ICU Aided Travel of 273 Missing Christians

Fresh details about the missing members of the Christ Disciples’ Church show that they were aided to travel to Ethiopia by the Iteso Cultural Union- ICU. Correspondences seen by our reporter indicate that ICU was in touch with the leadership of Nyangatom tribe in Ethiopia to have “the Church Missionaries” from Teso join the Church in Ethiopia to transform the lives of the pastoral communities in the southern part of the country.

The Nyangatom are believed to be part of the Ateker community that connects through Turkana in Kenya, Southern Sudan, and Karamoja and Teso in Uganda. They live in the dry- semi-desert land of southwest Ethiopia and Southern Sudan, where their lives revolve around zebu cattle and growing crops, especially sorghum, maize, and tobacco.

In an introductory letter authored by the ICU Spokesman, Gabriel Opolot on February 1, 2023, to the authorities, there were prior plans for the mission some time back. “This serves to introduce Ministers from Christ Disciples’ Church, which is a fivefold ministry headquartered in Soroti, Teso- Uganda who have organized Ateker for Christ’s Evangelism in partnership with the Full Gospel Church Ethiopia scheduled from 9th February to 23rd March 2023 at Kangaten in Nyangatom, Ethiopia,” Opolot’s letter reads.

Opolot noted that the purpose of the mission was to preach the gospel of Christ for peace and co-existence among the Ateker community in Ethiopia, Kenya, Southern Sudan, and Uganda; meet and enhance relationships of the Ateker people, the Nyangatom and the Iteso of Uganda. After Opolot’s letter, Vincent Ocen Lead, one of the Pastors of CDC- Soroti wrote to Pastor Ekal of Kangaten Hiwot Birhan Church in Nyangatom, Ethiopia on February 10, 2023, informing him of the missionaries’ travel. 

Ocen’s letter indicated that the missionaries had received instructions from God to preach the message of salvation, redemption, and deliverance in Ethiopia over the last 20 years ago but the team reportedly didn’t heed it until they were punished. 

“We disobeyed but God Almighty punished us to the extent that we were left with no option but to repent and accept to travel. Hence, our previous visit to Kangatem- Nyangatom, Ethiopia to deliver this message in brief, confirm the place and people to whom the Lord has been speaking, and carry out further evangelism and God’s activities in Ethiopia,” Ocean’s letter reads in part.

Unlike the ICU letter that stated the specific period for the mission in Ethiopia, Ocen’s letter is open. It only shows that the preaching would commence after arrival on February 19th, 2023 until God, again directs them to return to Uganda. In his reply to Ocen’s letter, Abdissa Etuku Lokicha of Kangaten Hiwot Birhan Church in Nyangatom, Ethiopia welcomed the missionaries to Ethiopia. 

“As our Church in Kangaten- Nyangatom received your letter, we felt happy and started preparations to welcome you at the time you scheduled above. Our Church is ready to welcome our brethren from Teso- Uganda to Nyangatom. Besides, we are working together with Nyangatom administration to facilitate your entrance to Ethiopia”, reads a letter signed by Lokicha on February 16, 2023.  

The said missionaries mostly from Serere and Ngora districts sold the property to facilitate their transport, feeding, and other needs on their Journey to Ethiopia. Most of the families that traveled sold land, motor vehicles, food, and houses as each member needed a minimum of two million Shillings. According to Opolot, 273 missionaries traveled to Ethiopia. These include children and adults, some of whom are civil servants who abandoned their Local Government jobs for the mission in Ethiopia. 

Opolot told our reporter that the team is expected to transform the lives of the pastoralists, whom he notes have been depending solely on livestock that has contributed to the theft of animals and brewing conflicts within the Ateker community. He adds that the team is in Ethiopia after meeting all the required terms from the authorities.

CDC- Uganda speaks out:    

The Christ Disciples’ Church- CDC in Soroti has disassociated itself from the alleged missionary activities of its purported members to Ethiopia. In a press briefing on Saturday at their Church premises in Soroti City East Division, Bishop Ismael Orode Ojangole said that the group that reportedly went missing in Serere, Ngora, and other districts of Teso are a composition of rebellious people who broke away from the main Church in 2017.

He said that the group is led by Vincent Ocen Lead, Augustin Eragu, and James Enyaku who have been listed by the Police in East Kyoga for questioning. Bishop Ojangole says that the group with others stopped fellowshipping with them after rejecting his leadership when he was enthroned as second bishop in 2012.

Information obtained by our reporter indicates that CDC has undergone transformation and reviews over the years following disagreements by the top management. The Church was reportedly founded by Solomon Otale (now deceased), a resident of Amuria district, and was registered as an organization in 1973 as Christ Disciples by Vincent Obileng. 

Samuel Odeke, the Secretary under CDC- Uganda says that the registration was hijacked by the elites who took advantage of the ignorance and the high illiteracy levels of the founder members at the time. He says that the religious organization registered under Christ Disciples took center stage in Kampala forcing the other group in Teso to register a new organization, Christ Disciples’ Church- Soroti in 2004.

Odeke notes that the 2004 registration was spearheaded by Vincent Ocen whom he notes was one of the most exposed and educated members of the Church at the time. Odeke, however, notes that Ocen and another group also took advantage of the same disease that affected the founders to own the organization. This climaxed in 2017 when the team broke away leading to the re-registration of the Church as Christ Disciples’ Church- Uganda (CDC- Uganda) in 2019.

Opolot told our reporter that missionaries traveled by road via Moroto through Turkana in Kenya to Ethiopia. The team is led by Pastor Vincent Ocen, Simon Opolot and another Pastor only identified as Okwalinga. 

When contacted on the progress of the Police investigations after the new details emerged about the missing persons, Oscar Gregg Ageca, the East Kyoga Regional Police Spokesman said that he will communicate after further engagement with the security chiefs. 

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