Muslims in Uganda – An Analysis by Crespo Sebunya

As Uganda becomes the battle-ground ground for benign and fanatic Islamists, the United States has increasedits  funding to $440,000 in 2011 to prevent despondent Muslims from getting radicalized.

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US embassy records shows that it is an increase from $360,000 in 2010 to allow marginalized Muslim groups get better nutrition and education; and that funding is part of counter terrorism campaign.

The focus is on Tablique-Salaaf sect whose followers have attracted Iranian interest, and  is prone to terrorism and has conspiratorial leadership.

Iran has reorganized Uganda Shiite society headquartered in Jinja in the east,  under supervision of Moulina Sayed Abul Qasim, former student of Quam seminary. He taught Salaf ideology that the US fears has radicalizing influence. Members of the society and Quam students met Iranian President when he visited Uganda in April 2010. Closely watched is also an NGO Al-Mutade Al Islam also in eastern Uganda.

There is also a Uganda-Iran business institute headed by Seyed Mohammed Ali Mosavi which is to promote Shiite economic independence through ventures like HERP, a $300m housing project, a  joint venture between Hajji Hassan Bassajjabalaba and Asheghhi Dawood

Salaf followers have swollen ranks of now dormant Uganda Mujaheddin freedom fighters and Allied Democratic Front, which, according to Captain Robert Kamara, spokesman of 2nd infantry division is regrouping and has links with Moroccan GCIM and Islamic army of Shura.

Ugandan Security states that at least 30 Ugandans are in Al-shabaab camps in Somalia and some of them rang Major Bahoku Bakoru, AMISOM spokesman.

The November 3, 2010 US congressional report by Lueren Ploch noted that despite Uganda having benefited from $7.6m FBI intelligence training programme through African Data Sharing Network, she has become a transit area for violent extremist groups, issues illegal government documents and has failed to establish mechanism to safe-guard against possible conduit for terrorism financing.

In 2009 the UN stated that the largest FDLR network in the region for transiting mineral is in Uganda and that some of its officials obtained Ugandan passports. Since 2006, 45 tones of gold have been exported by Uganda, according to 2010/11 background to budget, a Ugandan government document.

Salaf sect leadership has been torn apart by wrangles over property. A faction led by Sheikh Sulaimani Kakeeto, leader of Tablic sect backed by Major General Kale Kaihura, head of Police was overthrown on January 13 by a faction led by Sheikh Muhammed Kamoga who is backed by ex-ADF, now in military intelligence and Major General Aronda Nyakairima,chief of defence forces.

A standoff ensued when Kamoga faction prevented the demolition of a mosque – headquarters of Tablic – to give way for a shopping mall with a mosque above which Hajji Mutaasa Kafeero, seen as a front to powerful figures in NRM. Kakeeto is considered a turncoat, maintaiting close ties with intelligence which was responsible for detention of 100 Salafists of whom 35 reportedly disappeared while in safe houses. He is guarded and carries a gun.

Hence with factions having powerful military backers is a new dimension with the  military becoming power brockers, at the same time weakening increasingly restive Tablic.

With Iranians joining Saudis, Libyans and Pakistanis, has set Uganda a battle ground for different Islamist ideologies. Libya had countered Saudi Wahabi ideology under Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje head of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, who is heavily guarded by elements of the Presidential Guard Brigade.

His leadership is contested by followers of Sheikh Zubairi Kayongo based at Kibuli and followers of Wahabism whose legitimacy rose when Mubajje failed to counter corruption charges and sale of Muslim property.

Of late Mubajje camp has been falling apart with a faction supporting Hajji Bassajjabalaba contesting leadership and compelling Mubajje faction to call for elections.

Changes come at a time when government is poised to tap financing from conservative Islamic states that is conditioned on clean leadership in the UMSC.Nevertheless; Saudis have largely concentrated on Islamic University whose business empire is expanding with planned $30m shopping mall in Nakawa, near Kampala. Saudis had constructed King Fahdi Plaza to augment for University income.