Formerly known as Southwestern Uganda Mission, Southwestern Uganda Field is a part of Uganda Union Mission in the East-Central Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists.
Current Territory and Statistics
The Southwestern Uganda Field (SWUF), covers the regions of Ankole and Kigezi, consisting of the political districts Buhweju, Busheyi, Ibanda, Isingiro, Kabale, Kanungu, Kiruhura, Kisoro, Mbarara, Mitooma, Ntungamo, Rubirizi, Rukungiri, and Sheema. Their combined population was 5,276,984 in 2019.1 It has 104 churches and 304 Sabbath Schools and companies with a membership of 28,491.2 The Adventist to the non-Adventist ratio is 1:185.
Origin of Adventist Work in Southwestern Uganda Field
An interesting story is told of one Aaron Muinda, believed to be among the very first converts in the region. In the year 1895, during an ethnic war between the Baganda and the Ankole-Kigezi people, Aaron Muinda was taken captive to Buganda. He was then five years old. Because of language barrier, King Mwanga II of Buganda was unable to understand the boy’s answer when asked his name, so the king named him Aaron Muinda. The young boy grew up at the king’s palace in Buganda and quickly became useful. The king recommended Muinda for theological studies, and he became a priest in the Protestant church in the early 1920s. With the help of the king, Muinda married a lady from the same region. His wife was the first give birth at Mengo Hospital attended by Sir Albert Cook. Unfortunately, the mother died in labor, but the baby was saved and named Edward Cook after Albert Cook. After this incident, the king decided to send Aaron Muinda back to his motherland. He made contacts with the Ankole king who welcomed him, and he settled at Ruti, a place near present Mbarara. The King of Ankole helped him marry again, and he married Kenkorokonyo, one of the young girls around the palace. This lady became the mother of the rest of his five children. The Protestant church appointed him priest in a place called Itojo.3
In 1937, while Muinda was en route to a meeting at Namirembe, he met an Adventist colporteur. After a short discussion, Muinda borrowed a book, Daniel and Our Times, to read during the meeting and afterward return it. Muinda landed on a topic that gave him a hint on the change of the day of worship but later after the meeting, he returned the book. During his journey back home, he stopped at a chief’s place in Mbarara and surprisingly, he found the same book, which the chief had never read. Muinda immediately asked if could have it, a request which was granted. Muinda privately studied the book and made a choice to become an Adventist on his own.4
Muinda converted to Adventism while he was leading a Protestant congregation as their priest. He decided to convert the entire congregation he was leading so that he could become their new Adventist pastor, but this was heavily rejected. Mr. Kangaho, aged 95 when interviewed, recalled an incident where a Protestant priest from Buganda, a white man named Brown, came to see if what was being said of Muinda was true. There was a sharp contest between Muinda and Brown, which led Muinda to withdraw from the Protestant church. It was after this incident that one of the young men who worked for Muinda named Enock Ruhongore donated land for the new Adventist church. Ruhongore became the first church leader between 1937 and 1939 of the same church at a place called Mpanga in Itojo, Ntugamo. This is the place where Adventism is said to have first taken root in the region. The first converts are said to have been Aaron Muinda, Enock Ruhongore, a lady named Behenzire, and Nyabijura.5
An evangelist named Zephaniah Biraaro came to help establish the church in 1939. He was followed by the first evangelist from Buganda, Yakobo Gasuze, who died shortly after he arrived. He was followed by Cranmer Namaswala who served for a long time. Cranmer was followed by Misaki Kabala around 1947, then Yosamu Katabarwa, and finally Yekoyada Bamanya in whose time the church was transferred to Ruhanga in 1960, although a branch remained at the original place and continued to use the same name, Seventh-day Adventist Church–Mpanga.6
During the late 1930s, Muinda returned to Mbarara at a place called Ruti where he also donated a piece of his land to the Adventist Church. This location is equally one of the oldest Adventist sites in the region, for it was established around the same time as the Mpanga site.
