KAMPALA, Uganda: The Rwenzori region of Western Uganda is a volatile region lately. In the last two years leading to the 2016 General Elections in Uganda, there were a number of incidents that resulted in the loss of over 100 lives and the widely circulated narrative was that these were tribal clashes between the Bakonzo and Bamba communities following the coronation of the Omudingiya Wa Bwamba.
In the elections, the ruling NRM lost most of the elective posts in the region including the Parliamentary seat that was long held by the then powerful Minister of Defence Dr. Crispus Kiyonga to the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change and this got them rewarded with the post of Leader of Opposition in Parliament held by Kasese-born Winnie Kiiza.
After elections, the situation got worse. The nation witnessed scenes that were unbelievable. A video of a civilian armed with a panga confronting an armed soldier and policeman went viral in the media and on the internet. The civilian in question was shot instantly and many of his colleagues suffered a similar fate.
The post-election violence in Kasese had many surprising or intriguing scenes ranging from the ‘naive’ bravery of the civilians attacking armed security officials with pangas and machetes to the royal guards of His Highness Charles Wesley Mumbere disarming and thoroughly searching a delegation of UPDF senior officers led by Division Commander Brig. Gen. Peter Elweru.
The moment those Royal Guards of His Highness Charles Wesley Mumbere humiliated senior Army officers including a one-star general by conducting thorough body searches, disarming them and withdrawing even their wallets, I knew that their [the royal guards] goose had been cooked and only waiting to be served. It could have been served last weekend!
Sad as it is, these guards needed guidance in how to deal with Military officers. Even if a Military officer is your brother, never humiliate him. Soldiers earn very little for their risky work. Their only source of pride is respect and recognition of their ranks.
There are many pictures that have been making rounds on social media purportedly taken by citizens in Kasese over the weekend. Authentic or not, the message is clear that what was in Kasese is something regrettable and leaves a permanent scar on the Government.
The only danger in getting carried away by the social media narrative is that we risk missing the bigger picture. The social media narrative and that of many regime apologists is that the security apparatus of the country did not have sufficient intelligence about Kasese and the activities of the royal guards.
I fault the UPDF public relations department for failing to counter this narrative with facts. The UPDF had intelligence and reliable intelligence for that matter. Why would the usually patient Gen. Museveni give Mumbere only two hour extension to surrender the Royal Guards? He could only have been operating on reliable intelligence.
Gen. Museveni is usually a patient individual when playing political games, but he is brutally and precisely decisive when there is a threat to his hold on to power. The questions we should be asking now include the following; did the Omusinga need a militia for his security? Were there camps run by these royal guards? Did these guards have military uniforms and weapons as we are being told? If yes, why would they need to have these weapons and uniforms without the knowledge and permission of the security agencies? Why would the Omusinga want to delay a decision to surrender the guards to security for screening? Answers to these questions can complete the missing bits of the jigsaw.
Over the weekend in Kasese, there were mistakes committed by both sides, which is expected in any confrontation. Police officers were killed and a larger number of civilians were also killed. The official sources now put the figure of those killed beyond 100.
Add these to the over 100 killed before and immediately after elections and you have a much bigger problem. These people have families, which remain with bitterness in their hearts. Unless there is some form of divine intervention, this bitterness will remain and it marks the sowing of seeds of genocide.
There is bitterness that is similar to that in the hearts of some people in Northern and Eastern Uganda against the NRA and LRA for atrocities committed by careless and overzealous fighters in the wars of the 1980s and 1990s.
It is my considered opinion that it should be in the interest of Gen. Museveni and his government to spearhead diplomatic and economic solutions to the grievances of the people in Rwenzori as opposed to demonstrating and asserting his Government’s monopoly to violence.
The people in power today may never suffer the genocide, but their children may suffer it at the hands of the children of those being massacred. A similar history is what the mischievous Westerners exploited in bringing down El Muama Qadaffi in Libya in 2011. The children of the people from Benghazi that he murdered early on in his reign grew up with revenge in their hearts and they made him and his family pay with blood.
That said, I condemn the killings in Kasese in the strongest terms possible. There is an invisible hand exploiting the resolve and fighting spirit of the Rwenzururu people and it is this invisible hand that needs to be dealt with.
Government’s duty should be to identify and neutralize this invisible hand. Neutralizing an enemy does not call for gunfire all the time. You can neutralize an enemy using diplomatic and economic charms. It all boils down to living and letting others live as well.