22 November 2008

Uganda: A History of Rivalries


Kampala — Factionalism in the Muslim community dates back to the 1920s after the death of Prince Nuuhu Kyabasinga Mbogo.

Mbogo was then the defacto leader of Muslims. Enjoying patronage from the colonial government and the Kabaka, Mbogo led Muslims with an iron fist. Upon his death, his son, Prince Badru Kakungulu, met resistance and failed to wield the same authority.

Transformation was later to follow. Sheikh Abdullah Ssekimwanyi, the first Ugandan to make a holy pilgrimage to Mecca, on his return, urged Muslims to stop holding the daily Dhuhuri (noon prayer on Friday). He also started translating Friday khutuba (summons) in Luganda and other local languages.

Ssekimwanyi outlawed mataali drums and started publishing an Islamic lunar calendar. This calendar was used to count days other than using the sighting of the new and full moons as is common practice.

The Kibuli establishment, led by Sheikh Swaibu Ssemakula, opposed him. The Buganda government, Protectorate government and some Zanzibar scholars tried to reconcile the two factions in vain.

Kabaka Daudi Chwa, on realising that the two groups had ideological differences, gave each land. The Muslim community got 10 square miles of land in Buganda while the Uganda Muslim Community under Kakungulu was given six square miles and Africa Muslim Community Juma Sect Bukoto-Nateete was given four miles. It is on such land that mosques and schools were built. There was no fighting over mosques since each sect built its own mosques.

However, after the Second World War, the Protectorate Government encouraged the rival groups to unite. They formed the Uganda Muslim Education Association (UMEA). This was responsible for building most of the Muslim-founded schools today. Ssekimwanyi's death in the mid 40s temporarily reconciled the factions and the new Bukoto leader, Nsambu, returned to Kibuli. The Bukoto-Nateete sect replaced him with his secretary, Sheikh Zaidi Kateregga.

In 1965, the Muslim elites formed the National Association for the Advancement of Muslims (NAAM). Sheikh Swaibu Ssemakula, who was Sheikh Islam (Senior Sheikh) at Kibuli became the first Mufti. NAAM president was Al Hajji Akbar Adoko Nekyon and his deputy was Sheikh Abdul Obeid Kamulegeya. NAAM's aims and objectives were to promote Islam, but it instead used government patronage to seize mosques belonging to Uganda Muslim Community.

When Idi Amin overthrew Milton Obote in 1971, he convened a religious conference where Muslims agreed to form the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council. The council was inaugurated in 1972 with Sheikh Abadarazak Matovu as Chief Kadhi and Sheikh Ali Kulumba as deputy Chief Kadhi. Amin, however, sacked the two and appointed the late Sheikh Sulaiman Yusuf Matovu as Mufti. He later sacked Matovu and until his overthrow in 1979 Amin was the defacto Mufti.

The Uganda National Liberation Front government led by Paulo Muwanga attempted to use Kakungulu to revive the UMSC, but he later declined on mind sight of the earlier factionalism. Instead, he appointed an interim administration led by the late Sheikh Kassim Mulumba as Chief Kadhi.

Mulumba fell out with Kibuli and Bukoto-Nateete. Concerned about the developments young Muslim clerics who were spreading Wahibiyyah (strict Islam) formed the Society for Propagation of Islam and Denouncing Qadianism and Atheism Foundation under Sheikh Muhammad Ziwa Kizito. This was the beginning of the Tablique sect.

At the pick of the conflict, there were two Chief Kadhis; Mulumba and Kamulegeya. The Muslim World League sent a Sudanese mediator to reconcile all the groups. But after a year Mulumba resigned over ill health and Kamulegeya took over. Mulumba later changed his mind and remained a rival Chief Kadhi based at Masjid Noor at William Street.

The Muslim World League again reconciled the two under a Mecca Peace Agreement. They retired and paved way for Sheikh Hussein Rajab Kakooza as Chief Kadhi whose deputy was Sheikh Saad Ibrahim Luwemba.

A new constitution was made and elections held. However, after Kakungulu lost chairmanship to the late Sheikh Ali Ssennyonga, he called off the elections. But the assembly continued with elections and Luwemba became Mufti. The Kakooza group annexed the Old Kampala mosque and Luwemba had to wait for Supreme Court ruling in 1991 to take over the leadership.

The move prompted the Government to arrange a reconciliation meeting where Luwemba and Kakooza were advised to step down. Ahmad Mukasa and Zubairi Kayongo were picked as interim Mufti and deputy Mufti, respectively. But Luwemba rejected them. After Luwemba's death, Mubajje was elected Mufti.

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