It is important to also note that one of Aaron Muinda’s converts, Zephaniah Katetirweho, a trained teacher, having been chased from his home for becoming an Adventist, became an Adventist evangelist and helped established one of the field’s first institutions, Ruhanga Seventh-day Adventist Primary School in 1947. A friend of Katetirweho’s, Aaron Musoke, taught the community members learned how to make bricks and build the primary school under the instruction of Sulemani Kisembo. Wieland was Uganda Field president at the time. The school still stood in 2020.7
Aaron Muinda is furthermore remembered for the following contributions: While at Mbarara, Muinda met with a young man named Minani who had become an Adventist while in Rwanda. When Muinda discovered that he was Adventist, he took Minani in and helped him establish himself in Uganda. Muinda also assisted and supported the young man through marriage and theological study at Ncwanga, after which Minani become a pastor. Minani played a great role in the early days of the church in the area. After completing his training, he became the first chaplain of the newly established Adventist hospital in the region—Ishaka Adventist Hospital—in 1950.
One of Aaron Muinda’s sons, Fenekansi Muinda, who trained as a veterinary officer and later became a chief, was among the other instrumental Adventists who helped establish the church in the region. Having studied with medical students, Fenekansi referred the King of Ankole to one of his friends in Kenya where the king received specialized treatment. This established an important relationship. When Adventists decided to expand throughout Uganda from Ncwanga, a request was brought to the Ankole king to establish a hospital in Mbarara. Due to the region already having a government hospital in the area, the king donated land in another place, Ishaka in Bushenyi, where the hospital was established that still stood at the time of writing. However, when another request was made to the king for land in Mbarara on which to establish a church, again requested through Fenekansi and Minani, the king granted land to the church. On this land, the present SWUF office was built as well as the Mbarara Adventist church. Before becoming a pastor, Minani had been a builder by profession—he is said to have been the one who roofed the king’s palace in Ankole with iron sheets and this increased the bond between Adventists and the king. Minani helped build many churches as well as penetrating new areas of Uganda.
As time went by, young and vibrant young men from the land were brought on board as pastors. Onesmus Karemire was posted at Ruhanga and was part of the team that translated the Bible into Runyankole, a local language commonly used in the region. Zechariah Muhoozi pastored in Ruti, another area donated by Aaron Muinda. Muhoozi also became the first station director at Mbarara, which was later organized into a mission and then a field, its present status. The Church grew from the 1950s through the 1960s, and by the 1970s, work was well-established in the region. Many sites, which remain important, were established during this time.8
It is important to note that, Ruhanga Adventist Primary School (est. 1947) and Ishaka Adventist Hospital (est. 1950), were among the mission’s most effective endeavors for spreading the gospel. An exemplary story is told about a man named Rukwira,9 a resident in Kabale, who could not find treatment for his wife until he reached Ishaka Adventist Hospital where he learned about the Adventist message. He gladly accepted the gospel, and when his wife was discharged, healthy and fine, they returned home as Adventists. It is these families that spread the gospel in places like Kabale and Rukungiri.
SWUF covered a larger territory that included the current Rwenzori Field (RF) prior to reorganization in 2012. The current SWUF retained the name because of its geographical location. Prior to the reorganization, the current SWUF was a mission station within the larger SWUF. Its name was Ankole-Kigezi Station.10 By the time this station was organized, this new region had two secondary schools at Ruhanga, established in 1986, and Ishaka, which was established the following year. There were a few primary schools at Ruhanga, Ishaka, and Kabale, and the Uganda Union Mission operated a hospital at Ishaka.
During the establishment of the station which quickly became a mission, there were 57 churches, five ordained ministers, and 12 licensed evangelists. Public evangelism was the method commonly used and a rate of about 1,000 people were added to church every year, and several churches were established as well as institutions.
