Uganda: Pastor Yiga's Life, Death Leave Divided Opinion

28 October 2020

Last Friday, news broke that Pastor Augustine Yiga, aka Abizaayo, of Revival Church, Kawaala, a Kampala suburb, had died.

But it only turned out to be fake news shortly afterwards. However, in hindsight, this was a harbinger of what was coming only 72 hours later.

The controversial city pastor was announced dead at 10:30pm on Monday night. He had been admitted to Nsambya hospital struggling with liver disease since September 27, according to the church spokesperson, Mr Farouk Semaganda Ssesaazi.

Health problems

"On September 27, the pastor went to Nsambya for check-up but was admitted immediately. He was not able to leave the hospital until he died. He has been struggling with liver complications for a few years now. He even sought advanced medical care in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2018, so this has been a pre-existing condition," Mr Semanda said.

Several sources from his church members and family claim that Yiga was never the same after his release from jail on May 5. He had been remanded to Kitalya Mini Maximum Prison in Busujju, Wakiso District, on March 30 on charges of spreading misinformation and harmful propaganda that there was no coronavirus in Uganda or Africa.

"At the prison, he neither ate the right food nor received treatment for his condition," the church spokesperson said.

Yiga was visibly frail at his bail hearing at Nateete court and it was granted him based on his medical condition.

Yiga was born on April 25,1976, in Mpaama Village, Bukomansimbi to Yosef Matovu his and Elizabeth Kwagala. He would come to Kampala to chase his dream life after his Senior Four in the early 90s.

He tried his hand at mending watches. In the late 90s, Yiga would ditch the life of a technician to try his hand at music. His music of choice was Kadongo Kamu. Some say he tried his hand at street gambling before he saw 'the light' and went on to become a pastor.

"In 2004, Yiga built his first church in Kiwuunya, Kasubi, about a kilometre from the present church. The kiwempe (makeshift) church only lasted a year before he got a better space in Kawaala next to the Kawaala Health Centre in 2005. In 2009, he moved the church again to the current plot about 200 meters away," Mr Semaganda said.

Pastor Yiga has been on the wrong side of controversy for close to two decades. His rise to stardom was the heavily laden phrase, Abizaayo, which is Luganda for "he who sends them back".

In that phrase, was the message to all and sundry that Pastor Yiga had the ability to not only heal you of witchcraft but also send back the charms to whoever had sent them.

Controversies

Over the years, Yiga has been involved in altercations with law enforcement over cases of mostly sexual nature. And that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Renown comedian Richard Tuwangye said it best on his Facebook wall: "No one thought a make-shift drama theatre would thrive in Kasubi, Kawaala. He took the risk and started one there. He broke the rules and set his own... (a thing creatives must do if they are to achieve any success)."

The last message from Pastor Yiga before his passing was in a WhatsApp voice to the staff at his ABS Television station, telling them to be full of courage and hope. It came after a full day of rumours that he had died.

Yiga left a will. In it, he demanded not to be buried less than five days after his death. In the same will, he desired to be buried next to his mother in Kawaala near the church premises.

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