A government report on Muslim wrangles blames the “commissions, omissions and careless designs” of Mufti Shaban Mubajje’s Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.
“It is difficult not to conclude that all these designs were meant to benefit certain individuals at the expense of the Muslim community,” the report reads in part.
A product of a committee chaired by Prof Tarsis Kabwegyere, the minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, the report suggests that government may be required to pay a fortune in compensation for Muslim properties misappropriated by UMSC leaders.
The 60-page report, which was presented to President Museveni on June 14 at State House Entebbe, implicates Mufti Sheikh Mubajje, former UMSC chairman Hajji Muhammad Ali Adrama, vice chairman Hajji Hassan Basajjabalaba, and secretary general Dr Edris Sserugo Kasenene in the mismanagement of Muslim properties.
The nine-man Joint Muslim Committee (JMC) was set up by President Museveni on June 13, 2012 to establish the causes of perennial conflicts and disunity within Uganda’s Muslim community, and to examine the community’s relationship with the government, among other issues.
The Prof Kabwegyere- led government team also had former minister Isaac Musumba and Makerere University don Prof Yasin Olumu who later opted out.
The Old Kampala faction was represented by Dr Edris Sserugo Kasenene, Sheikh Anasi Sessimba and Hajji Sulaiman Musana Kawanguzi, while their Kibuli rivals had Hajji Muhammad Kisambira, Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya and Faisal Mukasa. The report shows that in all the controversial property transactions, UMSC was neither represented by a lawyer, valuer, surveyor nor quantity surveyor.
“Documents were either drawn by HAKS Express Ltd, Bright Engineering Services Ltd or where there was a lawyer, heshe represented the two companies or Basajjabalaba,” the report states.
The two companies are understood to belong to Basajjabalaba. The report lists about 13 prime properties around Kampala and ranches in other parts of the country, such as Nakasongola, Kiryandongo, Masaka and Sembabule, that were irregularly sold off in contravention of a 2004 High court order blocking any sale or mortgage of UMSC properties without a unanimous resolution of its executive committee.
Among the properties controversially sold off is plot 30 William Street in Kampala, on which sits a commercial building and a mosque, Masjid Noor. This property was sold to Basajjabalaba’s Haks Express Ltd.
In this transaction, Basajjabalaba had a dual role as both seller and buyer of the property. Basajjabalaba, Mubajje and Kasenene signed on behalf of UMSC, according to a transfer instrument signed on March 4, 2005. Two weeks later, Haks Express Ltd entered a memorandum of understanding with UMSC in which other properties were allegedly subleased to the company in exchange for the construction of a perimeter shopping mall around the UMSC headquarters.
The company later on signed a variation deed with UMSC that altered sections of the MOU, giving Haks Express Ltd powers to transfer the properties into its name.
On July 4, 2005, Mufti Shaban Mubajje ordered that a caveat be placed on the properties in question. However, a month later, he signed a document alongside Kasenene and Basajjabalaba, removing the caveat.
The committee also discovered that the said perimeter shopping mall had been subleased to Bright Engineering Services Ltd for 12 years. This was executed through a September 14, 2005 agreement signed by Kasenene, Mubajje, his former deputy, the late Sheikh Twaib Mukuye, and former UMSC chairman Muhammad Ali Adrama.
Basajjabalaba signed this agreement as UMSC vice chairman and as a director in the lease-holding company.
According to its terms of reference, the committee was mandated to arbitrate in the property dealings but due to technical and legal complexities, it recommended the establishment of a judicial tribunal to study the facts related to the disposal of those properties. The committee further recommended that the government compensates Muslims for the loss in the interest of peace and security.
“A lasting and sustainable resolution of this division [among Muslims] would be for His Excellency the President in his magnanimity and in the interest of security, public tranquility and good order, to make good the loss of land and property of the Muslim community in Uganda,” the report states.
Museveni’s attention was particularly drawn to plot 30, William Street, that was sold to businessman Drake Lubega whom the president pledged to compensate in the run-up to the 2011 elections.
Others are plot 102 William Street (Kololo High School), plot 12-16 Old Port Bell road (Uganda Brushware Manufacturers factory) and 10 properties of the Muslim Sunni Association. These include the Muslim Sports Club near Clock Tower, which is reported to have been sold to Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga of Christian Life Ministries.
“Given the acrimony that the sale of Muslim properties has generated, the committee recommends an immediate ban on any further sale, lease, transfer or dealing in any way in property… until this ban is lifted,” the report states.
The report further recommends the establishment of the UMSC property trust comprising Muslims of impeccable character. Such a trust would operate independent of the UMSC administration, the committee aised.
Mubajje vs Kayongo:
The committee agreed to suggestions by both the Old Kampala and Kibuli groups, that both Mufti Shaban Mubajje and Supreme Mufti Sheikh Zubair Sowedi Kayongo immediately resign their positions. This, the committee argued, would pave way for reconciliation and peace in the Muslim community.
It also called for a new constitution to address the flaws in the current UMSC constitution. The proposed constitution would separate the administrative and religious roles at UMSC between a chief executive officer and the Mufti. A new order based on regional administration with a grand Mufti at the top was also proposed.
Below the grand Mufti, there would be 11 regional muftis (equivalent of diocesan bishops among Christians) distributed as follows: Busoga region, Eastern region (with headquarters at Mbale), Northern region (Lira), and West Nile (Arua). Others are: North-western (Fort Portal) and South-western (Mbarara).
Buganda is to be divided into five regions: Masaka region, West Buganda, Mubende region, East Buganda and Kampala. Eligibility for selection as regional Mufti will be after one has attained the age of 50 and not above 70 years, the committee recommends.
The grand Mufti on the other hand is to be selected from the regional Muftis. President Museveni is expected to meet the committee this week to agree on the modalities for the implementation of the report.
Mufti Mubajje has, however, denounced the report, calling it a plot meant to drive the attention of Muslims away from the month of Ramadhan that sets in at the weekend. In an e-mail, UMSC spokesman Hajji Nsereko Mutumba quotes Mubajje as telling Muslims at the Old Kampala mosque on June 20 that those behind the Kabwegyere report are peddling disunity and should be regarded as enemies of Islam.
“I would like to assure all of you that you democratically and constitutionally elected your leaders right from the village mosque to the headquarters. Your constitution and organs are still intact and progressive,” Mubajje said.
He added that calls to amend the UMSC constitution and other reforms are a waste of time because such reforms can only be initiated by relevant UMSC organs.
However, Sheikh Kirya said Mubajje “is being dishonest because the committee met him and he gave his personal views which were incorporated in the report.”
Sheikh Nuhu Muzaata Batte, the secretary for Da’awah in the Kibuli faction, said Museveni should now let the Muslims deal with Mubajje.
“If Mubajje is denouncing the report, the president should let us handle the matter our own way… ,” Muzaata threatened during the commemoration of the 119 years of Prince Nuhu Mbogo’s return from exile on June 22.
Muzaata further claimed that the Kibuli group had turned down an Iftaar dinner invitation (at the end of the forthcoming Ramadhan) at State House at which Museveni hoped to reconcile the two groups.
Source : The Observer