Senyonga Has Some Questions to Answer

By Margaret Wokuri Madanda
Daily Monitor

September 6, 2008

In the article ‘Pastor Senyonga is not a paedophile’ (Saturday Monitor August 30, columnist Gawaya Tegulle argues that a person who believes media portrayals of Pastor Senyonga as a paedophile ‘must be very naive, most probably fresh from some remote fishing village.’

Whatever the word ‘paedophile could mean, I take it contextually and disagree with some of his assertions. Perhaps, you need to have landed from another planet not to know that like other institutions, the evangelical church in Uganda is muddled with allegations of felonious acts of sodomy, deceit, adultery and child abuse. There is a catalogue to pick from.

One pastor is faced with charges of sodomy; Pastor Muwanguzi dismantled his church and disappeared after allegations of car theft; there are stories of imported electric gadgets to shock believers; Pastor Nalongo Manjeri have been accused of breaking people’s limbs. Against such a background, you don’t need to come from ‘a remote fishing landing site’ to know that Senyonga’s story just fits into the wider spectrum.

Getting to the specifics of this story, according to two stories, ‘Pastor Senyonga Arrested in US’ (Saturday Vision August 23, 2008) and ‘Pray for me’ (Sunday Monitor August 24, 2008), it is reported that in an effort to create comfort for the male sleeping neighbour Pastor Senyonga was forced to extend towards the girls seat.

One of the dictionary definitions of the word molest is; “To trouble or annoy intentionally.” It is evident here that Pastor Senyonga’s closeness must have ‘troubled’ and ‘annoyed’ the little girl.

The good Pastor has therefore to explain that by squeezing himself towards the little girl, he did not ‘intentionally’ mean to ‘trouble’ her. He may also have to explain his choice of comforting one (sleeping) neighbour by discomforting another. Why for instance didn’t he let the sleeping male neighbour on his lap or shoulder? As a ‘clean’ Pastor, no one would suspect and accuse him of being gay after all.

This is not to point any fingers though; I equally think that Pastor Senyonga could be an innocent man. But I don’t buy into the stories of racism in this. The Pastor is simply caught up in a trap of ‘Cultural shock.’ Here we are, with a well intentioned person, in his evangelical perspective he could have wanted to create friendliness with what he thought was a ‘lonely’ child on a plane.

The girl on the other hand has been told (which we all should tell our children given the rampant child abuse) one; not to accept any familiarity from strangers and secondly not to accept and report any unsolicited touches. But why should such a seemingly well exposed person fall victim to cultural shocks?

True that we all use our own perspective to do things, problem is that at times, we get so buried in our own worlds that we forget there are other people’s worlds.

This is an era with raging debates on gender and child rights. The Pastor would have saved himself such woes if he had not extended his ‘evangelical fatherly’ behaviour on a plane full of people from all walks of life. In Uganda, a man will drool, touch and/or make all sorts of sexual innuendos on a woman and get away with it.

Elsewhere, people and governments are serious about such social crimes and will not let molesters get away with impunity.The Pastor’s actions could be innocent but in law, ignorance is no defence. Hopefully the law finds him the ‘innocent’ man that he is.



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