“Museveni’s divide & rule policy fuelling Rwenzori unrest”


Rwenzori region is comprised of the districts of Kabarole, Kasese and Bundibugyo.

This is the region that composed the former Tooro Kingdom which was originally comprised of the Batooro, Bakonjo, Bamba, Bashongora, Batuku and Batagwenda.

During the early 1960s, the Bakonjo and Bamba revolted against the Tooro Kingdom in a bloody rebellion for their independence.

That rebellion dubbed Rwenzururu Uprising was led by the late father of the current King of the Bakonjo.

Following the abolition of Kingdoms in the 1960s, the central government granted district status to Kasese for the Bakonjo, Bundibugyo for the Bamba and Kabaroke for the Batooro.

After the overthrow of Iddi Amin, the Rwenzururu uprising reemerge under the leadership of the current King of the Bakonjo with bases in the Rwenzori Mountains. The insurgents had bloody clashes with the UNLA’s 31st Battalion under Capt. Tom Odong.

At the time Kasese was a stronghold of the UPC with top UPC stalwarts who mediated dialogue between the UPC II government and the Rwenzururu insurgents.

The 1982 peace deal saw some of the Rwenzururu fighters who surrendered and were incorporated into the UNLA and their leader then Prince Mumbere who is the current King of the Bakonjo awarded a scholarship to the USA.

The Bakonjo dominate the mountainous areas of Kasese, Kabarole and Bundibugyo with a few like Minister Nyombi Thembo who migrated to Mubende.

They have their close cousins on the other side of the border in the DRC. The Bamba only occupy only the lowlands of the Rwenzori Mountains in Bundibugyo.

The Batooro occupy the law lands of Kabarole and Kyenjojo and parts of Kamwenge districts. The minority Bashongora pastoralists occupy the lowlands of Kasese district bordering Lake George and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The Batuku occupy the newly created Ntoroko district on the a strip of lowland between Semuliki Game Reserve and Lake Albert bordering with Bundibugyo.

The Batagwenda occupy Kamwenge district areas of Mahyoro stretching to south of Lake George. The so called Banyabindi in Kasese to which Minister Kiyonga belongs are Bakonjo only that its Museveni who is trying to disassociate them from the Bakonjo the same way he did with the Banyala, Bakooki and Baruli in Buganda.

Because his minority Bashongora in Kasese are very few in number, he wants to boost them with the Banyabindi so that he degazettes part of Queen Elizabeth National Park and create a separate district and kingdim for them.

Because of the long presence of Kilembe copper mines, Him a Cement Factory, Lake Katwe Salt Works, Mubuku Irrigation Scheme, and the Ibuga Refugee Camp for the Banyarwanda, a number of migrants outside the original ethnic communities of the former Tooro Kingdom have settled in Kasese.

Like has been the case with the oil discovery in Bunyoro, the anticipated resumption of copper mining in Kilembe has attracted the usual suspects to rush to Kasese for land grabbing.

When Museveni’s NRA rebels established bases in the Rwenzori mountains in 1984, the Batooro, Bamba, and Bakoonjo overwhelmingly enlisted and supported the rebellion.

After the fall of Kampala, the NRA’s 1st Battalion based at Katabi in Entebbe and 75th Batallion based in the Rwenzori mountains were exclusively dominated by Bamba and Bakonjo. However, a good number of Bamba and Bakonjo also deserted the NRA and returned home.

Within the army the Bamba and Bakonjo demonstrated a high level of solidarity among themselves. They knew each other throughout all the units such that when a problem befell anyone of them, all the others would immediately know about it through their internal communication mechanism.

Even at the battlefront if one Mwamba or Mukonjo was shot all the other tribesmen would rush to the rescue of the injured thus increasing the casualties.

Its only the Bamba and Bakonjo in the NRA who who were the first to defy the policy of burying in designated cementaries that was meant to cut on expenditures on fuel for transporting dead bodies to respective homes.

The Bamba and Bakonjo would conceal their dead children in boxes, fundraise and transport them to their homes by public transport. Before the coming of the NRA the highest military rank that had ever been held by a Mukonjo was that of Lieutenant.

For the Bamba, they had never had a commissioned officer and the highest rank ever held by a Mwamba was Sergeant during the reign of Iddi Amin.

Its the NRA that elevated them with Gen. Wilson Mbadi being the topmost Mukonjo in the military history of Uganda. For the Bamba, its Col Jack Bakasumba who holds the highest rank in their military service history.

