The wrangle over Masjid Noor mosque on William Street in Kampala escalated yesterday and police arrested the leaders pending investigations into alleged embezzlement of funds collected from the property.
Police yesterday raided several homes and arrested Sheikh Ayubu Nyende, Haruna Kasujja, Musa Ssekandi, Ibrahim Ssenfuka, Sharif Matovu, Hamdan Luutu and Juma Kavuma.
The seven suspects are among 14 people arrested on charges of embezzlement, obstruction, criminal trespass and threatening violence.
The Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman, Mr Patrick Onyango, said the suspects had been collecting revenue from rented properties of the mosque but did not remit the money to Uganda Muslim Supreme Council management (UMSC), their employer.
“We have arrested suspects, who were resisting the takeover of the properties by Uganda Muslim Supreme Council. They are detained in various police stations within Kampala Metropolitan. Some of them will be charged with obstruction, threatening violence, criminal trespass, and embezzlement,” Mr Onyango said.
Commotion ensued at the mosque yesterday morning when police raided the place. Several Muslim faithful attempted to resist the police takeover but were promptly dispersed. Police took control of the mosque and handed it over to UMSC leadership.
The plot on which the mosque is located has been a centre of controversy since the UMSC sold it to city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba on a 30-year lease. Mr Basajjabalaba later sold it to another businessman, Mr Drake Lubega.
In 2006, Lubega attempted to demolish the mosque to develop the site but a section of Muslims resisted, leading to clashes and takeover by a group that claimed to be independent of the UMSC.
Hajj Musa Mutyaba, the chairman of a unit in charge of UMSC properties, said Mufti Shaban Mubajje later asked President Museveni to save their property.
“In 2016, President Museveni paid Mr Lubega Shs13.5b and the mosque was handed over to Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, but the group that was in charge refused to vacate,” Hajj Mutyaba said.
Mufti Mubajje said they wanted to create bank accounts where to deposit the funds collected from the mosque property for the benefit of all Muslims in the country, which was resisted.
The Tabliq sect leaders accuse UMSC of having ulterior intentions to sell off the properties to business people. The Tabliq Muslim sect led by Amir Ummah Yunus Kamoga forcibly took over the mosque.
In 2014, police attempted to evict them but failed as leaders barricaded themselves inside the mosque.
Amir Kamoga and mosque leaders allegedly started threatening their rivals with violence. Several leaders, including Mr Kamoga were later arrested on terrorism charges and murder of Mustafa Bahiga and attempted murder of Sheikh Haruna Jjemba, the rival Amir.
Kamoga was later prosecuted and convicted for terrorism.
Hajj Siraje Kifampa, the spokesman of the Tabliqs in Uganda, said what happened wasn’t an eviction since it wasn’t accompanied by any legal documents.
“The government put the title of the plot in Housing Finance Bank and said all the concerned sides, including UMSC, Kibuli and us who manage the area should share the collection equally. We have been sharing the money equally. In March they asked for money we did not have because of the lockdown. They decided to use the police,” he said.