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Villas to Villages: Uganda’s Religious Networks Fight Corruption at all Levels

Cooperation between Uganda’s religious networks and government grows as both focus on positive change for the people.

The December letter of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) describes corruption as not only a problem for the public sector and private institutions, "but also amongst the people of God". © GIZ/PaRD

In December 2021, Uganda’s Imams, Pastors, Priests, and other religious leaders addressed corruption from their pulpits. Many of their statements were based on guidelines from a pastoral letter, written jointly, and distributed by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU).

Their established religious networks brought an anti-corruption message to various levels of the Ugandan society, from groups in hard-to-reach villages to gated communities. Made up of the country’s seven largest religious communities, the IRCU can reach an estimated 30 million Ugandans.

The IRCU Pastoral letter shows how religions and governments can support each other when identifying common values. With over 98 % of Ugandans claiming a religious affiliation, the IRCU’s anti-corruption message can have much further reach than the government’s awareness-raising efforts. Yet, a more systematic cooperation between the county’s religious communities and the Ugandan Government has only recently been explored with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and through its project Strengthening Good Governance and Civil Society in Uganda. The project was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and co-funded by the European Union.

When brought to the same table with the purpose to fight corruption in Uganda, public officials and religious leaders quickly realised that they share common values, GIZ’s Einar Fogh explains. Since 2001, the IRCU, for example, has been working on topics like HIV/AIDS, peace, human rights, conflict transformation, and good governance. According to Fogh, the government of Uganda has been working with IRCU on these topics during the last two decades, what is notable is that they’ve additionally partnered to work together on anti-corruption and awareness raising among citizens on how corruption negatively affects Uganda. Currently, both shared values and the effectiveness of religious leaders are being recognised in the fight against corruption and promotion of integrity and ethical values.

Information from Committees to Communities

In September 2020, representatives from the IRCU joined with Ugandan government officials from the Inspectorate of Government (IG), Directorate for Ethics and Integrity (DEI) and with the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), supported by GIZ. During the multi-day workshop, the idea for an anti-corruption partnership between the IRCU and the government was born. The theme of the partnership later became the title of the pastoral letter: Enhancing Voice and Action on Integrity and Ethical Conduct for Religious Leaders in Uganda. 

In Ugandan society, corruption is widespread. Research from 2019 shows that most Ugandans think the situation has worsened, despite nearly 30 years of government anti-corruption efforts. Currently, government agencies are making collaboration with non-state actors a priority. At the end of 2021, the new Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the IRCU agreed to join forces again to fight corruption in Uganda.

The December IRCU Pastoral letter describes corruption as not only a problem for the public sector and private institutions, “but also amongst the people of God,” making Uganda’s fight against corruption the responsibility of religious leaders, communities, government, and Ugandans.