By Hope Mafaranga
A team of security experts is travelling to Kirumya sub-country in Bundibgyo to probe mass graves, says the regional police commander, Thomas Kasimo.
According to him, the regional Police office had submitted a budget for exhuming whatever bodies there may be, to the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), because the cost was beyond their budget. He said it was necessary to exhume the bodies to ascertain their number because they were not buried by the Police or the army.
Residents claim that one of the graves has 14 bodies, while another has 25. Saturday Vision visited the mass grave at Bundimurombi, where five people are alleged to have been buried.
Kasimo said they needed special chemicals, medical experts from Mulago referral hospital and other accessories like gloves and masks to exhume the bodies.
He warned Saturday Vision not to visit the graves without security, saying the place may not be safe, adding that he had asked Police headquarters to send pathologists to exhume the bodies.
“We are not sure if there are five bodies in one of the mass graves or more. There are also reports of more suspected mass graves. We shall identify them and exhume the bodies so that people can identify their relatives and give them a decent burial.”
The district National Resistance Movement (NRM) chairperson, Edward Mumbere, told Saturday Vision that when the Bakonzo were overpowered by the army and Police in Bundibugyo and Kanyamirima army barracks on July 5, they ran for dear life, only to be killed and buried in mass graves in Kirumya sub-county.
It was not clear who killed them, but some people suspect it could have been some Bamba elements.
Bundimurombi Central LCI chairman, Atwooki Batalingaya, said five attackers sustained wounds at the frontline and died at Bundiburombi trading centre.
He added that they were ordered by the resident district commissioner and Major Mawa to bury them in their area since no one turned up to claim their bodies.
“On Sunday, July 6, we found five dead bodies here and we were ordered to bury them. They were not killed by the Bamba, but sustained injuries at the frontline,” he said.
When tasked to explain how five people could die at the same spot if they were not killed at once, Batalingaya could not give a straight answer.
When Saturday Vision contacted the deputy RDC of Bundibugyo, Elias Kateeba, he denied knowledge of the existence of mass graves. He said these could be lies by the residents.
“We are not aware of the mass graves and we never ordered anyone to bury people. Residents can tell lies and if one is not careful, they can believe them. Residents have been warning us of new attacks, but when we send forces there, nothing happens."
Rwenzururu’s veterans minister Miseri Mwende, with other suspects. PHOTO/Hope Mafaranga
The Bundibugyo leadership and security heads met the IGP, Gen. Kale Kayihura, on Wednesday to discuss these issues. There were also unconfirmed reports that the DPC of Bundibugyo was fired.
Mumbere said when he reported to the Police and asked for protection so that he could show them where the mass graves were, the Bundibugyo district Police Commander, Alex Mwine Mukono, ignored him, even when he provided the list of the suspects.
He said this forced him to petition the IGP, who ordered Mwine Mukono to arrest some suspects.
“I have been on my knees begging security officials to arrest the suspects so that peace can return to the area, but no one gave me an ear. I even offered to fuel their vehicles, but they ignored me. When I told the IGP, the GISO of Ngamba was arrested, but was later released,” Mumbere said.
However, the Rwenzori region police spokesman, Bashir Bakari, said they arrested the GISO whom he identified as Bob and the Bukonzo sub-county councillor, Bosco Sulex, for giving wrong information to the Police.
“They told us about the mass graves, but they could not show us where they were. So, we arrested them for giving us wrong information,” Bakari said.
Abraham Bamwitirebye, a parish chairman in Bukonzo, said four people were missing and that he suspects they died in battle.
“They were rebels and if they were killed, no one wants to associate with them,” he said, declining to name them.
But the chairperson of Bundimurombi I, John Mukasa, identified two of the missing people as Sinjwire and Kigaiga.
Mukasa expressed shocked that someone as rich as Kigaiga was also involved in the attack. “He was a rich man, with three houses and 12 acres of cocoa. If he had little money on his bank account, it cannot be less than sh20m. I wonder what he was looking for.”
Saturday Vision went to Kigaiga’s home, but as soon the woman and two children who were seated in the compound saw the reporter’s motorcycle, they ran away.
‘Who killed our sons?’
One of the councillors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they were not concerned about the attackers who were killed by the UPDF and Police, but they were angered by the Bamba, who killed their sons who were retreating from battle.
“We only attacked Government institutions. We were not after our Bamba and Bwibwisi brothers because if we wanted them, we knew where their families were and we could have killed a good number.
“Even when we attacked the Omudhigiya’s palace (Bamba Kingdom palace), we knew where the king was, but we were not interested in his life,” he said as tears rolled down his cheeks.