The minister of state for Housing Chris Baryomunsi launched the BEYOND THE IMPASSE: IRCU’s Efforts in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building in Rwenzori Sub-Region research study conducted by the inter-Religious Council of Uganda early April 2018 during the council 2018 governance retreat in Entebbe. The research present strong and breathtaking findings with a fear of looming re-occurrence of deadly conflicts in the sub-region if no comprehensive remedy is done on time.
Reviewing the Traditional or Cultural Leaders’ Act 2011, initiating dialogue between rival cultural institutions, extending humanitarian assistance to displaced persons, peace building and sensitization campaigns are some of the major recommendations that came out of The research aimed at collecting evidence based information to guide the mediatory and reconciliatory processes by the Elders’ Forum of Uganda (TEFU). Information is collected from Religious leaders, RDC, Security agents and ordinary people in the districts of Bundibugyo and Kasese.
The study established that mismanagement of the 2016 elections , tension and suspicion between Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, Obundinghiya Bwa Bamba and other emerging kingdoms without territorial boundaries, politicizing of ethnic conflicts, gaps in the Traditional Cultural leaders’ Act 2011, balkanization of Bundibugyo district, inequitable access to resources, security and community ignorance are the major causes of bloody conflicts in the region.
Tension and suspicion between the Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururi, Obundihiya Bwa Bamba and other emerging kingdoms are premised on the following findings; – the assumed conquest of the Bamba/Babwisi culture with un-written rule that Bundibugyo district belongs to Bamba who don’t accept the Omusinga Mumbere as their King hence insisting that they are outside the Kings’ jurisdiction.
The claimed marginalized minority tribes of Kasese disgruntlements is also major factor alongside the unresolved cultural issues, land issues and unfulfilled government promises that heighten conflicts in the region.
The study also established that despite the prohibition of the traditional and Cultural leaders’ participation into partisan politics, the Obusinga Bwa Bamba cultural loyalists brokered a deal with the politicians in Bundibugyo district to fix their people into the district offices to push their agenda but this met resistance from the local population escalating conflicts.
The research findings also established that the government recognition of the cultural institutions that never existed before in Kasese and Bundibugyo met resistance from different factions sparking conflict. But the Section 3 of the Traditional and Cultural Leaders Act 2011 grants the existence of the cultural or traditional leaders in any area in Uganda in accordance with the culture, customs and traditions or wishes and aspirations of the people to whom it applies. Therefore resistance of the new cultural or traditional establishments was assumed to be a result of the ignorance of the law.
However the law in its current form does not pronounce itself on the territorial boundaries of the cultural or traditional leaders but only grants the freedom of establishing new cultural leaders which in this case only fueled resistance and conflict from different groups.
The study also expounds that the Yiira ideology linked to the need for the Bakonzo in the Rwenzori mountains together with their counterparts in Congo to secede from Uganda to form own YIRA State stretching from Binia and Butembo in Congo into Rwenzori mountains to Kasese bordering Rwimi in the East is another trigger. This secession ideology is one major cause of conflict that is said to have begun as far as before independence though according to the study the Omusinga Mumbere denies the claims.
The Balkanization of Bundibugyo district as a result of government administrative splits to respond to ethnic demands is such a major spur to conflict eruptions in Rwenzori sub-region. President Museveni is said to have promised a district status to Bughendera County in Bundibugyo district which was looked at as a move to weaken Buhinghiya Bwa Ba Bamba. The demarcation format was also deemed unfair in terms of distribution of resources and demographic divide.
It was established that the Rwenzori region is marred with “Scratch my back and I scratch your back’’ kind of politics in which cultural institutions are ‘creatures of politics’ in turn get involved in partisan politics and behave as if are small ‘ governments’. The training of militias under the guise of kings’ guards are also singled out to be the root of conflicts in the region.
According to the research findings, there is a looming re-eruption of conflicts even worse than before following government release and granting of amnesty to militias who never appreciated the essence of freedom. It is said that most militias released have already returned to the mountains for re-training creating tension among communities with an assumption that government has deliberately sided with some groups.
One of the respondents also put it that the people forced from their communities and currently living in internally Displaced Persons Camps are threatening to avenge the death of their relatives when they return home and if their grievances are not comprehensively addressed, there is a likely re-occurrence of the violence.