Muslims and leaders demand proof as link to ADF claims another cleric’s life

Saturday July 04 2015

Relatives and friends of Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya pray at his funeral in Kampala. Latest killing brings to 12 number of clerics’ deaths, yet police have no answers. PHOTO | FAISWAL KASIRYE

The killing of yet another top Muslim cleric has heightened a sense of hopelessness about the continued failure by the state to explain a string of murders that have targeted Muslim leaders in Uganda.

Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya became the 12th Muslim cleric to be murdered since 2012 by killers who brazenly take out their targets and get away on the ubiquitous motorcycle taxis commonly known as boda boda.

The clergyman died in the evening of June 30 following an attack by a gunman in Bweyogerere, 12km east of Kampala.

While the police say they are holding some three dozen suspects whom they rounded up in December 2014 and January this year in connection with the murders of other clerics, no related case has proceeded to trial.

“Even those whom they arrested are yet to be taken before a High Court… Justice delayed is justice denied,” Muhammad Kisambira, the secretary-general of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, was quoted as saying.

No immediate answers


During the funeral of Sheikh Kirya on Wednesday, a dejected Inspector-General of Police Kale Kayihura conceded that he had no immediate answers on the latest murder and, perhaps more importantly, that he was getting weary of making promises to apprehend the assailants that he was not making good on.

“I am also tired of coming here all the time to make promises that I am going to do everything possible to find the killers,” a visibly crestfallen Gen Kayihura told the people who turned up to mourn Sheikh Kirya, who has been the spokesperson of the Kibuli faction of Muslims that is opposed to the current Muslim leadership headquartered at the national mosque at Old Kampala.

Gen Kayihura’s admission only succeeded in stoking criticism of the police force that he heads, whose methods of work are under scrutiny.

Many people have complained that its focus on political policing — buying teargas, anti-riot equipment and footing allowances for anti-riot informants — comes at the expense of normal policing.

“In a country where systems work, where individual people’s lives are valued, Kayihura should by now have already resigned, given the statement he made,” said Betty Nambooze, MP for Mukono Municipality, on a popular radio talk show. “What he said is a clear admission of failure.

“How many times should he be allowed to do that? He does not need anybody to ask or push him to step aside.”

Not so long ago, many people in Ms Nambooze’s constituency were bludgeoned to death in a series of attacks she insists the police have never sufficiently explained, as is also the case with the killings in the central Uganda district of Masaka that preceded the murders of Muslim clerics.

“The cycle just keeps moving from one part of the country to another” Ms Nambooze said and asked: “Now it is the Muslims; who’s next?”

Sheikh Kirya’s murder bears an uncanny resemblance to that of deputy chief prosecutor Joan Kagezi on March 30 with respect to the way the police work.

In both cases, while the victims had been assigned protection, their supposedly well-trained and armed protectors were absent at the time they were attacked, which security experts say is against practice.

Ms Kagezi had reportedly asked her guard to remain at the residence because she felt he was invading her privacy. At the time of her death, she was leading the prosecution into the trial of the twin bombings in Kampala in July 2010 that killed more than 70 people and injured many others.

READ: Kagezi murder: Community policing has become politicised, out of control

Take responsibilities too casually

For his part, Sheikh Kirya was shot within minutes of dropping off his bodyguard at the police barracks located in the suburb before the one where he lives. It is not yet clear why the cleric did so and, most crucially, why the policeman agreed to take orders from him.

“You get the feeling that either the police leadership does not hammer in the message to its officers, is too lax when they err on procedure, or that the victims and their protectors take their responsibilities too casually,” noted a security expert who asked that his identity be withheld because he works closely with the police.

Like those before him, Sheikh Kirya’s murder has also been linked to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels and infighting among the Muslim factions. But not everyone is convinced.

Eulogising Sheikh Kirya, Obed Kamulegeya, the head of sheikhs in Uganda, wondered why, if it was infighting among factions, casualties were only on one side.

Mr Kisambira said the ADF link has been around for way too long that it was about time the police brought someone to trial on account of this connection.