| Religious Freedom Ranking:
2.5 out of 5 stars: Poor
Since the 1980’s, Uganda has rebounded from civil war and economic instability to become relatively peaceful and stable. However, the northern region of the country is still under attack by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a “Christian” terrorist religious group. The LRA has killed tens of thousands and displaced over a million people. According to BBC News, the group’s leader, Joseph Koney, wants to run the country according to a literalist interpretation the biblical Ten Commandments with harsh penalties for those who disobey.
Uganda has a population of 32.7 million people. It is estimated that 85 percent of the population is Christian, 12 percent Muslim, and the remaining three percent practice Hinduism, the Baha’i faith, Judaism, or indigenous beliefs. Among the Christians, 42 percent are Roman Catholic, 36 percent are Anglican, and seven percent are evangelical, Pentecostal, or Orthodox Christian. The majority of Muslims are Sunni.
The Constitution protects freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. However, it monitors “cult-like” groups and restricts religious meetings at certain hours. Meanwhile, in some areas, people live in fear of militant religious groups such as the LRA. There is no state religion. Religious organizations must register with a Non-Governmental Organizations Board.
Religious instruction is optional in public schools. The classes focus on world religions rather than one specific one. There are several private religiously affiliated schools in the country as well.
In March 2000, 500 members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments (not related to the Lord’s Resistance Army) were killed and a number of mass graves were found. This resulted in the investigation by the government of a number of independent churches to insure that that there was no danger of further outbreaks. Three churches were closed down and one religious leader was arrested. The government had resisted calls by some mainstream leaders to ban other churches viewed as cults. Currently, the government requires all new churches trying to register to be recommended first by a local official. The NGO board has declined to register many groups because of “cultism” and behavior that may undermine the government. Some local governments have limited the hours for religious meeting (particularly banning late night meetings).
The government still monitors 20 religious groups that it has deemed “cult-like.” Some of these groups are the Serulanda Spiritual Foundation, the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, the Abengeri, the New Heaven Church, the Rwengwara Healing Church of All Nations, and the Enjiri groups. The NGO board also declined registration to the Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Revival Ministries because of the group’s commercial interests. Furthermore, in 2010 police closed down the Miracle Healing Church over allegations that it was mistreating its followers. The group was reportedly starving followers and preventing the sick from receiving medical treatment.
In 2010 police arrested four members of the group Lobo Manyen Ki Polo Manyen, a group perceived as a cult because they campaign against modern medicine and medical practices. During the arrest, police found an 11 year old girl who suffered from sickle cell anemia who was being treated with herbal medicine. The suspects have been released and the investigation is still ongoing.
Thirty-eight members of the Islamic group Taliq still await trial subsequent to a 1995 arrest. The government alleged that members of the organization were terrorists. A 2000 law offered amnesty but these 38 chose to refuse amnesty and stand trial, maintaining that they are innocent and were arrested for religious reasons.
2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Uganda
Uganda - New World Encyclopedia
Uganda Country Profile- BBC News