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Sharia is far better than democracy – Prof. Kateregga

Prof. Badru Badru Kateregga is the founder and Vice Chancellor of Kampala University and former Ugandan ambassador to Saudi Arabia for 11 years. He spoke to The Campus Journal’s Musa Kiggundu about his education investments and about governance.

Qn. Knowledge and wealth is a rare combination. How did you afford to seek for knowledge and at the same time accumulate the money to establish a university?

Ans: Indeed it is rare but also an interesting one because knowledge is the source of wealth. If you are lucky you can use the former to achieve the latter. Wealth derived from knowledge is the best because it is achieved from an endless informed source.

Qn: People like you have made it difficult for anyone to claim anymore that Muslims in Uganda are illiterate or uneducated. Is this the time for Muslims to celebrate?

Ans: I wish they could celebrate because great strides have been met since the inception of Islam. They have not only succeeded as scholars but also as education investors.

However, much as we have got to the pinnacle, the numbers are still small. Also, while Muslim scholars are progressing in secular education, they should progress in the religious education at the same time.

Qn. You were Uganda’s ambassador to the Middle East throughout the 1990s. What lessons can Uganda learn from Arab countries?

Ans: Many lessons. But the biggest problem is that the systems of governance are different. Uganda uses democratic government, or mass rule, whereas most Arab nations use the Islamic Sharia together with Majlis Shura (consultative councils).

Sharia laws were made by Allah who can never make errors. However, democratic laws are made by human beings who make errors and that is why we need amendments every other time. Democratic governance is not the best that is why countries like the U.S. have got Electoral Colleges. (In the U.S., the President and Vice President are not elected directly by the people; both are elected by the Electoral College composed of 538 members. Ed.) 

Uganda also needs to enter the Arab markets. It is unfortunate that Uganda is the only county in the world that has always been with balance of payment problems with Arab nations.

Qn. You have often espoused the view that while terrorism is reprehensible, self defence is commendable. When is a community supposed to use violence to defend itself?

Ans: Self defence in conventional terms is legitimate. All nations including the U.S. have an army for purposes of self defence.

However, according to Islam, you must use self defence by applying an equal measure (proportional reaction). Do not exceed the limits. If the aggressor is violent, you should also defend yourself with equal measures.

Qn. Besides being a scholar and a diplomat, what else describes you?

Ans: I am a successful education entrepreneur. Not everyone is successful as a scholar and investor. I have managed to establish a university with five campuses, a nursing school and a Grade III institution.

I love teaching and that is why my life rotates around the education sector. I don’t teach because of money but because I like it.

Qn: “Kampala University Original.” Why do you often add and emphasize the word “Original?”

Ans: Original is for purposes of recognition. KU was established in 1999 while KIU (Kampala International University) came in 2001. However, very many people often confuse KU with KIU because they have names that are almost similar.

Qn. What else can you say about yourself or your university?

Ans: KU has a future. In 2001, it almost collapsed with the collapse of Greenland Group of Companies. We lost students from 750 to 25. But with my determination and faith in Allah, KU has managed to become a great university. In the Africa Zain Challenge (brain game), we became the 3rd best university in Uganda. We are like an Oak tree – the more the wind blows it the stronger it gets.

Myself, I believe that I am successful and it is the reason I was honoured by King Fahd [of Saudi Arabia] for my excellent service and I am proud to be the only African with that honour. For 11 years, I managed to be the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Saudi Arabia (in the 1990s). I did not only restore Uganda’s poor relations then with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but also appealed for the establishment of the Islamic University in Uganda and King Fahd Plaza. I am not always where there is no success.

This interview was conducted in 2009 and first appeared in the print version of The Campus Journal  the same year.