FLASHBACK: When gunfire rocked Kasese

Nov 27, 2019

The raid, in which about 100 people, including 16 policemen died, left lasting memories on the people of Kasese.

It is three years since joint security forces raided the palace of Omusinga Charles Wesely Mumbere of Rwenzururu.

The palace is located on Kijongo Road in the upscale suburb of Kasese municipality, locally known as Muyenga.

The raid, in which about 100 people, including 16 policemen died, left lasting memories on the people of Kasese.

Aida Loy Syauswa, whose gate was destroyed by an explosive, wants the conflict to be resolved amicably.

"We, the women in the region, are tired and do not want another conflict. We want to settle and work for our children, to make sure they get education in a peaceful country," Syauswa said.

She blamed the suffering of women and children in the Rwenzori sub-region on the trigger-happy men.

"When we search for the reasons why we suffer, we do not get the answers," Syauswa said.

"Can't we let peace prevail in our area, like the case is in other districts? For how long shall we go on like this? We are tired," she said.

Syauswa's sentiments are shared by many people who have been affected by the vicious cycle of conflicts in the Rwenzori sub-region.

Since independence, the sub-region has borne the brunt of numerous conflicts that have meted untold suffering on the community. Some of the conflicts include the Rwenzururu uprisings and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel attacks.

Before the raid on Mumbere's palace on November 27, 2016, government security forces had raided various camps allegedly manned by some of the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu royal guards and a group locally known as kilhumiramuthima.

Before the attack, the Government said kilhumiramuthima had made many attacks on government security installations.

It was against this background that the Government gave Mumbere an ultimatum to surrender all kilhumiramuthima members to the army.

After the Government and Mumbere reaching a deadlock over the surrender of kilhumiramuthima members, security forces stormed the kingdom administration offices in Kasese town on November 26, 2016, and killed eight royal guards and arrested two others.

Backed by the Police, government soldiers stormed the main palace and burnt down some houses

 on November 27. They arrested Mumbere alongside 200 subjects.

The operation was commanded by Lt. Gen. Peter Elwelu. "The commander of an illicit, criminal gang had been arrested," Elwelu said.

Displaying an array of rudimentary weapons, former Police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi said they had been recovered from the palace during the operation.

Mumbere and the co-accused have since been charged with various criminal offences including terrorism, murder, attempted murder, and aggravated robbery.

Widows and orphans
After his arrest, Mumbere selected a committee led by Gadi Baluku Mbayahi Bakwanamaha, to take care of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu affairs. Mbayahi said the conflict left more than 600 orphans, 300 widows, and 70 widowers since it started in 2014.

"We have over 200 prisoners, including about 20 women."

He said eight of the inmates died in prison since there arrest in 2016.

"Our king enjoyed very cordial relations with President Yoweri Museveni, which was a golden chance for our prosperity. We lost that chance. Some people now talk ill of Kasese. They portray us as hostile, panga-wielding people."

Mbayahi says the conflict also exposed people who had been sowing confusion in the community.

Referring to the royal family, Mbayahi said: "They have never united."

For the Rwenzururu veterans, he said: "They have never respected the current kingdom caretakers."

Mbayahi also said the Forum for Democratic Change hardliners do not respect his committee administration. He said some members of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) do not wish the kingdom well.

Rwenzori stable, UPDF
The Uganda People's Defence Forces spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, said the Rwenzori sub-region is now stable.

He said they had beefed up security in the region by establishing the mountain division in Rwenzori to counter possible attacks from the ADF.

Mbayahi, however, says despite the negative image, efforts are underway to rebrand the institution through initiatives such as Kasese Think Tank.

"Although we lost our loved ones, we want to use there deaths as a lesson to avoid past mistakes."

Emphasising the need for reconciliation, Mbayahi, who is a primary school teacher, urged residents to respect the kingdom administration and work as a team.

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