Children of Rwenzururu palace guards rue shattered dreams

Prison warders observe as Rwenzururu Kingdom royal guards board a prison bus after the hearing of their case at the Jinja Magistrate’s Court on December 14, 2016. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

On November 27, 2016, a joint force of the police and the military raided the palace of the Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere on Kibanzanga Road in Kasese Town.  The offensive led to the death of more than 100 people, most of them Rwenzururu Kingdom loyalists and the arrest of more than 200 others including the king. In this part of our series, Jerome Kule Bitswande explains how this conflict has shattered dreams and aspirations of young people.

Following the death of more than 100 people during a raid by police and the military on the palace of Rwenzururu king Charles Wesley Mumbere, on November 27, 2016, many of their children were forced to drop out of school because they could not afford school fees.

One of the victims is Alex Boyi, a 20-year-old resident of Kaghando Village in Bwesumbu Sub-county, Kasese District, whose father died during the killings in Rwenzori.

Boyi‘s childhood dream was to become a doctor. However, his future turned grey after the death of his father, who was the breadwinner of the family.

After completing Primary Seven, Boyi dropped out of school because there was no money to further his education.

“When our father died, it became difficult for us to be in school. We could hardly get the money to pay our school fees since mother also didn’t have a source of income,” he says.

Boyi’s father, Ezra Kyoya, was a guard at Buhikira Royal Palace.  A total of 225 people, including the king and four minors were arrested during the raid.

Boyi says: “I wanted to study but I knew even if I stayed in school, I would be wasting time because there was completely nothing to pay my fees. I didn’t even contemplate joining secondary because it would have all been in vain.”

Boyi now takes on casual jobs, especially digging to earn a living, which he uses to take care of his family.

Boyi’s younger sister, a 19-year-old,  got married last year after dropping out of school. The girl, who is now a mother of one, was in Senior One at Kithoma Peas High School, at the time of her father’s death.  Ms Geneva Biira Kyoya, their mother, says she had no option but to let  her daughter get married.

“All I could do was bless them in their marriage; it was already a year since she dropped out of school.  I had not paid any money at the school where she had been and there was no way I would begin giving her false hope when I personally don’t have money,”  Ms Kyoya says.

The 46-year-old has been battling with a Shs2 million loan that she procured in 2017 to build a house.

“I really want my children to study but I am even yet to pay the loan whose interest has also accumulated over time. So, how would I pay school fees?” she asked.

Brina Muhindo, 21, a resident of Kanyangeya Cell in Nyamwamba Division, Kasese Municipality, is also suffering after his father died in the masscre.

Last year, Brina sat his Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education and obtained11 points in History, Entrepreneurship and Divinity.

Although his cohort has since joined university and other higher institutions of learning to pursue different courses, Muhindo is still at home grappling to pay the money he borrowed when he was in A-Level.

 “When I finished Senior Six, my mother and I borrowed money up to a tune of Shs1.5 million. However, I have so far paid Shs500,000,” he says.

He adds that during the prolonged Covid-19 induced lockdowns, he took on casual jobs and that is how he managed to pay a fraction of the money.

Muhindo, who wants to be an accountant, has lost hope for further studies.

“I want to study. Be it a diploma, bachelors or even masters. I also want to be like other people but I don’t have any money neither does my mother. With the death of our father, life has become complicate,” he says.

Muhindo’s father, Inea Walemba, was a Rwenzururu Kingdom royal guard.

Muhindo, who was in Senior Two at the time of his father’s death, says it was only by the grace of God that he managed to complete secondary school.

In Kinyateke Village, Kahokya Sub-county, resides Juliet Ithungu, 9, and Jovet Kyakimwa, 7, who want to be nurses.

However, their mother, Ms Jemima Muhindo, whose husband, was also a royal guard, says she cannot afford school fees.

Ms Muhindo says so far two of her children (girls) have got married after dropping out of school.

“I don’t have any source of income. I also don’t have a house for these children to sleep because my house was demolished by my husband’s family members. So, how can I get school fees? she asked.

Ms Muhindo says much as she wants to educate them, her priority is getting a house. She currently shares a two-roomed house with her brother.

A research recently conducted by Creations Forum Afrika (CAF), a local non-governmental organisation on governance and human rights, revealed that 44 percent of students drop out of school due to lack of school fees while another 18 percent drop out over early marriages.

Mr Jonathan Kalani, an educationist in Kasese and head teacher at Kithoma Peas High School, says the high rate of school dropouts is caused by abject poverty.

“This is a community that has been robbed of parents; children cannot get school fees. We have so many of them at school. Some bright ones have got scholarships, but the students are too many. Most of them have simply dropped out of school as we kept sending them back home to collect money that was never there,” Kalani says.

He adds that this condition is worsened by lack of responsible parents and father-figures.

The educationist argues that there is need for an affirmative action, in form of education scholarships to the community of Busongora County North, who are the biggest victims of the killings.

Performance

In the 2020 Uganda Certificate of Education results from Uganda National Examinations Board, the constituency, which comprises 14 lower local governments, did not register more than 10 students in First Grade.

Mr Kalani says this poses a threat to the development of the community.

“People here are very idle and have lost their livelihoods. The others are ignorant because they have not gone to school and thus can be manipulated,” he adds.

Mr Johncation Muhindo, the executive director of CAF, says Rwenzori has been embroiled in a series of conflicts, and this has affected the growth of the area.

CAF’s research also reveals that 78 percent of the royal guards, who were either arrested or killed in 2016, had not studied up to secondary school.

“Most of these people didn’t study, making it easier for them to be manipulated. It is also important to note that most of them were children of the 1962 Rwenzururu veterans who didn’t afford to send their children to school because they were in the bush,” he says.

Mr Muhindo says the 1962-1982 Rwenzururu Movement had many people who spent most of their youthful time in conflict and as a result did not make substantial fortune for their families.

The human rights activist says until attention is given to this sub-region, the area may not rise from the ashes.

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