. From the day he seized power, a pall of darkness descended over Uganda.
Amin began by expelling most of the nation’s Indians and Pakistanis, who controlled much of the Uganda’s small business. Political and tribal opponents were subjected to torture and violence. Between 1971 and 1979, as many as 300,000 Ugandans may have been slaughtered.
The country’s economy fell into ruin and its infrastructure disintegrated. This did not stop Amin from invading neighboring Tanzania in 1978. He was aided by Libyan troops. The next year, Tanzania counter attacked capturing the capital, Kampala. The tyrant was driven into exile. The nation heaved a sigh of relief as Milton Obote was returned to power.
The sigh was short-lived. Obote too began a campaign of repression of his opponents. Furthermore, a rebellion in the north, led by The National Resistance Army (NRA) and Yoweri Museveni, broke out.
Obote again fled into exile in 1985. Lt. General Basilia Olara-Okello took the reins of power. His glory was also brief. In 1986 he too quickly exited stage left.
The power vacuum was then filled by Museveni, who, in 1986, organized a new government. Despite much turmoil, Musevini restored order and began rebuilding the country with help from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In 1994 a constituent assembly was elected and the next year it enacted a new constitution.
In October of 2012, Uganda celebrated its 50th anniversary of freedom from British rule. President Musevini presided over National Jubilee prayers. Instead of reeling off the usual pious-sounding blather reserved for such occasions, the President did something possibly unique in modern political history: He repented of his, and his nation’s, sins. He began, “Father God in Heaven, today we stand here as Ugandans and Africans. We thank you for all your goodness to us.
“I stand here today to close the evil past and especially in the last 50 years of our national leadership history and at the threshold of a new dispensation in the life of this nation. I stand here on my own behalf and on behalf of my predecessors to repent. We ask for your forgiveness.
“We confess these sins, which have greatly hampered our national cohesion and delayed our political, social and economic transformation.”
The President then brought the focus down on specific sins: “We confess sins of idolatry and witchcraft which are rampant in our land. We confess sins of shedding innocent blood, sins of political hypocrisy, dishonesty, intrigue and betrayal.”
The road Museveni has chosen for his nation and himself will be hard. Already the western news media are attacking him for his stand on gay rights. The leftist Los Angeles Times has led the charge by editorializing: “The criminalization of gay behavior cannot simply be explained away as part of a country’s cultural mores; rather it is an outrageous violation of fundamental human rights,” (November 27, 2012).
The Times calls Uganda and the thirty other African countries that outlaw homosexual activity “homophobic.” It is likely that the wrath of the West will focus on the issue of “gay rights” at the expense of all the other positive reforms Museveni is seeking to implement.
In closing his ground-breaking prayer, Museveni said this: “We want to dedicate this nation to you so that you will be our God and our guide. We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nation whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice to fulfill what the Bible says in Psalm 33:12: ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. A people you have chosen as your own.’
He continued, “I renounce all the evil foundations and covenants that were laid in idolatry and witchcraft. I renounce all the satanic influence on this nation. And I hereby covenant Uganda to you, to walk in your ways and experience all your blessings forever.
“I pray for all these I the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
The prayers were jointly developed by Uganda Jubilee Network, an association of Anglican, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
Christians everywhere might pray for the success of this well-meaning grouping of God-fearing leaders, no matter how much they may disagree with the particulars of any given denominational theology. Uganda is experiencing a positive revolution that can only result in good if it is allowed to flourish. We can expect the enemy to do all that he can to sabotage this noble effort. As the light spreads, darkness will be there to engulf it like a black hole. Any leader or nation that embraces godly principles can expect to be viciously attacked.
Yoweri Museveni is a hero of the faith. As he seeks to “fundamentally transform” his nation from darkness to light, other national leaders are doing the opposite. Syria’s leader, for example, is slaughtering his own people by the tens of thousands in a desperate bid to cling to power. The so-called “Arab Spring” in the Middle East is replacing one kind of darkness with another – Egypt being a case in point.
It will be important for Museveni to maintain balance. In the past, well-meaning Christian zealots have created oppressive ecclesiastical tyrannies that have resulted in burnings at the stake, torture, inquisitions, forced conversions etc. If Christians don’t live the godly life on the basis of unforced choice their faith is bogus. The eyes of a hostile world will be upon Uganda’s grand Christian experiment. Will it succeed or fail? If the people of the nation get behind their leaders, it stands a chance. If there follows a genuine national repentance, revival could occur.
Ideally, church and state should be separate entities. Attempts at theocracy seldom work. Of course in Uganda, a theocracy may not be intended. Time will tell how Moseveni’s positive reforms will work out. The nation bears watching. Meanwhile, many other corrupt national leaders could take some notes from Uganda’s remarkable example. The shift from darkness to light could work – if the people of the nation get behind it and the major evils are driven out.