Three Christians including a cleric under Kumi Diocese have petitioned Soroti high court seeking a permanent injunction against the planned consecration of Rev. Michael Okwii Esakan, as their new bishop on Sunday.
The applicants are Nekemiah Akongel, Rev. James Opedun and Joseph Etoori. Through their lawyers of Mwebesa & Co. Advocates, the group has sued The Most Rev. Samuel Stephen Kazimba Mugalu, the Archbishop of the Province of the Church of Uganda for the alleged irregularities in the election of Rev. Okwii.
The claim that the Archbishop, who is the head of the House of Bishops that elects bishops disregarded the procedural requirements under the provincial constitution and the canon laws when the synod was constituted irregularly and illegally.
According to the application seen by our reporter, the last diocesan synod of Kumi was appointed on January 16, 2018, for a term of four years, which should have expired last month. The applicants question the existence and the role of the new synod if appointed. They also note that there was no notice for the meeting for the nomination of candidates for the position of Bishop.
“The plaintiffs shall aver and contend that there was no notice of the meetings of nominations committee for consideration of candidates for the office of the bishop of Kumi diocese and the same was defective having failed to be issued within at least six months in the ordinary circumstances or one month prior to the alleged meeting, if any”, the application reads in part.
Article 13 of the 1972 Provincial Constitution as amended (1994) indicates that the synod of the diocese shall make representations to the House of Bishops concerning the appointment of a new Bishop. Such representations shall contain two nominations for the said appointment. The Archbishop with the House of Bishops shall consider any representations so made and if they think fit refer the matter back to the synod for further consideration.
The applicants also contend that the procedure for the election as laid in the Provincial Constitution and Provincial Canons was not adhered to. “A new synod of Kumi diocese was irregularly and illegally constituted and Rev. Okwii was nominated and subsequently elected and appointed by the house of bishops”, the plaintiffs continue in their petition.
They want a declaration that the manner and process in which Rev. Okwii was nominated and appointed as bishop was grossly irregular as it was conducted in violation of the existing law. They want the court to nullify and set aside Rev. Okwii’s appointment and the planned consecration.
Although the applicants made several references to the failed consecration and enthronement of Rev. Charles Okunya Oode and sought for his reinstatement, counsel Mwebesa told our reporter that the reverend asked to be exempted from the new case.
James Zeere, the lawyer of the Archbishop told the Assistant Registrar, Jessica Chemeri in her chambers in Soroti on Tuesday that his client received the summons to file the defence on the matter on Monday but was occupied with pastoral work.
According to the applicants, the Archbishop ignored their notice of intention to sue issued earlier. “Notice of intension to sue was duly communicated to the defendant but the same was ignored. The cause of action arose within the jurisdiction of this honourable court”, the petition reads.
The Archbishop has up to Thursday to file his defence in the matter. Kumi diocese has been without a substantive bishop for more than two years since the retirement of the founder bishop, Rt. Rev. Edison Thomas Irigei in December 2019. His retirement was delayed after the failed election of his successor.
Bishop Irigei was supposed to be replaced by Rev. Okunya but some Christians, who were at the time referred to as anonymous, petitioned the province, a move that later saw the cancellation of his election and subsequent ban from the bishop’s race. The diocese has since split into different factions with infights that led to the arrest of both Christians and clerics in Kumi Diocese.