Crime & Investigation

Headmaster: UPDF Surrounded our School Before Attacking Mumbere Palace

On Saturday, pills Nov. 26, students at Kasese Secondary School woke up to heavy deployment of heavily-armed UPDF soldiers around their school.

This was a rare spectacle to the school community.

The traditional government school shares a wall fence with the palace of Rwenzururu King, Wesley Mumbere.

“We had not seen such a huge number of soldiers around our school in a long time,” said the headmaster, Augustine Musereru, 52.

“A teacher came to my office and said, ‘sir, there will be a problem. We see soldiers on top of the hill,’” Musereru recounted when he met with ChimpReports in Kasese last week.

Unknown to the school community, the UPDF Second Division Commander, Brig Peter Elwelu had already commenced deployments around the palace in what appeared a well prepared assault plan.

“At around 9:00am, the Rwenzururu Royal Guard started cutting down trees near the wall fence, saying they were obstructing their observation posts,” said Musereru.

It was at this time that President Museveni was engaging Mumbere to surrender all the suspected armed men in his palace to police and military forces.

The stalemate in the talks allowed UPDF to secure a cordon around Mumbere’s residence.

However, in the vicinity of the palace were residential houses and a school with hundreds of kids.

Any mistake on the part of UPDF would leave hundreds dead.

Forcing administrators to close the school would raise suspicion among the fighters in the palace.

“I advised students not to move around. We had incidents of fighting in Kasese Town.  It was a dangerous and trying moment for us,” Musereru added.

Students were not only terrified at the prospect of falling victim in a possible crossfire but also failing their national examinations which were already underway.

Several occupants of houses neighbouring the palace fled to the district headquarters in Kasese Town.

At Kasese Secondary School, said Musereru, some staff came around to assess “what was happening. Many did not sleep in their houses.”

Combat Plan

Throughout the night, Brig Elwelu and the military leadership planned to attack the palace in case Mumbere fell short of complying with a presidential directive.

Who would carry out the attack? How would the forces distinguish unarmed civilians from fighters? What time would the assault take place? Who would rescue the soldiers in case they were overwhelmed? Who would evacuate the wounded? Who would secure the King?

Police keep an eye on Rwenzururu palace after the attack

Police keep an eye on Rwenzururu palace after the attack

Defence officials told ChimpReports that the war was planned for over 8 hours, relying mainly on intelligence from sources inside the palace and aerial surveillance.

“We knew where the fighters were hiding. We knew their number and the weapons they carried. Our major interest was securing our men on ground; ensuring civilians are not killed in the crossfire and pulling out the king alive,” said a commander who participated in the operation.

“It was a highly sensitive operation. So we used elite units to do a very good work. That why 139 people were rescued from the palace. Only those who put up a fight were taken out of action,” he added, preferring anonymity so as to speak freely.

Rwenzururu speak out

Rwenzururu spokesperson Michael Asiimwe Bwambale believes the kingdom was a victim of false intelligence.

“It is important to note that Kasese’s political stand today has left some selfish political failure’s hands tied and the only way to be recognised again by government, is to feed government on wrong information basing on the past weaknesses of our forefathers’ dream of forming a new state which was withdrawn since the main actor died,” said Bwambale.

“True, many may not understand the truth of the matter since most Rwenzori people have not got a chance to give our side of the story,” he added.

At the time of the attack, UPDF had received information that several fighters linked to ADF and Mai Mai were camped at the palace.

“The fighters inside the palace had dug trenches. They were creating defensive positions in anticipation of an attack. Mumbere was in the middle of his fighters who were armed with guns and improvised explosive,” recalled Lt Col Kiwanuka who commands the 305 Brigade in Hima.

“Mumbere also showed the president he was in charge of his men. Those guys were organized in real military formation,” he added.

Rwenzururu spokesperson: Michael Bwambale

Rwenzururu spokesperson: Michael Bwambale

But Bwambale denies reports that Rwenzururu was militaristic.

He shared on his Facebook page: “I am aware that truth and sincerity are the first casualties of a crisis. But I tell you countrymen that God is watching each step that is being taken to distract Kasese, and no one shall succeed.”

How we saw it

On Sunday morning (Nov. 27), soldiers entered Kasese Secondary School, closing in on the palace.

“Soldiers came in at 9:00am on Sunday. They told students to remain calm. We shifted students to the girls’ dormitory which is far away from classrooms,” recalled Musereru.

“The UPDF told our students that, ‘if you hear gunfire, don’t get scared.’ Two soldiers were left behind to provide security. A few hours later, the shooting started,’” said Musereru.

Elite commando units struck the palace with light fire, allowing its members to gain entry.

“We had a close combat action for a few hours. We met some resistance but managed to overpower the fighters. The King was quickly picked and taken away using an armoured vehicle,” said a UPDF commander.

Asked if the fighters displayed modern fighting skills, the commander responded: “Yes, they appear to have received training. They were decisive but could not in any way defeat us.”

He added: “Some were armed with machetes. We didn’t allow them to get close to us. After taking fighters out of action, we secured civilians and the naked women. Those who were injured were rushed to a military hospital while suspects faced police interrogation.”


At Kasese SSS, said Musereru, “no one was injured. We had supper at around 6:00pm. Soldiers ensured no one left the school. They were in charge of the whole situation.”

Asked how the attack inconvenienced him, Musereru responded: “The students were so terrified. They didn’t have the chance and time to adequately prepare for the UACE exams. I don’t know how they will perform.”

Three students at the school collapsed during the raid of Mumbere’s palace, according to the headteacher.

“The UPDF first aid team resuscitated them. The soldiers came and apologised for what happened,” he added.

Fragments from explosives hit the school library, shattering windows while the roof was nearly blown off.

The Royal Guards' vehicle was damaged in the palace attack

The Royal Guards’ vehicle was damaged in the palace attack

While Musereru appreciated what he called the UPDF’s professionalism, he faulted them for detonating a bomb while students were sitting their UACE examination paper.

“At first, soldiers came and alerted us they would detonate a bomb. That was good. But they didn’t alert us about another bomb detonated hours later,” he observed.

“It shocked us.”

Musereru later called police and the army which assured him that all was well hence calling all staff to resume work.

When Chimp Corps visited the school last week, students and teachers were busy going about their business.


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