By Nkonge Ally Cheune
This paper aims at examining the various conflicts and factions that have existed in the Muslim Community in B/uganda from the time Islam was introduced in 1844 to the present day (2009). It will Endeavour to investigate the causes of conflicts at the level of both professed and non professed motives, the means and attempts made to resolve conflict in each case, the results, and the overall effects to the Muslim community in B/Uganda. It is important to note that in a period of 175 years that Islam has existed in B/Uganda, 143 years have been characterized by conflict and friction between factions, with small spells of peace and unity once in a while.
Islam was spread to the various parts of the World following Prophet Mohamed’s tradition which compelled each of his companions to transmit even a single word heard from him to the rest of the communities. This tradition became very instrumental for each Muslim to transmit the message to others regardless of the level of knowledge one had attained. Nevertheless, the companions always respected those members of the society whom they considered more knowledgeable among themselves and hence the less knowledgeable could never oppose their superiors.
During the time of Prophet Mohamed, any conflict or doubt among Muslims was straight away referred to him for guidance. It became a tradition that after the death of the Prophet, the first two caliphs were taken as the points of reference in carrying forward his mission. The Muslims, however, knew that the caliphs were not prophets and therefore could be opposed in case of difference in opinion. Hence in the reign of Uthman, the third caliph, opposition emerged which symbolized the beginning conflict in the early Muslim Community in Arabia.
Islam in B/uganda
Kabaka Suuna II as a Muslim Leader
Islam reached B/Uganda about 1200 years after the death of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH), when some minor differences in the interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith had already emerged, and different approaches in spreading Islam were being applied. Differences in opinion on some minor issues had developed to the extent of creating sects in the Muslim community. The first conflict that erupted among the Muslims in B/Uganda was based on the differences in the approach of spreading Islam.
Ahmad bin Ibrahim led the first group of Arabs who reached the Buganda Kingdom in the year 1844 A.D. during the reign of Kabaka Suuna II. They found the kingdom with a strong culture and a well established political system that rotated around the Kabaka. They identified some strong cultural aspects which were opposed to the teachings of Islam but could be tolerated. Among these was the belief that Kabaka’s blood can never be shed. It implied that the Kabaka could not undergo the rite of circumcision and yet it represented one of the major principles of Islam. Ibrahim and his group considered it possible for a person to embrace Islam without undergoing circumcision. This group of Muslims was able to tolerate Kabaka Suuna II to lead prayers when he was not circumcised.
Mutesa I as the leader of Muslims
After the death of Suuna, Mutesa I inherited the throne but he also remained uncircumcized. He, like his father, learnt the recitation of the Qur’an, performed the five daily prayers, observed the fasting of the month of Ramathan for ten years and eventually declared Islam the official religion of the kingdom. Mutesa I himself was both the Kabaka and the leader of Islam (chief khadhi or mufti). He used to lead all prayers performed in his presence and he ordered all animals for human consumption to be prepared (slaughtered) as per Islamic teachings. Mutesa’s status as Imaam matched with the traditional status of the Kabaka whereby no one in the kingdom could be contemplated to be superior to the Kabaka.
Conflict and Factions
In 1876 a group of Muslims entered B/Uganda from the Sudan. Their approach in spreading Islam was different from that used by the first group. They criticized the first group for having accepted the Kabaka to lead prayers when he was not circumcised. They considered it unIslamic for any uncircumcised person to lead prayers or slaughter animals for human consumption. As the Muslims refused to be led in prayer by the uncircumcised Kabaka, which act was regarded as a rebellion, the consequence was the execution of 140 Muslims on the orders of the King.
This rebellion made Mutesa I skeptical of Muslims and the Arabs who had introduced the faith. It was around this time that Mutesa I got contacts with the Europeans and wrote a letter to the Queen of England, requesting her majesty to send people to teach his people how to read and write. The outcome of Mutesa’s letter was the coming of the first Anglican Church Missionaries in 1877, followed by the Catholic White Fathers in 1879. The arrival of these Missionaries marked the beginning of a formal system of education and organized missionary work in Uganda as seen today.
The missionaries came with strong weapons which Mutesa thought were vital for the expansion of the kingdom and the consolidation of his authority which the Muslims had attempted to challenge. As a consequence, he made the Christian missionaries his close allies, eventually replacing Islam with Christianity as the state religion. The efforts by the Muslims to regain their good relationship with the King met stiff resistance from the Christians who were now increasing in numbers and eventually the Muslims were expelled form the palace. Although Mutesa did not denounce Islam by the time of his death in 1881, there was no longer any close relationship between him and the rest of the Muslim community apart from his step brother prince Nuhu Mbogo.
The cost of the conflict to the Muslims in B/uganda
140 Muslims executed.
Islam lost the status of a state religion which it had attained.
Muslims were expelled from the palace and influence to the Kabaka was lost.
