Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pastors and prophecies call Uganda election

By Daniel Wallis Wed Feb 22, 9:22 AM ET

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Hundreds of born-again Christians drop their Bibles and begin singing songs hailing Uganda's long-serving President Yoweri Museveni.

A pastor tells them he will only bless those who vote for the former rebel leader, and compares Museveni's rivals in Thursday's election to half-cooked food not ready to be served.

"If you deceive me and do not vote for Museveni, I will pray that you suffer," he tells the two-day prayer meeting in Kampala, before leading a chorus of "Museveni tajja genda" ("Museveni won't go" in the local Luganda tongue).

Outspoken religious leaders have weighed unashamedly into Thursday's polls -- the first multi-party ballot for 25 years in one of the world's most Christian nations.

Another pastor, Robert Kayanja, head of the country's biggest born-again church, prophesied that the next president would win 61.8 percent of votes, two candidates would pull out, and a third would die.

All five candidates seeking the key to State House have been hunting the Christian vote, but Museveni is leading the fastest-growing group: evangelical born-again churches.

Part of the reason is his wife Janet, who is a heroine to many in the movement. She has led a recent abstinence drive against HIV, AIDS, infuriating many who believe its previous successes were based on condoms and education about the disease.

Janet, who is standing for parliament for the first time, has cited divine instruction for her candidacy and told a local newspaper she was acting on orders from above.

So is the only independent candidate challenging her husband, Abed Bwanika, as well as Peter Sematimba, a radio station boss and evangelical pastor running for Kampala mayor.

"Most of the world's great despots at some stage claimed that God chose them," Ugandan commentator Alan Tacca wrote. "If we do not debunk and demystify the pastors in good time, they already seem poised to join (Museveni) in the crusade against a free society."

About G.W. Bush: "The day he was inaugurated there were several of us who met with him at the governor's mansion," says Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "And among the things he said to us was, 'I believe that God wants me to be president.'"


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