On January 3 this year, President Museveni, for the second time in less than a month, featured on Capital Radio’s Capital Gang talk show to which I am a panelist.
When my turn to speak came, I told the president his undoing was to elevate himself to a level of a project that is competing with Uganda for the few available resources. I reminded him of his flamboyant entry into South Sudan in 2011 at the inauguration of that country. Three other MPs and I had been dispatched by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to represent parliament.
The function was attended by over 60 presidents but Museveni stole the show because of his extravagance. He flew in by his Shs 70 billion jet. His Shs 20 billion chopper had arrived earlier. The distance between Juba airport and the venue is approximately three kilometres but there was a 30-motor-vehicle convoy to deliver Museveni.
South Sudan had provided three brand new Land Cruisers for each head of state but Museveni declined the offer. That is why this financial year, we have spent Shs 35.5bn on his travels within the country, Shs 15.5bn on his travels abroad and Shs 7bn to maintain his vehicles.
The state house budget totals to Shs 246bn while that of the Office of the President is Shs 97bn. In total, the country will this year spend Shs 340bn on Museveni’s office and residence alone.
Yet the same country doesn’t have Shs 40bn for ambulances, Shs 4bn to repair scans and ultrasound machines in general referral hospitals or Shs 10bn to dig boreholes for poor people in rural areas. These are the issues that I put to the president.
“Are you a Tabliq?” Museveni asked me. “Yes, I am a Tabliq,” I replied.
Was my being a Tabliq the answer for this luxurious lifestyle of our head of state? No. He explained that the reason he moves in a 30+ motorcade was because Tabliqs want to kill him. That statement didn’t bother me alone. It bothered thousands of Muslims in the country. But it personally helped me confirm what the president thinks of us.
Therefore, the ongoing wave of arrests targeting Tabliq Muslims of the Salafiya group has something to do more with what the president thinks of them than their linkage with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.
The president and his system have taken advantage of the recent murders of prominent Muslim leaders and factionalism to settle an old score. The Tabliqs had been one group before the invasion of Old Kampala mosque more than a decade ago. Their leaders, including Jamir Mukulu (ADF leader), were jailed for the invasion.
Sheik Sulaiman Kakeeto, who had been a junior cleric at their Nakasero mosque, exploited the vacuum and took over control of the mosque and established his administration. He enlisted the support of the president.
When Kakeeto lost follower-ship and also leased the Nakasero mosque to Mutasa Kafeero and the more than 10 acres of Muslim land at Clock Tower, the regime abandoned him. The Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, has made it very clear that he didn’t want the Tabliqs to join Col Kizza Besigye and Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago during the walk-to-work campaign of 2011.
The group that didn’t pay allegiance to Kakeeto formed the Tabliq Salafiya and baptized their leader Amiir Ummah under the late Sheik Sulaiman Ssekimpi. Kakeeto became Amiir Daula.
The Ssekimpi group, the Salafiya, got divided after his death. One group announced parallel administration under Makerere lecturer Sheik Haroon Jjemba and the other remained under Sheik Yunus Kamoga who is currently on remand in Luzira.
The two Salafiya groups then started battling over the William Street mosque which all of us had fought so hard to rescue from Drake Lubega. Lubega had bought it from Mufti Shaban Mubajje.
The killing of Sheik Mustafa Bahiga in January exacerbated the rivalry between two Tabliq Salafiya groups – Sheik Kamoga’s versus Sheik Jjemba’s. That is how Kayihura swung into action. In between, we had also lost the leader of Shia Muslims, the amiable Sheik Abdu Kadir Muwaya of Mayuge.
If there is anybody who understands the strength of the Tabliqs, it is Museveni. These Tabliq leaders, because of their vulnerability, invited or allowed Museveni to come on the table.
Their latest rivalry coupled with murders they may not have committed has given him a timely and perfect opportunity to decimate them. And by allowing Mubajje and Kakeeto to use their misfortune to regain lost territory, the Salafiya group has blundered. Some of us parted company with Mubajje on principle.
He embraced the NRM culture of looting. The Salafiya should, therefore, allow us fight for their rights that are being violated without having to first embrace Mubajje. I know some Muslims joined and are working with ADF but closure of our schools and mosques is very provocative. I know the Americans and their allies have for a long time targeted mosques and schools, dubbing them jihadists recruitment centres.
Closure of schools and mosques in Uganda is part of that wider campaign and has nothing to do with our internal security. In fact, even before the murders, police had closed some Qur’anic schools in Kalangala and Kireka.
Yes, Sheik Bahiga was murdered, Sheik Ssentamu was murdered and lots of other people. Let the suspects be produced in courts of law, charged and prosecuted. But to use murders of our people to persecute our people is unacceptable. And to our dear sheiks, if you didn’t know how Museveni pays, I am sure you now know.
The Author is Kyadondo East MP and member of UMBS forum, Ibrahim Nganda Ssemujju