We have just returned from burying another one, Sheikh Hassan Ibrahim Kirya. On the last three murders – Sheikhs Karim Ssentamu, Mustafah Bahiga, Dr Abdul Qadir Muwaya – your police chief, General Kale Kayihura, alarmed us that a rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), was executing its former fighters, punishing them for defection, and that ADF operated a cell in the capital, Kampala. He didn’t bust the cell.
Soon, the narrative changed to a dirty war within. On this claim, you have some of our community leaders in detention. Nevertheless, the murders continue.
It is difficult to believe that your government lacked the ability to provide the requisite security to the victims. Despite their evident proficiency, it is difficult to believe that the killers are far smarter than our innumerable intelligence and military wings, including CMI, ISO, JATT and UPDF or even the regular police.
Although it has been fronted as a possible explanation – and is a tempting one – it is still difficult to believe that your government is the one behind these murders. With East Africa in a perpetual terrorist scare, and a rising tide of Islam-hatred around the region, it is true that your government is neither weak nor negligent, but is playing accomplice – highly likely.
Early this year, investigative journalists from Al Jazeera produced a documentary Inside Kenya’s Death Squads over the murders of vocal Muslims clerics in Nairobi and Mombasa. The killings in Kenya are carried out in broad daylight, with claims that “the law is too weak” to handle terrorist affiliates!
If this documentary were to be used for evidence – an extremely compelling case – the Kenyan government would be implicated in this thorough religious cleansing campaign. Although the reasons are different in Kenya, the methods are so surprisingly similar: In Kenya, posters of targeted Muslim clerics are circulated; they are openly maligned as terrorists with links to al-Shabab or al-Qaeda – never mind how remote these accusations might be.
Then, they are summarily executed. Case closed. The Al Jazeera documentary also points us to the rising tide of Islamophobic-inspired extrajudicial killings across the world with Israel, UK and the US implicated as being in a sort of proxy war in East Africa.
We are afraid, like the Kenyan leaders, you seem to be dancing along – playing accomplice. But Mr President, this is what is called playing with fire. The great revolutionary theorist Frantz Fanon reminds us in The Wretched of the Earth that violence breeds more violence.
With this growing sense of insecurity in the Muslims community, normal routines and attending to one’s self will soon lose meaning. Deprived of hope for a secure future, like any other degraded human being, Muslims will not sit back and watch as they are steadily slaughtered with a helpless government. At the precipice, we will respond in the language the executioner thinks we understand best – violence.
As you have publicly attested, our religion is very peaceful and respectful of human life, but at the same time, we are strongly encouraged to meet our enemies with great resolve and steadfastness. Mr President, the Muslims being executed are not individuals in their single selves; they carry constituencies with them.
Indeed, when they fall, their fall reverberates within the entire community. You must have seen us in our numbers at their burials. If Muslims are being told Kampala has become the new battleground for their wanton execution, then Muslims will learn to see Kampala as a true battleground.
But let me caution, Mr President, if you let this country succumb to anarchy as these summary executions suggest; if you are conspiring with foreign Islamaphobes to terrorise 25 per cent of your compatriots, then you are risking the future of this entire country and all that you have achieved in the last 29 years.
In the event of a complete breakdown of the rule of law, it is difficult to predict how this entire affair will end. We have been challenged, degraded and tempted enough. One of these days, we will not return to our homes after a burial. We will stay in the battlefield to hunt for our killers ourselves.
Mr President, it will be difficult to stop us. For now, you still have a chance: give us an explanation, do something tangible.
The author is a PhD fellow at the Makerere Institute for Social Research.