Tuesday December 30 2014

When Rwenzori became conflict hotspot

 Residents cover graves of two of the people who

Residents cover graves of two of the people who were killed during an attack at Ruhita Cell Hima Sub-county, Kasese District in July. File photo  

By Felix Basiime, Enid Ninsiima & Ruth Katusabe

Rwenzori- The year 2014 has turned out to be the busiest year that recorded the most historic events in the Rwenzori sub-region in this decade.
The sub-region is comprised of Kabarole, Kyenjojo, Kyegegwa, Kamwenge, Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo districts.

It is endowed with rich culture where cultural institutions like Tooro Kingdom, Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba (latest), Busongora Cultural Heritage and the Banyabindi Kingdom.

The area is also endowed with rich mineral and tourist attractions such as Kilembe mines, salty Lake Katwe, several lakes and rivers, tea plantations, the snowcapped mount Rwenzori and several national parks.
This year had a mixed bag of happenings and issues ranging from armed attacks, tribal clashes, floods and a new kingdom.

Jilted lover kills 10
The rucks began early on in the year. On April 11, a UPDF soldier shot dead 10 people over a woman in a bar brawl at Karugutu Trading Centre in Ntoroko District. Pte Chris Amanyire, attached to Rhino Battalion at Kanyansi Barracks, also shot himself dead. Those he killed included five soldiers and 25 others were injured.

Floods displace thousands
As the dust was settling on the crime of passion, floods returned to the region on May 8, subsiding after more than 15 lives were lost. Properties worth millions of shillings were destroyed and more than 2,000 people were displaced by the gushing waters descending Mountain Rwenzori, carrying along boulders.

Church attack
The region continued to swing from bad to worse. On June 26, about 15 unknown gunmen attacked overnight worshippers in Kyegegwa District. The attackers beheaded a worshiper at the all-night prayer session and planted her head on the altar.

In an offensive and hateful manner, the attackers also burnt the church, and killed Assistant Inspector of Police Grace Mwine in the ensuing fight. The then UPDF spokesman for the Rwenzori region, Lt Ninsiima Rwemijuma, claimed long-running hostility between the Muslims and Christians in Kyegegwa.

On July 5, the Banyabindi community in Kasese District held a memorial function at Muhokya Sub-county headquarters to commemorate the life of their comrades who perished during the Rwenzururu struggle 50 years ago.

The bloody tribal clashes
But hardly had they crowned the day news filtered in of the simultaneous tribal attacks in Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo districts. When the joint force of the army and police restored normalcy, more than 90 people had been killed and several others injured.

Kingdom officials arrested
As security searched for answers, on July 7, operatives arrested Rwenzururu Kingdom officials who were accused of masterminding the attacks. They included the prime minister, Mr Noah Nzaghale and his deputies; Yeremia Mutoro.

On July 8, the army general court martial started trying suspects of the July 5 attacks. It was trying 126 in Bundibugyo and 54 in Kasese on different days.

On September 22, a former radio presenter on Arua-based Fm, Mr Manisulu Hamis was killed at Mariana Club, Lodge, Restaurant and Bar and his body has never been recovered to date.

Uganda’s first Marburg case
On September 28, Uganda had the first case of Marburg, which the Health ministry confirmed was of Ibrahim Bwambale, a radiographer who was working with Mengo hospital, and died at the same facility. He was buried at his ancestral home in Kitsutsu village, Munkunyu Sub-county in Kasese District.

Later, panic gripped the district for about a month as investigations of more cases continued.

On October 12, the Bamba cultural leader, Lt Col Martin Ayongi Kamya, and King Charles Wesley Mumbere of Rwenzururu reconciled and resolved to end the cultural differences among their subjects. The historical meeting was held in Mubende Town.

On October 19, the Rwenzururu Kingdom held the 48th Coronation Anniversary, where the occasion was graced by Vice President Edward Ssekandi. The Bamba cultural leader (Omudhingiya), Lt Col Martin Ayongi Kamya also attended as a sign of reconciliation.

On October 25, an elephant was burnt after it strayed into Karambi, Bwera sub-counties and Mpondwe –Lhubiriha town council. The 25-year old male mammal was found dead in Mirami village in Karambi Sub-county. It died due to fatigue, stress and hunger. UWA burnt the carcass to prevent locals from eating it.

More floods in Ntoroko
On November 1, floods wreaked havoc in Ntoroko District, displacing more than 5,000 people after rivers Lamia and Semuliki burst their banks. The floods also disorganised at least 474 Primary Seven candidates who were forced to write their Primary Leaving Examinations in makeshift tents after floods submerged most areas and made access to schools difficult.

On November 3, Primary Leaving Exams started around the country, however, in Kasese it was written by several breast feeding mothers and pregnant girls as cases of early marriages are high in the district.

On November 12, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) confirmed that they were holding Dr Kizza Besigye’s aide Mr Sam Mugumya. This was after one week of Mr Mugumya’s disappearance. This was revealed by Brig Muhindo Akili, the commander of the North Kivu Province in DRC, during a press briefing at Kasindi on the DRC side of the border.

On November 13, Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali visited South Rwenzori Diocese and was hosted to a dinner by Kasese Woman MP Winfred Kiiza and Bukonzo East MP Yokasi Bihande.

More than 100 suspects set free
On December 8, the Army General Court Martial sitting in Bundibugyo Town set free 126 people accused of participating in the July 5 attacks in Bundibugyo.


Then came a glimmer of hope. In the same month, Tooro King Oyo Kabamba Iguru was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Vietnam Buddhist University in Hanoi Vietnam. King Oyo was accordingly recognised for his exemplary service to humanity.

Perhaps buoyed by the achievement by their king, more than 100 Tooro subjects walked to Parliament a week later, demanding government returns the kingdom assets aka ‘ebyeitu.’ The group of mainly youth had spent four days walking to Parliament from Fort Portal Town to present a petition to the Speaker of Parliament, demanding for the return of the kingdom’s assets held by the central government.

As the Batooro were sizing up with government, something was brewing in the neighbourhood. On May 30, President Museveni presided over the crowning of Lt Col Martin Kamya as Omudhingiya wa Bwamba in Bundibugyo.

On July 14, the King of Tooro started fasting for a week, protesting what he saw as President Museveni’s decision to create more kingdoms within the greater Tooro monarchy. He fasted also for the return of ‘ebyaitu’ or kingdom properties.

The chiefdoms complained of then were the Rwenzururu which constituted Busongora and Bukonjo counties in the old Tooro Kingdom and Bwamba County, which now have independent cultural leaders. The king who was at his palace Karuzika in Fort Portal was joined by the royal family and the subjects in a solidarity move.

However, President Museveni down played the fasting issue and said King Oyo would be healthy if he fasted, a statement that triggered demonstrations in Fort Portal Town from Amacumu n’ebitara by’Omukama (Youth of the King of Tooro).