He is tall, broad shouldered, and all powerfully built. His cheeks are stout and strong. His jaw is robust too. He has a shaggy, black beard, beginning to turn grey. He is, in fact, contemplating 52 years of age. Ironically you could still consider him quite handsome. His dark and scarred complexion is what clasps you at a glance. His stare is deep and derisive but not deceptive. He is visibly stern and to be treated with abundance of caution. Whatever is known on him inspires no imprudence. His name is Jamil Mukulu – at least according to Interpol.
It Started Like This
It so became known in our [Uganda] domains that on March 19, 2015, Jamil Mukulu had been arrested by Tanzanian authorities in Kagera, which is in Northern Tanzania. It is said that he had been trying to acquire travel documents for one of his children abroad. He was under falsified travel documentation in the names of David Amos Mazengo.
Of course Uganda was acutely interested in this news – in him, so to speak and Mukulu knew just exactly why that should be. Although he had attempted to contradict extradition, on Thursday, June 25, 2015, a Tanzanian Court cleared the expatriation of Jamil Mukulu, the leader of the Ugandan rebel group, ADF to Uganda, to face trial for allegedly ordering a wave of deadly [terrorist] attacks against civilians of his home country since 1998.
At about 6: 30 pm, on Friday, July 12, 2015, Mukulu is said to have landed at Entebbe Military Airbase in a military chopper, and whisked away to an unknown location. It later emerged that he had been detained at Nalufenya Police Station in Jinja where he was paraded to the nation.
The Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura referred to him as the “Usama Bin Laden of Uganda” and this is how significant this arrest was.
Who Is Jamil Mukulu?
Jamil Mukulu was born January 1, 1964 in Ntooke, a village in Ntenjeru Subcounty, Kayunga District. He was the son of the late Sserwano Lutakome and Aisha Nakiyemba who until today lives in Ntooke. He was the third born of 14 siblings. He went to Ssezibwa Primary School and dropped out in Primary Six.
In 1980s, Mukulu went to the township, seeking greener pastures. He stopped at Bwaise in Kampala, and moved in with his elder sister, the late Sarah Nanyanzi who was an accountant in Arab Bank which later merged itself to Cairo Bank. Meanwhile Mukulu started a small retail shop, dealing in domestic utilities and it seemed like he was just another guy trying to figure out his way to the top.
Jamil Mukulu however, was never just another guy, same way he was not always a Muslim. He was born Steven Alirabaki Kyagulanyi, a devout Catholic. But that did not last long. Mukulu is said to have met a bunch of Muslims in Kampala who became really friendly as they persuaded him to turn his back on his Christian upbringing and adopt Islam. They succeeded. In no time, the new convert had won lots of Muslim favor, even with a group of Arabs who soon sponsored him to go to Saudi Arabia to study his new religion in ultimate depth. He would never be the same.
When he returned after two years, he was Sheik Jamil Mukulu, fluent in Arabic, articulate in Islamic doctrine and radical for the cause of Allah.
He immediately became a fervent preacher of Allah’s word, except there was one cause for apprehension among the traditional Muslim clerics – he was too intense. His dogma increasingly seemed to be at divergence from what other Muslims were familiar with.
Mukulu was however backed by an equally enthusiastic bunch of young men, who included the late Hassan Kirya, Imam Ibrahim Kasozi among others. With his boys, he led a series of attacks on the mosques of the indigenous Muslims, picking up fights with them.
In 1990s, he is notably remembered to have attacked a mosque in Bukomansimbi, in Masaka to impose his demeanor. By the end of the fight, two people had died. He had turned himself into a religious extremist and there was no way around the fact any more.
You could easily think Jamil Mukulu has a multiple personality disorder if you attempted to figure out his real disposition. Different people will tell different tales about Mukulu, depending on when they met him. Until today, it is said that if you knew nothing else about Mukulu, you would be swept off your feet by the sheer humility and grace of the man.
People who knew him as a child, in Ntooke, reaffirm, Mukulu is a kind and soft-spoken introvert hardly able to harm a fly. They find it hard to bring any convergence between the lad they knew and the man who’s being talked of as the ADF Chief.
As for the Muslims in Kayunga District, Mukulu’s benevolence has always enthralled them as he sponsored the construction of all the major mosques in the town centers.
Jamil Mukulu Stages Targeted War in the Muslim Fraternity
In 1992, Mukulu is said to have stormed Old Kampala Mosque with over 430 thugs with a deliberate intension of seizing the mosque as he was at variance with the leadership of the Mufti of the time, Luwemba. Apparently, as soon as they entered, fight broke out, even with Police. In the end, policemen succumbed to death as well as their dog.
He was arrested with his thugs and thrown in jail at Luzira Prison. He was however released only after three years when there was reconciliation between Museveni’s government and the bunch of Muslims who were led by Sulaiman Kakeeto.
In 1995 when he was just out of jail, he again broke out in dispute with Muslims led by Amir Ndawula Zziwa. Again they fought. Ultimately, Mukulu was dismissed from Nakasero Mosque and Kakeeto was later installed as their new leader.
Pushed to the limit, Mukulu then started his own mosques in Makindye although after a while, relocated to Mengo. It was not as if he’d ever stop to fight with fellow Muslims. His cause was simply unprecedented.
Mukulu Begins ADF
Maybe he had not been clear enough or maybe his offer was too ambitious to have the consent and support of all the Muslims. What is certain is the fact that Mukulu had had a dream and that dream was to make Uganda an Islamic nation, governed under the law of Sharia. Just like in Saudi Arabia where he’d been.
Between 1989 and 1990, Jamil Mukulu together with a bunch of extremist young men of the Tabliq faction, they resolved to form rebellion against government and overthrow the Kafir [non-believers]. By this time Mukulu had been considered the overall leader of the Salaf section of the Tabliq Muslims.
Mukulu, at start of his rebellion, he cited government discrimination against Muslims and the urgency to Islamize Uganda and be ruled by the Sharia Law. He was officially at war with Uganda until March when he was arrested and could no longer fight.
It has been 25 years since his mother saw him in Kayunga. In the course of this time Jamil Mukulu or is it Steven Kyagulanyi… has ordered the murder/bombing of people in their thousands in Uganda, in Congo and caused immense pain and instability to our communities.
In that time, he also managed to draw up links with Somalia based Al-Shabaab militants and Al-Quaeda extremists.
Mukulu, like accolades of his activities has had a Red Notice issued by Interpol states, and faces charges of grave massacres and breach of articles 147 of the fourth Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949.
In 2001 United States of America named his ADF as a Terrorist Organization and has since been under United States Sanctions.
First Published In Red Pepper in 2015