Uganda Today: OPEN LETTER FOR THE URGENT ATTENTION OF THE UMSC GENERAL ASSEMBLY, ANY CONCERNED MUSLIMS AND FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO SEEK FOR JUSTICE UNPACKING SOME SERIOUS OBSERVATIONS
Haroun Kasangaki former General Assembly member for Wakiso district.
Whereas the UMSC constitution was reviewed on grounds that there were gaps in the previous constitution that caused endless disagreements and many wars among the Muslims of Uganda; the reviewed constitution, however, seems to be more dangerous than the previous one. Infact, the anomalies/issues in the just amended UMSC constitution calls for an urgent review by a special general assembly sitting of UMSC. This can be traced in a case by case as follows:
1: Article 1: of UMSC constitution
(1) clearly states that there shall be one perpetual unifying all Muslims of Uganda to be known as Uganda Muslim Supreme Council with supreme legislative body called the general assembly in which all powers of UMSC shall reside and such other organs as shall be stipulated in this constitution.
(2) all Sunni Muslims in Uganda – men and women shall be members of UMSC. but by the end of reading this, you will realise that the UMSC general assembly is no longer in-charge of council operations.
Council Properties and Management
2: Article 2 (17) of UMSC constitution is very crucial and it needs to be urgently reviewed to protect the excesses of senior errant officers of the Council. It states that Management Committee under the leadership of the Mufti shall for the period the organs of the UMSC are dissolved, assume the powers of the General Assembly and shall, through the Secretary General report to the General Assembly when organs are re-instituted in its first sitting. This shall apply mutatis mutandis to all UMSC structures.
Now, this seems to contradict the previous order of events because under the old Constitution where before dissolving themselves, the General Assembly leaves in place an elected and well instituted organ that oversees the running of elections in 60 days to ensure that all organs are instituted. Under that arrangement, these powers were safely in the hands of the electoral commission while management remained responsibility for providing and facilitating the commission but not to assume the powers of the general assembly because all management members are paid employees of the Council but not legislators. So for the Constitution to surrender and vest these legislative powers of appointments, sales, transfers, agreements or entering into huge contracts that might harm the Community for life is a big mistake because of the weaknesses, misuse, and trust issues already exhibited under previous ineffective committees.
Working environment of fear, disrespect, and phone taping of Muslim leaders at UMSC
What is so disturbing is that amidst all these wrong doings are taking place, Muslim leaders including the Hon. members of general assembly are unable to stand on their feet and say no to their salaried employees excesses in fear of being ‘witch hunted and blackmailed through illegal phone tapings and recordings which has now become normal part of the institution but calculated to intimidate and paralyse the Muslim leaders including the hon. members of UMSC general assembly which is supposed to be the overall overseer and in control of the institution.
Most members of the national executive and college of sheikhs who are supposed to supervise council operations and objectively guide and advise on how council should move forward have long absconded that role since they are not allowed to think for themselves given the compromise cards at play. Some reliable sources from the inside also have indicated that whenever meetings of either the National Executive Committee (NEC) or the College of Sheikhs are summoned and instructed on who and how to victimize some individuals even without tangible reasons. Since the committees are denied induction and refresher trainings to learn and appreciate their cardinal roles and responsibilities, instead, they are gravely compromised and reduced to organs used ONLY for fighting subordinates or any member of the Council who may have a differing view about the direction of the institution after which, they sign for fatty allowances and to begin praising the bosses who have orchestrated crimes and injustices against others. Currently, many District leaders both elected and appointed including those national level are being victimized, harassed and fired at will. While others are losing their jobs simply because of illegal phone tapping and recordings (both audio and video) for speaking or associating with a relative or friends some senior officers at council may have already fleeced in their games.
The Hon. Minister for Security, Director General ISO, Inspector General of Police and Parliament of Uganda are being requested to interest themselves in this illegal phone tapings and recording of Muslim leaders which have created a lot of discomfort and discontent among the leaders across the board being committed by our own National Muslim Leaders with the seeming impunity and pride. The Community needs to know why the Muslim leaders at various levels are being tracked by their own leaders and in whose interest? Muslims want to know whether the lives of those being tracked are safe since these seem to be creating job insecurity already. In addition, informers are at every angle of the council and in the structure to perpetrate this crime. Currently, UMSC operates like has already swapped their roles from faith and community development to security.
