Gov’t Launches Investigations into Hajj Fraud

The government has started investigations into allegations of fraud that were reported by Muslims traveling to Mecca and Medina.

During the past weeks, several groups of Muslims who were preparing to embark on their sacred journey to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam, discovered at the last moment that their travel plans were compromised.

Addressing Muslims during Eid prayers at the Gaddafi National Mosque, Hajjat Minsa Kabanda, Minister for Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan Affairs, acknowledged that the government is addressing the issue. She explained that security agencies have been instructed to conduct thorough investigations into the matter.

During an interview with leaders of the Uganda Hajj Bureau, URN established that some individuals who were unable to travel experienced complications primarily related to delays in processing their travel visas. However, recent information suggests that a significant number of those who missed the pilgrimage were victims of fraudulent activities rather than visa delays.

According to Kabanda, the information currently available suggests that this fraud has been silently growing over the years and a notable number of individuals planning their journeys to Mecca have become victims of such fraudulent schemes.

She says that some of the individuals have endured substantial financial losses, including the loss of their entire life savings.

Information obtained indicates that in the months preceding the Hajj pilgrimage, fraudsters advertise travel deals which are sometimes promoted by licensed travel organizations and normally the victims learn at the last hour that they cannot travel to perform Hajj.

Hajj frauds are said to trap many unsuspecting and uneducated Muslim families, especially from rural areas and small towns.

The minister emphasized that in order to facilitate the investigations, all individuals who were unable to participate in the hajj pilgrimage this year should report to the police or submit their complaints through the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council -UMSC.

She says that this will ensure a comprehensive investigation to ascertain whether their inability to travel was due to technical issues such as delayed visa processing or if it involved fraudulent activities.

Hajj fraud has unfortunately emerged as a growing criminal activity in numerous countries worldwide. Police and security agencies in countries such as India and the United Kingdom have recognized its significance and have made it a priority to raise awareness among the general public about this fraudulent practice.

Each year, they engage in alerting individuals to the dangers of Hajj fraud and, in some cases, release information on preventive measures to avoid falling victim to such schemes.

In Uganda, there are several travel agencies licensed to assist Muslims with the necessary procedures for their pilgrimage. Most of these agencies operate under the umbrella of the Uganda Hajj Bureau, which is responsible for facilitating the acquisition of visas for Ugandan pilgrims.

However, the authorities at the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) have acknowledged the need for streamlining the Hajj and Umrah processes.

In a recent interview, Ashraf Zziwa, The UMSC Spokesperson, said that efforts are underway to negotiate with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to centralize all matters related to these pilgrimages through the UMSC.

“The aim is to eliminate fraudulent individuals and address other challenges currently faced by pilgrims,” Zziwa noted.

In 1972, one of the motivations behind Idi Amin’s decision to unite Muslims in Uganda under one umbrella was to streamline the organization and conduct of the Hajj pilgrimage within the country.

Amin aimed to bring about a more centralized and efficient approach to managing the Hajj affairs of Ugandan Muslims. By consolidating the various Muslim groups under a single entity, it was intended to facilitate better coordination, organization, and representation of the Muslim community during the Hajj pilgrimage.

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