In 1997, the station was organized into a mission and the then Ankole-Kigezi Station became Southwestern Uganda Mission. The leadership of this new mission included Joseph Twesigye as the mission president, the secretary was Tom Kyoma, and the accountant was Moses Twinomujuni. Twesigye was followed Pastor Kaahwa and then Edward Muwanga andKakuru Bernard as succeeding mission presidents.11
The entity worked tirelessly through successive leaders and on December 17, 2012, the mission was organized into a field with over ninety churches and a membership of 15,909 people. Kakuru Bernard was elected the field president, James Mugisha became the secretary, and Daniel B. Turyasingura as the treasurer.12 The executive committee was comprised of: Bernard B. Kakuru, chair; James Mugisha, secretary; Daniel B. Turyasingura; Atamba Mushabe; Saverino Byaruhanga; Kezia Karemire; Abel Munyarubega; Syson Ntungweriso; Amos Gumisiriza; Isaac Mugisha; Merynah Bagira; James Musinguzi; Franco Zirabamuzare; Julius Bagira; John Kule; and Abel Biz’Imana.
Departmental leaders included Saverino Byaruhanga for Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries, children’s ministries, and youth ministries; James Mugisha for communication; Atamba Mushabe for education, publishing, and stewardship; and Kezi Karemire for family ministries and women’s ministries. Kezia Karemire and Saverino Byaruhanga jointly directed Sabbath School and personal ministries. Ministries and Services: Global Mission, James Mugisha oversaw Global Mission and Atamba Mushabe the Spirit of Prophecy and Voice of Prophecy programs.
There were twenty-two ordained ministers: Michael Ariho, Stephen Bagorogoza, Enos Bankunda, Elisha Barere, Saverino Byaruhanga, Bernard B Kakuru, James Karemire, James Katunzi, John Kule, James Mugisha, Patrick Mukiga, Abel Munyarubega, Atamba Mushabe, James Musinguzi, Benard Namanya, Abel Natamba, Amos Ndarifite, Joseph K Ngare, John Sebukara, Stephen Tumwesigye, Isaac Turyamureeba, and Obed Turyatunga.13
Southwestern Uganda Field’s Future Outlook
SWUF is doing its best to fulfill the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20. The field is developing both in church membership and in increase of church workers. By the end of 2020, the field had a workforce of eighty-three people. Nevertheless, these are still few considering the size of the territory. Consequently, some pastors are in charge of twenty-five churches. The main challenge is that the financial support is still low. This makes it difficult to recruit additional workers.
The field received a special blessing of a visiting missionary, Ham Youngsik, from Korea. He accomplished much in this region. Ham Youngsik left his home country with his wife and two children in 2010 and stayed in this field for about ten years. During his stay, he was involved in the construction of three primary schools, two secondary schools, and roofed over seven churches. He also provided over 100 desks for students in church schools, helped in the completion of the field offices, and donated furniture as well as other office equipment. Ham Youngsik also solicited over 350 million Uganda shillings (almost $95,000) and acquired fifty-two acres of land intended to support ministry in the region. He is still soliciting funds to support thirty evangelists who have helped in spreading the gospel work in the field. His example has inspired one local church member to support four evangelists.14 It is believed that this trend will continue as others will be inspired to sponsor workers.
Chronology of the Leaders
Zechariah Muhoozi (1995), Joseph Twesigye (1996-2002), Edson Kaahwa (2003-2005), Edward Muwanga (2006-2010), Bernard B. Kakuru (2011- ).
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997-2013.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Nampa, ID: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2020.
“Southwestern Uganda Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2020), 64; The Secretariat of Seventh-day Adventist Church South Western Uganda Field. Statistical Report, 2021.↩
“Southwestern Uganda Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2020), 64.↩
Samuel Nyakizungu Biraaro and Eliezer Rwakishaija, interview by J. Kaganzi, July 16, 2019.↩
Stephen Kappa and Samuel Kangaho, interview by author, July 11, 2019.↩
Stephen Kappa and Samuel Kangaho, interview by author, July 11, 2019.↩
“Southwestern Uganda Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997), 76.↩
Abel Munyarubega, personal knowledge as front-line pastor at the time.↩
“Southwestern Uganda Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2013), 63,↩
“Southwestern Uganda Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2012), 60.↩
Abel Munyarubega, personal knowledge as the field executive secretary.↩