Uganda prophet accused of canning worshippers detained

Friday September 02 2022

Pastor Dennis Kintu (right) and his co-accused Brian Isimbe appear before the Hoima Grade One Magistrates Court on September 1, 2022. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUGERWA | NMG


To followers, Mr Denis Kintu is an ordained man of God. A miracle performer. A soothsayer. They venerate him as an apostle.

To neighbours in Kyesiga Cell, Hoima, his gated Empowerment City Church (ECC), housed in a marquee fitted with glass windows, is an emitter of irritating noise. 

But to government institutions in Hoima, Mr Kintu, 42, is something else: a suspect. Police arrested him, and the lines of inquiry, among others, include alleged assault and the legal status of the church.

The self-styled Ugandan prophet was thrust into the public limelight not for performing a miracle. Rather, he was arrested after a video clip surfaced showing him administering swishing lashes on individuals identified as ushers at his church.

Their alleged crime, according to victims and witnesses, was in the words of Mr Kintu incompetence and late-coming. The courts already outlawed corporal punishment in Uganda.

The flogging allegedly happened during 11 am prayers on Sunday. Days later, a video of the whipping incident began circulating widely. Then detectives came knocking on Wednesday.


They picked the self-styled prophet alongside five members of the church and incarcerated them. The charges preferred against the quintet remained unknown, and the group was by Thursday night still in police custody. 

Mr Kintu, alongside a Brian Isembe, were taken to court Thursday, charged with 18 counts of common assault and causing bodily harm, assault, promoting sectarianism and human trafficking. 

The prosecution submitted that the accused, on the same Sunday, assaulted one Kevin Mugisa for abuse of power of rituals, while Doreen Aganyira and James Mugisa were respectively kept for extortion purposes and harmful rituals. 

Mr Kintu denied the charges. Grade One Magistrate Elijah Iradukunda remanded him to Kiryateete government prison on grounds that he lacked jurisdiction over eight of the 18 charges against the accused. He returns to court next Wednesday. 

Swishing lashes

In the video, a man holding a lash could be overheard summoning a number of the faithful towards the front and ordering them to lie down. Then he administered swishing lashes on them one after the other, whipping some more times than the rest.

The adults headed to the punishments in a single file, although some could be seen trying to skip, prompting the man to point at and beckon them forward.

In a part of the video, he is overheard assuring the followers he was caning that he had warned them he was not from Bunyoro, the region where the church is located, a proclamation which in court attracted charges of “promoting sectarianism” against Mr Kintu.

Earlier in the day, some subjects of Bunyoro Kingdom took issue with the alleged tribal reference.

“How can that pastor, who is serving people in Bunyoro, belittle them and [make] such tribal statements in a city where our king sits?” Mr Aggrey Rwahwire, a kingdom subject, said.

The whipping was allegedly to exorcise demons in the Christians, although Mr Kintu reportedly told police he was provoked to go physical the same way Jesus Christ is recorded in the Book of Mathew 21:12 to have stormed a temple and overturned the tables of money changers and seats of dove sellers.

Attacking journalists

Back at the church, many followers appeared unfazed by the dramatic changes in the fortunes of the founder. A number of worshippers were present, singing songs and others cleaning the compound.

A team of journalists who went filming at the place sparked their rage.

Journalists Joseph Kasumba, an NTV correspondent, and Mr Godfrey Muhumuza, an Urban TV correspondent, who appeared at the church ahead of a police cordon-and-search, reported that they were thumped. The assailants ordered footage deleted, said Mr Muhumuza.

“When I hesitated, they beat me up, pulled me from the road to the church premises. I was rescued by passersby who saw a scuffle,” said the journalist who filed a case of assault at Hoima Central Police Station.

The attack immediately drew the attention of Mr Gad Tusiime, the Hoima Media Association chairperson, who in a statement copied to, among others, Hoima City resident commissioner, said: “We condemn this barbaric incident in the strongest terms possible and ask relevant authorities to ensure the victims get justice.” 

Mr Morris Muhumuza, a neighbour to the pastor said: “The pastor should apologise to the people of Bunyoro for the alleged insults and sectarian statements he allegedly made against the Banyoro.” 

But a follower spoke passionately and powerfully of an “apostle” who she wants freed to continue with his prophesies and miracle performances. 

A female faithful claimed that Mr Kintu is a soothsayer and accurately predicts what will befall one in future, although it remained unclear if he foresaw his own fate.

“He told me that I would conceive within two months and it happened,” the female worshipper said on condition of anonymity because she lacked authority to speak to media.

Mr Charles Tibaijuka, the chairman of Kyesiiga-Kijwenge Cell, said no resident had lodged a formal complaint with his office against either the church or its officials.

He, however, added that he has heard neighbours complain of excessive noise pollution by worshippers at the church.

An investigation by Monitor has revealed that some local leaders are suspicious and uncomfortable with some of the church activities.

The Hoima City west Division Mayor, Mr Robert Ruhiigwa, says his office has received numerous complaints from neighbours and local leaders in the areas where the church is located.

“I received a complaint that every Friday, the church plays secular music similar to those played in clubs.

When I interfaced with the church officials, they said the pastor doesn’t want church members to admire music that is played in discos,” he said.

He says he also received suggestions from locals that Hoima West City Division should either close the church or compel it to stop noise pollution.

Mr Kintu has been remanded until September 7.