A statue of the first African Bishop in East and Central Africa, Abel Kakyomya Balya, has been erected in Fort Portal. Bishop Reuben Kisembo of Ruwenzori Diocese says that the statue is a historical reminder of the role played by Balya in preaching Christianity in Africa.
The statue depicting Balya in white and red robes is located on the green belt in the centre of Fort Portal town on Balya Road, one of the several places named after him.
The statue that cost 20 million Shillings was erected in partnership between the deceased's family and Ruwenzori Diocese. Bishop Balya's family is headed by his son, Brigadier Ronnie Balya, the former Director Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and now Uganda's Ambassador to Juba, South Sudan.
Balya's biography and Christian work have been inscribed on the sides of the statue.
Bishop Reuben Kisembo of Ruwenzori Diocese says that the statue is a historical reminder of the role played by Balya in preaching Christianity in Africa. Bishop Kisembo explains that it was agreed that the statue be erected strategically in the town to attract curious visitors.
According to Kisembo, the diocese will regularly maintain the statue and urged residents not to destroy it.
Rev. Willy Muhanga, the Mayor Fort Portal Municipality, says that through the statue and information inscribed on it, the young and future generations will understand the contribution of Bishop Balya.
Bishop Balya was born in 1877 to parents Kebisingo Rwigonyangabu and Korwizi Kaisasirwa in Rwahunga village, Mpara Sub County, Kyaka County in the present day Kyegegwa district. The young Balya joined his father in Omukama Kabalega's army, the Abarusura, to fight against the British until Bunyoro's defeat in 1899.
Balya was baptised in 1901 and later confirmed. After learning how to read and write, he was later selected by missionaries to teach in the Kabarole mixed school. Balya's real call to Christian ministry came in 1903 while he was working as a curate at Kabarole.
Rev. Johnson, a European missionary priest, sent Balya to Kyaka Nyakabimba to preach the gospel and to Ankole.
On February 25, 1907, Balya married Ketura Byanga and was later posted to Mboga-Zaire, present day Democratic Republic of Congo.
In 1910, Balya was among the four priests who translated the bible into Runyoro-Rutooro. The others were Rev. Maddox, Yonasani Kamuhiigi and Zabuloni Musana.
In 1914, Balya was sent to Namirembe for further studies and then to to Bishop Tucker Theological College, Mukono four years later. He became a deacon in 1918. In 1921 he was posted to Rwengoma as vicar. While there, Balya extended his operations to Bukonjo, Bwamba, and Butuku/Ntoroko in present day Kasese and Bundibugyo districts.
In 1931 he was made canon of Namirembe Cathedral, a difficult position to attain back then. All this while, Reverend Balya worked tirelessly to build St. John's Cathedral Kabarole which opened in 1939.
In 1947, Balya was appointed bishop by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the advice of Bishop Stuart who was bishop of Uganda then.
After first pleading with Bishop Stuart to convince church authorities not to appoint him, he was enthroned as the first African Anglican Bishop in East, Central and Southern Africa. He also received a medal, the order of the British Empire (O.B.E), from the Queen of England.
Many places and institutions in the Tooro have been named after him in remembrance of his contribution to education and religion. They include Bishop Balya Theological College-Bukuku, Kabarole district, Bishop Balya Parish Church-Bunyonyi, Kabarole district and Bishop Balya Girls Secondary School in Kamwenge district among others.
Balya died in 1979 at the age of 102 years and was buried at St. John's Cathedral in Fort Portal.
Bishop Balya's statue is the second historical statue to be erected in the centre of Fort Portal town. In 2008, a statue of Sir Gerald Portal, a British Special Commissioner to Uganda was erected. Fort Portal town is named after Gerald Portal.
The statue has become popular with British tourists and residents.
Bishop Abel Kakyomya Balya's history
-Born on 1877 to Kebisingo Rwigonyangabu and Korwizi Kaisasirwa in Rwahunga Village, Mpara Sub County, Kyegegwa district.
-Baptized on April 7th 1901
-1903 Started Christian Ministry as a curate in Kabarole district
-1905 Balya was sent to Ankole to preach the word of God
-1907 Married and was sent to Mboga, DRC Congo
-1908 Posted to Kitagwenda in Kamwenge District
-1910-1911-Bishop Balya and other clergy translated the bible into Runyoro-Rutooro.
-1918-He was sent to Bishop Tucker Theological College, now Uganda Christian University and was ordained deacon.
-1924-Posted to Butiti in Kyenjojo where he served for seven years
-1931- Balya was posted to Kabarole district and played a big role in the construction of St. John's Cathedral.
-1938-Admitted in the hierarchy of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) of England.
-1940- Received Order of the British Empire (O.B.E) medal from Queen of England.
-1947- Appointed Assistant Bishop of Uganda by the Bishop of Canterbury.
-October 26th 1947- Was consecrated Bishop at Namirembe Cathedral and enthroned as Bishop of East and Central Africa and Mboga-Congo.
-1960-Retired at the age of 83 years.
-26th November 1979-Died at the age of 102 and was buried t St. John's Cathedral Kabarole.