Pilgrims stranded as Museveni attends Mass at Namugongo

Pilgrims at the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine endured long queues as Special Forces Command (SFC) halted access to the place ahead of President Yoweri Museveni’s visit. Museveni attended today’s special mass dedicated to the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere.

The Catholic Church gazetted June 1, as a special day of prayer in remembrance of Nyerere, whom the Tanzanians equate to a Saint. The day has been celebrated in Uganda since 2009, following a request by Nyerere’s family as part of the quest for his beatification and canonization.

Nyerere, fondly known as Mwalimu, a Swahili word for teacher, was the first president of Tanzania after independence. He was known for his active prayer life and frequent fasting with several publications referring to him as a devout Catholic who attended mass daily throughout his public life.

He died in 1999, revered by his people as the father of the nation (Baba wa Taifa). Following his death, Tanzanian bishops in Musuma diocese opened a cause for his beatification with the Vatican approval in 2006.

Today, everything came to a standstill outside Catholic martyrs shrine ahead of Museveni arrival at around 11.08 am. Access to and movements within the venue were immediately restricted by both uniform and non-uniformed military personnel.

Meanwhile, there is a heavy presence of security from all national’s security agencies armed to the teeth. Military, police patrol vehicles and trucks are parked at junctions leading to the Catholic martyrs shrine. However, there are no security restrictions at Anglican and Muslim prayer centre as the number of pilgrims is still relative.

The heavy deployment follows a terror alert issued by the Internal Security Organization ahead of the annual Martyrs Day celebrations on June 3. Kampala Metropolitan Traffic Police commander, who was stationed at Kyaliwajjala junction, said they were yet to register any mishap though he warned drivers and motorcyclists to be careful since all roads are full of foot pilgrims.

Musinga said cut off points will be placed on main and minor roads leading to Namugongo at midnight tomorrow to ensure pilgrims access Catholic, Anglican and Mamre prayer centre venues with ease.

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