Mutesa I was succeeded by his son Mwanga II who, after accepting the influence of Christianity in the kingdom for some times, fell out with the Missionaries and executed their followers. He was removed from the throne and the Muslims were quick enough to enthrone his brother Mutebi-Kiwewa, whom they thought would be a better ally. This was at a time when Muslims still had the upper hand and still controlled almost all big positions in the palace. Mutebi’s performance did not measure with the challenging situation of the competition between the Muslims, on the one hand, and the Christians on the other. He was consequently replaced by his brother Kalema who was courageous enough to become the first King who accepted to be circumcised.
Kabaka Rashid Kalema as the leader of Islam.
After the Muslims had installed Kalema, Islam was brought back into the mainstream and a Muslim katikiro Abdul Kadir Kyambadde was appointed to make Islam appear a state religion once again. This turn of events hurt the Christians of the two denominations to the extent that the Catholics, the Protestants and the traditionists united and fought the Muslims. The result of the war that followed was the expulsion of Muslims from the palace and the prominent ones exiled from Buganda. Prince Nuhu Mbogo ran to Bunyoro with a number of Muslims who elected him as the “King” for the Muslims in exile. Other Muslims scattered to different parts of Uganda, a process that facilitated the spread of Islam to the rest of Uganda.
Prince Mbogo as the leader of Islam.
In 1890, the Imperial British East African Company (I.B.E.A.CO.) was formed, and B/Uganda was declared a British protectorate. Captain Lugard, who was sent as the representative of I.B.E.A.CO., came with the intention of promoting Christianity in this part of the world. He thought that, as “King” of the Muslims in exile, Prince Mbogo would be a threat to the colonial leadership. Lugard therefore persuaded Mbogo and Kalema’s surviving son to surrender. When Mbogo surrendered, he was detained, an act that annoyed the rest of the Muslims. After then, the Muslims were highly segregated to the extent that no single Muslim was appointed to any principle office.
In the effort to regain power and political influence, the Muslims reorganized and planned to stage a coup using troops from Sudan and Egypt. When the British authority realized that Mbogo’s influence was intolerable, even when under detention, they decided to exile him to Seychelles Islands.
By 1900, much as the Muslims were being marginalized, their presence and influence in the National affairs could not be completely ignored. In the 1900 B/Uganda agreement, out of the twenty counties that made up Buganda, Muslims were allocated only one county of Butambala and Prince Nuhu Mbogo was released and recognized as the leader of Muslims but not a Kabaka. He was given a pension of 250 pounds while 24 sq. miles were allocated to him on behalf of the Muslim community. When Mbogo died in 1921, prince Kakungulu, his son, succeeded him as the leader of Muslims in B/Uganda.
Prince Kakungulu as the leader of Islam
After the death of Mbogo, Muslims had already known the importance of being in leadership, especially in regard to the Muslim Community, the Kingdom of Buganda and the country Uganda which was still in the making. Some politically minded people thought that they would use the demise of the Prince to separate Muslim leadership from the royal family. Around 1923 a dispute erupted between Taibu Magatto and Kakungulu’s supporters over the issue of leadership in the Muslim Community.
Taibu Magatto was the county chief of Butambala, the only county given to the Muslim Community by the Imperial Government. He argued that Kakungulu did not have any qualifications in religious studies and therefore was not fit to be the head of the faith. He was supported by a prominent Muslim Sheikh Sekimwanyi. Kakungulu went all the way to getting instructors from Zanzibar to teach him the religion but these efforts were not enough to win him support from his opponents. Instead, they developed another distinguishing factor based on doctrinal differences. It was on the basis of these doctrinal differences that all the emerging groups founded their organizations.
A close examination of the trend of Muslim leadership wrangles in B/Uganda indicates that even when the issues professed by the complainants are addressed, the leaders of the factions invent other sources of differences, however minor they may be, to justify their continued separate leadership. On the other hand if the leader of a faction eventually manages to join what is considered the mainstream organ, he ends up doing exactly what he had been criticizing of his predecessors.
The following examination of the factions and conflicts will only indicate the professed points of differences but the hypothesis is that the non professed motive is the leadership issue whereby individuals manipulate fellow Muslims to assess leadership positions.
When Islam was first introduced to B/Uganda, the teaching was that Juma prayers replace the Zuhur (zukuuli) Prayers on Fridays. However, as people read literature from different sources, there came up a view that both Juma and Zuhur were Faradha (compulsory) prayers and that none of the two could replace the other. This view created antagonism within the Muslim community, to the extent that the matter was referred to the Tanzanian Muslim leaders, as they were regarded as superior in Islamic knowledge. The judgment given did not satisfy the conflicting groups and the matter was then referred to Mecca.
The results of the Mecca appeal recommended that the two groups should coexist. The juma-zukuuli would perform Juma and add Zuhur, while those who believed otherwise would do with Juma alone. The leader of Juma-Zukuuli was Abdullah Mivule whose headquarters were at Kawempe. The rest who subscribed to this belief remained sharing the same mosques with other Muslims, but would organize themselves and perform Zuhur after Juma Prayers.
