11 years ago .
Basajjabalaba sacks Mufti Mubajje
TOP leaders of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) have locked horns in a fresh power struggle pitting the Mufti, Sheik Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje against the Council chairman, Hassan Basajjabalaba.
By Madinah Tebajjukira

TOP leaders of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) have locked horns in a fresh power struggle pitting the Mufti, Sheik Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje against the Council chairman, Hassan Basajjabalaba.

The two, who had up to now braved the storm from the rival camp of Sheikh Zubair Kayongo, have turned the guns onto each other. Each claims to have sacked the other.

In a letter dated June 14, Basajjabalaba said he had suspended Mubajje for conducting himself in a manner not befitting the Islamic principles.

Basajjabalaba said the suspension was based on seven accusations raised by 12 members of the Joint Session, who petitioned him as chairman to impeach Mubajje.

The Joint Session is a 30-member body comprising the executive and the college of sheikhs (Majlis Al-Ulama), both elected by the General Assembly.

Two days later, Mubajje circulated a letter impeaching Basajjabalaba from his position as Council Chairman.

According to the suspension letter, Basajjabalaba is sacked for directing the council’s secretary for administration, Hajji Wahab Rugasa, to write on behalf of the deputy Mufti to the finance minister, asking for tax exemption of his two motor vehicles that were allegedly donated by Dr. Amir Mahdava to UMSC.

Basajja is also accused of commissioning a probe against Mubajje and endorsing its report in February 2010, whose findings were not befitting the person of a Mufti and that it was biased.

Under the UMSC Constitution, Basajjabalaba who chairs the Joint Session, has powers to suspend the Mufti. Mubajje too can impeach Basajjabalaba once he gets half of the 26 members of the Joint Session. The petition Mubajje is basing on to suspend Basajjabalaba, was signed by 16 members.

Being the second top organ of the council, the Joint Session combines the Executive (20 members), and Majlis Al-Ulama (16 members), putting the total at 26 representations. It is constituted by representatives from 35 Muslim districts and it serves a term of five years.

Basajjabalaba’s camp is accusing Mubajje of wrongly suspending the finance secretary and secretary general of UMSC. The Mufti is also accused of usurping the powers of the secretary general, indulging in financial management of UMSC and usurping the powers of the executive committee by recruiting and deploying officials of UMSC. In addition, the letter says, Mubajje made claims of foreign trips that had been funded by the Inter Religious Council of Uganda.

“I pray that this letter finds you in good health and at high Islamic spirit,” reads Basajjabalaba’s letter. “I am in receipt of an impeachment petition against you which has been submitted to me by members of the Joint Session in accordance with Article 9 (1) and (3) of UMSC Constitution.”

“I find this petition in consonance with the provisions of the UMSC Constitution and pursuant to Article 9 (4) of the said Constitution. You accordingly stand suspended from the office of the Mufti of Uganda and from conducting any business for and on behalf of UMSC,” it added.

On the other hand, Mubajje bases his suspension of Basajjabalaba on a petition signed by 16 members of the Joint Session calling for Basajjabalaba’s impeachment. However, the petition was signed on 15th June, a day after Basajjabalaba had suspended him.

Mubajje issued the suspension letter to Basajjabalaba on June 16th, one day after the petition, and on June 17th, he (Mubajje) wrote to members of the Joint Session calling them to hear the case on June 26, next week.

“I hereby write informing you that I am in receipt of a petition for impeachment of chairman UMSC Basajjabalaba. Acting on Article 9(4 and 5) of UMSC Constitution, I invite you to attend a meeting of UMSC Joint Session to hear the reply of the impeachment of the chairman on June 26 at the council boardroom,” reads Mubajje’s letter to the Joint Session.

Mubajje further accuses Basajjabala of grabbing council land in Bushenyi, which currently houses his (Basajjabalaba) teaching hospital. He is also accused of entering into an agreement with Bright Engineers for sub-lease of all pieces of land at UMSC headquarters in Old Kampala, without the council’s knowledge.

“The Mufti has become a liability to the Muslim community of Uganda and that he can be impeached and removed from office for the good of Islam and the proper function of UMSC,” reads the petition.

After both have appeared before the Joint Session, members of the session are expected to giving their ruling thereafter.

The Joint Session is chaired by the Chairman of the executive who is Basajjabalaba. It reports to General Assembly which is again chaired by Basajjabalaba. The General Assembly, which is the council’s top organ, appoints the Mufti.

Since the election of Mubajje in 2000, the current General Assembly has never been dissolved. Its term expired in 2005, but Mubajje renewed it, though there are no provisions in the UMSC Constitution empowering him to do so.

Sources at the council, disclosed that Mubajje has not been in office since Friday last week. Contacted yesterday over the development, Mubajje declined to comment. He instead refereed the reporter to UMSC spokes person, Hajji Nsereko Mutumba, who also refused to pick his calls several times and later switched off.

According to top sources within council, the gist of the standoff is escalated by the continuous disappearance of unspecified sums of money from World Islamic Call Society which was meant to pay UMSC staff salaries.

The money allegedly disappeared from early 2009 during the time when Mubajje acted as the financial control. The staff has not been paid since 2009 to date.

Another course of the scuffle, the source said, is that Mubajje has allegedly been conniving with some officials at the Uganda Muslim Medical Hospital located at Old Kampala, to sell donated medicines to the hospital. This, the source said, has resulted into non payment of the hospital staff for the last four months.

“The staff recently threatened to forward the matter to the society’s executive. This sparked off misunderstanding between the Mufti and Basajjabalaba, because each started accusing the other of embezzling the worker’s salaries” the source said.

The current standoff in the Muslim community is not new. It was sparked off in 2006 when Sheik Ssekimpi accused Mubajje of fraudulently selling a number of plots on William Street and Port Bell road in Luzira belonging to the Muslims.

The conflict ended up in the court, with Mubajje, city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba and former secretary general Dr. Edris Kasenene facing criminal charges.

The trio was acquitted by court. But the anti-Mubajje faction rejected the court ruling and On January 27, the named rival Mufti, Sheik Zubair Kayongo, at Kibuli Mosque.

The longstanding leadership wrangles in the Muslim leadership started as far back as the 1960s when the community was split into two rival groups - Uganda Muslim Community based at Kibuli with Prince Badru Kakungulu as its titular head and the National Association for the Advancement of Muslims that was aligned to the then ruling UPC government, with Sheik Kamulegeya as one of its top leaders.

When Idi Amin seized power in 1971, he compelled all the groups to merge under the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council. He also took over responsibility of naming the Mufti.

Shortly after the Amin overthrow in 1979, the Muslims split into two factions again - one led by Sheik Kamulegeya and the other by Sheik Kassim Mulumba. After protracted negotiations, the Muslims united under the leadership of Sheik Rajab Kakooza, with Sheik Luwemba as his deputy.

In the late 1980s, the community split again, with one group led by Kakooza and another by Luwemba. Unity was again achieved in 2000 when the groups came under Mubajje. But they have since split again, and there are two factions again: The Kibuli faction led by Kayongo and that of Old Kampala led by Mubajje.