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How Museveni frustrated Muslim unity project

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by ByaseL, Aug 24, 2009.

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    ByaseL JF-Expert Member

    Aug 24, 2009
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    In this fourth part of ‘MY STORY’, JUSTICE GEORGE KANYEIHAMBA who retires at the age of 70 from the Supreme Court in November this year explains to SSEMUJJU IBRAHIM NGANDA how Museveni blocked the appointment of Sheik Ahmed Mukasa as Mufti:


    A lot of things happened. First, if you remember, I chaired the first international conference which attempted to resolve the differences between the warring Muslim factions.

    I was then Minister of Justice and Attorney General. On a number of occasions, the President mentioned in Cabinet that I was his trouble-shooter and I resolved a number of issues, including the ranch thing; we disagreed on that one but it doesn’t matter.

    But then if you remember, there was a difference of opinion between the Muslim factions. Eventually the Tabliqs took over the Old Kampala Mosque. Sadly, we lost four policemen and they (Tabliqs) besieged, no they occupied, the mosque.

    The President said in Cabinet; Kanyeihamba, the Attorney General, I want you to go and resolve the matter. He asked me to negotiate with the Tabliqs who were occupying the mosque. When I reached the mosque, I left my escorts and assistants at the gate and walked in. They respected me, they welcomed me.

    I told them I have come to discuss with you how we can resolve this impasse.
    I proposed that the President would want to see them; that we should listen to him and there should be a conference of Muslims to resolve these matters. Let us do it by the law, and they accepted.

    They said since we are going to talk to the President, as you have promised us, we shall vacate the mosque and that is what they did on my recommendation.

    Following that, the President met a number of Muslim leaders and political activists and they said let us have an international conference guided by people from all Muslim countries; from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sudan and Egypt, so that we can resolve this matter.

    So we were going to get delegates from those countries but a Ugandan would chair the meeting and Uganda would have its own delegation.
    And the President constituted that delegation with me as chairman, Hajjat Anuna Omar was a member, and our secretary was Ralph Ocan, now a judge.

    Then we invited delegations from Kuwait, Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and so forth. When we constituted, I became the chairman of the conference by acclamation.

    We spent about two years deliberating and ultimately you know what happened, I wrote a book on it; ‘Reflections on the Muslim Leadership Question in Uganda’.

    We deliberated first in Kampala with all delegations. We met leaders of the factions, the late Sheik Saad Luwemba who was then Mufti; we met Rajab Kakooza, and others. There were about 10 or so factions.

    Some came from Luwero. We resolved that there should be a conference of all factions and their leaders, and we should invite the Supreme Council members to a meeting and solve the differences in a neutral place, far away from Kampala.

    We agreed on the then Lake View Hotel, I think it is still in Mbarara. The decision was blessed by the President, it was blessed by other people, like Hajji Moses Kigongo, the late Abu Mayanja; they all supported this conference sponsored by the Government of Uganda.

    So we went to Mbarara for a whole week, including the international representatives. In the end, we decided on two things. One, that in order to have a unified Muslim community in Uganda, let there be universal elections so that the Muslims freely and independently elect one of the candidates to be their Mufti, a qualified person.

    But before that, we gave ourselves two years in which to rewrite the Muslim Constitution, the one that had been in place was disputed and it was not a proper Constitution.

    Actually the Muslim Council was registered under the Company’s Act, so the memorandum and articles of association were actually of an ordinary company then governing the Muslim community.

    We said let us make a Constitution. Actually I thought they should have invited me either to chair that constitutional making meeting; I would have made a good Constitution. But somehow the leadership as I have told you then got divided again.


    There was a man who was a political advisor in State House who tended to side with the Luwemba faction. He was negative on most issues. At one time we ran out of money, the President personally sent us money, I think from his pocket, because he was very anxious that we should have peace.

