Review of 2015

Review of 2015 

Revd Amos Kasibante

Unsolved murders

In late December 2014 two top Muslim clerics were shot dead just days apart. The first was Sheikh (Dr) Abdul Qadar Muwaya, a Shia Muslim cleric and Director of the Mayuge-based Ahlul Bant Islamic Foundation who was murdered at his home on 25 December. The second murder was that of Kampala District Amir, Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga killed on the Kampala-Entebbe highway. Both were shot by men on motorbikes. That brought to eight the number of Muslim clerics gunned down over two years following a similar pattern. The culprits had not been apprehended.

It is understandable if Ugandans entered 2015 with a degree of anxiety about this kind of selective violence and the failure to arrest and have a successful conviction.  The police blamed the killings on the Allied Defence Force, a predominantly Muslim group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo that fought the NRM government in the 1990s but seemed to have weakened over the years. The police view was that the slain clerics were suspected to either have withdrawn support from ADF or were discouraging the Muslim youth from joining it. There was suspicion in sections of the Muslim Community that the police were either incompetent or unwilling to arrest the culprits. In January, the police arrested Sheikh Muhamad Yunus Kamoga, leader of the Uganda Tabliq group and 17 others and charged them with the murders of the two clerics. They were released on bail.

Then in February, in Bugiri (Busoga) two police officers of the VIP Protection Unit were shot dead at the home of former Inspector General of Government, Justice Faith Mwondha, and their guns taken, raising questions whether the murder was the action of robbers wanting to acquire firearms or whether there was a political element.

Before the dust had settled, on 30th March the Head of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, Ms Joan Kagezi, was gunned down on the outskirts of Kampala as she returned home from work. The killers were on a motorbike. Ms Kagezi was the prosecutor at the trial of 13 men accused of the deadly Al-Shabaab bomb attack that killed 76 people in Kampala in 2010.

The women of Apaa

In April, two other incidents raised the political temperature in the country. The first one took place in a little known place called Apaa in Pabbo County in Amuru district in northern Uganda. During the civil war, the people of Amuru had gone to live in camps, but on return they could not trace their land. They claimed that their land had been grabbed. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) also claimed a big chunk of the land as belonging to them. There was also word that the government wanted to demarcate part of the land for Madhvani to grow sugarcane. The police and military were deployed and used excessive force in evicting the people. The Acholi politicians in Parliament protested at the treatment meted out to the people and when the Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister of Lands went to the area, the women stripped naked as a mark of their desperation and  shouting “lobowa” , “lobowa” (our land, our land).  The demarcation was halted. The Amuru case highlights a serious and potentially explosive problem in Uganda today – the question of land.

Rupture in the ruling party

The second case was the leakage of what became known as “the Kayihura tapes”. These were tapes recording a conversation between Gen Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police and a double agent who was reporting on the then Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling NRM party, Patrick Amama Mbabazi, as doing underground work to stand against the President in the coming elections. The tapes not only signalled the wedge between the President and arguably the second most powerful man in the NRM administration since 1986; they also confirm suspicion in some circles that the IGP was a partisan.

High profile deaths

On the Church front, the Diocese of W. Buganda lost its Bishop, the Rt Revd Godfrey Makumbi, who died after a long battle with throat cancer on 30 May, aged 52. He had been Bishop for 4 years.  In September, the death occurred of Gen. Aronda Nyakairima sending shock waves through the country and the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF). Gen. Aronda suffered a heart attack on a plane travelling from S. Korea to Dubai on his way home. The 56 year old was a hero of the bush war that brought the NRM to power. He served several positions in the army before being made Army Commander. At the time of death he was Minister of Internal Affairs. He was highly regarded for his hard work and professionalism.

University strikes

In August, just days before the beginning of the University academic year, there was a strike of non-academic and support staff over pay in all the government universities in the country: Makerere, Gulu, Mbarara University of Science & Technology; Busitema, Muni, and Kyambogo. The government has increased the salaries of the academic staff only and the support staff saw it as a form of segregation.

The year was also marked by student strikes at three Universities: Makerere, Nkumba and Kyambogo. This was over tuition fees and administration. Students at the Uganda Christian University also threatened a strike protesting the against the fees policy. In all cases the police had to be called in and at Makerere and Kyambogo there were scuffles between students and the police with several students suffering injuries or the effects of teargas.

The Pope’s visit

The climax of 2015 was the three-day visit at the end of November of Pope Francis to the country and in particular to the Catholic and Church of Uganda (Anglican) martyr sites at Namugongo. He met religious and political leaders and also met with the Kabaka of Buganda. The visit of the Pope, coming barely three months before the country’s general election in February 2016 turned the eyes of the world to the state of the nation as it prepares for an election whose stakes are arguably going to be higher than the previous elections. Others are contesting against President Museveni who has been in power for 30 years.

Revd Amos Kasibante, formerly a tutor at Bishop Tucker Theological College, is a vicar in Leeds and Chairperson of the UCA.