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2 Ugandan church staff arrested


5:00 P.M. ET Oct. 4, 2011 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

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A UMCom web-only map.

A United Methodist district superintendent and a mission intern with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries are to appear in court Oct. 7 after their arrests by Ugandan police.

The arrests are related to a complaint by United Methodist Bishop Daniel Wandabula of the East Africa Annual (regional) Conference about an anonymous blackmail attempt and emails circulated about alleged corruption. Besides Uganda, the East Africa Conference includes the countries of Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

Joseph Kanyike, the 25-year-old mission intern, was preparing to depart for his first assignment at the World Student Christian Federation offices in Geneva, when he was arrested Sept. 18.

The Rev. John Kiviiri, a district superintendent from Makono, told United Methodist News Service that he had been trying to assist Kanyike when he was arrested Sept. 23. Both were charged with “cyber crimes,” Kiviiri said. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

Kiviiri said he was released Sept. 27 after friends and church members helped raise the US$800 needed for bail. Kanyike was released on bail the next day but later was admitted to a hospital. He said he had been beaten by police.

'Seeking clarity' about arrest

Thomas Kemper, top executive of the Board of Global Ministries, said agency staff “have been actively seeking clarity” about the arrest of their mission intern.

“We have also hired a lawyer in order to give legal support and to find out the accuracy of the charges against him,” he said. “We are very relieved that Joseph was released on bail last week and hope that the case can be resolved as soon as possible. Our prayers and support are with Joseph during this time.”

Bishops Larry Goodpaster and Rosemarie Wenner, president and president-designate, respectively, of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, sent an email to Wandabula on Sept. 26 inquiring about the arrests and urging him “to do everything you can to obtain the release of these colleagues in ministry.”

The Rev. John Kiviiri. Photo courtesy of the East Africa Annual Conference.
The Rev. John Kiviiri. Photo courtesy of the East Africa Annual (regional) Conference. View in Photo Gallery

In his reply to Goodpaster, Wandabula said he had been “greatly troubled” by the situation, which he called “a police matter.” He wrote that he had nothing to do with the arrest and detention of either man “beyond the case I reported.”

Wandabula’s complaint to the Ugandan police dates back to Oct. 21, 2009, when someone using a pseudonym – Journey Jonah – sent an email to the bishop demanding $300,000. Attached to the email was a Microsoft Word document, labeled “report,” which contained a number of allegations against the bishop.

“When I read that letter…I felt bad,” Wandabula told UMNS. “I thought maybe that person was joking, and I never responded to the email.”

Another email arrived five days later, reminding Wandabula of “the ultimatum” deadline. A third email, dated Oct. 31, noted the bishop’s failure to cooperate and said the report would be sent to various church organizations.

Wandabula said he received a forwarded copy of the report with the allegations against him while attending a meeting of the United Methodist Council of Bishops and discussed the situation with several of his colleagues. “Before I reported the matter to the (Ugandan) police, I wrote a letter to my fellow bishops,” he said.

New investigation

In 2010, the bishop became aware that the report still was being circulated. “When I realized the person was continuing sending these emails, I went to ask the police how far they had gone with their investigations,” he said.

The file on his complaint had been closed but was reopened and assigned to staff in the police force’s Information and Communication Technology area, Wandabula said.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 30, 2011, the anonymous “Journey Jonah” sent a second report with further allegations against Wandabula to the Council of Bishops and several executives at the Board of Global Ministries, but did not supply documentation or a name and full contact information.

Joseph Kanyike. Photo courtesy of the East Africa Annual Conference.
Joseph Kanyike. Photo courtesy of the East Africa Annual (regional) Conference. View in Photo Gallery

The bishop said he eventually was advised by the Information and Communication Technology police that Kanyike would be arrested.

Speaking by phone from Uganda, Kiviiri said that after Kanyike was arrested, the police force’s Criminal Investigation Directorate searched Kanyike’s house in Kireka, a suburb of Kampala, taking his computer, personal papers and money sent by the Board of Global Ministries for his visa for Switzerland. Investigators also took Kiviiri’s computer and some documents, Kiviiri said.

A few days later, Kiviiri received a call from CID staff, who wanted to see him. “I knew by that they wanted to arrest me,” he said.

Kiviiri is a longtime pastor and one of the founders of the United Methodist Church in Uganda in 1991. He said he remembers discussions within the conference about the emailed report alleging mismanagement of funds but said he was not aware of the extortion attempt in 2009 and “was shocked” by his arrest.

Falling ill

Kanyike, who has served in various positions at the local and district levels of the church, said he “was beaten seriously” while in jail and also suffered from malaria and severe anemia. “Thank God I’m still alive,” he added.

Kanyike’s official missionary biography on the board’s website described him as “a Ugandan national and a member of the Namboole United Methodist Church in Kampala, within the East Africa Annual Conference. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychological counseling from Kyambogo University in 2009. He has worked in several nursery, primary and secondary schools and served the UMC in Uganda for nine years.”

Wandabula said the police had denied beating Kanyike but added that he “felt so bad” when he learned Kanyike was in the hospital. “I’m praying for him and wish him a quick recovery,” the bishop said.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at on Twitter.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 3 comments

  • joseph 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    This is indeed a sad story. However, there’re so many
    challenges faced by the leadership of the East Africa Annual Conference, one of
    which is the extreme poverty in which people of the region live. I’ve visited
    the Annual Conference several times and I’ve been shocked to know that there is
    a group of people, some of whom serve in the conference who have been trying to
    extort money from their Bishop by fabricating negatives, false and malicious stories
    about him, threatening him that they would tarnish his image and consequently undermine
    his leadership if he does not issue out money to them. The situation had gotten
    worse to a point where anonymous individuals tried to kidnap the Bishop’s
    little daughter for ransom. Meanwhile, while the individuals who had been arrested
    are affiliated to the UMC, if found guilty of the cyber-crime they’re suspected
    of committing they should apologise to their Bishop and ask for his
    forgiveness. While Uganda is not a first world country, the Uganda Police Force
    has trained individuals assigned to deal with cyber-crime and I doubt they
    would simply arrest people especially church affiliates for that matter without
    any clues associating them to the crime committed. What a coincidence would it
    be..!!! It’s apparent that the malicious emails circulated around about the
    Bishop are from a clique of disgruntled individuals from within the church who
    are opposed to their Bishop’s leadership.  This malicious slander and character
    assassination of their Bishop ought to stop, for no leadership exists without
    God’s approval.
    show more show less
  • Tim Temple 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    Did Kanyike's computer get hacked?  Would the Ugandan police have the expertise to tell?
    show more show less
  • UMNS editor 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The short answer is we don't know the answer to either of your questions at this point. But we will continue to report on this situation as we learn more.
    show more show less

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