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The king says people who still oppose his kingdom and have become extremists could have organised the attacks to frame his people.
Kasese- Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere has pleaded his kingdom’s innocence regarding the clashes in Rwenzori region that left at least 90 people dead. He asked the government to widen the scope of its investigations because its chasing a wrong enemy in pointing an accusing finger at his kingdom.
Speaking a few hours after the arrest of the kingdom’s prime minister, Mr Noah Nzaghale, Mr Mumbere accused “kingdom enemies” for orchestrating the attacks in Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko districts to set up his institution for abolition.
“There are people who opposed the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu before it was recognised,” he said, “Some of them stopped the opposition (to the kingdom) while others have continued to oppose it and have become extremist,” he said.
“We suspect that even the attacks could have been organised by those same enemies. That is why the government needs to be very careful (as it investigates).”
Mr Nzaghale was arrested together with the chairperson of the kingdom’s youth wing, Mr Mitusera Kule Isebayanda. Police boss Gen Kale Kayihura remained in Kasese, his convoy zooming around in intervals, and security was visibly tight.
Mumbere answers Museveni
The monarch objected “strongly” with President Museveni for blaming the unrest on the kingdom’s proponents, in his statement to the nation on July 7. Mr Mumbere, however, blamed it on what he called government’s failure to implement the recommendations of a ministerial committee that was chaired by Public Service minister Muganwa Kajura.
The committee inquired into the demand for the recognition of Mr Mumbere’s kingdom in 2005 and, according to Mr Mumbere, the report noted “overwhelming support” for the kingdom not only in Kasese but also in Bundibugyo District.
“Unfortunately, the Kajura report was not acted upon. Instead of involving Parliament to adopt it and appropriate a modest budget to fund the essential tasks necessary to address the gaps that were identified, it was left to accumulate dust on the shelf and no action was made to deal with the key issues that the committee raised.”
Among other things, the committee recommended the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission to harmonise ethnic differences in the area. In Kasese, the Bakonzo are the majority ethnic group, with the Basongora and Banyabindi constituting less than 5 per cent of the population.
In Bundibugyo, the numbers of the Bakonzo and Bamba are almost evenly balanced out.
Mr Mumbere condemned the violence “by unknown thugs”. “As peace-loving people, we feel betrayed by elements in the region who create division and hatred among us.”
When the Rwenzururu king addressed the media at his office in Buhikira Palace in Kasese Town, he said he had received information that he could himself be arrested. He donned a cream shirt and an army green jacket with a military hat. “In the morning I was told that police was coming to arrest me. This is the reason I dressed in military attire. I didn’t want to go as a civilian but as a soldier because it is my profession.”
To get to the king’s palace, our reporters were subjected to two searches and everything metallic or which had any metallic element, including keys, flash discs and wallets, had to be left behind.
There were at least 26 people in the compound, including five UPDF soldiers who manned the gate. The others were armed with spears, batons and sticks.
Tension had been brooding for weeks before the attacks, particularly in Kasese where leaflets had been circulated, purportedly authored by a British writer, Tom Stancy, claiming that a process at the UN that looked to grant the Bakonzo state status was complete.
The statement claimed that a date for declaring the independence of the Bakonzo state, Yira Republic, would be communicated.
Mr Mumbere said of the statement: “Our investigations have concluded that it is these people (kingdom’s enemies) who have been circulating leaflets on the streets purporting to act on behalf of the Rwenzururu Kingdom urging people to break away.”
The Bakonzo are spread between Uganda and DR Congo, majority of them are found on the other side of the border.
According to Mr Mumbere, Bakonzo in the past considered breaking away but the reason for that urge has since been addressed.
“For many years we had been paying taxes in Uganda and (DRC) but we were not included in the respective countries’ constitutions, the fight was for recognition. With us being recognised, we no longer see the need for breaking away,” he said.