AFRICA/UGANDA - Hundreds of dead in clashes between the army and "royal guards" of Rwenzururu

Thursday, 1 December 2016 armed groups  

Kampala (Agenzia Fides) - "The situation was handled in an irresponsible manner by both the Rwenzururu kingdom and by the government", said Fr. Timothy Ssemogerere, Executive Secretary of the Pastoral Liturgical Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Uganda, commenting on the fierce clashes between the police and Ugandan army against the "royal guards" of Omusinga (King) Charles Wesley Mumbere. The priest invites everyone to dialogue to resolve the situation. Uganda is a presidential republic, but a 2008 law recognized the traditional realm of Rwenzururu as "cultural institution". This means that the king has no political or judiciary power.
Between Saturday 26 and Sunday, November 27 police and army stormed the royal palace of Mumbere, after which, according to authorities in Kampala, a military patrol was attacked in the city of Kasese, by a group of royal guards. In the clash in Kasese 16 policemen and 44 civilians lost their lives, mostly members of the royal guard, in the following assault on the royal palace other 46 members of the guard died. At least 149 people were arrested, including king Mumbere himself, accused of welcoming and protecting the rebels in his home town in Kasese.
The clashes spread to villages in the area, and the number of victims could be much higher. At least 25 bodies have been found in some villages. Amnesty International denounced extrajudicial killings by the security forces.
The region of Rwenzururu lies in the west of Uganda, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The government in Kampala accused Mumbere of backing separatists who want to create the "Yiira republic", which should include the Bakonzo population (that of Mumbere) and their relatives living across the border with the DRC. The government accuses separatists of printing their own currency and collecting taxes in certain parts of the area. Mumbere sided against President Yoweri Museveni in the presidential elections this year. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 01/12/2016)