27 January 2013

Uganda: Mengo, Muslims Clash Over Lubiri Mosque

Prince Kassim Nakibinge, fondly regarded as the "grandfather of the Muslim community in Uganda," has moved to calm tensions between some enraged Muslims and the Buganda kingdom following the demolition of a mosque inside the Mengo palace by unknown people, last week.

The mosque, built in the 1970s when the palace was essentially used as a military barracks, was razed on the night of January 20, 2013. According to palace sources, Nakibinge has assured the Muslim community that the mosque will be rebuilt. The Katikkiro of Buganda, John Baptist Walusimbi, denied sanctioning the demolition of the mosque.

The director for Da'awah (Islamic propagation) at the Kibuli-based Muslim leadership faction, Sheikh Nuhu Muzaata Batte, was the first to whip up the tensions on January 21, 2013, during a funeral service (Duwah) of the late Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Kasaliiko at Kikuutanfuufu village in Mityana district. The deceased was the father of the Mityana-Mubende district Khadi, Sheikh Ali Kasaliiko.

Muzaata, pointing at kingdom officials at the funeral including Nakibinge and the Buganda Lukiiko speaker Hajji Kaddu Sserunkuma, said the kingdom owed Muslims an explanation.

"We are taking this matter seriously. The kingdom should tell us whether Muslims are no longer part of the kingdom," Muzaata said.

None of the kingdom officials at the funeral gave a formal response to Muzaata, but some of them were overheard condemning the manner in which the demolition was carried out. However, some argued that the palace, being the official residence of the Kabaka, should not accommodate places of worship.

"Apart from that mosque, there are no other places of worship in the Lubiri," one official was overheard saying.

On January 22, Nakibinge convened a meeting inside the lubiri, attended by kingdom officials and leaders of the Muslim community. The kingdom's delegation had the Katikkiro, his three deputies plus some ministers, while the Muslim community was represented by the supreme mufti Sheikh Zubair Sowedi Kayongo, Muzaata and Kampala District Kadhi Sheikh Siliman Kasule Ndirangwa, among others.

Sources at the meeting have told The Observer, that the Katikkiro apologized for the demolition which he said was carried out by what he called "people with selfish motives" but not sanctioned by the kingdom. The Katikkiro also announced that the kingdom had instituted an investigation into the demolition.

"As of now, our case is settled, because all that we wanted is an assurance that the mosque would be rebuilt and this is what the Katikkiro has told us," Sheikh Ndirangwa told The Observer.

The Tuesday meeting was followed by another one on Thursday (January 24), this time round, the Katikkiro led the Muslim group on a tour of the razed mosque. He announced that a new mosque would be constructed soon, but outside the palace.

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