Another dispute arose when one group of Muslims rejected emphasis on Hadith and playing Mataali on Muslim functions. The split was between Juma Nkadde and Juma Mpya. Juma Nkadde disagreed with those who put great emphasis on the importance of hadith. They also rejected mataali which they regarded unislamic. On the other hand Juma Mpya encouraged the translation of khutuba into local languages during Juma Prayers. They also allowed their follower to use the Calendar to decide the beginning of the month of Ramathan as well as Idd day. They would perform adhan in the grave before powering soil into the grave during burial. Juma Nkadde had their headquarters at Bukoto Nateete and the prominent Sheiks in this sect were Sekimwanyi, Abdul Kadir Mbogo, Mukongo, and Mugenyi Asooka. Under Mugenyi Asooka’s leadership, this sect became known as ‘the African Muslim Community Juma sect.
This sect became known as Kibuli Jamiatil Islamia with its headquarters at Kibuli. Its difference from Juma Nkadde was the acceptance of the use of Mataali on Islamic functions, the application of hadith in the interpretation of the Qur’an and as guidance on other Islamic Issues, and waiting for the sighting of the moon to start fasting during the month of Ramadhan and celebrating Idd. The leader of this sect was Prince Badru Kakungulu with Sheik Muhamad Ssemakula as one of the prominent sheikhs. This group was the closest to the political leadership because of the royal family connection.
KIKABYA QUR’AN SOCIETY.
The Kikabya Qur’an Society was under the leadership of one Kalijaata although it did not gain prominence. Its main teaching was that during Friday khutuba, nothing was supposed to be said other than reciting the holy Qur’an. It considered sunna and hadith unnecessary. It became unpopular because it taught that bathing the whole body (ghusul) after ceremonial intercourse was not obligatory.
UGANDA MUSLIM COMMUNITY.
When Uganda gained her independence in 1962, Mutesa II, the Kabaka of Buganda doubled as the first president of the whole of Uganda. The fact that Juma mpya was led by prince Kakungulu, a member of the royal family, made the sect more powerful than the rest of the sects that had existed up to that time. Juma mpya (kibuli jamiatil Islamia) now became known as Uganda Muslim Community implying that it was to cater for all the Muslims in Uganda. It is important to note that up to that time, all prominent persons in Muslim leadership positions in the various factions were Baganda.
When Obote fell out with Muteesa and subsequently abolished all Kingdoms in Uganda, he badly needed to divert the loyalty of the Muslim Community from Buganda to the ruling party. He therefore devised a plan of using the educated non Baganda Muslims to form an association which would match with the ruling system. This is how NAAMU came into existence.
THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF MUSLIMS OF UGANDA (NAAMU).
The main professed motive of this association was to provide Muslims with leadership based on knowledge of Islam rather than inheritance as it seemed to be with the Uganda Muslim Community. This idea sounded attractive to the sheikhs who were not close to the royal family of Buganda and to the educated Muslims who were in the ruling UPC party. The prominent sheikhs included Swaibu Ssemakula, Obedi Kamulegeya and Abu Bakar Matovu. The educated UPC group included Adoko Nichon, a cousin to president Obote, Abasi Balinda, Ishak Magezi, Mustafa Kupa and many others from different parts of Uganda.
NAAMU became the Muslim wing of UPC and by 1968, President Obote had appointed many of the NAAMU members as sub-county and county chiefs. UMC, on the other hand, remained attached to the royal family and the support of the elderly and the un-educated Muslims. The political rivalry between Buganda and the rest of Uganda was directly transferred into Islam as UMC vs NAAMU, and since UMC was older than NAAMU, all mosques in Uganda were assumed by the majority of Muslims to belong to UMC, an idea that was unacceptable to NAAMU members. The consequence of this controversy was a tour of the country by NAAMU leaders in a bid to register more support for their faction.
UMC members staged resistance in some places but NAAMU had the government support that created a power imbalance. The consequences of these struggles were the shootings at Kemishego, Kajara in 1968, during which Idd Kawaganya (father to Imam Kasozi) and Dauda Moshi (son of Mutasa) were killed. Present at the scene of the incident doubling as a government official and NAAMU member was Abasi Balinda and it was Rwakanengere, the commander of police (a non-Muslim) who ordered the shooting.
LOSSES INCURRED BY THE MUSLIMS DUE TO DISUNITY
Loss of lives such as those lost in Kajara.
Muslims missed the opportunity to bargain for more land and to get land titles during the colonial times.
THE UGANDA MUSLIM SUPREME COUNCIL (UMSC)
1. Sheikh Abdul Razak Matovu as Chief Kadhi.
When Idd Amin took over power in 1971, as a Muslim, he was aware of the need for streamlining leadership in the Muslim Community. He started by consulting Muslim opinion leaders on what should be done to empower a community that had been left behind in almost all aspects of life. Whether he wanted to use the community as a political base, the outcome was a community under one leadership called the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.
