Rwenzururu projects stall six years since Mumbere’s arrest

The main entrance to Buhikira Palace in Kasese that is still treated as a crime scene by security. Photo/Joel Kaguta

What you need to know:

Sunday marked six years since security forces raided the kingdom’s Buhikira Palace in Kasese District, leaving at least 116 people dead

Several projects started by Rwenzururu Kingdom have stalled while others have collapsed six years since the arrest of Omusinga (king) Charles Wesley Mumbere, Daily Monitor has established.

Sunday marked six years since security forces raided the kingdom’s Buhikira Palace in Kasese District, leaving at least 116 people dead.

The attack resulted in the arrest of King Mumbere, and about 200 royal guards. King Mumbere, who was later charged with several offences, including treason, has since been released on bail but court has restricted his movements within the districts of Kampala, Wakiso, and Jinja. About 134 royal guards were also released on bail but others are still in prison.

Before his arrest, the kingdom administration had established a number of projects to support his subjects.

For instance in 2014, the Omusinga had established the Rwenzururu Heritage University with its main campus located in Kasese Municipality, and he appointed Mr Moses Muhindo Kibalirwandi as the vice chancellor.

But the university seemingly closed its operations following the raid on the palace.

Last week, when this publication visited the university premises located in Kiteso Cell, Kamaiba Ward in Central Division, we found that they have since been turned into a church.

The former kingdom minister of education and sports, Mr Ferigo Kambale, in a recent interview, said before the arrest of Omusinga, some of the subjects were benefiting from a State House scholarship programme, which has since been scrapped.

However, he said the institution’s bursary scheme is still on.

Following the arrest of the Omusinga, some schools abolished the singing of the Rwenzururu Kingdom anthem for fear of victimisation.

In 2013, the kingdom established Rwenzururu Nyabaghole Foundation for Development (RWENFOD), a community-based organisation headed by Queen mother Agnes Ithungu Asimawe.

Before the attack, the organisation had started campaigns aimed at promoting healthy living, food production, economic development and imparting morals among adolescents. But the organisation’s programmes have also stalled.

Ms Rona Masika, a resident of Saluti B in Kasese Municipality, said the attack was a big blow to the kingdom.

“The organisation was mobilising communities towards girl child education, coffee plantation and imparting cultural morals aimed at eliminating teenage pregnancies, but now we see increasing cases of teenage pregnancies coming up in Kasese,” Mr Masika said.

The cultural institution’s main offices that were located on Alexander Street in Kasese Town have also remained closed for the last six years and the place is still regarded as a crime scene by security agencies and its offices are now bushy. But the current kingdom prime minister, Mr Joseph Kule Muranga, in an interview said the government has procured five acres of land where they plan to build a new palace.

Mr Muranga explained that the chief government valuer has since visited the land, which is located in Kahokya Cell, about two kilometres away off Kasese-Mbarara highway.

He said they received a communication from the government that the UPDF engineering brigade was contracted to build the new palace although currently no works have started.

“When the king comes back, he is not supposed to go back to his old palace where people were killed. The architectural plan for the new palace was designed,” he said.

Mr Muranga disclosed that Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu and the government established a joint dialogue body aimed at promoting peace in the Rwenzori Sub-region, including the possibilities of having the case against Mumbere and his co-accused settled out of court.

Mr Muranga also said the kingdom is currently mobilising about Shs17 billion for Rwenzori Mountain Green Revolution project that is aimed at stopping the environmental degradation in the area that has led to landslides and heavy flooding.

Also, since the arrest of Omusinga, some of the kingdom land has been encroached on by residents.

However, the Kasese Deputy Resident District Commissioner, Mr Zephar Mubingwa has since asked encroachers, especially at Rwenzururu cultural hill, to vacate.

What they say

Mr Jackson Bahundira, a resident of Maliba Town Council in Kasese Municipality, said: “Even if the king comes and starts from scratch, we will still be happy to have him in his kingdom. I am ready to contribute some money to rent a house for my king because his absence in the kingdom poses a threat to my identity.”

The Kasese District chairperson, Mr Eliphaz Muhindi, said the role played by the cultural institution in mobilising the community towards developmental programmes should not be downplayed.

The Kasese Woman Member of Parliament, Ms Florence Kabugho, said the people in Kasese feel cheated when their king is not in the palace.

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