Saturday March 19 2016

Beyond Kasese killings, there could be a major story

By Asuman Bisiika

On Wednesday, I was honoured with an invite to treat with members of The Elders Forum of Uganda (TEFU) and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) who were on a sabbatical retreat somewhere outside Kampala.

Don’t ask what ‘we’ discussed at the retreat; for even with my big mouth, I still retain the presence of mind to respect the fact that this was an exclusive meet whose resolutions I am not at liberty to share on a public platform like Minority Report.

But I must confess I was blown away by an elder’s revelation that (even) the 1958 election (for the expansion of Legico, the colonial parliament as it then was) was violent. The elder was responding to someone who had earlier said that the only peaceful election Uganda has ever had was the 1961 election.

“Mine is a testimony of fact. I was a polling assistant in the 1958 and 1961 elections. In fact the 1961 election was worse because it was the first time that human lives were lost (particularly in Buganda) in election and post-election violence,” said the elder. Phew!

With the elder’s revelation, I concluded that Uganda has a genetic history of election violence. From 1996 to-date, election violence has led to loss of human life. Which brings us to the 2016 elections violence.

The district with the highest number of election related deaths in the 2016 election is Bundibugyo (with 15 deaths), followed by Kasese (7). Whereas the deaths in Bundibugyo were in the main civilian-on-civilian, all the seven in Kasese were killed by police bullets.

It is not for us to judge whether the police acted professionally (or not) to shoot-to-kill. Neither is it ours to judge whether the victims of the police bullets acted ‘unpeasantly’ stupid to engage armed men.

But there must be a story beyond what some saw as the bravery of an unarmed man challenging an armed man. And there must be a story beyond IGP Kale Kayihura’s ‘true lies’ on these incidents.

I believe that with a changed attitude, information in the possession of security services is enough to guide the political leadership on how to resolve the unending conflicts in the Rwenzori Region. But we have chosen to look the wrong way; if only for political expediency.

Now no one cares about the fact that the violence in Kasese and Bundibugyo involved contests between NRM candidates and NRM-leaning independent candidates (whose troubles can be traced to the NRM primaries).

Do you still remember the July 5, 2014 incidents in Bundibugyo and Kasese? Well, I wrote a brief on those incidents and here is an excerpt:

“If one bothered to tap into the international intelligence traffic, one would soon get feelers that Uganda is likely to have some rebellion or other after 2016. Given this projection, one would expect the intelligence services to view the Rwenzori attacks as a pointer in their strategic deductions (looking beyond the particulars of the attacks).

There are two points that the security agencies should look at critically in their ‘forward’ deductions of the Rwenzori attacks.

1) The Rwenzori attacks were not carried out by the ADF; neither were they the handiwork of some new rebel force as some people opposed to President Museveni ‘wished’.

But the fact that a less trained (and less kitted) force of Bakonzo peasants could simultaneously carry out daring raids on multiple military installations is likely to inspire the ADF remnants (or any other negative forces opposed to Museveni).

2) The failure to politically sort out the conflict in the Rwenzori Region is likely to expose (once again) the region to the tempting overtures of negative forces like ADF and others.

Mr Bisiika is the executive
editor of East Africa Flagpost.