Reflecting on the murders of Muslims scholars, and the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Afande Felix Kaweesi, the effervescent Muslim activist and cleric, Sheikh Nuhu Muzata Batte begged that when the time for his execution comes, let it not be by a full magazine.
“One bullet to my head is enough,” he pleaded.
Not that he knew his killers or the exact time when his execution would come. But at the height of the murder of Muslim scholars in 2015 and 2016, any cleric in Uganda lived a helpless life. Muslims have no fear for death, but often worry about nature of their death.
Part of the supplication we offer every mourning is to have it dignified and humble. Thus, Muzata sought to arrest his fear by making a public appeal to the otherwise unknown but ubiquitous assassins – to protect his dignity even in death. What a life Ugandans have been reduced to!
Like many of his compatriots, Nuhu Muzata was horrified by the number of bullets that are often sank into a single target. Full magazines. Two or three, sometimes.
The body is left, not just lifeless but terribly ruined that those preparing it for burial—especially Muslims who meticulously wash our dead—have trouble moving and turning it around. Major General Muhammad Kiggundu. Afande Felix Kaweesi.
And now MP Ibrahim Abiriga (RIP). All have fallen to full magazines. We need to place this bullet-wastefulness in perspective. There is method to it. The ways in which these assassinations are executed surely have meaning far beyond simply getting a target dead. Every method has meaning.
On the day of his murder, Abiriga had made it known that he was traveling to Arua the following day. This is a journey he had made many times.
Between Kampala and Arua, there are several isolated spots in which he could be taken out and it would take several hours for the news to be reported or confirmed. The assassins would have all the time in the world escape and leave Abiriga’s carcase wasting away.
Instead, like others before him, he was taken out in Kampala, in a busy semi-urban neighbourhood, and in broad day light, not under the cover of darkness.
The idea of executing a murder in an urban crowded location is not a random choice. Shooters know it is easy to mingle with crowds and even return to the scene and witness the aftermath.
It also enables news to spread quickly. In the age of social media, urban dwellers have the best Internet connection, and latest smart phones that combine to enable rapid circulation of shock.
Taking out a target in distant rural location may not necessarily complicate escape, but is definitely bad for media. Journalists would take hours to access the scene. Why and who are these assassins interested in rapid media reportage of their crimes? It is not Muslims.
Consider this as well: Taking out a target in broad day light is certainly makes escape difficult. But our villains know that it serves to send a message of dogged determination. It is a perfect way to alarm a sleepy public signalling it your bravery.
Early responders have told us that the shooters even have the temerity to move closer to their targets and confirm that they are actually dead. Who are these people interested in announcing themselves as hard-boiled felons, and bent on alarming the public? It is not Muslims.
The picture that emerges is that these are not a rag-tag outfit of stupid criminals as our president has claimed. Neither are they hired assassins interested in simply taking out a target. There is more to their methods.
These fellows have properly studied and perfected their game. Against this dexterity, we need to ask more questions to attempt a nuanced and historicised framing of this carnage: Abiriga was a former rebel against the government of Yoweri Museveni.
Just like Maj. Kiggundu and most Muslim sheikhs who have fallen. Could this be a clue to his death? Does this mean Gen. Moses Ali is next? But Afande Kaweesi had no rebel history as was Justice Joan Kagezi. The ongoing kidnap-murders point to yet another angle—a general insecurity bordering on insurgency.
My point is this: Whatever direction this narrative might take, Ugandan Muslims is too disorganised to meet this sophistication and agenda. They can only afford to be victims.
The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.