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WHICH THEORY BEST EXPLAINS MUSLIM MURDERS IN UGANDA

By shuaib kaggwa
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For four years now since sheik Abdul Karim Sentamu was murdered on

April 22, 2012 and recently sheik Maj Muhammad Kigunddu on Nov 26,

several theories have emerged in attempts to define the group or

individuals behind this project. They include:
Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)
This was a line initially taken by government and often cited by

president Museveni. Most of the sheiks killed had refused to join the

ADF on disagreements over approaches on dawah conduct (invitation to

Islam) and also the method of fighting government. Government argued

that in response to this disappointment, ADF opted to eliminating

these sheiks. However, immediately after the first assassination

mission, it’s reported among the sheiks who were still alive, that the

alleged leader of ADF then, sheik Jamil Mukulu sent a condolence

message over the death of sheik Abdul Karim Sentamu and swore in

Allah’s name disassociating ADF from the responsibility of killing

him. He backed this saying it would be contrary to ADF’s mission of

fighting for the cause of Islam while killing fellow Muslims. He, in

turn pinned government as responsible for the action.

Rival Factions
This is pursued by members of the Muslim faction to which majority of

the deceased sheiks subscribed. In fact surviving sheiks are the

ones that cooperated with police to drop the ADF line and instead

adopt one of the rival faction. They thus suggested all names of those

arrested by police and currently detained at Luzira. However

sufficient evidence has eluded police, and possibly—sooner than later,

since the murder spate is just continuing; all prisoners may regain

their freedom. Besides, it’s well documented that historically,

Ugandan Muslims have learned to live with their differences without

resorting to killing each other.
Government
This is a lead pursued by the neutral Muslims and opposition

politicians. Majority of the deceased were once government enemies.

The late Kigunddu and his already deceased colleagues once headed a

rebel group called Uganda freedom army (UFA) whose fighters were

camped in South Sudan before its secession. Government clamped on the

sheiks throughout the 1990s and detained them in safe houses from

where they were prosecuted and detained in Katojo prison in western

Uganda and from where they were abducted by ADF but due to

disagreements with ADF, they sneaked back into Uganda. In Uganda they

were again arrested by government, which later pardoned them under the

government amnesty law in 2002. Theorists argue that the government

retained suspicion over these sheiks and indeed although the battle

fire had ceased, not so the war until the enemy would totally be

annihilated—hence the current mysterious murders. On the other hand,

the government is alleged to view these sheiks as one of the internal

formidable building blocks for a future strong Muslim political

movement to bargain for power. Whereas these allegations cannot be

taken at face value, government’s reluctance and not mere failure to

conduct serious and conclusive investigations into these murders may

render them currency.
Former Recruits
This line is advanced by Muslim neutralists. They argue that after the

former rebel sheiks signed an agreement with government, themselves

being integrated in public security structures, they forgot about the

youth they had recruited who became disgruntled. Out of anger these

youth resolved to revenge by killing off the sheiks. But this theory

is weakened by the sophisticated nature in which the missions are

conducted that have for nearly five years eluded the government

investigation machinery. Secondly not only members of the former

Kigunddu-led rebel group have been victims. The late Shi’a leader

Sheik Dr Abdul Kadir Muwaya had never had any business with the

disgruntled youth.
Political Pressure Groups
This theory is driven by neutral actors—both Muslim and non-Muslim who

believe that sophisticated and well connected politicians like those

once in government structures and those outside the country, have the

capacity and competence of conspiring to assassinate popular Muslim

sheiks with huge youth following so as to ferment anger among Muslims.

The intention would be to ready energetic Muslim youths to mount or

join a north-Africa-like people’s power to topple the NRM government

when the right time comes. That is why the timing is often when

Muslims have a heated disagreement between themselves just as recently

over the relationship between the slain sheik and Maama Phina, the

celebrated polytheist. This theory is built on assumption that either

way—whether it’s responsible or not Muslims have to blame and hate

this government for failure to protect them and conduct conclusive

investigations leading to successful prosecution of the culprits.

Swaib K Nsereko
Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Islamic University in Uganda