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Why is the Muslim community so proud of this man?


Summary: Having assumed the scarce scholarly rank of Professor of Literature, Abasi Kiyimba has been crowned the ‘Academic Achiever of the Year’ by the Uganda Muslim Network, an umbrella organization that unites Muslim NGOs. Dr. Ahmad Luwaga retraces the steps of the resolute Muslim activist whose investigation into the 1979 massacre of Muslims in Ankole reportedly piled panic in the heart of President Museveni.

Let me start with explaining why I think I am the most suitable person to introduce Prof. Abasi Kiyimba. I first met Kiyimba in 1981 when I was a student in Senior Four and he was a student teacher, teaching the English language and Literature. I remember him vividly because he brought life into the teaching of English, into Islamic Work and into debating life at Kako Secondary School (Masaka).

He was a confident young man that spoke English in a manner admired by everybody in the school. As Muslim students, we were very proud of him. The subject of Literature, which until then was thought to be difficult, became popular with many students.

Early Life
Abasi Kiyimba was born in 1958 to Haji Muhamudu Kalyango of Kalama Village in Kyamulibwa Sub-County, Kalungu District. His grandfather is the late Haji Juma Mwanje of Kiwesa, Bukulula Kalungu. His mother, the late Aisha Najjuma is the daughter of Sheikh Abdallah Sekimwanyi, the founder of the African Muslim Community – Bukoto Natete.

Following the death of his mother in 1963, Kiyimba was brought up jointly by his father, his grandparents, and his maternal uncle, Haji Yahya Lule. Haji Lule and Sheikh Uthman Kiyimba made significant impressions on his life.

Kiyimba went to Lutengo Primary School (Masaka), then to Busoga College Mwiri for his Ordinary and Advanced levels and to Makerere University for his first degree in English and Literature. He won a scholarship to study Master of Literary Linguistics at the University of Strathclyde in the United Kingdom. He finally attained a PhD in Literature at the University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

At Mwiri, Kiyimba was a strong debater, competitive novel reader and excelled in the English language. Indeed, in the year 1976 when he sat for his Ordinary Level exams, there were two distinctions in the whole country – one in Mwiri and the other in Budo – the one in Mwiri belonged to Abasi Kiyimba.

His distinguished schoolmates at Mwiri include former Information Minister Basoga Nsadhu, Dr. Yasin Ziraba of the Makerere University Faculty of Technology, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Technology – Makerere), and Prof. Yoswa Dambisya who teaches medicine in South Africa. 

Career at Makerere
Prof. Kiyimba’s teaching career at Makerere started in 1982 as a Teaching Assistant. In 1996, he was promoted to Senior Lecturer. 11 years later he became Associate Professor, and on 11, July 2012, Kiyimba was promoted to Professor of Literature.

Such promotion to Professor of Literature was last seen in the Department in 1982 with Prof. Timothy Wangusa, along with an honorary professorship in Creative Writing awarded to the late Professor Okot P’Bitek.  These promotions have mainly hinged upon publications in the area of Literature. Kiyimba has 22 publications in this area, with his most memorable being The Ghost of Idi Amin in Ugandan Literature.

Professor Kiyimba has also researched and written in the area of Islam. He is the author of Islam and Modern Science, The Problem of Muslim Education in Uganda, Islam in Uganda Through One Hundred and Forty Years, The 1979 Muslim Blood Bath in Bushenyi and others.

Three of his writings: A Ugandan without a Tribe, The Ghost of Idi Amin in Ugandan Literature and Islam and Modern Science have won international writing awards. His major forthcoming publications include: Law and Religious Conflict in Uganda: The case of the Domestic Relations Bill in Uganda, Proverbial Imagery in Contemporary Political Discourse in Uganda, and a Luganda Translation of Okot P’Bitek’s Song of Lawino entitled Omulanga gwa Lawino.

At Makerere, he has served in several areas of responsibility, notable among them being:
• Head of Literature and Mass Communication Department
• Deputy Dean, Faculty of Arts
• Member of Senate

Countries visited 
The Professor is fairly well travelled. He has been to France, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Malta, Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Chad, Libya, Sudan, South Africa, DR Congo, Burundi and others; and has presented papers on Islamic and Literary subjects.

