Security agencies must get to the bottom of the Kyegegwa attacks. Report of a night attack by 15 unknown gunmen on overnight worshippers in the district last Thursday is horrific. More brutal is that 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 an ensuing fight.
The government must respond immediately and with authority. Foremost, they must re-assure the Christians and Muslims in Karokarungi of security so they do not run away over fear of more attacks. This demands police and UPDF as stewards of life and property of Ugandans to stop any recurrence of this sickening manner of attack. Freedom to practice one’s religion is held sacred in this country, and everyone should feel free and safe to do so. In the immediate term, police and local leaders as custodians of law and order, must step to the fore and manage the steaming temper from the fallout between Muslims and Christians.
But the residents’ suspicion that the attackers first retreated into a nearby mosque and could be Islamic religious extremists must be treated with caution. In addition, the two suspects caught in the vicinity of the scene of crime and accused of being Islamic fundamentalist because they once killed pigs in the village must be given the benefit of the doubt until proven guilty by a competent court.
News that the residents had already burnt down the nearby mosque and destroyed gardens of crops is unacceptable. Regardless of this crime, Kyegegwa residents should not take the law into own hands but be one another’s keeper. Even as Ruwenzori region police commander Thomas Kasiimo said preliminary investigations cannot rule out the handiwork of religious fundamentalists, Kyegegwa must exercise caution.
Nonetheless, police fears are well-founded. Only last month, the Force warned of runaway remnants of ADF rebels from DR Congo who might endanger Uganda’s security. But for now, the exact motives, identities, whereabouts of the attackers remain unknown. What the police should not sidestep are also claims of long-running hostility between the Muslims and Christians in Kyegegwa as suggested by the UPDF spokesman for the Ruwenzori region, Lt Ninsiima Rwemijuma. This will not be a case of condoning wrongdoing by a gang armed with guns, spears, bows and arrows, machetes and axes. Definitely, no Ugandan would want recreated here the ungovernable scenario similar to that of Boko Haram Islamist militants in Nigeria. Protect Muslims and Christians alike so they can follow and participate in their faith peacefully as enshrined the Constitution.
The issue: Kyegegwa attack.
Our view: Government must respond immediately and also re-assure the Christian and Muslim communities of Karokanungi of security.