    So, when we were closing our meeting and we had agreed on all the principles, somebody in my opinion quite rightly suggested that we have an interim Mufti during the interim period of two years who was not an aspirant, which we thought was a good idea.

    If the President had asked me, I would have done that; he didn’t. The President personally, without disclosing it, wanted Luwemba to continue being Mufti during the interim period of two years. We didn’t’ know that.

    For me I accepted gladly the proposal by the conference in Mbarara that during the two years; let us have an interim Mufti who would not be qualified to contest when the Constitution was made. That is how Sheik Mukasa (Ahmed) became the interim Mufti.

    The two contestants would have been Mukasa and Luwemba. Kakooza accepted the proposal and we had no problem with him, but Luwemba refused. He said he should continue being Mufti until the elections. Had the President asked me; that let Luwemba remain acting Mufti during the two-year constitutional making interim period, I would have achieved it because I had a carrot in my hand.

    I would have said [to the Muslims that] if you don’t agree, Luwemba will remain Mufti until he is aged 70 and at that time he was about 50, so there was another 20 years. If you agreed that in two years he should remain Mufti but you make a good strong Commission to make the new Constitution, then he will not divert.

    I would have succeeded, but I didn’t know about it.
    So when we did the acclamation in Mbarara, we came to Kampala. I was received very warmly by the late Abu Mayanja, by other leading Muslim leaders; they said how did you achieve it? Ministers said you have done well and we don’t know how the President is going to pay you.

    You have really done a lot of work, maybe you should become Prime Minister, whatever!
    Shortly before we completed the conference, I invited the President to come and close it. He was in Mbale. I invited him personally, I didn’t talk to him but I talked to his secretary and said we have completed, please we want the President to come and close the conference on Saturday morning.

    He didn’t talk to me personally but sent a message to say he was unable to come. I sensed he had not liked what had happened. And the only issue he didn’t like was making Mukasa the interim Mufti, instead of keeping Luwemba. The President’s eye is always on the vote.

    This man [Luwemba] came from Busoga, which was a very important voting constituency and he thought we were damaging his politics.
    For me when these people were congratulating me in Kampala, I knew the President had a question mark on that very issue.

    He [President] had accepted all the other principles except who should be interim Mufti.
    So, they were going to have a Cabinet I think the following Wednesday and I was anxious to know what they were going to do. I told Ralph Ochan who was Secretary, that let the new administration be registered immediately.

    Had it been registered, it would have been very difficult for Luwemba to refuse [to step down].
    But what happened? They went to Cabinet and I am told the President said I will not accept Kanyeihamba’s Mufti. I had ceased being a member of Cabinet at that time and I was a Senior Presidential Advisor. That was about 1992/93.

    Kanyeihamba was supposed to resolve this but he had no business electing a Mufti. He poured cold water on our conference. When that happened, Ralph Ocan went to register the new arrangement but Abu Mayanja the minister stopped him. He told him the President has refused; you cannot register the new arrangment.

    Mukasa was never registered. The Muslims have a problem there, which I write in my book ‘Reflections on the Muslim Leadership Question in Uganda’. It seems the way your Islam came to Uganda is that the Muslim faith depends to a big extent on the support of the government.

    You want to be on good terms with the President, you are not independent. So when they saw government pouring cold water on the Mbarara proclamation, they started withdrawing; Abu Mayanja refused to register their new arrangement, other leaders I don’t want to mention because they are still alive were not so keen to support something which the President seemed not to accept. So it ended there.

    One or two years later, those resolutions we had endorsed at Mbarara took place and that is how Mubajje became Mufti.
    He was elected in accordance with our recommendations. And we had peace for sometime until the Council itself or shall I say Mufti, messed up in my opinion.

    However, having messed, the Council, should have passed a vote of no confidence in him and then they should have either had an interim Mufti pending election or elected one there and then. The idea that you just abandon everything and then go and elect another….I think that was an error in procedure.

    And may be that is why we have problems.