Brother Muammar Al-Qaddaffi,
Leader of the Libyan Revolution;
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and
The Host, His Emminence Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje, Mufti of Uganda;
Vice Chairman of the National Resistance Movement;
Today’s event is a reflection of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government’s effort to bring the Muslim Community to the Centre of Uganda’s socio-economic and political mainstream. This is arising from the relationship and the role Brother Leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has played in this effort.
Most of the previous governments did not actively encourage Muslims to come to the fore. Instead they were used for political purposes. I do not accept using religion as a political tool because this is a private matter between an individual and God, unless it is intended to mobilize people for development.
I am told by scholars that the first Muslims came to Uganda in 1844. They came as traders and most prominent among them was Ahmed bin Ibrahim. These people came for purposes of trade rather than the spread of Islam; and for this reason, Islam lost an opportunity to be formally acknowledged and encouraged in Uganda. Nonetheless, it was about that time during the reign of one king known as Kabaka Suuna II that Islam was introduced.
Ahmed bin Ibrahim objected to Kabaka Suuna’s insensitive slaughter of innocent people and he said nobody had the right to take away life of creatures of Allah.
Suuna was curious about this Allah and though he did not convert to lslam, he is reported to have read and memorized several chapters of the Koran.
It was Kabaka Muteesa I, Suuna’s son, who embraced Islam and declared it the state religion in Buganda. While Kabaka Muteesa I embraced Islam and ordered for prayer, fasting, slaughtering of animals and burial using the Islamic culture, the culture in Buganda of kings not losing blood did not allow him to be circumcised leading to Muslims in Buganda disobeying him. He ordered for their killing in 1876. However, these first religious martyrs are not talked about. Muteesa I, subsequently, welcomed the Christian faith which was led by the Church Missionary Society(CMS) in 1877 comprised of Rev. C.T. Wilson and Alexander Mackay. In 1879, he again, welcomed the Roman Catholic group led by Father Lourdel and Brother Amans.
Muteesa I was able to contain the rivalry that emerged among the different religions until his death in 1884. It was his son, Mwanga, crowned at the age of 18, who, suspecting that the Christians wanted his throne, ordered for the massacre of the martyrs we know today.
Mwanga was exiled by a coalition of Muslims and Christians in 1888 and Kiwewa was installed as king. As Kiwewa did not embrace Islam, he was ousted and replaced by his brother, Kalema as king. Nooh Kalema did embrace Islam and sought Muslim support for his government. He too was ousted and his palace set ablaze. Christians reinstalled Mwanga and he declared Buganda a Christian state. Kalema’s son Nooh Mbogo who is the father of the late Prince Badru Kakungulu was installed as a Muslim leader.
The spread of Islam in Uganda was not systematic like other religions. They had no formal structure like their Christian counterparts. Islam spread from informal conversion activities by Arab traders and local preachers.
Other people who converted were political and religious refugees who were escaping harassment by kings. The Sudanese soldiers who came to Uganda from the North also had a role in spreading Islam. In Bunyoro, Islam was spread through wars, trade and refugees who had fled Buganda. In Ankole, it was primarily through refugees. In the eastern part of Uganda, it was also spread through refugees and local preachers.
Unlike the Christian religion which has missionaries dedicated to the spread of Christianity, Islam had no central organization to do so and it was this lack of structure that was exploited by the late Milton Obote to create division within the community.
As Prince Badru Kakungulu was part of the Mengo establishment, Obote supported sections of the Muslim community to challenge his leadership.
He organized members of educated community outside Buganda for the purpose.
Adoko Nekyon, Obote’s cousin, was one such person. A group of young educated Muslims outside Buganda developed an anti-Kakungulu force. This division was even taken to the youth. In 1965, through the National Association of the Advancement of Muslims (NAAM), Obote politicized and divided the Muslim community. This group supported by UPC started a battle among Muslims for leadership of the Muslim community.
Kakungulu formed the Uganda Muslim Community (UMC) as an organ to reach out to various Muslim groups in the country telling them about the dangers of politicizing Islam. Between 1967– 1971, protracted battles between NAAM and UMC to control mosques continued. As NAAM had government support, it won most of the battles. It is reported that Obote stated that NAAM had affirmed its loyalty to the state. The statement was challenged by Abu Mayanja in parliament in 1968. Supporters of UMC, were detained on various occasions and NAAM had become an official government unit.
In October 1970, Prince Badru Kakungulu was also arrested. The overthrow of Obote created a window of opportunity for restoring sanity into the Muslim community. Idi Amin organized meetings to resolve the differences and as a result of this, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) was created to replace the two factions.
Amin was advised that since the 1900-Agreement had not given land to the Muslim Community, he had to allocate land to this community to build its headquarters and Amin gave Old Kampala Hill to the Muslims to build their headquarters.
Unfortunately, after the fall of Idi Amin in 1979, the Muslim Supreme Council also collapsed. Throughout the period 1981-1986, the Muslim community leadership, again, due to political interference from the Uganda Peoples Congress(UPC), fought battles against one another including some that were physical. There were conflicts between Sheikh Mulumba and Sheikh Kamulegeya, Shiekh Kakooza and Sheikh Luwemba.
