Rwenzori Killings: How a Rape Case Ignited a Tribal Firestorm in Kabarole

On September 8, prostate a Mutooro man reportedly raped a Mukonzo woman at Butara B village in Kabonero Sub County in Kabarole District.

The grisly incident sent shockwaves across the village, order with Bakonzo retaliating by assaulting the suspect.

However, the man grudgingly agreed to compensate the victim’s family.

This temporarily cooled the flaring tempers among the Bakonzo who have for long perceived Batooro as oppressive and arrogant.

Hell broke loose when the rape suspect chose to report a case of assault at police. He claimed a group of Bakonzo had beaten him basing on false allegations of raping a Mukonzo.

As is the norm, police swung into action to arrest the suspects.

The Bakonzo resisted the planned arrest, slaughtering two police officers in a bloodbath.

“The Bakonzo came and killed two policemen,” recalled Kabarole District Chairperson, Richard Rwabuhinga.

“6 civilians were shot. Several others were injured in the scuffle. That’s when we got a sense of the bigger problem we had on our hands.”

The bloodshed had not only ignited feelings of subjugation by the Batooro but also raised fears that the Bakonzo were determined to put up an armed resistance against the state.

Rwenzururu spokesperson Clearance Bwambale Mumbahya said the Kingdom had no connection to the killings.

“The cultural institution regrets the Tooro killings but denies reports that the killings originated from a tribal clash hatched by Bakonzo against Batooro,” he said.

“The attackers represent no tribe and reports by the Rwenzori regional police spokesperson referring the issue as if the Bakonzo and Batooro are in tribal clashes should be withdrawn immediately.”

Security Operatives guarding the entry gate to Rwenzururu Palace.

Security Operatives guarding the entry gate to Rwenzururu Palace.


Earlier in 2014, Rwenzururu gangs raided police stations, killing security officers and looting guns.

However, Kabarole was spared in the Rwenzori mayhem.

“Kabarole was the only island of peace in the volatile region. We put our foot on ground and moved from village to village sensitising our people not to get involved in the attacks,” said Rwabuhinga when we met in Kabarole in December.

“It appeared as the Rwenzururu movement of the 1960s. But we didn’t understand their motives because all their founders wanted were granted. They wanted a Kingdom which they got. Sub-counties were created for Bakonzo and representation at district councils is visible,” added Rwabuhinga.

Following the Rwenzori attacks, many thought the violence had ended with granting amnesty to the attackers.

This was not the case, according to Rwabuhinga.


The 2016 presidential elections saw NRM defeated in Kasese. Most of the elective positions were taken by FDC. However, President Museveni won another term in office.

“After the February 18 elections, we learnt of a group called Kirumira Mutima which was protesting the outcome of the election. We got reports that they were planning an attack. People were being recruited as royal guards,” said Rwabuhinga.

The Rwenzururu youth had quietly enlisted as crime preventers hence swelling their ranks with thousands of trained militants.

Rwabuhiiga said Kirumira Mutima worriors were reportedly protesting results of the February elections

Rwabuhiiga said Kirumira Mutima worriors were reportedly protesting results of the February elections

In March 2015, according to Rwabuhinga, police carried our crime prevention training.

“In each of the Batooro-dominated areas, we got about 120 volunteers. Yet, in Bakonzo communities, over 800 youth would appear for training.  We didn’t understand this excitement until it was too late,” he confessed.

At a function attended by Defence Minister Adolf Mwesige, Rwenzururu King Wesley Mumbere said he was ready to die.

“I am a trained soldier. We are ready to shed blood. We will not allow suppression by this government. I can command my forces,” charged Mumbere.

If there was any doubt about the King’s state of mind, his speech shone a spotlight on his intentions.

Rwabuhinga said the Rwenzururu would raise Yiira Republic flags every morning.

“They tried it here in Kabarole. We stopped it. I told them very frankly during meetings that creating a state within state was day-dreaming and that we would resist them with all we have. I told them they would be dying for nothing.”

The situation went out of hand when the Rwenzururu youth became aggressive.

“They would create a scene to attract attention of security forces. If you intervened, they would kill you,” said Rwabuhinga.

“They carry batons. Inside are sharpened machetes. The edges of the weapon are laced with poison to cause death by a simple cut.”

As attacks on police stations increased, information came in showing that Kirumira Mutima had established a camp at Kamabare.

“I called police, RDCs, LC5 chairman and security. I insisted these people had to leave,” recalled Rwabuhinga.

Some of the Rwenzururu militia commanders who were arrested

Some of the Rwenzururu militia commanders who were arrested

According to Mugusu sub-county chief, Joram Tumusiime, 53, the Kirumira Mutima militia were “collecting taxes from people. They were raiding security posts. People had to find sanctuary at the sub-county headquarters.”

The militia started opening branches in Kabarole, causing panic in the entire district.

“In a meeting with regional leaders, we told the militia to leave in 48 hours. In five days they had killed 11 security personnel. But they did not shift their bases hence an attack by the UPDF,” he added.

Asked to share his opinion on what could have encouraged the Rwenzururu fighters to pick up arms, Rwabuhinga said, “the level of indoctrination was so high.”

Following the destruction of the camps, UPDF went ahead to storm King Wesley Mumbere’s palace.

Mumbere was arrested before being charged with murder, treason and terrorism.

Mumbere Fate

Rwabuhinga supports Mumbere’s prosecution.

“He can’t preside over the death of all these people and get away with it. No one is above the law. He should face the law.”

He also called for the opening up of the amnesty to allow the perpetrators of the crimes to surrender for rehabilitation.

Mumbere is currently remanded at Luzira prison in Kampala

Mumbere is currently remanded at Luzira prison in Kampala

Rwabuhinga said the level of extremism in the Rwenzururu Kingdom is appalling.

“We have seen FDC holding protests but they don’t kill police. Any politician should look at this as unacceptable. Why didn’t politicians condemn the killing of police officers? When you see 16 caskets of security officers, do you wish to see killers being smeared with Vaseline?” wondered Rwabuhinga.

“We should all come together as one nation to condemn these conflicts.”


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