Claiming Gods heritage... Owobusobozi Bisaka
Kneeling before the 'mighty' Bisaka

Claiming Gods heritage... Owobusobozi Bisaka

Legendary philosopher Karl Marx who lived in the 15th Centaury once said that religion is the opium of the masses.

By Gideon Munaabi
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First published: March 9, 2006

Down town Kampala was on Saturday February 25, painted white as the followers of Owobusozi Bisaka, (the Almighty Bisaka), entered the city for what they called a national ceremony to pray for peace in the country at Nakivubo Stadium.

White invasion: Waiting for Bisaka outside Nakivubo stadium
White invasion: Waiting for Bisaka outside Nakivubo stadium.

Clad in white gowns, the abaikiriza, as the sect is called, trekked to Nakivubo in tens of thousands from Bisaka's Prayer Palace in Nansana, north west of the city, where they had spent the night. Traffic and economic activities around Kampala-Hoima road and areas surrounding the old Taxi Park were brought to a standstill as people stood on roof tops and on top of cars to witness the white invasion in the city.

Bisaka's entourage arrives at Nakivubo
Bisaka's entourage arrives at Nakivubo.

After hours of waiting, Owobusobozi (a Runyakitara word for the only one with authority) and his wife arrived at around 11:00am in a gray Mitsubishi Pajero escorted by a fleet of more than six vehicles to a thrilling welcome from his slogan chanting followers.

Bisaka arriving at Nakivubo
Bisaka arriving at Nakivubo.

'Kwahukana Kuhoireho' Kwahukana Kuhoireho' (disunity has ended) they shouted.

Joyful pandemonium took hold of the Nakivubo War Memorial stadium as Bisaka's followers competed to lay their clothes on the ground for him to step on as he moved.

The followers of the self-styled father of unity, most of who came from as far as 500kms away in Kisoro, Rwanda, Rakai, Kibaale (where the headquarters of the sect are found), Kasese, Masindi, Rukungiri, and Kampala had started flocking the stadium by 8:00am.

Starting at 8:00am, the police had come in to make sure that only those in white gowns enter the stadium, save for a few Members of Parliament and the Press.

No sooner had Bisaka settled down than his Bakwenda (cult zone heads) welcomed the founder and leader of the 25 year old Faith of Unity belief with money gifts of over ten million Uganda shillings, before the rest of the "faithfuls" could make their personal thanksgiving in this seemingly hierarchical sect.

Lining up to receive Bisaka
Lining up to receive Bisaka.

But the moment of the day was to come when later, the Owobusobozi Bisaka, a man not known to most Ugandans, woke up from his seat, his sacred white club in hand to greet his followers. Anybody in a similar 'business' would be envious to witness the occasion as hands of the tens of thousands of his followers dug in their pockets for money to thank and acquire blessings from their "god".

Bisaka with mystical waliking stick
Bisaka with mystical waliking stick.

Bisaka, whose shoes you could see yourself, descended from the platform to be able to shake hands with almost all his cheering people, who had their shoes off as a sign of respect to him. This was certainly hard to believe for many other Ugandans, especially catholic leaders from Hoima Diocese where Bisaka once worked and composed songs for the catholic faith before he formed his sect of abaikiriza (believers).

Yes. Hard to believe that Desteo Bisaka as he was know until 1980, the son of a leading catholic catechist, Petero Byombi, could be here commanding such a big anti Catholicism following in the heart of Uganda's city.

Born in 1930 at Kitoma, Kibizi in Kibaale district, Bisaka says that throughout his life, he had wanted to be a Priest but that this did not come to pass. The former Grade III teacher claims that the voice of God of Hosts (the Creator) appeared to him and urged him to start saving people and preaching about oneness.

That is how Bisaka broke away from the Catholic religion and its bible teachings. He wrote his own book, which he says is the basis of the entire 'oneness faith'. Owobusobozi Bisaka claims that bible teachings bring about divisions, which he says are manifested by the so many religions, emanating from within the same bible.

Bisaka's Book
Bisaka's Book.

He further says that the Bible bears no signature like his book, "The Book of God, of the Age of Oneness", because its writers knew that the words within the Bible were not right. This is according to his book, where he says that in God, there are several major spirits-The lord God of Hosts, The Lord God of the Holiness of God and The Lord God of the Power of God- Omukama Ruhanga Owobusobozi Bisaka himself.

This, as you may expect, continues to face high-spirited criticism from Christian religions, but the soft-spoken medium sized Bisaka seems to be reaping more followers by the day. Bisaka claims that he has healing powers and powers of saving people from Satan, the enemy, and the diseases. He says that the 2nd, 12th and 22nd days (Days when his cult holds prayers) of every month are God's Days set for Miracles, but that salvation is daily.

Leaders have befriended the Bisaka
Leaders have befriended the Bisaka.

Many people including national leaders like President Yoweri Museveni have questioned Bisaka's activities at one point or another, only to end up befriending the man. Bisaka, aged 80, is married with children, whom he calls abenda yo'Obusobozi translated as children from the body of that who has Authority over everything.

Although he claims that his faith is an African indigenous one, Bisaka does not believe in medicine used by the traditional healers, and instead encourages the use of his 'holy water'.

"I intend to close the ways of witchcraft, so that a person may not use those medicines the way he likes. He should take his medicines to those who know how to refine them," Bisaka says in his book.

Some people we talked to expressed worries about the activities of Bisaka because of the big numbers of mostly illiterate people whom they say are always "manipulated and deceived to give the little they have to get blessings".

In March 2000, more than 1,000 people perished in the Kanungu infernal at the hands of a self styled leader of the Movement for Restoration of the Ten Commandments cult, Joseph Kibwetere-also a sect that broke away from the Catholic Church. But Bisaka is arguably different and has survived seasons and seasons of criticism and always emerges with more and more followers as well as sympathizers.

At the end of 2002, there were media reports that Bisaka's followers were planning to buy him an aeroplane. Bisaka has just finished building a multi-million Itambiro (house of worship) complex at his home in Kapyemi, Kibaale. He is certainly a man living his dream; enjoying as he wants to call it, God's heritage.

By Gideon Munaabi
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First published: March 9, 2006
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Gideon Munaabi is a journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He has been and continues writing widely for different publication locally and internationally. He is a founding member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and is currently the chairman of the organisation.