By Obed K. Katureebe & John Njoroge
Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Ramadhan Mubajje is facing a crisis as a section of his followers are set to elect a rival mufti come February 2009. The group led by among others former Mufti, Sheikh Obed Kamulegeya, accuse him of financial impropriety when he and his executive committee sold two plots of land on William Street and in Luzira and failed to properly account for the proceeds. The Independents Obed K. Katureebe exclusively interviewed Mubajje and below; excerpts:-
A section of Uganda’s Muslim community has disowned you saying you are tainted with corruption and are set to elect a rival mufti, what is the way forward?
First of all, the group that is fronting that move is either naÃ¯ve or is just trying to stage a show for the public gallery. There is no way you can elect another Mufti without first impeaching the current one. The Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) constitution is very clear on that one; you have to first mobilize two thirds majority of the joint session to cause an impeachment or wait until the Mufti clocks 70 years of age and am just 53. Well, if they just want to run an illegal entity, I wish them luck.
I must tell you that the so-called rebels have not just started; they began the day I was elected Mufti in 2000. There is a clique who call themselves Baganda royals who cant comprehend a non-Muganda at the helm of the Muslim community in Uganda. They are the ones engineering all this after losing in 2000. They have always opposed anybody who is not from their clique.
Exactly how much money accrued from the sale of the two contested properties and how was it spent?
There was no money at all exchanging hands. Let me first inform you that it is me in the first instance that painstakingly got those two plots for the Muslim community. The properties belonged to a one Hussein Hamdan, a Ugandan who was forced out of the country during the Idi Aminâ€™s economic empowerment program of 1972 and is currently living in Toronto, Canada.Â I traveled to Canada in 2003 and after a lot of convincing Hamdan agreed to donate the properties to the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.Â After getting the properties, my executive committee agreed that we lease out the properties since as council we did not have the money to develop them. We agreed that we donâ€™t handle the money accrued and that we only give a development plan to whoever would develop for us the alternative project â€“ which was to construct over 300 shops on the old Kampala hill. Mind you, if these shops are finished they will generate for us over Shs 200 million per month which we were not generating from the said leased properties. That is how we ended up giving the deal to city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba.
Let me also inform you that those making noise now were in charge of over 800 hundred properties across the country including current Diamond Trust Building when former president Amin handed them to UMSC after expelling Asians. I want to challenge them to show us what they did with the money accrued from renting those properties for 15 years. Am told they used to collect as much as US $1.5m a year!
It is alleged the real fight is over money from the rich Arab world and what remained after the construction of Gadaffi National Mosque?
That is not correct. The money used to construct the mosque come from the Islamic Call Society, the Libyan NGO that oversaw the whole construction.Â The Libyans handled the whole project and I can tell you that none of us touched even a single shilling on that project. The reason this mosque had failed to take off was because the previous leadership wanted to oversee the construction and whichever money that was donated would end up in their pockets. For the record, former president Idi Amin had to arrest some former key figures in UMSC after failing to account for the donor money to construct the mosque. People like Obed Kamulegeya, Moses Ali and former chairman to the Electoral Commission Aziz Kasujja were arrested and commission of inquiry was instituted headed by now retired Maj. Gen. Emilio Mondo to investigate how money was being lost for the construction of the mosque.Â
There is perception that you are too close to President Museveni; that he uses you to neutralize Muslims opposed to him?
I can only confess that am not antagonistic to President Museveni.Â I have refused some elements in the Muslim community to use the mosque as attacking ground against Museveni. Besides, my non partisan approach to Museveni has made us reap big as Muslims during his regime, like building the national mosque. I have argued that as Muslims we need to be conscious as a minority religion in this country; there is no way we can behave like the majority religious denominations.
I must also add that the so-called rebel Muslims especially those at William Street Mosque are political malcontents most of whom are former ADF rebels who were given amnesty. People like Sheikh Hassan Kirya, Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga, Abdul Karim Sekimpi and many others were former rebels who probably have a thing or two to settle with the regime of President Museveni. But I can assure you that as long as I am the Mufti of Uganda, I wonâ€™t allow to be engaged in partisan politics.
Finally, your last word on this?
My last word is that am open for dialogue and I call upon my enemies to re-think their schemes and we reconcile for the betterment of our faith.