The situation in Western Uganda’s Rwenzururu region remains tense after violence between Ugandan security forces and royal guards from the Rwenzururu Kingdom broke out once again, resulting in the deaths of more than 60 people, including 14 security force members and 46 royal guards.
Uganda’s Daily Monitor reported Monday morning that the guards were killed on Sunday during a fire fight between Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and the royal guards after the UPDF, supported by police forces, launched a raid on the Rwenzururu palace.
Following the clashes, Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere was arrested, with Ugandan police accusing him of inciting violence following an earlier attack by the royal guards on a police post in Mumbere’s hometown of Kasese in Western Uganda.
The police also arrested journalist Joy Doreen Biira, who works for Kenya’s KTN News, as she tried to cover the clashes, and another 139 royal guards
The Rwenzuru Kingdom is a region situated in the Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
It is also an armed historical movement fighting to achieve either autonomy or sovereignty for that region. It includes the districts of Bundibugyo, Kasese and Ntoroko.
During the military raid on the Rwenzururu palace 16 petrol bombs, 42 knives, three metal detectors, one SMG rife, one pistol with two magazines and 46 pangas were confiscated.
Brigadier Peter Elwelu, the UPDF Second Division Commander, defended the military attack on the palace, saying Mumbere had been given an ultimatum of two hours to disband and disarm all royal guards from the palace, the Monitor reported.
Prior to the raid the Ugandan authorities had also warned the king that only nine of his guards would be allowed to remain at the royal residence – a warning he ignored.
Kampala further accused the royal guards of setting up camps in the Rwenzori Mountains where they train members to launch attacks on government installations.
Police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi said the attackers were fighting to create a new republic on the border with the DRC.
In 2009, President Yoweri Museveni officially recognised the kingdom after deadly clashes during the previous years. However, there have been numerous deadly outbreaks of violence following the recognition.
The African News Agency (ANA) travelled to Kasese in March when more than 50 people were killed during clashes between Ugandan security forces and the royal guards.
When ANA spoke to royal guards in Kasese, they strongly denied they were fighting to break away from Uganda.
Furthermore, supporters of Mumbere in Kasese, who had witnessed the violence, told ANA they were being discriminated against based on their political allegiance to Ugandan opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye, the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who is currently under house arrest charged with treason.