Business came to a standstill in Lira City after hundreds of protesting born-again Christians marched to the Lira High Court on Monday to “get relief from protracted court battles involving their church.”
The believers, who were singing “Yahweh, Yahweh”, were recently blocked by the High Court in Kampala from accessing more than 200 churches built in the name of Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) Uganda.
On Monday, the group trekked a distance of more than 50kilometres to the High Court in Lira.
“You’re welcome,” the Lira Resident Judge, Justice Duncan Gaswaga, told the aggrieved Christians.
However, he cautioned lawyers not to bring such a huge number of people to court, adding that the “court would not entertain them on May 29.”
Their lawyers, Emmanuel Kigenyi and Gerald Etuk from Kigenyi Opira and Company Advocates, told journalists that they did not mobilise their clients to go to court.
“These individuals went to court. They have grievances. They mobilised locally, got money, constructed churches. However, there is a company called Pentecostal Assembly of God Limited which was registered in 1999. So, this company is claiming that all those properties which they (Christians) acquired using their money belong to them,” Kigenyi said.
“So for them they didn’t want to be violent, they decided to go to court so that court could determine that dispute of land ownership,” he added.
In a March 31, 2023 ruling, which has since rubbed believers in a wrong way, Justice Musa Ssekaana ordered that dozens of places of worship under Lira pastorate are no go areas for believers subscribing to the deregistered PAG Lira Limited.
The ruling followed an 8-year long leadership and property dispute between PAG Uganda and PAG Lira Limited.
PAG Lira was formed in 2013 by more than 300,000 Christians. This was after they broke away from PAG Uganda following the termination of services of Bishop Joel Mukalu, a decision his followers believe was arrived at in bad faith.
The leadership of PAG Uganda then ran to court, alleging that “on obtaining a name-change, PAG Lira moved ahead and seized PAG Uganda Limited’s assets”, particularly churches in Lango Sub-region and surrounding areas.
It is estimated that PAG has over 200 local churches in Lira, Dokolo, Oyam, Apac, Kole, Otuke, Alebtong, Kwania and Dokolo districts.
The High Court in Kampala, however, gave the order in general and broad terms; a declaratory order that all properties registered in the names of the plaintiff and illegally held by Joel Mukalu (1st defendant) should be returned to the plaintiff.