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Why The Rwenzori Ranges Lure Rebels

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th November 2002 03:00 AM

The ADF is defeated — the last offensive by the ADF being in early 2001. However, people in the areas where the ADF operated (particularly Kasese and Bundibugyo) are apprehensive of a rumoured war yet to come, writes Ibra Asuman Bisiika.

The ADF is defeated — the last offensive by the ADF being in early 2001. However, people in the areas where the ADF operated (particularly Kasese and Bundibugyo) are apprehensive of a rumoured war yet to come, writes Ibra Asuman Bisiika.

The rebels target the soft spot of Bakonzo by promising them the Rwenzururu Kingdom
THERE is anxiety among the Bakonzo and this is not helped by the fact that the political leadership in Kasese District has of late consistently warned the population against being lured into rebel activities. They have also not been comforted by the purging of the rumour about war by the district leaders.
There have been rumours of a new rebel group said to be associated with renegade UPDF officers Col. Samson Mande Lt. Col. Anthony Kyakabare and Maj. Patrick Muhindo with exiled former presidential aspirant Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye as its political figurehead.
Yet, Kasese is not unknown for being attractive to rebels. President Yoweri Museveni’s rebel National Resistance Movement/Army [NRM/A] operated in Kasese, followed by Kasese’s son of the soil, Amon Bazira’s National Army for the Liberation of Uganda [NALU] and the Islamic fundamentalist Allied Democratic Front [ADF].
But beyond the difficult mountainous terrain which would give the rebels an advantage over an unspecialised regular government army, there seems to be other reasons that attract rebels to the area. Could it be that the rebels are perhaps attracted to the people (the Bakonzo), not the terrain?Let’s have a look.

Who are the Bakonzo?
The Bakonzo are the most dominant ethnic group in Kasese district. They also live in Bundibugyo and Kabarole districts, as well as in pockets of Masindi, Hoima, Mityana and Mubende.
The Bakonzo (invariably known as the Bandandi in DR Congo) are also the biggest ethnic group in the North Kivu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo. This ethnic dominance is only numerical; not disposition.
The 1992 census put the Bakonzo at about 400,000, whereas their Congolese cousins are estimated to be about 4 million.
However, even with this numerical dominance, the Bakonzo have consistently struggled to translate this strength into a socio-political disposition in Uganda (or at least to gain parity with their neighbours) that would guarantee them self-preservation and national identity.
But the Bakonzo claim not their causehas not been appreciated by central government. So, the Bakonzo seem to distrust any one who does not appreciate their grievances as a people craving for national identity and self-preservation.
In their struggle for self-preservation, the Bakonzo are passionate and distrust the central government. The Bakonzo claim that they were mistreated by the Tooro Kingdom, but the central governmentignored them.

The Rwenzururu Question
In the 1962 Orukurato — Tooro Kingdom’s Parliament elections, 21 Bakonzo councillors were elected. One of those councillors was a one Isaya Mukirania who represented Harugali East in Bwamba County.
It should be noted that before this direct elections, members of the Orukurato were chiefs appointed by the king. And since there were no Bakonzo chiefs, the Orukurato had hitherto never had Bakonzo and Bamba members.
Now in the Orukurato, the 21 Bakonzo and Bamba councillors found an opportunity to make a case for the Bakonzo and Bamba. They proposed:
l That the agreement signed between the Tooro Kingdom and the Colonial Administration in 1900 be revised to include and recognise that in Tooro Kingdom there existed three main tribes namely the Batooro, the Bakonzo and the Bamba.
l That while in the Orukurato, the Bakonzo and Bamba be allowed to debate in their native languages.
In the Rukurato, Mr. Isaya Mukirania was a member of the constitutional committee where he proposed that the prime minister’s office be held in a rotational arrangement among the Batooro, Bakonzo and Bamba. The Batooro’s response to Isaya Mukirania’s proposal was a retort: we are all Batooro, but only a Mutooro nyakabara (real Mutooro) would hold the office of the prime minister. This retort is said to have also scared the Kagororo Group who asked how a real Mutooro would be determined.
In a special Rukurato session of February, 13, 1962 called to review the work of the constitutional committee, Isaya Mukirania’s idea of a rotational prime minister was defeated.
All the 21 Bakonzo Councillors led by Isaya Mukirania stormed out of the Orukurato in protest.
Isaya Mukirania, Yeremia Kawamara and Petero Mupalya were later arrested and charged with disrespect for the Omukama of Toro. They were sentenced to eight months in prison. They appealed to the High Court which released them on bail.
Isaya Mukirania jumped bail and ran back to the Rwenzori Mountains where he declared the independence of the Bakonzo and Bamba from Tooro and consequently the Rwenzururu Kingdom. Petero Mupalya and Yeremia Kawamara served the eight months in Luzira Prison.
A big number of Bakonzo are passionate about the Rwenzururu Kingdom. The fact is, there was never a kingdom. However, the socio-political issues concerning the Bakonzo as a people in the districts of Kasese and Bundibugyo are viewed from the perspective of the ideals of Isaya Mukirania’s vision of Rwenzururu Kingdom.
And it should be mentioned that all the political forces (rebel or real politics) which have operated in the Rwenzori Mountains have taken advantage of a people yearning for national identity and self-preservation. For the Bakonzo, it is a matter of saying that you have the blessing of Iremangoma (King) Charles Wesley Mumbere and they will start looking at you favourably.
Charles Wesley Mumbere is the son of Isaya Mukirania.
During the 2001 Presidential Elections, Presidential Candidate Kiiza Besigye promised to favourably look into the Rwenzururu Question. Although Museveni won over all in Kasese and Bundibugyo, almost all the LC 3 chairmen and District councillors in Kasese District are people who cherish the Rwenzururu Kingdom and are associated with Kizza Besigye’s Reform Agenda.
And of the five MPs from Kasese, only one claims to be against the ideals of Rwenzururu Kingdom.
The rebels target the soft spot of Bakonzo by promising them a kingdom and get their political support and the tricks of survival in the thick forests that cover the Rwenzori mountains. The NRA promised to look into the Rwenzururu Question when they were in cahoots with Eric Kinyamusitu.
On the whole, the Bakonzo believe the central government does not appreciate their grievances. This justifies the tendency of supporting opposition groups. Remember, they gave Museveni’s Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) the only parliamentary seat after the 1980 elections. Ends

Why The Rwenzori Ranges Lure Rebels

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