By Mike Ssegawa
The government has offered several accounts of what is transpiring in Kasese. Officially, over 65 Ugandans have lost their lives in the standoff that pities Omusinga Wesley Mumbere and his royalists on one side and the state on the other.
The police, the military, the minister of internal affairs and the president, all have offered explanations and warnings. They have also explained the historical conflict in the Rwenzori Mountains which has failed all governments since 1962, to resolve.
However, what is outstanding in all is the arrest of Mumbere.
With Mumbere arrested, military operations in the Rwenzori going on, hundreds of people in detention, and others on the run, the Rwenzururu kingdom is cornered. It is humiliated.
However what is also true is that the ideas driving the revolts in Rwenzori cannot be defeated by fire power.
Minister Jeje Odong has outlined challenges in the Rwenzori including land conflicts and poverty which have been hijacked by political actors.
Therefore, the aspirations of the people of Kasese are beyond military operations. The Rwenzururu have a quest for liberation from the chains of poverty, and to tap into the benefits of statehood which has not been the case for the last 50 years.
The Rwenzori region is a rich area that gave Uganda copper mines, and today the capital of Uganda’s tourism boosts of the mountains of the moon, Queen Elizabeth national park, lakes Edward and George, Kazinga Channel, etc, one can wonder why poverty finds its bed in this region.
Mumbere certainly made strategic errors by finding himself trapped in the death of police officers. Over 16 officers are reportedly dead in the confrontation.
From one of the offenses slapped on journalist Joy Doreen Biira before she was released on police bond, one gets a sense of which charges are on the Omusinga’s head. Biira who was on duty reporting on what was taking place in Kasese stands accused of “abetting terrorism.”
Therefore, if posting photographs of fights in Kasese was tantamount to “abetting terrorism” then, Omusinga faces serious charges.
When Information minister Frank Tumwebaze appeared on NBS television on Tuesday morning, he referred to Mumbeere as the former king of Rwenzururu.
Of course the issues of Rwenzururu put Tumwebaze in a strange spot as he represents a part of Tooro kingdom. It is a well known fact that Rwenzururu were a movement that sought to separate from Tooro kingdom, hence, the government should actually get a neutral spokesman on the matter than an interested party.
However, after the arrest of Omusinga, it remains to be seen if actually he will be allowed to be king again. The laws of Uganda are very clear on traditional leaders.
The other issue is the message sent to other traditional institutions. The arrest of Mumbere is a message that could easily be duplicated on other institutions that quest for more than cultural representation of their people.