Woman Accuses Church of Extortion

The Monitor, Uganda/April 26, 2007
By Rodney Muhumuza

Kampala -- A woman who offered her car to a local church as a sacrifice for "good health" has threatened to take her pastors to court for alleged extortion.

Ms Frances Adroa, a self-confessed Aids patient, says senior pastors at the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a Kampala church which she joined in June 2005, obtained possession of her car by pretending that they would reverse her health status if she invested in sacrifice.

In an affidavit she swore before the Chief Magistrate's Court of Buganda Road, Ms Adroa said the pastors took advantage of "my distress".

She claimed the car, Reg No. UCQ 676, was handed over to the church's leadership on July 11, 2005, less than a month after a pastor, Patrick Maselela, had persuaded her to give it up.

"I Frances Adroa ...do solemnly declare that with the full knowledge of my distress and broken heartedness, the pastors launched the campaign of Mount Sinai to which all members were required to give sacrifices and write prayer requests to God, which they claimed would be taken to Mount Sinai," the April 10 affidavit says.

"That to further coerce me to give, they showed us a documentary of their worldwide leadership on Mount Sinai [in Israel] performing rituals similar to what they had promised us."

Yesterday, at a Wandegeya garage where the church's leadership was to officially hand over the car to the claimant, Ms Adroa pointed to a battered car parked in line with others of its kind-crashed saloon vehicles that looked like relics from the past.

Although the handover did not happen, as the UCKG pastors never showed up, she spoke bitterly of how she had been taken for a fool.

It was still unclear how the car had been crashed in the front, but Ms Adroa and Mr Solomon Male, a Kampala pastor who acts as her adviser, said they did not rule out malice.

Documents seen by this reporter show that when Ms Adroa tried to get back her car mid last year, after her illness intensified, she was told by her pastors that she had no valid claim on it.

However, she was later given one condition. "The UCKG has nothing against giving you back your car, which you voluntarily gave as an offering to the church, since you are now claiming it back," UCKG's letter to Ms Adroa said. "However, note that the church has incurred a lot of expenses in trying to bring the car into good condition as it now is."

The letter, signed by Pastor Gerald Nyaki, said she would need to pay Shs2 million, a sum that had allegedly been invested in reconditioning the vehicle.

In a separate affidavit the church signed before the commissioner of oaths, Mr Nyaki said Ms Adroa had willingly signed documents transferring ownership of the vehicle, a claim not denied by Ms Adroa.

Mr Male, a tenacious cleric known for his controversial exposés on vices in the Church, said Ms Adroa had been "persuasively coerced" at "her hour of need". Ms Adroa said she has not lost faith in the church "because there are a few bad guys messing up God's name".

Efforts to reach UCKG pastors were futile.

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