Pope Francis in a meeting during his Uganda visit    Photo:en.radiovatican.va

Hardly have His Eminence Pope Francis’ posters faded and the infighting and finger pointing has already started. There is talk of looted funds and fake raffles. I propose that we take the chief thieves and execute them at the shrine as an example for the next generation.

For those who do not know much about the history of Uganda, Namugongo was the place of execution for those who committed crimes against the Buganda Kingdom. The Uganda Martyrs Shrine was built to honour the 32 pages of Kabaka Mwanga II who were burnt on June 3 1886 (Martyrs day) when they refused to renounce their Christian faith.

On October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised 22 of the Catholic martyrs and in 1967, the Namugongo shrine was built. Pope Paul VI made the first papal visit to Africa in 1969 and also made a pilgrimage to Namugongo.

When we commemorated 50 years of the canonisation of the Uganda Martyrs, Pope Francis promised to pay a visit to the Namugongo shrine. That is when the cogs in the business minds in Kampala began to spin – there was money to be made.

The city needed a facelift, so KCCA (Kampala Capital City Authority) began sending threatening messages to landlords of city buildings to either give their buildings a facelift or face closure.

The pavements also got a facelift and some streetlights were relocated from the suburbs that the Pope would not visit to the CBD (central business district); the CBD is usually lit by security lights from shops street level.


An equivalent of Kenyan Sh2 billion was budgeted for the expansion of the Namugongo shrine to accommodate all the dignitaries that would attend the occasion. Thus the Yooyota Namugongo Raffle (Facelift Namugongo raffle) idea was born.

The Catholic Church, a bank, a telecom and a media house partnered and floated 20 Toyota Raums, airtime and data bundles.

The Kampala Archbishop was not to be left out of the limelight and he gave his Mercedes Benz as the grand prize to be handed over by His Eminence. At about Sh70, the raffle tickets were affordable and the prizes worth every penny for Catholics and gamblers alike.

However, the bank was not one to hedge its bets and bank on gamblers, the staff were given a bunch of tickets to sell or else have the monies deducted from their pay cheques – whatever happened to families and staff of organisers being ineligible to win?

Lastly were the 10,000 rosaries that had been blessed by His Eminence, and thus retailed at Sh3,400 each.

The staunch and faithful had a special keepsake and holy relic to hand down for generations to remember the special visit from God’s representative on earth.

The price had fallen by 50% by the time the Pope arrived and yet there were few takers considering a rosary costs Sh200 on any given day.

The Lotteries Board of Uganda needs to tell mwananchi how much money was collected and spent on the uplift of the Namugongo shrine. The media has neither announced nor published a list of winners.

The supplier of the Toyota Raums has sued the church, and the Archbishop is still cruising in his Mercedes. Banange! Gavumenti etuyambe! (Please, the government should help us!)