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Who Killed Sheikh Ssentamu?



Discussion about the tragic murder of Sheikh Abdul-Karim Ssentamu has been largely speculative. The least logical of this speculation is the claim that the cleric met his fate at the hands of the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF rebels.

An unknown gunman ended the life of the teacher and preacher two weeks ago on one of Kampala’s busiest streets. Proponents of the ADF conjecture claim that he was killed because he deserted the organization. His elimination, the conjecture proceeds, would carry an admonition to the rank and file that desertion carried a death sentence.

This claim, often insinuated in a string of government-owned media, is based on no solid foundation. There’s no recent independent confirmation of information that the ADF has regrouped and reactivated. The Ugandan government is found of fabricating or at least exaggerating security threats to justify excessive military expenditure, to attract U.S. funding for the so-called war on terror, and to crackdown on lawful opposition activities. 

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, for instance, was charged with heading a rebel group – Peoples Redemption Army – whose existence is highly doubtable. The Constitutional Court quashed the charges in 2010.

The same government has linked Dr. Ahmed Ssengendo, the Rector of the Islamic University in Uganda, to the ADF and Al-Qaeda.  Such a record of flagrant fabrications does not make the government a reliable source of information on the existence, composition and operation of rebel groups.

Even if the ADF was alive and kicking, and bent on tracking down and ‘kicking the ass’ of whoever turned away from the battlefield and fled the forests of eastern Congo, it is not clear why the organization would single out Sheikh Ssentamu and exempt all the other sheikhs who equally returned home. If Ssentamu was simply the first on a long list of deserters who would ultimately be eliminated one by one, we may ask why the rebels took so long – more than a decade – to pursue their targets.

It is also important to note that the ADF, contrary to the common practice of insurgent groups, has not claimed responsibility for the murder. Indeed, we have not heard a single word from the group in many years. An unclaimed attack whose motive is unclear cannot deliver a clear message that the ADF supposedly wanted to send.

Besides, it sounds strange that the ADF deems it fruitful to advance its cause by murdering influential sheikhs. If the ADF is regrouping and indeed recruiting from the Muslim community, as security agencies allege, it is unlikely that the organization would wish to undermine its own recruitment ground by slaughtering popular Muslim preachers. 

By now the senselessness of the claim that Sheikh Ssentamu was killed by the ADF should be clear. We may now turn to another speculation that links the assassination to Muslim wrangles.  

This supposition insinuates that the sheikh, who subscribed to the Kibuli-based Muslim faction, was murdered by a rival Muslim group – the Old Kampala-based camp – which had planned controversial Muslim elections that the deceased would presumably frustrate. This feeble reasoning ignores the fact that the presence or absence of Sheikh Ssentamu can have no effect on Kibuli’s zeal to disrupt Old Kampala’s programmes.

Indeed, the death of Ssentamu didn’t stop hundreds of Mufti Zubair Kayongo’s loyalists from mounting an assault not only to stop the elections, but to topple Mufti Shaban Mubajje’s administration altogether. Besides, Ugandan Muslims may have a consistent record of fighting for leadership, but they have never turned to assassinating each other.

It is equally unreasonable to suspect Drake Lubega, a city businessman who controversially bought Muslim properties on William Street, including a mosque in which the sheikh prayed and preached. Mr. Lubega is not so stupid to imagine that he can scare away Muslims by simply eliminating one of their own.

The final view blames President Museveni’s government for the murder of Sheikh Ssentamu. This perspective maintains that Mr. Museveni, who apparently thinks the ADF is regrouping and recruiting, wanted to send a message to the Muslims that he was ready to slay them again if they dared to fight him.

It will be recalled that the government resorted to such summary executions, detention without trial and cruel forms of torture in the 1990s to eliminate Muslims it suspected were ADF sympathizers.

Government can surely revisit this campaign of terror, especially in the current state of panic when Museveni thinks everyone, including his own shadow, is plotting against him. It is this panic that has impelled him to write to the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, asking for the dismissal of the Rector of the Islamic University in Uganda. Dr. Ssengendo, according to Museveni and his henchmen who misinform him, has turned the university into a recruiting ground for all sorts of organizations, from Jeema to ADF to Al-Qaeda.

