Yesterday the brightness of Uganda’s future suddenly went dim. Another sad legacy in our history.
We still have assaults on traditional leaders palaces with the graphic pictures of mass shootings resulting in dozens of naked bodies, both men and women, piled together.
Isn’t this Oboteism reloaded?
It is sad to note that many of the dead have their hands tied behind their backs. Suggesting that they were shot at point blank while already under custody.
As we approach 2017, we cannot still be on the Obote II path where the Uganda army still points the gun at its own population and fellow countrymen, threatens citizens, shoots at civilians and kills poor Ugandans as it did yesterday.
The people are sovereign.
Sunday 27th November 2016 will now be remembered as another shocking day in the history of Uganda.
Memories of a similar turning point disaster at the Lubiri on 24th March 1966 are flooding the nations conscience as we speak. We all know how that unfortunate crisis started off the chain of wars and rebellions that litter our recent history since independence in 1962.
There is no way that the horrific massacre that occured Sunday morning can be acceptable.
Everything humanly possible should have been done to avoid such a confrontation, including just waiting.
Utmost restraint must have been exercised. Especially given the lessons from history.
Even if a stand-off seige took days, or months, it would have been preferrable.
An inclusive and comprehensive dialogue should prevail rather than any personal emotions that could have led to the massacre.
Restraint is one of the hardships of leadership. But it is also its best tool. Especially for the side that is said to entrusted with protecting lives and property of all citizens.
Political matters can only be resolved politically. Therefore a new, more transparent alternative dialogue process has to take on the Rwenzori crisis.
In 1971 it is President Idi Amin who after meeting a delegation of Bamba and Bakonzo elders, immediately created the mordern Rwenzururu as it is known today. Remember that all Kingdons had been abolished in 1966.
On 5th May, 1971 he announced that it would encompass the Rwenzori and Semiliki Districts. And in 1972, the Banyarwenzururu King Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema-Ngoma who had reached adult age, took responsibility over the Kingdom and appointed Hon. Yolamu Mulima as his Prime Minister.
The BanyaRwenzururu lived peacefully and without any single incident under Field Marshal Idi Amin.
But when Obote returned to Uganda in 1980, that situation changed. The BanyaRwenzururu basically had to seek recognition of their Kingdom afresh. Obote being cunning and with his known dislike for local Kingdoms, appointed Charles Mumbere as Chief elder instead of King, and then sent him on a scholarship to the United States.
It is the NRM that unceremoniously cancelled that scholarship in 1986 and the Rwenzururu King had to return to Uganda.
While President Idi Amin had immediately let the Rwenzururu people quietly be, and clearly established their Kingdom boundaries as it exists to this day, the subsequent regimes flipflopped on the issue.
In fact history shows that from April 1979 when Amin left Uganda, until 19th October 2009 when the Kingdom waa finally recognized, the Rwenzururu people spent 30 entire years being deliberately led on, and then let down, repeatedly, by the so-called “liberators” as they sought official recognition for the Rwenzururu Kingdom and their King Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere Irema-Ngoma.
I suggest it is time for the people of Uganda to see what exactly is being fought over in Rwenzori. Where is the list of issues? What exactly do they want? If there is more than meets the eye to this matter, it could have something to do with the once rampant accusation that the King Charles Mumbere and his people were part of the rebel ADF group. Something that the Kingdom and their King have persistently denied.
However it is only their King, or his officially known representatives, who should be upfront, and present their matters publicly, and in writing, to the people of Uganda.
Why haven”t they been officially invited to the floor of parliament (or the appropriate committee) to bring this national security matter in its entirety to the nation.
I recall reading the Acholi MP’s caucus’ numerous presentations in Parliament to Ugandans during the LRA insurgency. They were also active during the 2006 Peace talks in Juba, South Sudan. So while there were surely lots of behind-the-scenes activities, they somehow reported back to the Ugandan people.
Everyone knows that the Rwenzururu kingdom had arms and fighters in the Rwenzori Mountains. Most were initially picked from military facilities abandoned by Uganda Army during the 1979 war. Though those were later cordially surrendered to Obote in the 80’s, the violence that has continued to this day points to some level of armed organization. It must be remembered that it is the NRA that would give the Bakonzo youths weapons and ammunition in 1999 allegedly to fight the ADF rebel group in the Rwenzori mountains, something that they reportedly achieved successfully.