It was the NRM administration that, finally, got the different factions to reconcile in May, 1993. I appointed a Reconciliation committee consisting of Prof. George Kanyeihamba, Mrs. Gertrude Njuba, Mrs. Anuna Omar and the Solicitor General.
After a lot of discussions and meetings, peace, finally, came to the Islamic community. The Muslim Community in recent times have elected their leadership and there is a great deal of stability in the community. Unfortunately, a group of misguided people have been misleading young people from the Muslim community to join disgruntled persons to fight the NRM government with the support of the Tourabi faction in the Sudan. Many young people have lost their lives in a fruitless war. We have put a mechanism in place to stop this recruitment and save lives of many.
The Muslim Community and the NRM Government
The NRM government looked at the Muslim community question as one where opportunistic leaders were using it for personal benefit. It is surprising that a community that is held together by the pillars of Islam was so divided with one another for flimsy reasons of leadership.
After realizing this, we aided the reconciliation process and the results are what we have today. We have taken some bold steps to empower the Muslim community in the country and among the things we have done was to give a title of this Old Kampala land to the Supreme Council. The community now has a secure home and this Mosque is evidence to that fact.
We decided to enact a law to establish the Islamic University in Uganda which had been promised in the 1970s but which the previous governments had failed to do.
The benefits of this decision has been positive competition among the different religious communities in establishing similar institutions. This has helped the country to increase availability of educational facilities.
A very important decision affecting the Muslim Community has been the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE). There has been an outcry in the community that they did not have enough schools and many of their children did not go to school because the parents were poor. Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Uganda Secondary Education (USE) have leveled the ground. Today, everybody can go to school and I urge my Muslim brothers to take advantage of the opportunity created by these two very important programmes.
The democratization process in the country has also brought more Muslim leaders into leadership positions. There are more Muslim Members of Parliament today than ever before. There are many that have taken up leadership positions at Local Council (LC)1, Local Council 3 and Local Council 5. These opportunities have been brought as a result of NRM policies.
Relationship With Other Religions
Since Islam did not have a central organization like their Christian counterparts, there was no organized effort to mobilize Muslims either to spread Islam or to protect their interests. The issue of organizing the community came up after Obote created NAAM as a UPC organ. Muslims were thus individuals who communicate with Allah; and the only leader of great importance is the Imam who leads prayers and other religious functions.
It has, therefore, been susceptible to manipulation by organized groups. That is why Obote created a conflict amongst Muslims that was so intense and yet unprincipled. The lack of organization has also led to inability to negotiate or be represented in various issues of national importance.
Idi Amin took Uganda to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and many Christians have been challenging Uganda’s membership to this body. Despite this, the Christian community and, indeed, other religions have not questioned the rights of the Muslim community despite Muslims being the minority. The NRM Administration maintained the OIC Membership because 12 per cent of our people are Moslems. Uganda is now looking forward to hosting the 35th Ordinary Session of OIC Foreign Ministers,(57 Members), on 18-20 June, 2008.
The non-muslim community has now come to understand better the Muslim community as a result of interaction among the different communities. Muslims now join non-muslim schools and vice – versa.
There has been an increasing understanding of the needs of the different religious communities.
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Uganda,
I informed my Muslim brothers that I had Muslim friends and, once they sort out their conflicts, I would introduce them to my good friends.
Colonel Gaddafi is a Revolutionary and we have been friends for a long time; he has been a friend of Uganda for a long time too. Revolutionaries detest bad governance and they always work for the interests of people.
Libya has been a friend of Uganda and this Mosque, reported to be the second biggest in Africa, with such beauty, is a realization of that friendship. Colonel Gaddafi has over the years availed resources to Uganda for development and social transformation. The Tropical Bank is one such effort. Participation in financing of different activities is another such effort.
I am informed from the Muslim community that President Gaddafi has promised to construct a University for the benefit of all Ugandans.
Most importantly, Brother Gaddaffi, during the early years of the National Resistance Army (NRA) and also in 1985 sent us some weapons to help us stop the slaughter that was going on in Uganda at that time.
Ever since the victory of the NRM in 1986, I have been interacting with Brother Gaddaffi on the need for economic and social transformation in Africa and the Arab World. Africa and the Arab World must transform form Third World and middle-income status to the First World countries Recently, brother Gaddaffi started an investment Arm of the Libyan Government.
They have already invested in fruit processing (DAWDA), textiles (Tri-star), National Housing Corporation, Uganda Telecommunications (UTL), hotels like Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, and coffee processing plant – to produce finished coffee instead of exporting coffee beans for which we get US$1 instead of US$ 15 that go to Nestle in London, an oil pipeline from Mombasa to Kigali etc.
I have talked sternly to those who, on the Ugandan side, have been delaying the execution of these projects. They will co-operate I can assure all of you.
I take this opportunity on behalf of the Muslim community and indeed, the whole country to thank Africa’s freedom fighter, Brother Colonel Gaddafi for his generosity which has enabled many Ugandans to improve on their lives.
As a freedom fighter, he has battled misrule across Africa and stood up against exploitation of the poor. I also thank you for having found time to come to Uganda and commission this Mosque. Yesterday, at the State Banquet, I undemocratically declared this Mosque as “Gaddaffi National Mosque”; to which I am sure the Muslim Supreme Council will have no objection.
I thank all of you for listening to me.