Job insecurity, under declarations of revenue sources, resources, expenditures and underpayments
UMSC is a registered institution under the laws of Uganda as a Company limited by guarantee; and it is one of the employers in the Country. The Country just went through rough times of COVID 19 where the economy was and is still tough, but when you look at the payslips, renumerations and general welfare of lower staff as compared to their bosses, leaves you wondering whether COVID 19 affected only these shameless bosses. So we call upon the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to urgently come in and investigate the issue of job security and welfare of all staff in Council and all its structures which has deliberately kept many in vicious poverty and yet they work. Take interest into personal files of all staff, the nature and terms of appointments of all staff whether at National, Regional or District to see the appalling state of affairs. The parliament of Uganda especially the select committee on labour should come in otherwise, the current state at Council and all its structure is not anywhere pleasant to say the least.
3: Article 3 (1) & (2) (b), (c), (f) of UMSC constitution establishes the UMSC independent electoral commission with some specific roles and responsibilities clearly stated, but this is being challenged by the increased desire by the Mufti of Uganda to suffocate the independent electoral commission. He has constantly indicated the will to directly manage Muslim elections including handling of disputes accruing from the elections by ordering arbitrary investigations, receiving, and determining the complaints; and making decisions contrary to the established constitutional order. He violets the constitution by attempting to fire, suspend and appoint commissioners for which he has no express power over under any circumstances as per the UMSC constitution; and he also institutes inquiries at will. Recently when the electoral commission work before the responsible organs received reports, he issued such directives upon successful complaints to the council against the commission.
Reliably, we are also informed that there is a demand note of over 800 million in salary arears of the former Electoral Commission which was instituted since December 2010 to 2022. The Mufti as chairman of management never paid salary and gratuity of the previous commissioners plus its late Chairman for ten solid years. He based his claims were that the constitution was not clear on how to pay the Electoral Commission and that UMSC General Assembly which elects and appoints the Commission but did not direct such payments. Therefore, the new general assembly will have to prevail over this because the commission has always been its organ directly elected, appointed, and sworn in but salary, renumerations are at the mercy of the unwilling management.
Article 4 (1) states that during the election of the national chairman shall be under the chairmanship of the Mufti for that purpose (this means that the Mufti shall preside over the election while the commission conducts election because it is the body charged with that mandate under article 3 on the powers given to the electoral commission to organize, conduct and supervise elections of all council structures.
Article 3 (8) sharply disagrees with the manner in which the secretary of the commission is elected into office. If he is to serve a 7-year term and report to UMSC management, then his appointment cannot be direct election by the UMSC general assembly. It should be through recruitment process as that of any other officer of the Council because the rules that govern the commission are not entirely applicable to him.
4: Article 5 (2) of UMSC constitution dangerously states that the Majilis al-ulama shall in consensus and in camera vet and select from among the Sunni Muslims in Uganda, a person and that such a person so selected shall be approved by the joint session and presented to the general assembly just for noting (no debates or questions about the character or past experience or rejection in cases they don’t find him fit on any reasonable fault(s). This clearly kills the spirit for which the review of the constitution was made to improve the checks and balances of the witnessed excesses and abuse of office by the office bearers. In effect this article trims the powers of the UMSC general assembly in the affairs of the council; and it actually ceases to be the supreme legislative organ of council which is supposed to supervise and discipline officials on behalf of the community.
Article 5 (6) (k) of UMSC constitution empowers the mufti to appoint to the general assembly; as well as appoint one other person to become a member of the national executive committee. This is unprecedented even in the previous constitution where the Mufti had no powers to appoint his supervisors like this amended one does. So, the question is did the amendment actually bring sanity or more confusion and problems for the Muslim community. For example, out of 20 members of UMSC national executive, the mufti appoints 50% of them, then in simple terms, the UMSC general assembly no longer has an effective directive to oversee the affairs of the council. This in itself also contradicts company act under which UMSC is registered. How can an employee appoint the board of directors???? defeats logic.
