It all started in 1976 when a former student of late Archbishop Janan Luwum, at the then Bishop Tucker Theological College Mukono (now UCU), invited his former Tutor to his installation as Arch-deacon of the then, newly created Ibanda archdeaconry.
According to one of the elders of Ibanda, 98 year old and sound Murokore Sam Bishaka, a former head of Laity, Archbishop Luwum laid a foundation stone on St. Paul COU Ibanda, the pro-cathedral in 1976. Late Archbishop Janan Luwum is quoted to have appealed to the few church leaders in a private conversation to extend the then church that was being constructed, to cater for a bigger alter remarking that, “In future I see this becoming a very important church centre”.
Mr. Sam Bishaka at the time replied “Your Grace we are few and not financially strong”. It seems this conversation had a lasting impact on the church elders so much that in 1980 according to Mr. Sam Bishaka, he went along with Rev. George Nkoba, the then Administrative Secretary of Ankole region and Mr. George kahonda, then County Chief, to present a letter to the Late Bishop Amos Betungura, second Bishop of Ankole Diocese, requesting for the creation of a new Diocese headquartered at Ibanda.
The visit to Ibanda of Archbishop Luwum seems to have sparked off the growing desire to vouch for the creation of a new Diocese till the recent time when the synod of Ankole Diocese and later on the Provincial Assembly of Church of Uganda endorsed the idea. Earlier on, the history of establishment of Christianity in Ibanda Ankole sub-region as recounted to me by Rev. Can. George Nkoba who researched from UCU Mukono archives dates back to 1899, when Rev. Apollo Kivebulaya went through Kashangura in Ibanda and planted a memorial tree, as a sign of establishing the Native Anglican Church (ANC).
The first church was later established by Joseph Balikudembe, a Muganda from Salama in Mukono. In 1901, Rev. Herbert Clayton whom the Banyankore called “KIRINTONI” came to Ibanda from the Church Missionary Society (CMS) station in Mbarara and established the main church in Ibanda. Ibanda was the second church station in Ankole sub region after Mbarara.
One of the most prominent Christians to be baptized in 1903 was Julia Kibubura, a former diviner of the King of Ankole. Julia Kibubura and 25 other readers travelled by foot to Mbarara for baptism. The first person to be baptized at Ibanda as per the old age records still kept intact at St. Paul COU, was Mr. Musororwa Philip by Rev. Nuwa Nakiwafu on 3rd March 1918.
Julia Kibubura one of the first converts is perhaps the first high ranking woman political leader in Uganda since she became a sub county chief around 1904. Julia Kibubura’s heroic act of holding the body of the slain British Acting Sub-Commissioner for Western Province in 1905 is told in Banyankore folk lore. It is said that a local man Rutaraka was hired to kill Galt who was accused of molesting Banyankore who used to carry him in a carriage from Mbarara to Ibanda on foot. The story goes that whenever he was travelling, his subjects would request to rest a bit and he would retort, “Mpaka Banda” literally meaning,” No resting till we reach Ibanda.”
Julia Kibubura was instrumental in the construction of the first church made of mud and wattle and which was later in 1970’s to be replaced with the current St. Paul COU Ibanda on which Late Archbishop Luwum laid a foundation stone in 1976. The church was re-dedicated to God after major upgrade works were made, on Sunday 20th August 2017. St. Paul COU Pro- Cathedral is a marvel since the 1500 seater beautiful church is made of Kajjansi wall bricks and roof tiles! The hill on which Ibanda Pro-Cathedral stands derives its name from the word “Ibandura” meaning a place of traditional African worship.
It is this hill that in 1901 became known as “MISANI”, which was a pronounciation of the English “Mission Station” to denote missionary activities that started there including the establishment of the renown Kibubura Girls S.S, named after Julia Kibubura.
The consecration ceremony of the new Bishop for the New Diocese Rev. Can. Amos Magezi, former Provincial Secretary of church of Uganda on Sunday 1st October 2017, with the guest of honour expected to be HE YK Museveni, is expected to be a watershed moment that will fulfill the prophecy made by the Late Archbishop Janan Luwum in 1976.
The writer is the Bishop Ankole Diocese