In a meeting held in Kabale Town in 1972, UMSC was formed as an umbrella organization for all Muslims in Uganda. Unlike the various Muslim groups that had existed hitherto, UMSC made a written constitution and was registered as a company. This constitution exists but unfortunately very few Muslims have bothered to read and internalize it. The highest office in the leadership structure as per the constitution was the office of the chief kadhi. At the same meeting, Sheikh Abdul Razak Matovu was elected chief kadhi while Sheikh Ali Kulumba was made the deputy. Other office bearers were also elected, putting into consideration regional representation, as earlier instructed by the President.
2. Sheikh Sulaiman Matovu as Chief Kadhi.
In 1973, Abdul Razak Matovu fell out with Idd Amin and Sheik Sulaiman Matovu was chosen to replace him. It is, however, not clear whether Amin followed the constitution in effecting this appointment, but since he was the founder of UMSC, a Muslim and a military leader, no one could dare query the appointment.
Sulaiman Matovu (commonly known as Sheik Mukulu) remained chief kadhi until 1978 when he resigned. This is the time when Amin was engaged in a stiff battle with UNLFA supported by the Tanzanian army and he had no time to attend to other issues until he was overthrown on 11th April 1979. Haji Mufanjala, who was the Chairman of the UMSC under Sulaiman Matovu’s leadership, headed the council until the fall of Amin’s government.
BENEFITS OF UNITY TO THE MUSLIMS BEFORE THE FALL OF AMIN.
1. The formation of UMSC provided an umbrella organization with a national character.
2. Idd Amin enabled Muslims to acquire property which included buildings, land, and factories.
3. Muslims acquired their first unifying headquarters at Old Kampala, independent of Kibuli which had a historical attachment to the royal family of Buganda.
4. Uganda became a registered member of the Organization of Islamic Conference, the result of which is the I.U.I.U.
5. Idd day was celebrated on the same day throughout Uganda as opposed to the past when each faction could celebrate it on a different day.
6. Through UMSC, scholarships could be secured for Muslim students throughout the country and many of the Muslim professionals in Uganda today were beneficiaries of the scheme.
7. Islam and the Muslims at large begun to be revered which resulted in many conversions to Islam.
3. Sheikh Kassim Mulumba as Chief Kadhi.
When the UNLF took over power, the leaders wanted to reconcile with the Muslims for the atrocities done during the war. They needed a leader through whom they would reach the whole community. The UNLA leadership approached Prince Badru Kakungulu as a Muslim opinion leader for consultation about the Muslim leadership. Prince Kakungulu forwarded the name of Sheik Kassim Mulumba as a suitable candidate to be acting chief kadhi in the interim until the Muslims would be able to elect their leaders.
During the war that overthrew Amin, many innocent Muslims had been massacred at Kiziba in Bushenyi, but because of having no central leadership the incident had remained unknown to the world. Immediately Mulumba took office, he organized a Mauled in Mbarara during which he made public all the massacres before government representatives. He asserted that Muslims had not been liberated and challenged government to take action. Without such central leadership, it was impossible for the Muslims to forward their grievances.
4. Two Chief Kadhi- Mulumba and Kamulegeya; and Mufti Matovu.
In 1980 Prince Kakungulu called upon Mulumba and advised him to organize general elections since his coming to office was not through the constitutional procedures and was only meant to serve for an interim period. When Mulumba turned down the advice, Kakungulu organized a meeting at Makerere University where another team of leaders was appointed, with a new headquarters at Kibuli. A position of Mufti was created and the Muslim leadership crisis went back to the days before Amin came to power.
The office bearers elected at Makerere were: Abdul Razak Matovu as Mufti, Obed Kamulegeya as chief kadhi and Badru Kakungulu as chairman. It is not clear whether these leaders were elected constitutionally, but they claimed to be the rightful office bearers as opposed to Mulumba’s group. This was another beginning of having two sets of leaders, claiming to be heading the same organization at the same time.
The confusion that followed led the matter to be referred to the Muslim World League (MWL) in 1982. In a meeting chaired by Qasamallah, the two groups agreed to merge into one with the following positions: Abdul Razak Matovu as Mufti, Kassim Mulumba as chief kadhi, Obed Kamulegeya as deputy chief kadhi, Badru Kakungulu as chairman and Isa Lukwago as Secretary General.
On realizing that the new team was dominated by his opponents who had been elected at Makerere, Mulumba submitted his resignation letter to the Mufti on medical grounds. When he got a second thought to withdraw his resignation, it was too late as his position had already been taken up by Kamulegeya. Mulumba declared himself again as the chief kadhi of UMSC and put his headquarters at Masjid Noor, William Street. Kamulegeya, being a close associate of Obote because of the UPC/ NAAMU connection, forced Mulumba out of Masjid Noor and the later shifted his headquarters to Lubaga Road Mosque.
