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Mubajje freed in court but not safe on Muslim street

By Bob Roberts Katende

As Muslims we cannot continue to have a liar as our leader

Imam Kasozi was quoted as saying after the judgment. Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar (God is great,God is great) at least justice has been done, Mubajje’s supporters chanted with clenched fists in the air as they exited the Buganda Road premises.

Those were the mixed feelings that were shared by different people in response to Magistrate Margaret Tibulya‘s ruling that exonerated Mubajje and his co-accused trio Hassan Basajjabalaba and Idris Kasenene for the sale of two properties that belonged to Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.

In her judgment Tibulya said the trio had acted right in their capacity as trustees of UMSC property. She also noted that Mubajje had continuously lied to court under oath that the properties hadnt been sold. But she added that it wasnt in the courts jurisdiction to judge his moral values that he had brought under disrepute.

Those baying for Mubajje’s resignation have vowed not to relent in their efforts until he has been ousted. Although they have chosen to agree on this line of judgment that he lied under oath, they are in unison against the judgment that he sold the said properties through the right channels, citing a lack of quorum to pass that decision to sell the properties.

This judgment has had such far-reaching effects that a section of the Muslim community has threatened to tear UMSC into two factions with the election of another Mufti, which is against the constitution of UMSC.

For those in the know, factions in the Muslim community arent a new thing worth attending to. They have always been there,” says Sheik Haruna Jemba, a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Makerere University.Â

What’s surprising this time is that the fissures are reaching irreconcilable levels in Uganda. The Muzaata splinter group comprise mainly Baganda Sheiks; namely Rajab Kakooza, Rashid Ssemuddu, Anasi Kalisa, Dr. Badrudin Ssajjabi and Sheik Muhammad Waiswa, the imam of Makerere University Business School. They are fronting Rajab Kakooza and Muhammed Waiswa for muftiship. The two have since distanced themselves from candidature for the muftiship.

A section that is silent but which closely watches the bickering opposes Baganda’s domination of the muftiship, explaining that Mubajje was elected to bring about regional balance.  He was seen as a unifier, the most educated of all candidates for that post and thus the best candidate to head Uganda Muslim supreme Council.

But some Baganda Muslims like Jemba argue that there “is no way you can distance Baganda from Muslim leadership. They are the most educated tribe, and besides, Islam began in Buganda before it spread to the various parts of the country.”

This history of factionalism in Islamic leadership goes way back. The most open one occurred during the independence celebration at Kololo in 1993.  The audience was treated to unpaid-for-drama as Sheik Saad Luwemba and Sheik Hussein Kakooza wrestled for the microphone to lead the national prayers.

But what explains this bickering in Islamic leadership? Muzamiru Kibeedi, counsel to the mufti during the trial and also a Muslim, says that problems in the Muslim community are more than the leadership wrangles. He says there is need to look at the people who elect the mufti or the people who stand for muftiship. There is lacking human resource development at UMSC, such that before a person shows up to contest for any post he is exposed and tested for any leadership challenges other than just serving as a representative of a region or district.

Other Muslims argue that the factions are fuelled by different financial sponsors. The Muzaata’s group bestow their allegiance to Saudi Arabia, where many old guards went for Islamic studies. The other side, led by Mubajje, bestow theirs to Libya and in this case Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, who sponsored construction of the Old Kampala Mosque. Though this argument is peddled, others hold that Libya is a new player so its significance in the polarisation of Uganda’s Islamic leadership is very remote.

Those who observe the Muslim community argue that the politics has worsened the current wrangles. They argue that the Muzaata faction is mainly composed of people with Mengo leanings. They cite people like Prince Kassim Nakibinge, who fronts Buganda interests. The Mubajje faction is alleged to  throw its support behind the ruling establishment of President Museveni.

Mubajje has been criticised by a section of the Muslim community for his blatant support for Museveni, whom they say is the ultimate beneficiary of the Muslim community’s wrangles. His involvement as mediator to harmonise the relationship between Mubajje and Muzaata is thought to be half-hearted, only seeking to score cheap political capital. This is supported by recent reports in the media that the two parties had audience with the President before the judgment was pronounced by Magistrate Tibulya.

Concerned Muslims suggest that the Muslim community should develop internal conflict resolution mechanisms to iron out their problems rather than wash their dirty linen in the public, which exposes the Muslim community to public ridicule. They give an example of the Catholic Church, which has various mechanisms of solving their internal problems like the Bishops’ Council.

They also urge the Muslims to separate politics from their administration, which has come to roost especially when wrangles escalate.

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