Is this the end of Mubaje's reign as Mufti?

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Is this the end of Mubaje's reign as Mufti?
Mufti Mubaje

The tenure of Mufti Ramadhan Shaban Mubaje, which is now 23 years and running, has been marred by endless accusations of engaging in dubious land transactions.

These accusations have led to the loss of prime properties in Kampala and several major towns across Uganda for the Muslim community.

Mubaje, who initially came to power on a platform of unity and development, was relatively unknown when he was elected as Mufti on December 11, 2000. However, over the years, he has become a prominent figure.

While some Muslims view him as a leader who promotes development and unity, others accuse him of betraying their trust.

The Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), the religious body that unites the Muslim community in Uganda, has been embroiled in a power struggle, with allegations of mismanagement of Muslim properties further eroding Mubaje's credibility as a spiritual leader and champion of morality, which are the foundations of Islam.

Born in Bungokho, Mbale district, Mubaje has a strong Islamic background. However, his position as the leader of UMSC is now under threat.

The decision to remove him from office has caused panic among his supporters.

The controversy surrounding Mubaje's leadership intensified when court documents listed several Muslim properties for auction, citing their involvement in dubious land transactions.

These properties included the Tabliq Mosque in Kampala City, the National Muslim Mosque, and the Muslim headquarters in Old Kampala, among others.

Amidst these accusations, potential replacements for Mubaje have emerged, namely Sheikh Abdallah Ssemambo, the First Deputy Mufti, and Sheikh Silman Kasule Ndirangwa, a former Kibuli-based Supreme Mufti.

However, fearing Ndirangwa's presence, Mubaje allegedly sidelined him, leading to further divisions within UMSC.

The recent scandal involving the misappropriation of funds worth Shs19 billion has further exacerbated the situation. This is not the first time Mubaje has faced legal battles. He has continually denied any wrong doing.

In 2008, he was taken to court over allegations of selling Muslim properties, including Masjid Noor. Although he was acquitted, the court acknowledged evidence supporting the claims of property disposal.

Subsequently, the titular head of Muslim in Uganda, Prince Kassim Nakibinge led a faction based at Kibuli, breaking ranks with Mubaje and establishing new leadership under the late Sheikh Zubairi Kayongo.

While the alleged property sales appear to be the immediate cause of the conflict, earlier events such as the revision of the UMSC constitution, the election period, and the general assembly in the previous year have contributed to the growing tension.

The conflict primarily involved the Hussein Bassajabala faction, led by Hajj Abdul Kyimba, and the Mubaje faction.

Bassajabala sought to reclaim the position of chairperson in the general assembly but faced opposition due to his previous impeachment, rendering him ineligible under the UMSC constitution.

According to the UMSC constitution, the removal of the Mufti from office requires a joint session of the executive committee and the Majlis Al-Ulama, the college of Sheikhs.

Six reasons are outlined for the Mufti's removal, including mental incapacity, bankruptcy, misconduct, criminal conviction, violation of Islamic norms and national laws, and tarnishing his public image. The impeachment process is also detailed in the constitution, necessitating a written petition with signatures from at least one-third of the joint session members.

Despite the controversies and legal battles, Mufti Mubaje has refused to relinquish power.

The UMSC General Assembly, consisting of 264 members, suspended him for six months and appointed Sheikh Abduallah Ssemambo as the acting Mufti.

However, the amended UMSC constitution, which was largely rejected by the faithful, allowed Mubaje to remain in office for another eight years. Under the old constitution, he was expected to step down when he reached the age of 70 in 2025.

Nevertheless, the accusations of mismanagement of Muslim properties have tarnished Mubaje's reputation and raised questions about his leadership and moral integrity.

The future of UMSC remains uncertain as the search for a new leader capable of restoring unity and trust among the faithful continues.

A section of Muslims across the country have called for Mubaje's resignation in the interest of Muslim dignity and unity, as his respect has been severely compromised.

The newly appointed Mufti, Ssemambo, is still struggling to establish himself at the UMSC headquarters as Mubaje has declined to step down.

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