As part of his Eid -l-Fitr celebration plans, former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya visited Mbarara and Isingiro districts on Monday, setting the stage for a showdown with security agencies there.
Bukenya, the Busiro North MP and NRM chairman for Wakiso district, travelled to Mbarara on Sunday, at the invitation of some Muslims, notably, DP Vice President (Western) Immam Makumbi.
On Monday, Bukenya was scheduled to first attend Eid el-Fitr prayers at Masjid Abubakar Jamia, the seat of the Mbarara district Muslim council. He would later head to Rweiziringiro primary school in Kaberebere town council, Isingiro district, to preside over the finals of an Eid football tournament.
“After he accepted our invitation, I informed the district Kadhi, Sheikh Ramadhan Hamis, and I was later told that after he [the district Kadhi] consulted the mosque committee and the RDC [Nixon Kabuye], he was warned against hosting him [Bukenya],” Makumbi told The Observer yesterday.
Dressed in a black, Pakistani Islamic tunic, Bukenya arrived at the mosque in the company of Makumbi and Mbarara FDC chairman Stanley Katembeya. His arrival reportedly sent panic waves among Muslim leaders, who had received prior warning that President Museveni would withdraw a Pajero Sport car he donated to the district Kadhi if they hosted Bukenya.
In fact, the chairman of the Mbarara Muslim district council, Hajji Adam Swaleh, told the congregation that the council had not invited Bukenya. He immediately invited Mbarara Municipality MP Medard Bitekyerezo to speak.
“I was invited as the main guest, but on reaching there, I found him [Bukenya] seated with Katembeya and Makumbi. The Muslim leadership had not included him on their programme but being an MP and of course a former VP, I felt I would appear uncultured if I ignored him,” Bitekyerezo said yesterday.
What was meant to be ordinary Eid el-Fitr prayers and a fundraiser for the completion of a Muslim health centre, instantly took the tone of a mini political rally when Bitekyerezo invited Bukenya to speak. Bukenya spoke harshly about President Museveni, whom he accused of nepotism.
He said the president had ring-fenced certain government positions for particular religious groups and tribes.
“Under which law is he, for instance, ring-fencing the position of vice president for Catholics, the chairmanship of the Electoral Commission for Muslims and the Presidency for Anglicans?” Bukenya wondered.
He asked Muslims to embrace the forces of change. Police rushed to deploy at Rwizi Arch hotel, where Bukenya spent Sunday night.
“The deployment forced me to contact a friend within the security circles in Kampala who informed me that the deployment had been sanctioned by orders from above,” Bukenya told The Observer yesterday.
“I immediately checked out of the hotel and moved out without them noticing,” Bukenya added.
Makumbi, in a separate interview, told The Observer that Bukenya sneaked out of the hotel in a Toyota Premio and headed to his [Makumbi] residence, at Masha in Isingiro, for lunch.
Three kilometres away was the venue for the football finals that Bukenya was scheduled to preside over and also fundraise for the roofing of the local Imam’s house. The police unusually deployed at the venue and also mounted roadblocks at junctions leading to the school. He said he had a last -minute change of heart about attending the final game because he felt gly that police would throw tear gas canisters at football fans and innocent Muslims.
“… We decided that Makumbi and a lawyer [Boniface Ngaruye Ruhindi] represent me and announce that I was headed for Bushenyi,” Bukenya said.
The group then escorted Bukenya to Mbarara, where he switched back to his car and left for Kampala.
The Mbarara debacle was Bukenya’s second run-in with police in less than one week. Last Friday, police arrested about 95 youths travelling from Bukenya’s home in Kakiri back to Makulubita in Luweero and Semuto in Nakaseke. The youths, according to Bukenya, were returning from a training session at his home in modern agriculture and small-scale industries.
“The police put a roadblock on the road leading to my place but the youths somehow went past it, but they were later chased and arrested at Wakiso and brought back to Kakiri,” Bukenya said.
According to Bukenya, the entire group was charged with driving a vehicle in dangerous mechanical condition. They were later set free after Bukenya camped at the police station. Bukenya sees an NRM witch-hunt but Police Spokesman Fred Enanga said they take keen interest in Bukenya and his home because he is a VIP in the area.
“We can’t just let things happen at his place because if anything went wrong, we would be answerable,” Enanga said.
“We are duty-bound to ensure that his security is guaranteed. That is why when we saw noise-making youths driving to his place, we took interest to know the type of meeting they were going for,” Enanga added.
Asked about the Mbarara incidents, Enanga said a complaint was raised by Isingiro North MP and junior Minister for Animal Industry Bright Rwamirama. Bukenya allegedly had no invitation or permission from the area MPs.
“In what capacity does he go to Mbarara when he is not the area MP? I think the procedure is clear, if you are an MP and you have to visit an area that is not yours, you have to seek for permission from the area MP,” Enanga said.
Source : The Observer