Article 5 (19) of UMSC constitution humiliates the Muslim of Uganda and indeed the UMSC general assembly not to hold anyone responsible for the grave mistakes that he could have created or caused to the Muslims of Uganda and indeed caused loss to UMSC properties and funds.
5: Article 6 (8) & (9) of UMSC constitution indicates that the director of Sharia and his deputy shall be appointed by the joint session. Now under the reviewed constitution, the director of Sharia and his deputy have been given much more responsibilities which include among others, presiding over Majilis al-ulama for purposes of electing the Mufti of Uganda. This is a serious function which requires the general assembly to take leadership and not just following yet it is the supreme organ of the council.
6: Article 7 (4) of UMSC constitution states that the members of Majilis al-ulama except the Mufti and his deputies shall not be employees of council. This seems to contradict itself and misleading. How can someone who has nothing to do with the institution be used in taking crucial decisions including the appointments and firing of the staff including elected members of the council?
like in article (7) paragraph 3, empowers the Majilis al-ulama to address itself on all matters concerning the interpretation of the holy Quran and hadiths of the prophet Muhammad S.A.W. likewise, the executive committee which is the principle organ/board of directors in the supervision of the day today functions of the council should have similar power to address itself with matters of UMSC constitution interpretation and its application but not selective applications of the constitution by the managers as frequently witnessed in an arbitrary which affects people.
7: Article 8 (1) (e) of UMSC constitution should be expunged (removed) from the constitution because it gives the Mufti powers to appoint a member of national executive committee (board of directors) from each Muslim region. Thus, this creates conflicting appointment and supervisory roles with the UMSC general assembly. Article 8 (3) of the UMSC constitution gives extra ordinary powers to the Mufti to conduct adjustments in people’s qualifications of anybody (if not qualified) but the Mufti wishes to appoint or nominate them for just the approval of the UMSC general assembly without questioning and reserving the power to reject such a nomination or appointment. In effect this takes away the overall responsibility of UMSC general assembly and swapping it with the Mufti (a salaried employee of the council) now taking over the roles of the general assembly.
In the same manner, the general assembly should also urgently review all articles (13, 14 etc) that have directors because they have very crucial directorates which are susceptible to abuse and cause chaos to the institution if left to the lower organs other than the UMSC general assembly. Look closely on their powers and roles to understand and appreciate this context. To bring you home, article 13 is equivalent to commissioner general/ director revenue authority and article 14 is the attorney general of UMSC. So, these are very serious departments to be left to lower organs alone, yet this is where council internal bloodline and properties are being ransacked with impunity and no accountabilities.
For article 15 (6) about the internal auditor. This is a very crucial office which has never functioned for the last couple of decades now. At times only appointed on adhoc terms to serve advocacy purpose and to entice funders but it is where it ends as soon as funders are done. Internal audits should be carried out at all levels of UMSC structure to unpack loopholes. therefore, the UMSC general assembly should really interest upon itself to get this office functional and effective. Annual hire of external auditors is a must but we have no record of this call for applications in papers previously. Otherwise, the status quo may never change because currently management is openly unwilling to recruit the internal auditors and to give them working guidelines.
Notes: Management has on their own terms already filled new office bearers at;
1. The executive committee level and has already sworn them in using the partial joint session without the approval of the general assembly.
2. All new heads of departments have already been filled and appointments taken place awaiting for approval of General Assembly in total disregard of the constitution which dictates that all secretaries at management level including the secretary general should be recruited through normal recruitment process – which means advertisements, interviews, and appointments etc. The rush is for obvious reasons???
Finally, May Allah bless the current UMSC general assembly and give you wisdom to see sense in this and redeem yourself from captivity, put in place effective organs and staff work respect for one another, answerable to the Ummah and above all, fear Allah. So, as evidenced, i hope you now see the need for urgency to review the constitution in your next special sitting soon.