The period that followed gave Obote and his henchmen the opportunity to apply his method of divide and rule. While Obote and some of his strong men recognized Kamulegeya and his group as the official leaders of the UMSC, his vice President Paul Muwanga and others sided with Mulumba and his group and provided them with all the necessary support as the official leaders of the UMSC. The government officials who were prominent in this fracas were Chris Rwakasisi, Minister of state in the office of the President, Luwuliza Kirunda, Minister of Internal affairs, Ambassador Ali Ssenyonga, and Tito Okello the Army Chief.
5. Sheikh Hussein Rajab Kakooza as Chief Kadhi.
When Bazilio Okello and Tito Okello turned against Obote in a military coup, Mulumba also staged a coup and chased away Kamulegeya and his group from old Kampala headquarters. This turn of events was made possible by the personal relationships of the people involved. Muwanga and Mulumba were old friends from the 60s when Muwanga was Uganda’s Ambassador in Cairo while Mulumba was a student there. On the other hand Kamulegeya was a close ally of the Obote government because of his link with the UPC party.
Kamulegeya appealed to the Muslim World League for help and in a meeting chaired by Dr. Umar Nassif, the secretary general MWL, it was agreed that both Kamulegeya and Mulumba should step aside for new leadership. This was the Mecca agreement which proposed the election of an interim leadership of UMSC composed of people who had not been involved in previous conflicts. The new interim leaders were Sheikh Hussein Rajab Kakooza as chief kadhi, Sheikh Ibrahim Saad Luwemba as deputy chief kadhi and Ntege Lubwama as Secretary General. Ntege Lumwama failed to take up the office and it was taken over by Yusuf Isa Byekwaso.
6. Two Mufti – Kakooza and Luwemba.
Sheikh Hussein Rajab Kakooza organized the national elections for the community leadership as per the Mecca agreement where both the incumbent Chief Kadhi and his Deputy were among the contestants. The final results had Sheikh Ibrahim Saad Luwemba as Mufti and Ali Senyonga as Chairman. This turn of events was unexpected to some Muslims who thought that the Muslim leadership still had to be attached to the Buganda royal family.
Prominent Muslims in support of the Kakungulu group and led by Haji Abubakar Mayanja proposed that the elections should be nullified, claiming that they contained irregularities and that Luwemba had no qualifications for the position of Mufti. Kakooza and his group refused to hand over office to Luwemba and the matter ended up in the courts of law as Luwemba put up his headquarters at Lubaga Road to go ahead with business as usual.
Eventually Court made its judgment in favor of Luwemba, basing on the argument that the UMSC constitution allowed one to become a Mufti if he had an equivalent of a degree in Islamic Law. Luwemba was in possession of a certificate from Libya which Court considered the equivalent of a degree in Islamic Law. Consequently, Luwemba took over the headquarter office at old Kampala. Kakooza’s group considered the judgment unfair and moved their headquarters to Kibuli where they kept claiming to be the rightful leaders of the community. It is important to note that during Luwemba’s tenure of office, some property that had been left by the Indians under the custody of UMSC was returned to the Indians following the guidance of the central Government. This move did not auger well to some Muslims to the extent that it widened the rift between existing factions. It was this time that some Muslims started to query the whereabouts of the money for the completion of the headquarter mosque which had been pledged by the Iranian President when he visited Uganda. Whether the pledge was fulfilled or not still remains a question.
7. Two Mufti- Luwemba and Mukasa.
The Muslim Unity and Reconciliation Conference that was held in Kampala on 10th May 1993 under the stewardship of Professor George Kanyeihamba, was an attempt by the Uganda Government to intervene in the Muslim dispute. Funding was acquired from the Muslim World League, represented in Uganda by Dr. Mohamed Ahmad Kisuule, who was a sympathizer of the Kakooza group at Kibuli.
Sheikh Luwemba was skeptical of Kisuule’s neutrality and, as a consequence, he refused to participate in the follow-up meeting in Mbarara that saw Sheikh Ahmad Mukasa elected as another Mufti. The event ended Kakooza’s claim to the office and started off another rivalry between Luwemba and Mukasa that culminated into an embarrassing episode when the two Muslim leaders were separately invited to officiate on a public function and had to fight over the microphone! The rivalry went on even after the death of Sheikh Luwemba, who was succeeded by Sheikh Muhamad Semakula.
8. Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje as Mufti
The situation of double leadership in the UMSC continued until 2001 when the Mukasa and Semakula groups agreed to hold elections which would usher in a unifying and seemingly neutral leadership. Thanks to the efforts of Eng. Muhammad Sewajjwa Kyeyune who mobilized the two groups using mediation techniques and eventually convinced Haji Ishak Magezi to play his role of the chairman electoral commission for UMSC. The elections that were held in 2001 brought Sheikh Shaban Ramathan Mubajje’s administration into office and for about 7 years, the Uganda Muslims witnessed a relatively peaceful period similar to that experienced in Amin’s time of 1972-1978.
