In many of his addresses, the self-proclaimed “lion of the Ummah”, Sheikh Nuh Muzaata has made it a point to hit at the Museveni government over the lack of Muslim representation in the cabinet.
At a graduation party in January that I attended, he stated that Muslims in Uganda have past the level of ignorance that was so much attributed to them in the past; and he believed that now we were ready to have the positions that have been, in his view, wrongly averted from Muslims.
At the face of things, his observations are indeed right. If we are to go by their Islamic names, there are not more than 5 in a list of 31 cabinet members.
LIST OF MEMBERS OF THE UGANDAN CABINET AS OF FEBRUARY 2019
- Hon. Gen. Moses Ali
- Hon. Ali Kirunda Kivejinja
- Gen. Haji Abubaker Jeje Odongo
- Hon. Hajati Janat Balunzi Mukwaya
- Hon. Hajji Abdul Nadduli
The numbers are even more worrying in the judiciary. Only 2 out of 59 high court judges have Islamic names; and since independence, only Muhammad Saied is the only Muslim to have held the position of Chief Justice and that was during Idi Amin’s regime in 1975-79.
One would say that indeed there is a deliberate evasion or mistrust when it comes to appointing Muslims of Uganda into positions of power. Or there could be a fundamental factor as to why the situation looks dire.
In 2014, the Pew Research Center estimated that Muslims are only about 11.5 percent of the Ugandan Population estimated at about 40 million. May be Ugandan Muslims are just few we can say.
But the numbers are not any impressive amongst our neighbors. It was estimated that only 9.7 percent of Kenyans are Muslims, maybe explaining why there are only 4 out 23 members of Uhuru’s cabinet with Islamic names; with not more than 6 Muslims to hold Minister positions since Kenya’s independence in 1962!
Only 6.2 percent of South Sudanese, 2.8 percent of Burundians, and 1.8 percent of Rwandans were estimated to be Muslims in their respective countries. And the number of Muslims in these countries’ leadership positions are even worse with just a single Muslim in Salva Kiir’s South Sudan cabinet.
Tanzania had over 35.2 percent of their population estimated to be Muslims. However, they could not make it past 6 in Magufuli’s 26 state cabinet.
Personally, I believe that the problem is not about just the numbers. Much as Islam is a major minority in the East African nations, it is important to note that it was the first foreign religion to be practiced in the region and faced decades of massive decline and potential annihilation.
The same factors that prevented Islam to consolidate as a religion in 19th century are the same factors that have hindered their claim to positions of power even in the current times.
The fact that Islam was spread into East Africa by Merchants, most interested in trade, it stood no chance when it was confronted with the politically organised missionary system introduced by the European imperialists.
What Islam has in faith and practice lacks in organisation and intention. Islam today is taught as a self-centred religion in pursuit of victory over personal circumstance and little attention is paid to organisation and betterment of their societies as whole.
Even those few Muslims that have held more political intentions have lacked organisational support from the Muslim community. Some have opted for the out-of-date radical approach adopted by the early Muslims which have not only been unsuccessful, but have acted against the popularity of the religion, further maligning themselves from the opportunities of power.
The elite Muslims of today need to be hungry for power, and should be intentional and organised in their pursuit. They should study immensely the patterns of modern day politics and challenge rather than beg for power.