The Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs embarked on a ten-day trip to Kasese and Bundibugyo Districts which have been engulfed in tribal conflict since February this year majorly between the Bakonzo, Basongola and Bamba communities.
These have left more than 45 people killed, scores wounded and 8,000 displaced.
The committee on Friday, 14th April 2016, held a meeting with the King of the Rwenzururu Charles Wesley Mumbere as part of seeking a solution to pacify the troubled Rwenzori Region.
While speaking to the Mumbere in Kasese, the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Benny Namugwanya Bugembe (Mubende) said the committee was exercising its oversight role so that it can report and give recommendations to Parliaments of which they would use to advise the government on a way forward.
“We decided to meet you because we believe you are the highest ranking citizen of this area. The information we get from you will be so valuable and will help the committee to get to the root cause of the problem,” Bugembe said.
The Omusinga Mumbere thanked the committee for visiting the region and expressed gratitude towards Parliament for deciding to send a committee to establish the causes of the clashes in the Rwenzori sub region.
The Committee tasked the Omusinga to present his view on the ethnic clashes in Kasese, Bundibugyo, and the Yiira Republic and the issue of his volatile royal guards.
“Apart from the ethnic clashes in Bundibugyo, clashes in Kasese are not ethnic but rather political. These resulted from the mismanagement of elections by members of the Electoral Commission in Hima Town Council,” he said.
On land conflicts, Thembo Kitsumbire, the Kingdom’s Prime Minister explained to the committee that the issue of land is a very sensitive one in Kasese but problem is in the way government and security officials handle issue concerning land disputes and land distribution.
“The government has established many prisons, barracks and game parks on the little land in Kasese causing all tribes here to fight for land, but when the same government comes to solve land conflicts here, they tend to favour the Abasongola and Banyabindi leaving the Bakonzo to feel marginalized,” he said.
When the Omusinga was asked about his intentions of breaking off the Rwenzori region from Uganda to form the Yiira state, he totally denounced the allegations.
“The Yiira State affair existed during the Rwenzururu revolution and its just in our history, however now politicians who are enemies of Rwenzururu kingdom always bring up the issue of Yiira State to put the Kingdom in bad light with the Central Government,” he said.
Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala) also tasked the Omusinga to explain to the committee about the worrying large numbers of the Royal guards and the allegations from security officials that he was hiding criminals in the Palace.
In his response, the king informed the committee that he had earlier asked the Criminal Investigation Department officers to give him the list of criminals they alleged to be hiding in the palace and also come and search the palace to see if they could find guns but they had failed to comply to his request.
The committee later held a meeting with the King of the Bamba (Omudingya) King Lt. Col. John Kamya at his palace in Bundibugyo District and shared about the clashes and how they could be ended.
The Committee Chairperson, described the meetings as “significant” in Parliament’s efforts to engage all key stakeholders to ensure a permanent solution is found to the political and socio-economic issues affecting the Rwenzori sub-region.
The Rwenzori field visit was comprised of Defence and Internal Affairs Committee members and was conducted from 11th to 17th of April 2016.
The committee members held meetings with district security committees, religious leaders, local leaders, traditional leaders and different tribal representatives. The Committee is to meet more witnesses in Kampala.