Mumbere’s palace lies in ruins four years later

Thursday August 20 2020

Razed. Burnt huts at King Mumbere’s palace in Kasese in 2016. PHOTO | FILE

Close to four years after the government raided King Charles Wesley Mumbere’s palace and the Rwenzururu kingdom’s administration block, both facilities remain closed after police declared them scenes of crime.
The declaration was in the aftermath of the double raid by government forces of the palace and administration block in November 2016, which left more than 100 people dead.

On Saturday November 26, 2016 at around 1pm, UPDF soldiers first attacked the Rwenzuru prime minister’s office, located off Rwenzori Road in Kasese Town.
The gunfire lasted for more than two hours, leaving eight of Mumbere’s royal guards dead.

A day later, the situation turned ugly when a raid was carried out on the Omusinga’s palace, which erupted in flames in Muyenga village, Central Division in Kasese Municipality.

Omusinga Mumbere was arrested together with more than 130 people believed to be his royal guards, whom the security agencies said had been trained into a militia group that was allegedly terrorising the people and security personnel across the Rwenzori Sub-region.
The number of detainees has since risen to about 200 after further arrests.

King Mumbere who was arrested from his royal palace in Kasese was charged with several offences before Jinja Magistrate Court.
However, on January 13, 2017, he was granted bail by Justice Eva Luswata, who restricted his movements to Kampala, Wakiso and Jinja districts.

Since being declared scenes of crime, the two key kingdom sites have been operating under a ministerial commission that Mumbere instituted later.
Mr Mbayahi, the chairman of the prime ministerial commission, a body that oversees affairs of the kingdom told Daily Monitor that despite the 2016 incidents, all is not lost.


Moving on
Mr Gad Mbayahi said a number of planned kingdom activities are being implemented.
The kingdom is currently sensitising the masses about early marriages and associated dangers, child labour and spearheading poverty alleviation programmes.

The Ministry of Gender has also sponsored some peaceful initiatives in the area. “We launched a bigger project of building another administrative block. We are now excited to have a permanent home where people can find us”, said the prime minister.

He also explained that the institution is working on modalities of nurturing and improving their relationship with central government to avoid a repeat of what befell them. “A number of people have surrendered slowly, people are gaining confidence and we call upon those still hiding to come out and surrender,” Mr Mbayahi appealed.

However, he castigated politicians who are bent on dividing the institution and blocking the peace initiatives.
A visit to the kingdom sites, one is welcomed by rubble of the burnt kingdom houses while the abandoned palace is bushy.

The bullets pierced through what was left of the kingdom’s perimeter wall while the administrative block’s shutters remain open and not guarded.
At the Kasese Central Police Station headquarters, two royal vehicles, including the Omusinga’s vehicle and lead car are all parked.

But families of those arrested and detained still relinquish in abject poverty.
Early this year, Queen Agnes Ithungu Nyabaghole visited the kingdom, preaching peace and reconciliation and promised social economic support to widows especially of Bwesumbu in Busongora North, where most men lost their lives.

While here, the Queen Nyabaghole said her foundation will improve the lives of the needy in the kingdom.

What others say
Ms Jolly Mbambu, the coordinator for Centre for Gender and Equality, believes that the culture which was officially recognised by the Ugandan President in 2009 still exists.

She agrees with the institution’s leadership that sensitisation of the masses about government programmes and activities is a clear manifestation that the kingdom still exists even when the king is not in the area.

“Leaders have been conducting radio talk shows and represented on several functions. The king’s absence doesn’t necessarily mean that the cultural institution does not exist,” Ms Mbambu who also doubles as the regional officer for Women Human Rights Defenders Network, said.

The Kasese Municipality mayor, Mr Godfrey Baluku Kabbyanga, who previously served the kingdom in various capacities said the central government is working hard to ensure that the Omusinga returns to his kingdom and the fate of those arrested with him is known.

Mr Lucas Bwambale Buhaka, the Kasese District chairperson for Peace Actors, said the initiative by civil society organisations to sensitise the public about peace should not be downplayed.
He said it is aimed at achieving ever lasting peace in the region.

Future plans
Mr Mbayahi said the institution has endorsed plans to improve education by establishing a university on the piece of land donated by Kasese District local government and that they will engage the Ministry of Education for proper guidance.

Since his incarceration, King Mumbere has always asked his subjects to work closely with the government in an attempt to observe peace, unity and development and to have respect for their language and culture.