Molestation Suspect Nabbed at Oakland Airport Heads Ugandan Megachurch
County Not Charging Pastor, but FBI Probing Alleged Airplane Incident

By Gideon Rubin
San Jose Mercury News
August 22, 2008

OAKLAND — A man arrested Saturday on suspicion of molesting a 13-year-old East Bay girl on a flight from Denver to Oakland is the minister of a Ugandan megachurch and is known internationally as a poverty-relief advocate.

Jackson Senyonga, 41, of Uganda was arrested by sheriff's deputies at Oakland International Airport on suspicion of fondling a girl seated next to him on the flight, sheriff's deputies said.

Alameda County prosecutors have since declined to charge Senyonga because of jurisdictional issues, but have referred the case to the FBI, Sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson said Thursday.

Senyonga was initially taken to Santa Rita jail in Dublin, but was released after posting bail on a date not immediately known, Nelson said Thursday.

Senyonga was scheduled to preach last Sunday in Hayward, according to a longtime friend who asked that the church not be identified.

Senyonga frequently preaches at churches in Southern Alameda County, said Pastor Sherman Williams of Fremont Community Church, who said he has known Senyonga for at least a half-dozen years.

Williams, who is also president of CityServe Faith Communities United in Jesus, a coalition of about 60 churches in Fremont, Newark and Union City, described Senyonga as an inspirational figure who grew up impoverished and has devoted his life to building orphanages in Kampala, the capital of his native Uganda.

His Christian Life Ministries boasts a membership of 100,000, Williams said.

"I'm deeply grieved, but I have no reason whatsoever to believe that there was any purposeful action on his part that would be in any way inappropriate," Williams said.

Gideon Rubin can be reached at 510-293-2469 or


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