BENEFITS TO THE MUSLIMS DURING THE SPELL OF UNITY
1. With the help of Major General Moses Ali, the then 3rd Deputy Prime minister and Minister of Trade and Tourism, combined with Eng. Muhamed Sewajjwa Kyeyune’s mediation skills, UMSC was able to secure a land title for its old Kampala headquarters.
2. The construction of the National Mosque, with the help of the Libyan President Col. Muamar Kadhafi, was completed and it is now a point of reference and a source of pride to the Muslims of Uganda.
3. The open war between the Tablig and the other Muslims subsided and both groups accepted to live side by side.
9. Mufti and Supreme Mufti- Mubajje and Kayongo
Discontent about Sheikh Mubajje started in 2006 when some delegates to the UMSC complained about the sale of Muslim property without the consent of the Council. The matter ended up dividing Council members into two groups and others like Sheikh Mahd Kakooza being expelled. As tension mounted further, the Chairman of the Council was forced to resign, allowing his Vice Chairman Hassan Basajjabalaba to take his position. The implicated persons in the sale of UMSC property included the Mufti, Sheik Mubajje, the Secretary General Dr. Edris Kasenene, and now the Chairman Haji Hassan Basajjabalaba
In a move to find a solution for the rising discontent, a commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the matter. Dr. Muhammad Mpezamihigo was elected chairman to the commission whose offices were housed at Hotel Africana and funded by Haji Basajabalaba.
As the inquiries progressed, Sheikh Nuhu Muzaata Batte, ‘the Imam of Imams’, as he had been nicknamed, produced a recorded tape on which he had declared Mubajje a thief, an act that became a catalysis to the conflict and made the situation worse. Kasenene and Basajabalaba, were among the people who went to the commission but Sheikh Mubajje refused to go to Hotel African sighting insecurity as the major obstacle.
Sheikh Mubajje further argued that the Commission had been turned into Court instead of gathering information about the sale of the properties. He said that he was dismayed by being proclaimed a thief by his subordinates and putting the matter to the press before hearing from him. He wondered why he was not being accused of putting up structures at UMSC headquarters and mocked Muzaata who referred to the structures as toilets. The members of the Commission, on the other hand, insisted that they could not go to the Mufti’s office for the information they needed so badly, sighting their rules of procedure which they had laid down at the beginning. The Commission, therefore, went ahead and concluded its inquiries without hearing from Sheikh Mubajje, as if the rules had been cast in stone to risk the outcome of the whole exercise. After spending a lot of time and money, they went ahead and made their report with observations and recommendations.
Sheikh Haruna Jjemba, one of the delegates to the UMSC General Assembly and a lecturer at Makerere University, Hassan Kirya, another delegate, and Sheikh Abdul Hakim Sekimpi, a leader of a Tablig faction and popularly known as Amir Daula, took the matter to court. The accused were Sheikh Mubajje, the Mufti, Dr. Edris Kasenene, the Secretary General, and Haji Hassan Basajabalaba, the Chairman, accusing them of selling Muslim property without authority. It is not clear whether this action was one of the recommendations of the commission.
At court, the case went through two stages, the first one determining the second. The first stage was to determine whether the accused three had any case to answer. The judgment was that the three had a case to answer, and this verdict pleased the complainants. The second stage was to find out whether the accused three sold UMSC property, and that if they did, to find out whether they had a right to do so.
As a matter of procedure, Mubajje denied having sold Muslim property personally but as the hearing went on it was proved that Mubajje as the Mufti had sold the property which was permissible according to the UMSC Constitution. In the final ruling, it was pronounced that Mubajje had lied to court by denying having sold Muslim property but he had not violated any constitutional provisions by selling the property as the Mufti.
The final verdict which exonerated Mubajje and others led to further discontent among the majority of Muslims and in the subsequent meeting at Hotel Africana, a group of Sheikhs disassociated themselves with Mubajje as their Mufti. It was after this meeting that the dissidents met again and elected Sheikh Zubair Sowed Kayongo as Supreme Mufti of Uganda and Sheik Abdul Hakim Sekimpi, up to then Amir Umma, as the deputy Supreme Mufti.
Some district kadhis and Imams declared their support to Kayongo, in most cases ending up being sacked by Mubajje’s administration. Sheikh Mubajje went further to sue Kayongo for claiming to be the Mufti of Uganda and using Mosques that belong to UMSC. On the other hand, Kayongo intensified his visits to various mosques to register support with the intention of finally uprooting Mubajje and his administration from UMSC.
10. THE TABLIG
MUFTI ZIWA AND CHIEF KADHI LUTAAYA.
Tablig started as a group of young Muslims aiming at spreading Islam through voluntary service in the early 1980’s. The group later came to be known as SPIDIQA which was an abbreviation for ‘Society for the propagation of Islam and distraction of Qadianism’. It was started by Sheikhs who included Umar Mazinga and Kizito Ziwa who had acquired some influence from Pakistan. Their preaching appeared to be very revolutionary and appealed mostly to the Muslim youth who were in and around Kampala at that time. When the gospel reached Nakasero Mosque, the hitherto society turned into a new faction independent of the then existing factions. They elected their leaders with Sheikh Edris Lutaaya as the Mufti and Sheikh Kizito Ziwa as the Chief Kadhi. Sheikh Zubair Bakar was another prominent Sheikh in the administration of the Tablig sect.
