When the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire was once quoted saying that ‘Leave issues of Generals to Generals’, the public considered it a minor issue.
Something almost similar played out yesterday in the International Crimes Division of the High Court during the trial of Muslim clerics charged with murder and attempted murder of their fellow clerics. Five prominent Muslims including Prince Kassim Nakibinge, Sheikh Mustapha Bahiga, Sheikh Hassan Kirya, Najib Ssonko and Umar Swidiq Ndawula were on the list of those to be murdered, with Sheikhs Bahiga and Kirya killed by assailants.
But in court, the show now turned to a verbal exchange of words between city lawyer Fred Muwema and State Principal Witness Sheikh Abdul Hamid Haruna Jjemba Katungulu, a 60 year old Muslim scholar with a PhD in Religious Studies and who doubles as a lecture of Religion and Peace Studies at Makerere University Kampala.
State witness 15 Sheikh Jemba was introduced to court by Principal State Attorney Lino Anguzu.
Sheikh Jemba then told court that he is the leader of the Jami Dawa Salafia, who replaced Sheikh Muhammad Yunus Kamoga, one of the accused.
According to Sheikh Jjemba, the Salaf executive relieved Sheikh Kamoga from leadership, accusing the latter of among others, fomenting conflicts within the organization; force fully taking over the administration of mosques in Kampala, and registering a parallel organisation called Ummah House without knowledge of the original Tabliq organization.
Trouble then ensued when counsel Muwema started cross-examining Sheikh Jjemba, with both men turning name-calling, jabbing each other as ‘liars’.
The diatribe between Muwema and Sheikh Jjemba prompted the presiding Judge Ezekiel Muhanguzi to issue caution and also remind them about the conduct that is expected in court. Sheikh Jjemba also evoked memories of yesteryears when, he said, Muwema once acted as his counsel. The Judge intervened again, restraining Sheikh Jjemba from ‘going personal’.
Then Muwema told Sheikh Jjemba that he illegally usurped Kamoga’s powers as Amir, telling the cleric that he was ‘elected’ by just nine people, as opposed to the requisite quorum of 20 executive committee members. But Sheikh Jjemba dismissed Muwema’s assertions of ‘usurpation’ saying Sheikh Kamoga ‘locked the offices and refused to vacate the leadership’.
Then counsel Muwema pulled a ‘tough’ one, telling Sheikh Jjemba that the faithful at all mosques he had ‘hijacked’ including the Tabliq mosque at Nakasero and the Masjid Noor on William Street, all still pledge allegiance to ousted Sheikh Kamoga as the Amir.
But this was not before Sheikh Jjemba turned to State Attorney Anguzu, seeking for ‘protection’ for ‘fear that any of the accused could attack’ him, citing an attack on his home in January 2015, which he pinned on Kamoga’s followers.
However, as Sheikh Jjemba and Muwema engaged each other person whose identity has been withheld for security reasons, said despite Sheikh Jjemba being nominated without quorum, “Sheikh Kamoga was never popular within the executive but he has a much bigger following from the Muslim community.”
Amid all the drama court was adjourned to December 5, with none of the antagonists ‘leaving issues of Generals to Generals’.