On Friday September 1, Muslims in Buganda congregated at Kibuli hill at the residence of Prince Kassim Nakibinge Kakungulu like it is usually the case to celebrate this year’s Eid El Adha, one of the holiest days in Islam. Unlike most previous Eid celebrations where people go for lunch after the prayers at the nearby Kibuli Mosque, this time the grandfather of Islam in Uganda hosted his friends to a dinner.
It was not the only significant change. As the sun was setting, Prince Kakungulu and a few of his close advisers and senior Muslim clerics walked towards the gate. A Toyota Land Cruiser screeched to a halt. An aide jumped out of the passenger seat and opened the VIP door for this special guest to disembark. As a smiling Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga was disembarking, Kakungulu stepped closer to the car and the two leaders embraced. Just like friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long while.
Mayiga who was accompanied by his wife Margaret was led to the VIP table and sat next to Prince Kakungulu. It was a special moment and some people gasped for breath. For years, there had been stories in some sections of the media that Mayiga and Kakungulu were at loggerheads. They were partly fueled by attacks from some religious leaders at Kibuli notably among them a certain loud mouthed Sheikh Nooh Muzaata.
Mayiga never bothered much by this lose talk as he seldom responded to such rumours. Then Muslim started fasting during the holy month of Ramadhan. Like every year since Mayiga assumed office in 2013, an Iftar dinner for Muslims to break the fast was organised at Bulange. Prince Kakungulu honored the invitation for the very first time. The senior royal and religious leader showed up at Bulange. Katikkiro Mayiga hosts this dinner on behalf of Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi. As soon as Prince Kakungulu was invited to speak, he quickly denied any conflicts between Kibuli and Mengo. He also denied any personal issues between the two. Still some people called it PR, short for public relations.
Prince Kakungulu and Katikkiro Mayiga were to be seen again close to each other and smiling from ear to ear at Kampala Serena Hotel during the celebration to mark the Aga Khan’s 60th anniversary as Imam of the Nizari Ismaili Muslims. Some commentators still called it a show. They were both invited by the Aga Khan and had to be together, they laboured to explain.
This is why the Eid dinner at Kibuli last Friday was so significant. There is a warm relationship between the two leaders which is good for Buganda. It may have always been there. It was however never on public display. Previously, Mayiga’s detractors had been bent on branding the Katikkiro anti Islam. It is the cheapest and easiest away to alienate Muslims from non-Muslims. Some clerics at Kibuli had even made it their job to abuse Katikkiro Mayiga unprovoked. Mayiga never responded to them. Though of course a lot of Muslims continued to invite him at their events and he prayed in several mosques.
This further shows how Katikkiro Mayiga understands his job. When Nooh Muzaata was urging Muslims to abuse Mayiga and disobey the Kabaka, Mayiga never lost focus of his responsibilities. His didn’t lose his coolness either. He is the Katikkiro of Buganda and therefore can’t be anti-Islam as he had been unsuccessfully branded.
It is also important to note the leadership skills of Prince Kakungulu. Even though some Muslims were branding Mayiga anti-Islam, Kakungulu didn’t lose focus either. He didn’t join the anti-Mayiga crusade. Although his quietness about it could have been easily misinterpreted otherwise.
The two leaders were both students at St Mary’s College Kisubi at the same time and therefore know each other quite well. As Mayiga’s detractors were using religion to decampaign him for their selfish interests, the prince kept an open line. Kakungulu at that Iftar dinner in Bulange said they regularly talk on phone and sometimes Mayiga goes to Kibuli privately.
This time round, Mayiga publicly visited Kakungulu’s home. This is good for Buganda, and Islam too. Leaders are in those positions to serve people and therefore those who create wedges between them must be seriously fought.
There is a street saying that if a rat lives long, chances are high for it one day to taste the skin of a cat! Perhaps, a certain Nooh Muzaata and his ilk learn something.