There are many theories swirling around the swoop on the Usafi market mosque on the night of April 27 by police and the army.
A day after the raid, the minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Jeje Odongo, police spokesman Emilian Kayima and his army counterpart, Brig Richard Karemire addressed the press. They said the attack followed intelligence that one of the key suspects in the Susan Magara murder that shocked the nation in February had sought sanctuary in the mosque.
The three officials said the attack revealed a lot of heinous crimes being committed in the mosque, including the holding of more than 100 people, including children and women hostage.
Over the last two weeks, The Observer has talked to numerous people about this mosque and their story is similar. To them, government knew about this mosque, the extremists running it, its radicalised membership and whatever indescribable mischief has been happen- ing there.
Even security forces do not deny that they have been aware of the criminal goings-on, although, according to them, there was no actionable intelligence.
ABOUT USAFI MOSQUE
The land on which the mosque sits near Usafi market, belonged to the late Ibrahim Kimera who in the 1990s had been given amnesty after denouncing rebellion and severing ties with the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terror outfit led by the now-jailed Jamil Mukulu.
Speaking to The Observer, one of the earlier members of the mosque (who became one of the preachers there), said it was first used as a prayer area after Kimera disagreed with colleagues at the main Tabliq sect mosque at Nakasero.
“We wanted to put all the prophet’s Sunna [ways of the prophet Muhammad PBUH] in practice and that was not possible at Nakasero,” the former leader said.
There was no incident until Abdul- Rahman Faisal became the leader. The former leader said Faisal slowly planned to eject Kimera. The management of the mosque first proposed to buy out Kimera for Shs 400 million but this plan died out.
“With the help of powerful people in government they pushed out Kimera and Faisal took full control of the mosque,” the preacher said.
Interestingly, Kimera died after a long illness on the same day the mosque was raided. After consolidating his grip on the leadership, Faisal sought to establish total control over his followers. Some of them told The Observer that Faisal required that all his ‘students’ are registered.
“He said he needed to know all of us and that it was important for us to swear an oath of allegiance to him as our supreme leader,” Mahmoud Ssebugwawo, a former student, said.
His followers believed in him so much that he would instruct them to sell their homes and opt to stay at the mosque.
“It was him and him alone; he said he was reawakening the sunna but his actions were at cross-purposes with the sunna. We started getting suspicious of his methods,” the preacher man said.
“Many of those people arrested there, they went there willingly contrary to what police is saying that they have been held against their will.”
YOU’RE NOT MUSLIMS
Perhaps this explains why the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council under Mufti Shaban Mubajje, the Kibuli-based leadership of the Supreme Mufti, Sheik Siliman Kasule Ndirangwa and the Nakasero-based Jammuiyyat Da’awa Assalaffiya and other Muslim groupings have not condemned the attack.
To the Usafi group who refer to themselves as the Al Khawaaliji, all other Muslims in Uganda are kafir (non- believers).
“Faisal would say anybody who has not killed a non-Muslim is not yet a believer. He would refer to all sheikhs in Uganda except Quraish Mazinga as pastors,” Salimdin Ayiko, another former student of Faisal, said.
To show that they believed that anyone who was not a member of their mosque was a non-Muslim, they would not buy meat anywhere in Kampala. Every week they slaughtered their own animals. They also never responded to the Islamic greeting of salaam unless greeted by a fellow Al Khawaaliji.
“No mosque in Uganda can preach what they have been preaching for all this time and it remains open. I have no doubt in my mind that Abdul-Rahman Faisal has been working with the state. They know him properly; he has been on their mission,” one of the most senior sheikhs at Nakasero said.
“People have complained about his preaching; they have filed cases at different police stations but nothing has been done. One time police made some arrests at the mosque but Gen Kale Kayihura (former police chief ) ordered for their release before they could even spend a day in detention. This is not the overzealous Kayihura we knew who would arrest people on unsubstantiated allegations,” the sheikh added.
Ssebugwawo adds that Faisal freely said on loud speakers that their leader was Jamil Mukulu, now the jailed leader of the rebel ADF.
“His teachings were that there was no way a true Muslim would practice Islam in Uganda whose leaders are anti- Islam.”
“He would tell us that we were here briefly; that our ultimate place to be was the Daula Islamiyya [Islamic state] which our amir had created for us in the Democratic Republic of Congo called Al-Madina,” our first source said.
One of the people The Observer talked to for this story was Ismail Katende [not real name], a student at Makerere University, whose two friends were lured into joining the Daula Islamiyya in DRC. They were among a dozen others arrested at the Uganda-DRC border.
“Every small detail of how they joined, where they joined and how much money they had paid as commitment fees to the struggle was laid bare in their trial. This showed that someone; maybe their recruiter, was working for government,” Katende says.
Katende says he narrowly survived being part of the group. His antennae were raised when his would-be recruiters asked him to provide two passport- size photographs.
“I wondered what they needed my photographs for. I was ready to join and I had availed myself. Why then would they require me to take photos? This made me suspect foul play; that’s why I stepped back to reflect... They never came back to try to convince me,” Katende says.
Speaking at Uganda Media Centre on Monday, police deputy spokesperson, Patrick Onyango, denied that security agencies are using Faisal for counterterrorism; to lure radical young Muslims into joining rebel activities and then arrest them.
“How do we work hand in hand with criminals; that can’t happen. Those are just allegations that can’t be proved. We don’t work with criminals, no, no no,” Onyango said.
Asked about allegations that groups such as this were the creation of Kayihura, and that the current Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth Ochola is on a mission to crack the whip, Onyango feigned ignorance.
“Our main duty is to dismantle criminal gangs; that’s why I put on this uniform. If the current IGP is doing that, then we are very happy,” Onyango said.
On why it took them years to take action despite reports by different people on the nature of activities at the mosque, Onyango said people must realise that police needed to have enough information before acting.
“Normally our operations are intelligence-led. In this case, we didn’t have enough intelligence to raid it. This is a religious institution we cannot just raid without justifiable reasons,” Onyango said.
On the whereabouts of Abdul-Rahman Faisal, Lt Col Deo Akiiki, the deputy army spokesman, could neither deny nor confirm that they had him. He also denied that two soldiers were found at the mosque on the night of the raid.
The police said it has 154 people in custody with investigations still ongoing. Onyango said those found to be having a prima-facie case will be charged in court before the end of this week.
Meanwhile, Akiiki observed that when they discover that a case involves terrorism, all constitutional commands of presenting someone in court within 48 hours are suspended. There is, however, no legal instrument which provides for this abrogation.