As you may be aware by now, His Highness Charles Wesley Mumbere, the Omusinga of Rwenzururu was arrested from his palace on 27th November 2016 by the police in a joint security operation. This was as a result of the attacks conducted by cultural guards “Kirumira Mutima” who are said to be his creation and under his command.
On the 26th of November 2016, these cultural guards of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu attacked the joint security patrol team in Kasese town with a petrol bomb, stabbed and injured a soldier.
This was immediately followed by simultaneous attacks in Ihandiro sub county, at Kagando hospital in Kisunga sub county, Bwesumbu, Kyabarungira, Mubuku in Maliba sub county and Ibanda in Bugoyi sub county. In all 16 policemen lost their lives and 6 guns were taken by the attackers. This is the reason I came to brief you.
The Rwenzururu agitations started way back before Uganda got independence in 1962. First, were the struggles between the Bakonzo and the Batooro around 1900s when the colonial agreements failed to recognize the Bakonzo as an independent ethnic group and instead placed them under the Toro Kingdom. This was under the wider district of Toro which was formed in 1910.
These struggles are well documented. The agitation for autonomy by the Bakonzo continued to become a concern for the colonial government and this history is well stipulated in Sessional Paper No1 of 1963.
In 1974 two districts of Rwenzori and Semuliki were created. In 1979 Semliki was renamed Bundibugyo and Rwenzori became Kasese district. The two districts were created for purposes of enabling devolution of power and resources between the local communities of the region; a response to the long standing agitation and demands.
In 1982 the Obote government reached a political deal with the Rwenzururu Movement in which the current king, Iremangoma Mumbure agreed to lay down arms in return for development funds for social welfare, education as well as material incentives plus government scholarships.
However, the disgruntled faction led by Richard Kinyamusithu, the movement’s former Chief of Staff formed the Rwenzururu Freedom Movement which culminated into National Liberation of Uganda (NALU) of Amon Bazira.
When the NRM allowed for the restoration of Cultural and Traditional Institutions in 1992, the matter was later constitutionalized in the 1995 Uganda constitution.
Building on the political movement of the Rwenzururu, the Bakonzo continued to agitate for the recognition of the Rwenzururu Kingdom which in 2009 was granted by government.
The on-going situation in the Rwenzori region is therefore an off shoot of a long history and not the creation of the NRM government.
LIKELY CAUSES OF THE CONFLICTS
The conflicts in the Rwenzori region may be attributed to some of the following general causes.
Political Causes. The talk of cessation and creation of the Bakonzo state of Yiira has been in the public domain for quite some time now. Government has been clear that this dream is an impossibility in the present times. This factor will be investigated to ascertain whether it is one of the drivers behind the behavior of violent actions of OBR.
Tensions between OBR and Obudingiya Bwa Bwamba (OBB).
The creation of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR) and later Obudingiya Bwa Bwamba (OBB) cultural institutions was hinged on achieving political and social harmony. However, this created jurisdictional and control tensions between the two cultural institutions. Government continues to investigate this factor with a view of resolving the enduring tensions.
Land factor. Claims and counter claims over land rights between the Bakonzo and other communities is alleged to be one other cause of the conflict. Indeed, the Kajura Commission of Inquiry report strongly recommended government intervention on the matter. This factor will further be investigated in order to provide lasting solutions to the land problem.
Many of the local communities, especially those in the hard to reach mountainous areas are prone to exploitation, and misguidance by influential and powerful individuals to further their selfish and divisive political interests. Most of the youths participating in attacks are being assured of false promises of economic emancipation by these individual.
It should be noted that the current security situation has no connection to claims of political persecution by some area leaders. The government lost elections in several areas in the country and there has been no such occurrences in those areas. In any case the attacks in Rwenzori region occurred in 2012 and 2014 yet there were no elections in those years. The occurrences are a matter of security and criminality to which some individuals have to take responsibility.
THE PERIOD BETWEEN 2014 – 2016
In July 2014, there were attacks occasioned by cultural guards of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu (OBR) across the Rwenzori region against security installations as follows;
• In Kasese, the cultural guards attacked the police at the Weigh Bridge along Kasese Mbarara highway, two police officers were killed and their guns taken.
• In Bigando sub-county, 11 people including a UPDF soldier, his wife and a child were killed.
• In Kibuku Ntoroko district, they ambushed a UPDF patrol truck and cut a soldier on the headed. They also they attacked the main police station in Ntoroko and took 3 guns.
• In Bundibugyo they attacked a Uganda Wildlife Authority post and took 2 guns. They went ahead and attacked the Central Police station, killed four police officers including the OC station and made away with 6 rifles
• At Kanyamwirima UPDF Barracks they killed 4 soldiers and injured one. Here they also took one a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG).
While in 2014 the attacks were conducted by “Isyomango Syo Businga”, (Youth of the Kingdom), in the recent wave of violence the attackers have graduated into a militia which is trained, uniformed, armed, camped, and under a command and control structure. This new structure is composed of “Kilhumira Mutima” (the strong hearted and keepers of a secret) who have occasioned the most recent attacks.
