KASESE- The bodies of the victims of the weekend raid by government forces on the Rwenzururu king’s palace have begun rotting at the overwhelmed Kasese Health Centre III, emitting horrid stench with one resident relocating from the suffocated neighbourhood.
The bad odour, and accompanying tension made worse by heavy military deployments, has affected activities of nearby Kasese Primary, Mother Care Preparatory, Kasese High, Kasese Junior and Celaca Vocational schools.
Mother Care Preparatory School has been closed and children sent home. A parent at the school who declined to be named for security reasons, told Daily Monitor that the children had complained to the school administration after bullets were fired in the area for two successive days, prompting the headteacher to discontinue final examinations that were underway.
Emotional relatives and friends yesterday paced up and down between Kasese Police Station and the Kasese Health Centre III to establish if their missing persons were dead, in detention or hiding.
Security forces that have ringed off the health centre turned the bereaved, as well as journalists and curious onlookers, away without giving reasons.
Inside, a source said a postmortem led by police surgeon Moses Byaruhanga, was underway and no corpse would be released to relatives without autopsy.
There are more corpses than refrigerators at the health facility’s morgue, leaving others to decay.
Relatives of police officers killed in the line of duty by alleged attackers, a moniker the government uses in the current incident to refer to suspected rebellious royal guards were ready with hearses to transport their bodies of their loved ones.
On November 27, violence erupted in Kasese Town’s Muyenga neighbourhood, the Rwenzururu Kingdom’s Buhikira palace, after government troops moved to disband royal guards loyal to King Charles Wesley Mumbere. King Mumbere has since been arrested, charged with murder and remanded to prison.
Some 62 people, including 16 police officers, have died since clashes erupted last week, police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi said yesterday.
The death toll could be much higher, according to some residents and security sources speaking on condition of anonymity due to sensitivity of the matter. Other accounts that we could not independently verify say more than one hundred people are likely to have been killed.
An accurate count is impossible because heavily armed soldiers and police have ringed off the palace where the indiscriminate shootings happened and the health centre where the corpses have been transported, pending postmortem.
One source told this newspaper that they suspect some dead bodies, particularly of royal guards killed in the hinterland, could have been hurriedly buried. For example, police and the military are said to have pursued up to Bwesungu Sub-county some of the royal guards suspected to have attacked Maliba Police Post last Saturday.
In recent clashes, nineteen royal guards were reportedly killed. Residents are said to have immediately buried them before the security operatives started picking up the bodies.
At the health centre, relatives huddled in small groups spoke in low voices, discussing the fate of their loved ones. Soldiers prevented all but a few medical workers and other authorised personnel from entering the health centre.
Some of the relatives who spoke to Daily Monitor on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said they had trekked from the nearby as well as distant Ihandiro, Nyakiyumbu, Kyabarungira, Kyondo and Kisinga sub-counties. All declined to disclose their particulars, demonstrating the palpable fear in the community that in theory should be mourning its own killed by government forces.
A number of employees were allegedly shot dead at point blank range in what was understood to be an operation to avenge the death of policemen killed allegedly in the hands of suspected royal guards.
Mzee Eriya Baluku, a resident of Nyakasanga village, Nyamwamba Division, is worried that his two sons who served as royal guards at the ill-fated Buhikira Palace on the day of the military onslaught could be among those killed or detained.
“May be they didn’t die,” he said with a sorrowful look, adding, “What will I say if they are reported alive?”
With fear and suspicion widespread, many of the locals declined to speak to our reporters, fearing anything they say could land them in trouble with the government.
Police promised to release the bodies for identification and subsequent burial as soon as postmortem is completed. Medical workers allowed into the health centre declined to talk to this newspaper, referring our reporters instead to speak to “authorised officials”.