As time went by, Ziwa started applying a more radical approach in his preaching which caused discomfort among the group. At this time Lutaaya decided to pull out of the sect quietly and soon after, Ziwa was also expelled from the group. It was alleged that Ziwa had started challenging the views of respected and well-known Imams like Imam Shafii and Abu Hanifa. There were also other allegations like the use of alcohol and disregarding other fundamental principles of Islam in a manner that was unacceptable to the community.
After his expulsion from Nakasero Mosque, Sheikh Kizito Ziwa formed another group and put his headquarters in the neighborhood of Nakasero Mosque. Ziwa went on preaching and periodically producing written sermons which aimed at showing his superiority over the rest of the Sheikhs in the country. He was later forced out of the building near Nakasero Mosque, as his support could not match that of Zubair Bakar, who had more influence in the government of the day. Ziwa moved his group to Kisenyi, where they have lived in a low profile to the present day.
The main Tablig group that remained at Nakasero Mosque was under the leadership of Sheikh Muhamad Kamoga. The group eventually became more intolerant to the UMSC leadership as they blamed them of being hypocrites who knew the truth but preached the contrary. The UMSC style of preaching followed the strict categorization of acts into Faradha/ Wajib (compulsory), Sunna (optional but necessary), Karaha (undesirable), Harram (forbidden), Mubaha/Batil (neutral) and Urf (culture). On the contrary, the Tablig put a lot of emphasis on sunna to the extent of turning some sunna acts into Faradha. The hadith about Bidi’a (innovation) was exaggerated to the extent that all Batil/Mubaha and Urf acts looked Harram to the followers. As a result issues such as Mauled, Shaving of the Beard, Shortening trousers, pronouncing Tasmia aloud before Surat Al Fatiha and utterance of Niyat (intention) before the acts became major issues of contention. In the words of Sheikh Abdallah Kalanzi, who used to preach on Radio Uganda, Tablig was meant for both Daawa and Erishaad which meant preaching addressed to non Muslims for conversion, and preaching to the Muslims to correct what was perceived to be wrong respectively.
In order to bridge the widening gap between UMSC and the Tablig, Sheikh Kakooza’s administration decided to utilize some sheikhs from the Tablig sect. Under this arrangement Sheikh Abdallah Kalanzi was appointed district kadhi for Kabale and Kisoro, and probably Sheikh Mubajje also became the district kadhi of Mbale under the same arrangement.
This approach did not stop the remaining Tablig under Kamoga from using a radical approach. On one occasion Kamonga led his group to take over Old Kampala headquarters in a coup and managed to seize the mosque for some days. They, however, failed to get willing Sheikhs to take over the leadership of UMSC. Sheikh Uthman Alonga, then a lecturer at Makerere University, was approached and he turned down the offer. The coup failed after some days, with minimum casualties.
The second attempt was led by Jamiru Mukulu in the early 1990’s. Mukulu is a product of Tablig preaching efforts during the time of Sheikh Lutaaya as Mufti. After joining Islam, Jamiru Mukulu was facilitated to learn Arabic and Islamic Studies and within a spell of five years he was being addressed as ‘Sheikh Jamiru Mukulu’. Using this popularity, Mukulu led a group of Tabligs to take over the old Kampala UMSC headquarters. When the government tried to intervene using the Police, the Tablig youths killed a policeman and two police dogs, and many of the Tablig youths were arrested including Mukulu himself. Meanwhile Muhammad Kamoga exiled himself to Kenya.
AMIR DAULA, SULAIMAN KAKEETO
After the above incidents, Sulaman Kakeeto was elected leader of the Nakasero based Tablig. He came with a more liberal approach than his immediate predecessors and he concentrated more on Daawa and Erishaad rather than the antagonism that had been the focus of Ziwa, Kamoga and Mukulu. Kakeeto still continues to be the leader of the Tablig with the headquarters at Nakasero Mosque. His title is Amir Daula and he has regional and district Amirs under his administration throughout Uganda.
JAMIRU MUKULU AND THE SALAF FACTION
Meanwhile Jamiru Mukulu utilized the time in prison to indoctrinate the semi-illiterate Muslim youths in prison with his radical and militant views. When Mukulu and his group came out of prison, they refused to be led in prayers by those who had not been to prison because they considered them to be with less Iman (faith) basing on some Hadith. They also refused to eat meat of animals slaughtered by anybody who did not belong to their group. They formed a faction of the Tablig called Salaf and started regarding other Muslims as non believers. They could neither give Salam nor answer it to the rest of the Muslims. Jamiru Mukulu visited some Mosques in some parts of Uganda and wherever he registered majority support, the minorities were chased out of that Mosque. Itendero Mosque in Bushenyi and Kyazanga Kitooro Mosque in Masaka are some of the examples that went through that experience for some time.