It should be recalled that in 2014 a total of 68 attackers lost their lives in the violence. Additionally, 23 civilians died and 10 members of the security forces. Those who were arrested and prosecuted totaled to 179. Of these 155 suspects were leniently pardoned by government. Over 500 others who had fled after the attacks benefitted from the government amnesty—returned and were rehabilitated and re-integrated into the community. Note that among them were two ministers of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu
In the year 2016 alone, many civilian killings were noted to have been conducted by the same criminal groups.
• Fifteen people died in Bundibugyo after the Feb 2016 election, 139 houses were also set ablaze in a period of 04 days.
• As the Bundibugyo clashes subsided, a similar situation developed in Kasese district following the Local Council III Election in Hima Town Council. On the night of 10th March 2016, in Hima Town Council, a group of 30 people armed with machetes, knives and clubs injured 04 UPDF soldiers.
• On 11th March 2016, the attackers critically injured 02 police officers and grabbed a gun from one of them.
• On the evening of 15th March 2016, the GISO of Kyabarungira sub county and his brother were attacked and stabbed in Kasese town, by suspected OBR Youths leaving them seriously injured.
• On the morning of 23rd March 2016, clashes in Ntotoro sub county of Bundibugyo left 20 people killed, sparking a fresh wave of IDPs, approximately 5000 who sought refuge in Bubukwanga Camp.
• On 23 Mar 16, a gang of criminals associated to OBR cultural guards, armed with pangas, attacked Kidodo Police post in Kasese Municipality, leaving 01 police man killed and 01 gun taken.
• These were many including an incident where they critically injured a Commissioner of Police in Buhuhira sub county in Kasese.
INTERVENTIONS AND ENGAGEMENTS
Following the various incidents and attacks, several political initiatives and security engagements were undertaken and were still on going. These included;
• The Rt Hon Kajura Commission of Inquiry report of 2005 set up by Government brought to light useful insights to the situation in the Rwenzori region. Among the recommendations was the need for government to recognize the kingdom of Rwenzururu as a cultural institution. This wish was granted by an endorsement of cabinet on 17th Mar 2008. Subsequently, His Highness was coronated in 2009.
• Meetings by Senior Security officials with His Highness the Omusinga and OBR Officials.
• Meetings by the Defence and Internal Affairs Committee of Parliament with the Omusinga and OBR officials
• In several high level meetings with the Omusinga, it was agreed that the cultural guards should be disbanded and the UPDF and police should provide security to the Omusinga in the palace and other areas, like is the case with other cultural leaders.
On the 21st of Nov 2016, a regional security meeting was convened at Kabarole District Local Government Headquarter which was attended by RDCs, District Chairpersons and security leader from the seven district of Rwenzori. The meeting resolved that all camps which had been established by Kilhumira Mutima in Kamabale village of Nyabiswa subcounty in Kabarole, Ihandiro subcounty in Kasese, Kakibuta and Kakimiara both in Hima Division of Kasese be dismantled by security forces.
On learning about these impending operations, the cultural guards started attacking police stations and police posts. These attacks were carried out in a similar manner across the district where 16 policemen were killed and 6 guns stolen. (names of the deceased are attached).
They also ambushed and burnt a police patrol vehicle which had gone to Kiburara to reinforce the unit there. In all these incidents, the attackers used assault rifles, petrol bombs, grenades, machetes, spears and daggers. In response to these attacks unfortunately, 46 cultural guards have lost their lives while 149 have been arrested. Most of the attackers “Kilhumira Mutima” retreated into the palace with their weapons.
This led to the negotiations with His Highness by both security and political leaders for the attackers to surrender and handover the weapons. In this operation, an assortment of weapons were recovered from the palace, including, 07 (seven) Sub-Machine Guns (SMGs), pistols, ammunition, machetes, spears Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and 16 petrol bombs.
It should be noted that the security forces ensured the safety of His Highness, the Omusinga. The King was arrested and is in safe custody at Nalufenya police station. It is expected that His Highness will cooperate with the Police and help in explaining his role in these criminal attacks.
The joint security forces are continuing with investigations in this matter. Appropriate legal action will be taken on all those who have been apprehended. We want to thank the people of Kasese for continuing to cooperate with the investigators.
We condemn in the strongest terms possible all those who promote the ideology of extremism and violence. The UPDF and the Uganda police have a constitutional mandate to protect all Ugandans, their life and property. Anybody who takes armed action to destabilize the security of Uganda will be dealt with in accordance with the law of the land.
The joint security forces have taken control of the situation and people in the region have gone back to their business in peace. The joint security forces continue to monitor the situation and we would like to thank the people of the region for their support to the joint security forces. We appeal to the public to remain calm, vigilant and to continue to cooperate with the security forces in ensuring sustainable peace for the region.
Hon. Jeje Odongo
MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
NAMES OF THE DECESEAD POLICEMEN
Sgt Joseph Kule
Detective Cpl Richard Elai
Cpl Patrick Anywar
Cpl Kasim Kaluba
PC Thomas Malinga
PC Robert Baluku
PC Gaetano Awachi
PC Edward Periyo
PC Henry Oyuci
SPC Cyprian Masereka
SPC Jonathan Bwambale
SPC Christpher Kamango
SPC Salimo Luzinda