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Museveni blunders – sends Uganda envoy from Iran to be envoy for Saudi Arabia

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Ambassador Dr Ahmed Kisuule (L) has been rejected by Saudi Arabia

Saudi authorities have rejected Uganda’s appointment of Dr Ahmed Kisuule as the new ambassador at Uganda’s mission in Riyadh.

Kisuule, a Saudi-trained Muslim cleric, had served as ambassador to Iran for 12 years. In January, President Museveni transferred him to Saudi Arabia.

Kisuule was to swap roles with Dr Yahya Rashid Ssemuddu, who was moved to Tehran, according to the January 27 appointments.

Ssemuddu is said to have consulted some of his friends, who advised him not to accept the transfer because a posting to Iran could affect his future prospects in Saudi Arabia.

Ssemuddu is also a Saudi-trained Muslim cleric, having joined as an undergraduate student through to his doctoral studies, which brought him closer to the Saudi Arabian royal family.

He reportedly used Museveni’s visit to Qatar in April to lobby him to cancel the transfer to Iran. It is not clear whether he succeeded in convincing the appointing authority. However, he is currently in Saudi Arabia attending to Ugandan pilgrims to this year’s Hajj (annual Islamic pilgrimage).

Not aware of the developments, Kisuule in July flew to Riyadh, his supposed new workstation, but was turned away by the Saudis. The Saudi Arabian government went ahead to communicate to Uganda’s ministry of Foreign Affairs their rejection of the new envoy.

Interviewed yesterday, the head of public relations and diplomacy at the foreign affairs ministry, Margaret Kafeero, said, “I don’t know anything about it.”

But Kisuule himself confirmed that the Saudis had verbally told him that they were not willing to work with him.

“They verbally rejected me on grounds that I had worked in Iran for so long and that I had done so many things for the Iranians,” Kisuule said.

In Tehran, Kisuule was the dean of African ambassadors to Iran and was the main architect in designing the strategic plan for Iran-Africa cooperation, under which the Iranian government agreed to fund the construction of the police hospital at Naguru.

“I was in Tehran on official duty as a Ugandan diplomat and I did what I did [while there] as an ambassador, not as an individual, because my duty was to promote cooperation and diplomatic relations between Uganda and Iran,” Kisuule said.

DIPLOMATIC BLUNDER?

Iran and Saudi Arabia have a long history of poor diplomatic relations, which has torn countries in the Middle East to either side of the two competitors for supremacy in the Arabian peninsula.

Their bad relations stem from their religious difference, with Iran being the seat of the mainstream Shia Islam while Saudi Arabia is majorly a Sunni-Muslim country.

While Kisuule was in Iran as a Ugandan diplomat, the Saudis could not trust a man who has been working with their arch-rivals. This, according to some within the Ugandan Muslim circles, was a diplomatic blunder that President Museveni failed to recognise.

While his colleagues that were posted to the various foreign missions took office at the beginning of this month, Kisuule is back to Kampala to wait for new communication from the ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I was transferred and I officially bid farewell to the Iranian government. They even organised parties for me. So, how do I go back? I go back and tell them that what? I will wait for what the ministry will tell me,” Kisuule said.

According to sources, Saudi Arabia acted on information it gathered from various sources, including some unnamed Ugandans, who allegedly told the oil-rich nation that Kisuule had turned into a Shia Muslim.

To confirm their claims, the Ugandans sent video recordings of Kisuule at a public function where he suggested for the inclusion of Shia Muslims in the affairs of Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) for the sake of unity among Ugandan Muslims.

“I have also heard that they [Ugandan informers] went as far quoting a scholarly argument in my book, Streamlining the Islamic law on burial, where I said that Uganda, as an independent state, should have independent interpretation of the Islamic law without necessarily depending on the interpretation of Saudi Arabia, but now where in that book do I criticise the Saudis?” Kisuule said.

The Saudis were also told of an event in December 2015 when Kisuule, together with Sheikh Abdul Obeid Kamulegeya, the chairman of the Council of Eminent Sheikhs, hosted President Museveni at Naggalama in Kayunga district for the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a training institute for sheikhs.

At the event, Kisuule was photographed with the then Iranian ambassador to Uganda, Amir Hossein Nik Bin, which was used to claim that the institute is funded by Iran.

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