Both officers started their military service in the NRA as military instructors before rising to serve under the Museveni’s Special Guard unit where Gen. Mbadi had been a bodyguard to Museveni and Col. Bakasumba had been an Ag. Commanding Officer. There are several other Bamba and Bakonjo senior and junior army officers in the NRA.

After Museveni took over power, Amon Bazira a former UPC strongman from Kasese mobilised the former Rwenzururu fighters into an anti government rebel force called National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU).

They established bases in the Rwenzori mountains with rear bases on the other side of Congo. Having been a Director of UPC’s secret Services (NASA) and cabinet Minister, Amon Baziira had the capacity to put in place a formidable force.

He was assassinated in Kenya. Remnants of his NALU continued with minor skirmishes with the NRA until when some of them led by Major. Kapuchu and Major. Muhindo joined hands with the NRA around the early 1990s.

Major Kapuchu died shortly after while Maj. Muhindo who had been attached to DMI was later reported to have defected and joined the rebel PRA.

When the ADF struck in the mid 1990s, it established forward bases in the Rwenzori mountains. The Muslim dominated border area, Kasese was the conduit route for rebels and recruits to and from Congo.

Its for the same reasons that DPC Mohammed Kirumira was immediately transferred from Beers to Kampala at the start of the ongoing crisis in Kasese.

The ADF was reported to have later on allied with the NALU remnants to form ADF/NALU. Later on the shadow PRA rebels that the regime linked with Dr. Besigye also came on the scene and it had a sizeable number of Bakonjo.

It was amidst these rebellions that hit the Rwenzori that Museveni lured the former leader of Rwenzururu, then Prince Numbers to return from the USA. After he returned, the Region was granted a Kingdom.

However, owing to his divide and rule policy, Museveni also initiated a kingdom for the Bamba.

He incited the Bamba now to allow the influence of the Bakonjo Kingdom to some of their sacred places located in Bundibugyo.

Like he had done with the Kabaka’s visit to Kayunga in Buganda, he blocked the Bakonjo King access to the sacred sites and his subjects who reside in Bundibugyo.

He did this so as to divide the Bamba and Bakonjo in order that they act as a check on one another for their activities in the strategic Rwenzori mountains.

As had been the case with Maj. Baker Kineze whom he appointed the King of the Banyala in Buganda, he appointed another army officer Maj. Martin Kamya as the king of the Bamba.

Later he promoted him to the rank of Lt. Col. and now he has taken him for a refresher military drills in preparation for a military showdown between the Bamba and Bakonjo whose king has a military background.

Forget about the rhetoric of Lt. Col Kamya’s retirement from the army; among all the traditional leaders, its only him and Banyala’s Maj. Kimeze who salute and call Museveni Affande.

Its the regime inspired restrictions on the freedom of movement and association of the Bakonjo king that led to the 2014 armed attacks on security installations in both Bundibugyo and Kasese.

To avoid the shame as a result of those humiliating attacks, the regime was quick to brand it ethnic clashes.

At the same time it embarked on indiscriminate retaliatory attacks on the Bakonjo residing in Bundibugyo thus the mass graves that have never been explained.

It is this mishandling of the 2014 clashes that provided a breeding ground for what is happening in the region now. In retaliation the people of Kasese this time around doubled their efforts in voting for the opposition such that at all levels the regime lost flatly.

Most embarrassing was the defeat of the regime’s strongman and Minister of Defence, Crispus Kiyonga. Unfortunately, the regime did not learn any lessons from the 2014 clashes. Instead it is busy mobilising the Bamba into militia groups against the Bakonjo.

The regime also doubled its treatment of the Bakonjo as enemies of the regime which sparked off the first clashes in Hima.

To further isolate the Bakonjo, the regime may be planning to stage manage an attack on the Batooro that will pit them against the Bakonjo.

Museveni’s ultimate plan is to keep the Rwenzori region in a turmoil so that the strategic Rwenzori mountains is not used as a base by any potential armed insurrection.

In Kasese its the Bakonjo who are being killed by the security forces and vice versa. In Bundibugyo the Bakonjo attacked the security forces and in retaliation the later allied with the Bamba to hunt down the Bakonjo resulting into mass graves.

Bamba militants armed with traditional weapons are seen operating side by side with the members of the security forces thus putting into doubt the neutrality of the security forces.

The ongoing Operation Usalama by the security forces in the Rwenzori mountains is targeting the Bakonjo.

At the end of the day, some Bakonjo will flee to eastern DRC thus giving Museveni an excuse to re-enter DRC.

Change of Guards.

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