Finally, Jamiru Mukulu mobilized some Muslim, semi-illiterate youths among his followers and formed a rebel group against the government of Uganda. Whether the youths were convinced that it was incumbent on them to fight any government headed by a non Muslim, or they were deceived that they were being organized to be taken abroad to get good employment, the outcome of Mukulu’s mission was a disaster. Many Muslim youths, mainly from Itendero and Kyazanga are believed to have died in that insurgency.
Another group of Muslim youth was intercepted by the government forces at Buseruka as they were still waiting to be dispatched. These were taken to Luzira but Jamiru Mukulu escaped. Since then Mukulu’s where about is unknown. There is a school of thought that Mukulu had converted to Islam with a hidden agenda of collecting and selling Muslim youths to rebel groups for his livelihood.
AMIR UMMA, ABDUL HAKIM SEKIMPI
Disagreement in the approach led to the development of another faction within the Tablig sect. This splitter group has been led by Amir Umma Sekimpi till he recently became deputy Supreme Mufti.
SOME POINTS WORTHY NOTING
1. The concerns exhibited by the Muslims over issues that relate to governance and their property as a community should be taken seriously.
2. The current situation in the Muslim Community, however, should not create too much excitement as similar situations have happened before among the Muslims of B/Uganda as already shown in this paper.
3. Extra care should be taken when seeking solutions for the current problem to avoid being entangled in more complicated situations like before.
4. It is important to remember that fighting over mosques may result into deaths like those at Kemishego in 1968.
5. The recent government cabinet reshuffle in which Hon Haji Ali Kirunda Kivejinja became Minister for Internal affairs and Hon. Haji Abu baker Jeje Odong became Minister for Security may have a bearing on the prevailing disputes within the Muslim community.
6. The titles ‘Supreme Mufti of Uganda’ and ‘Mufti of Uganda’ are technically two different titles, just like having Amir Umma and Amir Daula co-existing, with none interfering with the other, although this is not to justify multiple sets of leadership.
7. The issue of Masjid Noor, among the sold properties, needs to be handled with great care. Calculated steps can be taken to reclaim the mosque like what was done in Kabale in 1992. A fund raising drive was made to collect money to pay off those who had wrongfully bought plots that belonged to the Muslims and by the end of the exercise the plots were claimed back. Similarly, funds can be raised to pay off Dick without a prolonged battle. As the saying goes, “first chase away the fox and then warn your chicken against roaming in the bushes”
8. Much as Col. Besigye’s attendance of the last funeral rites for the late Dr. Sulaiman Kigundu had some historic bearing, his pronouncements against the Mubajje Administration and the responses from Mubajje thereafter could have far reaching implications. The rivalry between Kibuli and Old Kampala should not be translated into FDC vs NRM politics, whereby Kayongo would be seen to represent Buganda and FDC, while Mubajje would symbolize NRM and the rest of Uganda. The three incidents when Kayongo’s vehicles were pelted in Arua on 30th April 2009, then burning of tents and the subsequent fighting at Nyamitanga when Kayongo was visiting Mbarara, and the breaking into the offices of the Masaka district kadhi are enough indicators that the Kemishego history of 1968 is already taking centre stage.
9. The Mubajje court case is not the first one in the history of Islam in B/Uganda. The first case was between Mugenyi Asooka and Nsambu in 1951 while the second one was between Kakooza and Luwemba. If court rulings have not addressed the leadership problem for the last three times, is it not time to employ an alternative method?
Instead of waiting for problems to emerge and start looking for solutions, can the Muslims put up a mechanism that can technically protect the leaders from falling victims of circumstances? Is the problem emanating from the UMSC Constitution whose review may be long overdue? Can there be another peace and reconciliation process with better results than the previous ones?
SOME QUESTIONS TO THE MUSLIMS FOR THOUGHT
Do Muslims in Uganda pay zakat to the UMSC?
Are the leaders in the UMSC including District kadhis, county Sheikhs and mosque Imams paid salaries?
Why is it that there are many Hijja Committees in Uganda today when there used to be only one in the past? What is the effect of this situation to the Muslim welfare in Uganda?
What is the effect of Muslim marriages being regulated by the different factions?
What is the effect of Muslim disunity in Uganda to the donor community?
Where does the UMSC administration get resources to run its business?
Anderson J.N.D, (1954) Islamic Law in Africa.
Kasozi. A. B (1986) The spread of Islam in Uganda, Oxford University press.
Kanyeihamba George (1998) Reflection on the Muslim Leadership Question in Uganda, Fountain Publishers, Kampala, Uganda.
Mudoola Dan (1993) Religion, Ethnicity and Politics in Uganda, Fountain Publishers, Kampala, Uganda.
M/S Nsambu & Luganda Advocates, The Companies Act, The Memorandum and Articles (Constitution) of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council Memorandum. Kampala.