He has delivered papers to University audiences in Dar es Salaam, Harare, Nairobi, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Sterling, Dundee, Glasgow, Kent, London, and has spoken on BBC literary programmes, and has featured in major literary publications like the London-based Conch Newspaper.

A Determined Teacher
Prof. Abasi Kiyimba trained as a teacher of English at Makerere, and he taught English at Kako Secondary School and Kampala High School in the early years of his career.

The larger part of Kiyimba’s teaching career is characterized by consistence that has been developed over the thirty years he has been at work. He says, "I do things fairly but firmly.” When it is time to get tough with students, he gets tough, especially with those who louse with their coursework assignments. “Some of them get annoyed at first but later come to realise that I act out of a spirit of fairness,” he says. "That is why many of my former students remain friends despite the difficult times we may go through."

Former students
While talking about his former students, Kiyimba is proud to mention Dr. Ahmad Luwaga, Isa Kikungwe, Geraldine Nakatumba Bukenya of the National Curriculum Development Center and former army spokesperson Lt. Col. Shaban and thousands more. Among the most interesting students he has taught is Christopher Kirunda, who was once his teacher at secondary school, but found himself in Kiyimba's class when he came to do Masters at Makerere.

Kiyimba in the Muslim Community
As he made his entry into Makerere University in 1979, former President Idi Amin Dada was making his exit from Uganda, deposed by invading Tanzanian forces. These were very trying moments for members of the Muslim Community in Uganda. “It gave us an immediate role in the community,” he recalls.

Led by Hajj Imanullah Kalinaki, who is now Kawempe Division Education Officer, Kiyimba, together with Ahmad Kaweesa Sengendo (currently Rector of the Islamic University in Uganda) and others, traversed the width and breadth of the country, comforting Muslims who were feeling threatened by the events that followed Amin’s ouster.

They were later joined by Sam Ahmad Sentongo (now the Makerere University Imam), Imaam Idi Kasozi of Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly and Hajj Hussein Kyanjo, the Justice Forum Secretary-General and Member of Parliament. They read extensively the books of Sayyid Qutub, Muhammad Qutb, Muhammad Hamidullah, Abu Ala Maududi, Yusuf Al-Qardawi, Hassan al Banna and others, and expanded their vision of Islam as a universal religion. They organized seminars for Muslim students at Secondary level.

In 1987, Kiyimba became the Patron of the Makerere University Muslim Students Association, succeeding the formidable Pakistan-born Muhammad Afzal Chaudry. As Patron, he achieved many feats including organising annual Daawah (Islamic teaching and preaching) caravans to different districts of Uganda.

He also spearheaded the construction of the new University mosque, and particularly resisted attempts and pressures to relocate the University Mosque from the University main gate. He recalls telling off former Dean of Students George Kihuguru that the Muslims would rather remain in their small mosque at the main gate than build a bigger one elsewhere. Kihuguru and whoever he was representing backed off.

Kiyimba is also remembered for fighting attempts to introduce pork on the menu of the halls of residence at Makerere University, which was being pushed for by former Vice Chancellor Prof. George Kirya.

As National Chairman of the Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly (UMYA), Kiyimba has been part of a versatile team that has made an indelible impact on the Uganda Muslim Community, especially in the area of formal education. UMYA runs an education centre at Bweyogerere which teaches students from Nursery to Advanced Level, and sponsors several needy students in various schools. Its members have also traversed the country, encouraging Muslims to take their children to school.

UMYA has also participated prominently in Aids awareness educational programmes. The organization is known for the Ramadhan seminars that it organises annually to debate topical issues in the Ugandan society.

He is on record for his contribution to the fight against attempts to encroach on the freedoms of worship of the Muslims when Government attempted to introduce the Domestic Relations Bill.

He spoke out loud and clear when Muslims were being detained incommunicado in ‘safe houses’ in the 1990s.

With the above general remarks, I present to you Professor Abasi Kiyimba, recognized by Makerere University years after the Muslim community recognized him.


0 #1 hood nsubuga 2012-08-19 03:14
indeed proud of him. please keep fire burnig for us muslims
0 #2 tebandeke musa 2016-07-17 08:45
The man has got an entresting CV, though disturbed by some illness may Allah protect him for muslim community and uganda at large