Calm gradually returns to Rwenzori as fear still reigns

UPDF soldiers patrol parts of the Rwenzori sub-region recently. PHOTO BY JOSEPH KATO

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Two months later. In Bundibugyo, residents who have been in rehabilitation camps are returning to their homes amid tight security. But the biggest challenge is that they don’t have shelter because their homes were burnt during the clashes, writes Amos Ngwomoya

For about two months now, parts of Rwenzori sub-region have been plagued by clashes that ensued after the February general election.

The trouble in Bundibugyo District started after the declaration of Mr Ronald Mutegeki as the elected chairperson LC5 whereas in Kasese, it all started from kikonzo zone in Hima where the LC3 chairperson elect, Mr Katura Musana, who is also a Musongora by tribe, was accused of rigging the election.

The clashes have since left at least 40 people dead, scores injured and thousands of people displaced with property worth millions lost.

As the wounds slowly start to heal, Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere and his Bamba/Babwisi counterpart Col Martin Kamya Ayongi met on Thursday in Fort Portal Town and held a four-hour closed-door meeting to discuss how normalcy can return to the region and prevent future clashes from happening.

This was after the NRM vice chairperson for eastern region, Capt Mike Mukula, together with leaders from the Inter-Religious Council and the Elders’ Forum brokered a peace meeting.

While meeting Mumbere in Kasese on Wednesday, the chairperson of the Elders’ Forum, retired Justice James Ogoola, stressed that their aim was to see peace restored in Rwenzori sub-region.

“We are deeply saddened by the clashes that have been going on in the Rwenzori sub-region and our prayer is that as these two kings plan to meet, let the almighty strengthen their agreement which will save many people from death. It’s our pleasure that the two kings have agreed to meet and we hope for positive results,” Justice Ogoola said.

Previous reconciliations
During the July 2014 Rwenzori attacks, Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga mediated talks between the two cultural leaders in Mubende and the duo reconciled and also agreed to promote peace in the region.

In December the same year, King Mumbere met the king of the Obhudingiya Bwa’Bwamba, Martin Kamya Ayongi, at his palace in Bundibugyo. This was to show people how they had agreed to restore peace in the region.

In the MoU, both leaders agreed to make rallies in all districts to preach the message of peace to both the Bakonzo and Bamba/Babwisi.

The Obudhingiya Bwa’ Bwamba spokesperson, Rev Geoffrey Kyomuhendo, explained that their institution is always clear on matters concerning dialogue but noted that they have been always betrayed by their counterpart.

“We believe the peace deal will help sort out this challenge between the two tribes. However, for it to be positive both kings must be open to one another and this is the only way peace will prevail,” says Rev Kyomuhendo.

The recent clashes in Bundibugyo between the Bamba/Babwisi and the Bakonzo surprised many who wondered why the two tribes fight yet their leaders resolved the differences.

But unlike in Bundibugyo where the clashes were said to be tribal, leaders in Kasese argue that theirs is political and fuelled by hatred among themselves.

Addressing a press conference in Kasese on Wednesday, Kasese woman MP Winnie Kiiza said the clashes in Kasese were caused by both politicians and former kingdom officials who have since fallen out with the institution.

The vocal legislator also faulted government on shooting civilians; something she says portrays the State as biased.
“In Kasese, the Bakonzo are being targeted by security personnel and we are worried. We need the President to categorically explain this to the people of Kasese because when you analyse the clashes here, it’s only a Mukonzo who is dying. So do you now call that tribal?” Kiiza said.

She also blamed the President for failing to unite the political leaders in Kasese, stressing that when he visited the area he met them according to their political parties which creates suspicion among the leaders.

President Museveni, who has since visited Bundibugyo and Kasese districts, has vowed to deal with the perpetuators of violence with an iron hand and those found guilty will be brought to book.
While in Kasese, the President had a closed-door meeting with the Omusinga members and, according to a press statement, warned the Bakonzo to forget about the Yiira state.

But the king dismisses this as mere propaganda meant to tarnish his name and that the idea of the Yiira state has never crossed his mind.

On Wednesday, members of the Inter-Religious Council asked Mr Museveni to stop using force to contain the violence, but rather use dialogue which they say will help in finding a solution to the clashes.

Situation improves
When Sunday Monitor visited one of the places in Kasenyi where the attacks happened, fear still gripped residents who say they are still traumatised by how their relatives were shot by police.
Mr Thembo Amon, whose brother was shot, could not hold back tears as he narrated how his brother died. He says they are now living in fear because they are afraid they could be shot dead if they are to be suspected of being attackers.

“My brother was killed for nothing because he never involved himself in such acts. I think there must have been some people against him who could have told the security personnel that he is also one of the attackers. Government must appoint a commission of inquiry to get the people who caused trouble instead of shooting people without gathered evidence,” he argues.

At the moment, peace is gradually returning in the area and the attacks seem to have stopped. But the memories of the clashes are still fresh in the memories of many residents.

In Bundibugyo, there is heavy deployment of the army under the Usalama operation that is meant to end the violence. However, some residents -- like in Kasese -- are decrying the arrests by security operatives, saying they are arresting people at times on false grounds and that it is instead causing more tension.
People who were in rehabilitation camps are returning to their homes amid tight security. But the biggest challenge is that these people do not have shelter because their homes were burnt during the clashes.

If the situation continues as it is now, people in the Rwenzori sub-region will have a reason to smile. But it will only be possible if the people comply with the peace treaty that the two kings have endorsed.