If Museveni believes that some leading Muslim figures have waged war against his government, he would surely react the way he’s believed to have done: killing some and calling for the sacking of others.

And for purposes of sending a clear message, Museveni would want his suspected involvement in the murder to be known, as he probably intended when he told a delegation of Muslims at State House last week that the assassinated sheikh had had telephone contact with rebel leader Jamil Mukulu. Whoever collaborates with Jamil Mukulu and the ADF, Mr. Museveni seemed to warn Muslims, would follow Ssentamu.

Another suspected reason why Museveni would kill Ssentamu is to worsen divisions among the Muslims. It is said that the cleric was steadily gaining influence within and, most importantly, beyond the conservative salafi (tabliq) community.  His profound knowledge of the traditions of the Prophet and his polite approach in religious instruction had won him admiration and indeed acceptance across Muslims of various stripes. In him were some of the qualities of a unifying leader.

The rise of such a personality might have alarmed President Museveni whose survival partly lies in the disunity and disorganization of Ugandans, including Muslims. It was therefore probably deemed politically far-sighted to eliminate a potentially unifying figure before he transformed Muslims into a formidable force.

This final perspective – unlike the first and second views that blame the murder of Sheikh Ssentamu on the ADF, Mufti Mubajje or Drake Lubega – is logical and somewhat plausible. It resonates with Museveni’s well-known hostility toward Islam and Muslims.



+2 #1 musa 2012-05-04 07:17
Its very true that Museven is benefiting in the division among muslims cause he also informed the group of muslims which met him that they should leave elections to go on such that he can determine the strength of mubajje. A question what is the mean of this?
0 #2 IDRIS KATO 2012-05-04 09:09
0 #3 swaib 2012-05-04 11:56
Are the police seriously investigating the mater anyway?
+1 #4 Kals 2012-05-04 12:50
This is damning.In fact, these guys are about to come up with the report implicating rival Muslims factions for the murder.It should be noted that we have had historical differences in the Muslim community, but nothing like assassinations. So any report that implicates Muslims as Suspects should be boldly denied.Otherwis e, thanks for the report
+1 #5 Ssali Hassen 2012-05-05 09:45
Ssebo byoyogedde byanna nze mbadde manyi nti ayeetta sheikh wamutegedde?kak ano njagala nkakase mwena sheikh Abdul-Kaiem Aallah amusaasile jjali'tabangako era teyaberako era taliberako wa ADF kubanga.Aba ADF bakyusiza Nekiibula kati bassal batunula mu-South,abo ddala bakyali Basiramu?ddala sheikh asobola okubera nababuyabuya ngabo?ffe ensonga za sheikh nebwezinamala emwaka jjonna tujja kuzikolako InshaAllah.
0 #6 hamza Namungo 2012-05-07 06:00
we have to be patient no matter how long it will take the truth will be known,Sentamu is already no more hence speculation about his death will yield us nothing,let us wait we shall get to know the truth no matter what
0 #7 ssekabira 2012-05-07 15:25
kye wuunyisa museve okuteesa na basiraamu kubyo kwegatta oluvanyuma lwokufa kwa sheikh
-2 #8 Salim A.M 2012-05-21 15:06
Matters concerning speculation of the death of Shk Abdul Karim should be left to Allah alone '' the all knowing'' and i think our role should always be prayers whenever we think of the late Shk. In such we can be rewarded abundantly after the tragic and un timely death of the knowledgeble shk. For your information No man despite of his strong power,wealth, knowledge etc will stay on earth forever!!! The only difference is that Shk died before many of us but it's the same way without any doubt!
-1 #9 hasfa 2015-07-13 11:18
mbizzi mwe muve ku museveni
0 #10 junior 2015-11-11 11:37
i've been looking 4 this info 4 so long. Thanks 4 analysing issues.... Smart work done