Bundibugyo - On Thursday March 24, Bakonjo elders from the highlands of Bundibugyo District gathered to meet with Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura, who has been camping in the Rwenzori sub-region over the recent weeks to tackle the violence that has so far claimed at least 32 lives in Kasese and Bundibugyo districts.
After waiting for hours, the elders were informed that Gen Kayihura had flown away and that they would meet another day. Tempers flared, especially because many Bakonjo look at the police chief as a partisan player in the conflict that has pitied them against the Bamba-Babwisi, Basongora and other tribal sub-groups.
Mr Christopher Kibanzanga, the MP-elect of Bughendera County in Bundibugyo, however, says his fellow Bakonjo should not worry anymore about Gen Kayihura’s perceived partisanship in the matter, which he says “has been handled”.
Mr Kibazanga says Gen Kayihira’s intention was not to snub Bakonjo elders but had to leave Bundibugyo “immediately. “He gave me a call and explained that the Commander-in-Chief (President Museveni) had summoned him in Kampala immediately,” Mr Kibanzanga says.
Mr Kibanzanga, formerly an MP representing Busongora South in Kasese District on the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change Party, crossed to the ruling National Resistance Movement and changed to Bughendera County in Bundibugyo District, which he will represent in the next Parliament.
Mr Kibanzanga is also the brother of Mr Charles Wesley Mumbere, the king of the Bakonjo based in Kasese, whose Obusinga institution Gen Kayihura accused weeks ago of backing the youth he accused of attacking the police. In one video that went viral after being published on television, two men were gunned down by security officers after the civilians stood their ground and fought back.
The police and the government defended the act of shooting and killing the duo, amid criticism. But Gen Kayihura’s public stance towards the Rwenzururu Kingdom would eventually soften after a meeting with Mr Mumbere, and the police chief later said he had been misled to believe that the kingdom was involved in the violence.
Why the violence?
The security forces say investigations into the root causes of the violence are still ongoing, but tensions remain high and deaths continue to be registered.
Civilians aside, the violence has also claimed security officers. At Kidodo police post in Kasese, unidentified assailants attacked on Wednesday night and killed Godfrey Kasimba, police officer on guard duty. This is in addition to a number of policemen who have been injured in different incidents.
In the unending cycle of attacks and counter-attacks, the security forces are sometimes attacked, and then civilians are attacked too. In Bundibugyo, there have been various cases of civilians attacking fellow civilians and, according to Ms Harriet Ntabazi, the outgoing Woman MP for Bundibugyo District, 139 houses belonging to Bamba in Kirumya sub-county in Bundibugyo District were set ablaze. Sunday Monitor could not independently verify this claim.
The only common thread running through the Rwenzori violence story are the accusations and counter-accusations between politicians from different ethnic groups. Mr Kibanzanga thinks the root cause of the problem in the region is “total failure of leadership at the local level”.
In a bid to solve the tribal problems in the Rwenzoris that had bedeviled the Obote I government and led to the outbreak of the Rwenzururu war, Idi Amin created Rwenzori District for the Bakonzo, Semliki District for the Bamba and Kabarole District for the Batoro. The other tribes had viewed the Batooro as oppressors and risen against them, the Batooro themselves having earlier broken away from Bunyoro.
What was Rwenzori District is now largely Kasese, and Semliki is now Bundibugyo. One theory says the Bamba view Bundibugyo as their district, yet it has a big number of Bakonjo. Bundibugyo, in fact, is the birthplace of King Mumbere, which is why his brother returned to the district and recently won an election.
In Bundibugyo, the Bakonjo inhabit largely the mountainous areas whereas the Bamba-Babwisi live in the lowlands. The Bakonjo in Bundibugyo, the information available to us shows, have for long been unhappy with the local politics of the district, which they see as dominated by the Bamba.
To appease the Bakonjo a bit, the district chairmen of Bundibugyo, who have nearly always been Bamba, have had Bakonjo deputies. But as far as politics is concerned, the Bakonjo seem to want more. Wherever they have the numbers, they vote for their own, the reason Mr Kibanzanga will replace another Mukonjo, Mr Joseph Matte, as Bughendera County MP.
In places where the Bakonjo don’t have the numbers to push through their own candidate, our sources show they support a Bamba candidate who they feel is sympathetic with their cause.
For the Bundibugyo Woman MP, for instance, our information shows that they ganged up against Ms Ntabazi, who lost to Ms Josephine Babundi, a former nurse at the district who the Bakonjo consider to support their cause.
Ms Ntabazi has since been accused by some Bakonjo politicians in Bundibugyo of fanning the violence in the district, an allegation she strongly denies.
“Their (Bakonjo) big mission is to direct the government and security agencies away from dealing with the real issue,” Ms Ntabazi says, saying she would not conceivably be coordinating violence which is using Bakonjo youth yet the Bakonjo are supposed to be against her.
“These issues are deep-rooted,” Ms Ntabazi says, “The IGP has been on the ground digging out the issues and I think the report showing the truth will come out shortly.”
When non-Bakonjo politicians speak so approvingly of the police’s work like Ms Ntabazi does, the Bakonjo in the Rwenzori sub-region get jittery. Another such case involves Mr Boaz Kafuda, a Musongora who is the outgoing MP for Busongora South in Kasese District.
When he met with President Museveni shortly after the violence broke out in the Rwenzori sub-region after the February local government elections, he probably thought he was providing information that would help to solve the problem.
The Bakonjo in Kasese – who have had issues with the Basongora, especially regarding land, and at times accused Gen Kayihura of siding with the Basongora – took it differently. They said Mr Kafuda was misinforming the President against the Bakonjo. That is why the Bakonjo elders from Bundibugyo who Gen Kayihura stood up on Thursday did not take the matter lightly.
Despite the massive deployment of police and the army, and a meeting between the police chief and King Mumbere in Kasese a fortnight ago, the situation continues to deteriorate.