The joint session of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC), has suspended Sheikh Abdallah Ssemambo. The suspension is based on allegations of him violating the council’s constitution and displaying inappropriate behaviour.
The joint session, one of the council’s top organs brings together the National Executive Committee and the College of Sheikh (Majlis Ulama). It plays a crucial role in the leadership of UMSC and in addressing internal matters within the organization.
Addressing the media at the UMSC headquarters at old Kampala Thursday, Hadji Abbas Sekyanzi Muluubya, the UMSC General Secretary, said that 16 members of the joint session had submitted a petition to the chairperson, urging the suspension of Ssemambo.
Hadji Abbas Sekyanzi Muluubya added that the process followed due diligence and during the session, 41 out of the 47 members of the joint session were present and unanimously decided to suspend Ssemambo.
For the past 14 years, Sheikh Abdallah Ssemambo has been deputizing Mufti Ramadhan Mubaje as the in charge of Religious Affairs. However, last month, he took an unexpected turn by aligning himself with a dissenting group that organized a general assembly.
This assembly took the extraordinary step of suspending Mufti Mubaje and publicly retiring him, citing public interest as the rationale behind the decision. Following these developments, the group subsequently appointed Ssemambo as the Acting Mufti, and he solemnly took the oath of office.
The development came at a time when a faction of Muslims has been expressing opposition to the present leadership, citing allegations of maladministration and mismanagement of Muslim properties. This was triggered by the imminent attachment of Muslim assets, following the failure of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) to settle a debt of nearly 19 billion shillings. This debt originated from a land sale deal in Ssembabule that went awry.
The declaration of the impeachment, as seen by URN, indicates two primary reasons for Sheikh Abdallah Ssemambo’s removal from office. One is his alleged conduct, deemed unbecoming of the office of Deputy Mufti. “He associated himself with an irregular proceeding and presented himself to be sworn in as the acting mufti of Uganda contrary to article 5 (14) c of UMSC constitution (as amended in 2022),” the document reads in part.
Ssemambo is also accused of conspiring to abrogate and disregard the council’s constitution, which he had sworn under oath to protect. The evidence tabled for the joint session included his involvement in a group that declared the suspension of the Mufti and Chairperson of the UMSC.
After Sheikh Abdallah Ssemambo’s suspension, Hadji Muluubya issued a public warning, advising individuals to avoid any involvement with Ssemambo, emphasizing that he is no longer recognized as a member of the UMSC. Furthermore, Muluubya stated that in the aftermath of Ssemambo’s impeachment, the council will promptly initiate a process to replace him, adhering to the provisions outlined in their constitution.
According to Article Five of the council’s constitution, the removal of the Mufti or his deputies from office can only occur through a joint session formed by the combined meeting of the Executive Committee and the Majlis Al-Ulama or the College of Sheikhs.
The constitution outlines six reasons that may lead to the removal of the officials, which include if he becomes mentally unfit, is declared bankrupt under Ugandan laws, conducts himself in a manner unsuitable for his office, is convicted of a criminal offence, violates Islamic norms and national laws, tarnishing his public image according to the Majlis Al-Ulama’s opinion, or becomes incapable of performing his duties.
However, Latif Kayanja, the Spokesperson for the Ssemambo faction maintains that Ssemambo is the legitimate Mufti of Uganda, and dismissed the process, describing it as a charade involving questionable individuals.
Kayanja emphasized that, to his knowledge, the UMSC does not have a functioning joint session, highlighting that both the College of Sheikh and the National Executive were suspended by the general assembly that sat on December 16, 2023, at Gangu Islamic School.
The General Assembly convened following an order granted by Justice Faridah Shamilah Bukirwa Ntambi. However, the group led by Mubaje swiftly sought legal recourse and obtained a subsequent court order, staying the execution of the initial orders from Justice Ntambi until the main lawsuit was heard.
Kayanja highlighted the irony of the Mubaje-led group taking pre-emptive actions even before the court addressed the underlying matter. He emphasized that their faction is patiently awaiting the court’s ruling before contemplating any further action.