But today, to the leaders in the Rwenzori region I say you have all tried the back deals with handshake photographs. Obviously the agreements and the smiles you made were not genuine. Because clearly you have all failed peace this year.
The subregions leaders, the MP’s, RDC’s, traditional chiefs and Local Councillors, were all given a chance. All have clearly defeated their purposes in this pacification process because of self-centered attitudes.
In fact I am told that since the last Rwenzori violence around April this year, the process was overtaken by unscrupulous opportunism, greed, and abuse.
What you and me know for sure, is that while you the politicians might play your secret games, you cannot surpass the firmness and resolve on the ground. The people of Rwenzururu are historically steadfast in their culture and related decisions. They are ready to persist to the death. That is on record since colonial times. Even Field Marshal Idi Amin new this trait.
As fellow Ugandans we are brothers and sisters with the Rwenzori people. We live together everywhere in this country from North to South, East, West or Central Uganda.
Many intermarriages have occured leading us to live as husbands and wives, uncles and aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces.
We work together peacefully in the army, police, civil service and the private sector. Even abroad we live together as Ugandans.
We are therefore together on every issue that affects us all.
So how else do you intend to resolve the violence and any political grievances besides making your case to all Ugandans at a national level?
Isn’t it also the only way to see that the people of this country have their say on any important matters that concern the peace and unity of this country?
We therefore now need to take on the Rwenzori afresh. There is no other alternative. Put it swuarely on the National table. To the Ugandan people and all their representatives.
They need to see substantive documents, official memorandums or petitions, from the Rwenzori people, duely signed, and containing all your grievances.
The rumour mongering and incitement about any other matters should then stop.
The political representatives can then debate one by one the issues presented on paper, and see their merits, including from a legal standpoint, and also basing on the provisions of the constitution.
They need to do it soberly and extensively before making any comprehensive recommendations.
Civil society and other impartial parties need to be involved. The media and its coverage needs to tackle the fundamentals rather than the sensational.
And most importantly, all parties must abide by any final outcome.
An official public inquiry on yesterdays violence, one that results in an extensive public report, is also called for today.
The gruesome pictures that are currently making their way globally will remain as one more unenviable episode in the history of Uganda.
Last April when one of the area MP’s, a senior woman representative from the opposition, said the Rwenzururu violence was reminiscent of the so-called “Amin days”, I responded with a public letter where I wondered how of all people, someone from Kasese could be so dishonest.
The only time in the almost 300 year history of the Rwenzururu people where they lived peacefully without any aggression from their violent and oppressive neighbours, and without any problems with the central government, was under Field Marshal Idi Amin.
But getting back to present events, justice ultimately has to prevail.
This country, for the sake of avoiding ethnic and political violence, and for the sake of building good governance for our common future, wouldn’t it need to see this matter being adressed comprehensively from the public angle, the politics and also in courts of law?
If the Rwenzori Kingdom has been aggrieved, I would like to see them file charges or at least some complaints.
As Ugandans we all have a stake in all the issues that are seriously affecting this country.
And as we try to grasp what might have happened Sunday.morning, and as we also try to unsee the naked dead bodies of young men and women with horrific injuries, some completely defaced by shots from armoured vehicles heavy gunfire directly to their heads, others clearly with burns and horrible shrapnel injuries from military grade explosives, bodies that were then gathered and strewn right in front of the palace gates under the scortching sun, the pictures of women stripped naked by the army and made to stand in a line before being taken to an unknown destination with the consequences that we can imagine, especially that the world just started this years 16 days of activism against Gender based violence, it is ultherefore upon each Ugandan plus the partners and friends of our beloved country, to use this moment of shock, sadness, and grief, to reflect on a just, transparent, inclusive, and conclusive way forward.
Because regardless of what side one is on, and regardless of who is in the right or wrong, what we witnessed this Sunday 27/11/2016 should never have happened.
Signed: Hussein Lumumba Amin