Former leader of opposition and Kasese Woman MP Winnie Kiiza, has sounded a call for justice for victims of the 2016 Rwenzururu Palace attack by the army, describing the delayed justice to her kinsmen as “depressing and pathetic.”
In November 2016, the Ugandan army (UPDF) raided the palace of Rwenzururu King, Omusinga Charles Wesley Mumbere in Kasese district, leading to death of more than 100 royal guards. The assault followed long-standing tensions and sporadic violence between the government and the Rwenzururu kingdom, comprised of ethnic Bakonzo people, in Kasese and Bundibugyo districts in Uganda’s Rwenzori region.
In a birthday message posted on social media, the former leader of opposition in parliament also rallied kinsmen to demand for justice for both the Rwenzururu King as well as several hundreds still battling criminal charges relating to horrific incidents that happened in 2016.
The army that was under the command of the then Second Division Commander, Major General, Peter Elwelu arrested King Mumbere, his officials and 190 royal guards including women. They were later arraigned in court on charges of terrorism, treason, murder, attempted murder and theft among others. With the exception of Mumbere and some kingdom officials who were released on bail, most of the suspects are still on remanded pending the conclusion of their trial.
“Every time my birthday rolls around, I never stop thinking about the Omusinga Charlse Wisley Mumbere & the 100’s of men, women & children who were subjected to arbitrary arrest & detention, & tortured to death by their government-five years ago in Kasese & on my birthday.” Winnie posted on Twitter.
Prior to the 2021 elections, government released on bail 132 suspects out of 200. However, the Omusinga’s movements remains restricted to districts of Kampala, Jinja and Wakiso as per his bail conditions. Kiiza is calling for expeditious trial of Mumbere and all suspects who are still locked up.
“The 85 detainees and 138 victims on temporary release have spent five years without trial while 9 victims died in incarceration & were quietly buried by their relatives.” Winnie said.
Winnie also says, the continued incarceration of suspects has left several orphans and widows whose livelihoods for the last 5 years can only be described as pathetic and depressing, yet the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated vulnerabilities especially for those that were already at the bottom of the social strata.
“As we mark the five years of the attacks, I ask us to reflect upon the fate of men, women & children whose only crime was to find themselves married or fathered by royal guards or palace servants. Please join us in demanding for justice and accountability. Thank you.” she posted.
During the November 2016 operation, the military and police attacked the kingdom’s administration offices and the palace compound on claims that guards were armed and a source of insecurity in the region. But families of those killed in both locations remain without answers about why the killings occurred and who is responsible.